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On October 12, 2000, approximately 0625 central daylight time, a Beech B19 single-engine airplane, N5108R, owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed upon impact with terrain following a loss of control near Umbarger, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot, who was the sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 29-nautical mile flight originated from the pilot's private airstrip near Umbarger, Texas, at approximately 0620 with the Amarillo International Airport (AMA), near Amarillo, Texas, as its intended destination.
The purpose of the flight was for the pilot to commute from his residence to his place of employment. The pilot worked at the Bell Tiltrotor Plant located near the Amarillo International Airport.
The NTSB investigator-in-charge interviewed a friend of the pilot who was a certified flight instructor (CFI) and had given the pilot some flight instruction in exchange for the use of the pilot's airplane. The CFI stated that he flew N5108R on the evening prior to the accident, and during his pre-flight, he found the airplane in good condition. The oil was near full and very clean. During the run-up, the magneto check was "very smooth" with only about 100 rpm drop on each. He took off at about 1930, flew for about 25 minutes and returned to Tradewind Airport in Amarillo. He stated that the engine performed smoothly and all instruments were operating normally. He estimated the fuel to be "a little over one half" tanks full. After landing, the pilot called him on UNICOM and asked him not to shut down. After taxiing to the ramp and parking, the CFI exited the airplane and the accident pilot and his son got in to fly home. The pilot had a private grass strip adjacent to his house in Umbarger. The CFI urged the pilot not to fly back at night because of the low ceilings, dark night, and the fact that the pilot's landing strip was not lighted. The pilot then took off and flew to his home strip. The CFI stated that the pilot normally called his wife on a cell phone and asked her to turn on her car's headlights to illuminate the landing strip at night. After landing, the pilot called the CFI to say he was "okay," and told him that he was going to fly to work "early" the next morning.
The CFI stated that he and other area pilots were "concerned" about the accident pilot's flying habits and his lack of an instrument rating considering the type of flying he usually did. He added that the pilot had "very little night instruction" and no instrument training. The pilot usually flew his "flybaby" amateur built airplane to and from work, but since he acquired the Beechcraft, he started to fly it to work since it had a radio and transponder and he could fly directly to Amarillo International instead of flying to Tradewind Airport and driving to work.
According to the CFI, the clouds on the morning of the accident "looked low" at about 1,500 AGL. The average elevation between the pilot's home and Amarillo was about 3,600-3,700 feet MSL. The CFI stated that the pilot normally flew to Amarillo at altitudes above 5,000 MSL.
Radar data from Amarillo Tower and Albuquerque Center corroborated that N5108R had departed from the coordinates of the home landing strip and tracked somewhat of a direct course toward Amarillo bearing north northwest at altitudes ranging from 4,100 feet to 4,800 feet MSL. Both radar data sources showed the airplane in a left turn bearing almost west for about 10 seconds before the radar returns ended. The accident site was located about 1/2 mile north of the last radar return. The radar data did not show a gradual descent. The returns showed the airplane at 4,700 feet MSL, and then no returns. There were no records of a distress call from the airplane.
The pilot was the sole owner of the airplane. He held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating, which was issued on August 7, 1987, at Cookeville, Tennessee. According to the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated a total of 254 hours, of which 51 hours were in the same type of airplane. The pilot had accumulated a total of 17.5 hours of night time and 2.5 hours of simulated instrument time since 1987. The pilot's last medical examination was completed on February 2, 1998, and a Third Class medical certificate was issued.
According to entries in the airframe and engine logbooks, the last annual inspection was completed on November 1, 1999, at 15,746 tach hours. The O-360-A4K engine, serial number L-22882-36A, had accumulated a total of 1,711.3 since its last major overhaul. The airplane was found to be equipped for flight in night and instrument conditions.
The weather at Amarillo at 0653 was reported as 1,600 feet overcast, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 15 degrees C, dew point 11 degrees C, winds from 200 degrees at 16 knots, and altimeter setting 30.00 inches of Hg. Sunrise was at 0752 according to astronomical data published by the U.S. Naval Observatory.
The accident occurred in a sparsely populated agricultural area of West Texas. The NTSB IIC traveled to the site of the accident at about the time of the accident the following morning to see what visual cues would be available to the pilot. There were no visual cues available until the outskirts of the City of Amarillo were reached. This prevailing lack of visual effects is normally referred to by pilots as the "black hole" effect.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was in a level cultivated field located 4.3 nautical miles from the point of departure (heading of 021 degrees), about 2 nautical miles to the right of the direct route from the pilot's home to Amarillo. The wreckage distribution path was generally a 200-foot long arc curving from north northwest toward north northeast.
The leading edges of both wings were found separated just forward of their respective wing spars. A ground impression, measuring about 37-feet long, correlated to the wing span of the airplane. Fragments of navigation light lenses were found embedded on both ends of the impression. The propeller and hub assembly was found embedded in a 15-inch deep crater in the middle of the ground impression, which appeared to be the initial impact point. The propeller was separated from the propeller flange of the engine crankshaft. Both propeller blades exhibited chordwise scaring, "S" bending and twisting toward low pitch.
Both fuel cells were found breached at the point of impact. The fuel selector was found in the right tank position. Fuel was present in the fuel selector valve. The engine was found separated from the fuselage near the initial impact point. There were no external indications of an engine failure.
Flight control continuity was established from both wings and the empennage to the cockpit area. Flight control continuity in the cockpit forward of the instrument panel could not be established due to impact damage and fragmentation.
The position of the wing flaps could not be determined. The stabilator trim actuator measured 2.5 inches, which according to the airframe manufacturer, is beyond full tab deflection up travel.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy and toxicological tests were requested and performed. The autopsy was performed by the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office, in Lubbock, Texas, on October 13, 2000. Toxicological tests were negative.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the field portion of the investigation.