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On March 25, 2000, at 1127 mountain standard time, a Cessna 152, N6251B, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Roswell, New Mexico. The student pilot, the sole occupant in the airplane, was fatally injured. Greater Southwest Aviation, Inc., of Roswell, New Mexico, was operating the airplane under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local solo instructional flight that originated approximately 25 minutes before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
According to the pilot's flight instructor, he flew with the student pilot in the late afternoon, on March 24, 1999, and she practiced slow flight and stalls. On the morning of March 25, 1999, another Greater Southwest Aviation student flew the airplane and he reported that it "flew well." The airplane was then "topped off" with 12.7 gallons of fuel.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control tower recordings, the student was instructed to taxi to taxiway "D," but instead, she taxied to taxiway "E." The tower control then gave her new instructions on how to get to the active runway and cleared her for takeoff. The FAA recording further documented that the student pilot performed three consecutive touch-and-go landings before requesting a departure "north over the city" at 1119.
FAA radar data indicates that the pilot flew north over Roswell at approximately 1,500 feet above ground level (agl) between 90 and 95 knots. The student flew north by her home, horizontally approximately 3,000 feet from it, and reduced her ground speed to approximately 47 knots (her headwind was estimated to be 6 to 8 knots). During this flyby, she lost an estimated 200 feet of altitude. She then accelerated back to 90 to 95 knots and climbed approximately 100 feet to 5,200 feet mean sea level (msl). She turned southeast bound at 1125:30; 1 minute later she reduced her ground speed to approximately 45 knots (estimated tailwind of 2 to 6 knots) and maintained a constant altitude. At approximately 1127, the radar data indicates that the airplane turned left and began to descend at approximately 4,500 feet per minute.
According to witnesses, the airplane was seen flying eastbound, wings level, and descending. Another witness said that when he first saw the airplane, he estimated that it was about 75 feet above the ground, and he did not remember hearing any engine noise. Then he saw "the left wing dip very rapidly, and the plane became almost vertical." At the same time, he remembers hearing the airplane's engine "really power up." Another witness said that the airplane flew "very low" over her house, and the engine sound was "very loud." She said that the engine never "sputtered or changed tone" until it hit the ground approximately 900 feet from her location. She heard a "loud thud" and saw a "large amount of dust" as the airplane impacted the ground.
The pilot took her Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical exam for her student pilot certificate on January 7, 2000. Her flight logbook indicates that she started her flight lessons on January 5, 2000; she had accumulated 52 hours (13.2 hours solo) of flight experience by the time of the accident.
Family members reported that the pilot had allergies and had been diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficiency Disorder (AADD). She had been on medication for approximately 4 years for AADD. She had applied to be a member of the local Civil Air Patrol on March 21, 2000.
The airplane was a single engine, propeller-driven, two seat airplane, which was manufactured by Cessna Aircraft Company, in 1979. It was powered by a Lycoming O-235-L2C(M)[Sparrow Hawk conversion], four cylinder, reciprocating, horizontally opposed, direct drive, air cooled, normally aspirated engine, which had a maximum takeoff rating of 125 horsepower at sea level. The Sparrow Hawk conversion, STC SE792NW, permits continuous 2800 rpm engine operation. The maintenance logbooks indicated that the last annual inspection and complete engine major overhaul had been completed on July 19, 1999, and the last 100 hour inspection was completed on February 29, 2000. The aircraft's maintenance logbook and the engine's tachometer indicate that the airframe had a total of 6,550 hours of flight time.
The airplane was certified for a maximum gross weight of 1,670 pounds; the empty weight, as of July 19, 1999, was 1,174.5 pounds. The useful load was 500.5 pounds. The airplane was estimated to be within its weight and balance limits at the time of the accident. The airplane Information Manual states that the best glide speed is 60 knots, and the flaps up power off stall speed was 48 knots.
At 1144, the weather conditions at the Roswell Industrial Air Center Airport (ROW, elevation 3,669 feet), 197 degrees 9 nautical miles from the accident site, were as follows: wind 030 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 statue miles; clear of clouds; temperature 72 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 32 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter setting 30.12 inches of mercury; density altitude 5,178 feet.
The ROW Air Traffic Control Tower reported the wind at 1110 as 040 degrees at 6 knots, and at 1120 the wind was 340 degrees at 8 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was found (9.6 nm from ROW at 017 degrees) in a flat pasture (elevation 3,540 feet, N33 degrees, 26.12'; W104 degrees, 28.47'). The soil was very dry and hard. There was no ground scar leading to the airplane; the longitudinal axis was approximately 015 degrees. The wings were level, and their leading edges were compressed aft in accordion like fashion. The engine was buried in the ground and its accessory section had been displaced into the cockpit area. The instrument panel had been pulverized. The fuselage was found compressed into the cockpit, wrinkled, and nearly separated from just behind the wings. The empennage was found with little damage, and partially separated from the fuselage.
All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The flight control surfaces were all identified. Control cable continuity was established to the ailerons; however, control cable continuity could only be established from the rudder and horizontal stabilizer to the aft cabin area. The flap actuator in the right wing indicated that the wing flaps were up. Both wing fuel tanks exhibited forward bulging deformations accompanied by holes through their respective wings. Witnesses reported "strong fuel smells" when they first approached the airplane.
The engine controls, mixture and throttle, were found full forward. The carburetor heat was found full forward, in the off position. The propeller was separated from the engine, and 1/3 of the propeller flange was broken off. Both propeller blades displayed chordwise striations (one blade also had 45 degree striations); both blades were bent aft, and/or "S" twisted; both blades had significant paint removed from mechanical abrasion. The oil slinger was impact damaged and catching on a broken section of the nose case. When this was cleared, the engine's crankshaft rotated freely, had good "thumb" compression on all cylinders, and continuity was demonstrated through the valve train and all accessories. The left magneto rotated by hand and produced good spark on all leads. The right magneto rotated by hand, its impulse coupling clicked, but the magneto did not spark due to an impact damaged cap and leads.
The airplane was found 1.8 nm and 080 degrees from the pilot's house. A camera was found in the cockpit area; the film cassette was determined to be damaged and attempts to recover pictures from the half exposed roll were unsuccessful.
No preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified. There was no evidence found of pre or postimpact fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The University of New Mexico's School of Medicine's Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico, performed an autopsy on the pilot on March 27, 2000.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#200000062001), the pilot's blood was tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles (ethanol), with negative results. The drug sertraline (trade name Zoloft) was found in the pilot's blood, and it is a prescription antidepressant; it is also prescribed for treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. A medical doctor with the FAA said that sertraline is known to be used for additional diagnoses, to include attention deficit disorder. The 2000 edition of the Physician's Desk Reference notes that sertraline has a variety of side effects that include nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, insomnia, drowsiness, and tremor. An FAA medical doctor with CAMI said that the toxicology report indicates that the pilot's blood and liver had "more than four times the maximum recommended dose" of sertraline and its metabolite desmethylsertraline in them. The pilot did not report that she was taking this prescription medication on her FAA medical application dated January 7, 2000, or why she was taking it. This medication was not approved by the FAA for pilots to take while on flight status.
The drug pseudoephedrine (trade name Sudafed, an over-the-counter decongestant) was also found in the pilot's blood. Pseudoephedrine and its metabolite phenylpropanolamine, were also found in the pilot's liver.
The airplane, including all components and logbooks, was released to the owner on March 28, 2000.