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On September 18, 2000, at 1453 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-16, N5943H, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground in a nose low attitude after hitting a tree while on final approach for landing. Witnesses reported the airplane had been conducting touch and goes to runway 18, a 1,800 X 150 foot turf runway. The pilot was fatally injured. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight had departed the Howard Nixon Memorial Airport (50G), Chesaning, Michigan, on a local flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed.
A witness reported the airplane had been doing touch and go landings for approximately 10 to 15 minutes prior to the accident. He reported there were no apparent problems with the airplane during that time.
Two witnesses reported seeing the airplane flying very low over Highway 57 toward the airport when it hit a group of trees and then impacted the ground.
Another witness reported she observed the approach of the airplane. She reported the propeller was turning and she could hear the engine as it flew over Highway 57. She reported she could see the silhouette of the pilot and he did not appear to be slumped over.
The airplane impacted tress about 50 feet in height at the approach end of runway 18 and then impacted the ground to the left of runway 18 centerline. The pilot was not fatally injured at the accident site and was air evacuated to a hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The pilot was an 80 year old private pilot with a single engine land rating. He had a total of about 880 hours of flight time. The date of the pilot's last biennial flight review was August 14, 2000. He had flown approximately 7 hours in the last 90 days. The pilot's flight logbook indicated he had accumulated about 14.8 hours of flight time in the accident airplane since May 15, 1995.
The pilot held a Third Class medical certificate dated November 16, 1998. Medical records indicated the pilot had lost his medical certificate for a period of time due to heart problems. He had received a special issuance of a Third Class medical certificate on April 13, 2000, with an expiration date of November 30, 2000.
The airplane was a single engine Piper PA-16, serial number 16-566. The airplane seated two and had a maximum gross weight of 1,650 pounds. The engine was a 115 horsepower Lycoming O-235-C1 engine. The last annual inspection was conducted on September 12, 2000. The airplane had flown about 2 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of about 1,648 hours. Review of the Airworthiness Directives (AD) indicated all applicable AD's had been complied with.
The 1453 weather observation at Flint, Michigan, located about 25 miles to the southeast was: wind 180 degrees at 12 knots, 10 miles visibility, sky clear, altimeter 29.94.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Inspector examined the airplane at the wreckage site. He reported the airplane impacted the ground in a steep nose down attitude about 50 feet from the trees it was observed hitting. The left wing just outboard of the landing light exhibited impact damage.
The inspection of the cockpit controls revealed the magneto switch was on, and the fuel selector was on the main tank. The carburetor heat control and the throttle were pulled out (off), and both controls were bent over. The primer was closed and locked. The fuselage fuel tank had fuel in it.
The inspector reported the inspection of the propeller, "... indicated it was not developing much power at impact, consistent with a power off glide condition."
The inspection of the engine revealed it could rotate freely and had compression to all cylinders. Both magnetos produced spark. No engine anomalies were found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Saginaw County Medical Examiner's Office, Saginaw, Michigan.
A Forensic Toxocology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The report indicated the following results:
No carbon monoxide detected in the blood.
No cyanide detected in the blood.
No ethanol detected in the blood.
0.117 (ug/mg, ug/g) Imipramine detected in blood.
Imipramine present in urine
0.141 (ug/mg, ug/g) Desipramine detected I blood.
Desipramine present in urine.
0.016 (ug/mg, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in blood.
Diphenhydramine detected in urine.
0.212 (ug/mg, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in kidney.
0.75 (ug/mg, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in liver.
Atropine detected in blood.
Atropine detected in liver.
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine found in over-the-counter drugs. Warnings in the small print on packaging of medications containing diphenhydramine indicate the possibility of drowsiness with its use. Imipramine is a prescription antidepressant, and desipramine is the active metabolite of imipramine. Imipramine has been shown to have a detrimental effect on driving skills and other cognitive functions when used at therapeutic doses. Atropine is a drug used to resuscitate patients.
The Federal Aviation Administration was a party to the investigation.