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On November 26, 2000, at 1710 central standard time, two single-engine, high-wing airplanes, a Cessna 150E, N3588J, and a Cessna 172N, N6521D, collided while in cruise flight near Katy, Texas. The Cessna 172 sustained substantial damage and the Cessna 150 was destroyed. The Cessna 150 was registered to and operated by the private pilot, sole occupant, who sustained fatal injuries. The private pilot of the Cessna 172 and her one pilot-rated passenger, who was the registered owner and operator of the airplane, were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flights, both of which were operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Flight plans were not filed for either of the personal visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flights. The Cessna 150 originated from the Easterwood Airport, College Station, Texas, and was destined for the Westheimer Airpark, Houston, Texas. The Cessna 172 originated from the San Antonio International Airport, San Antonio, Texas, at 1600, made an intermediate stop at the Fayette Regional Air Center, La Grange, Texas, and was destined for the Baytown Airport, Baytown, Texas.
According to the pilot and passenger of the Cessna 172, the pilot performed a touch-and-go landing at La Grange, and then departed for Baytown. After departure, the passenger fell asleep and the pilot continued flying the airplane toward Baytown. The pilot stated that the airplane was in level flight at 2,000 feet, approximately 10 miles west of the West Houston Airport, Houston, Texas, when she dialed in the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for the West Houston Airport (123.05), intending to make a position report. As she prepared to make the report, she was scanning the area and noticed an airplane approaching her airplane from the left side at a 90-degree angle. She stated that the airplane was flying at an altitude slightly below her airplane's altitude. She initiated a climb and right turn and, subsequently, the two airplanes collided.
The passenger of the Cessna 172 awoke during the collision and realized that the airplane was in a "clockwise spiral." He assumed the controls and recovered the airplane from the spiral. He noted that the right wing was damaged and the right main landing gear had separated. The passenger stated that the airplane was difficult to control and "felt like it wanted to stall easily and spin to the right." He noticed that the flaps were extended 10 degrees and moved the flap handle to the retracted position. The airplane immediately entered an uncommanded right descending turn, and he extended the flaps back to the 10-degree position and regained control of the airplane. He then made a radio call on the CTAF for the West Houston Airport, declared an emergency and entered 7700 (emergency code) into the transponder. He announced his intentions to land at the West Houston Airport. The airport manager heard the distress call, cleared traffic from the area and gathered airport personnel to assist the pilots after they landed. The Cessna 172 touched down on runway 15, veered to the right, exited the runway surface, crossed a taxiway and came to rest upright on taxiway delta.
According to data extracted from a Garmin GPS 295 handheld navigational unit, which was being used by the pilots of the Cessna 172, the Cessna 172 was flying at an altitude of approximately 2,000 feet on an easterly heading. At 1709:58, the airplane entered a right turn. The airplane descended to 1,521 feet as it rolled through 270 degrees of the turn. It continued turning another 150 degrees and descended another 100 feet before leveling off. At 1711:11, the airplane entered a 180-degree turn to the right and descended to 961 feet before it began a climb. The airplane then maneuvered toward the West Houston Airport and landed at 1724:27.
Witnesses reported that, following the collision, the Cessna 150 initially entered a shallow descent "with pieces of the wing and tail coming off." They stated that the right wing of the Cessna 150 separated from the airplane. The airplane was observed in a "flat spin" or descending "straight down" prior to impacting the ground adjacent to Interstate 10 (I-10).
Neither flight was receiving VFR flight following at the time of collision.
On May 8, 2000, the pilot of the Cessna 172 was issued a private pilot certificate (single-engine land). She reported that she had accumulated a total of 172.8 flight hours, of which 123.7 were in the make and model of the accident airplane. Additionally, she held a third class medical certificate with no limitations or waivers, that was issued on November 22, 1999.
On December 19, 1999, the passenger of the Cessna 172 was issued a private pilot certificate (single-engine land). He reported that he had accumulated a total of 505.8 flight hours, of which 505.3 were in the make and model of the accident airplane. Additionally, he held a third class medical certificate which stipulated "holder shall wear corrective lenses," that was issued on July 8, 1999.
On July 11, 2000, the pilot of the Cessna 150 was issued a private pilot certificate (single-engine land). According to a pilot history form, that was dated September 13, 2000, and signed by the pilot, he had accumulated a total of 107 flight hours. Additionally, he held a third class medical certificate, with no limitations or waivers, that was issued on March 9, 2000.
The 1979, brown and gold on white, Cessna 172N was equipped with a 160-horsepower Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine and a 2-bladed McCauley fixed pitch propeller. On April 7, 2000, a new windscreen was installed. On June 13, 2000, the airframe and engine underwent their most recent annual and 100-hour inspections, respectively. The airframe and engine had accumulated a total of 3,202.0 flight hours at the time of the inspections. According to an airframe logbook entry, the transponder and pitot-static system were checked during the annual inspection and met the requirements set forth in FAR 91.411, 91.413, and Part 43 Appendixes E and F. A review of the airframe and engine maintenance logbooks revealed no open maintenance discrepancies. The airframe and engine had accumulated a total of 3,407.8 hours at the time of the accident.
The 1965, red and gold on white, Cessna 150E was equipped with a 100-horsepower Continental O-200-A engine and a two-bladed McCauley fixed pitch propeller. On November 22, 2000, the airframe and engine underwent their most recent annual and 100-hour inspections, respectively. The airframe and engine had accumulated a total of 2,735.06 flight hours at the time of the inspections. According to an airframe logbook entry, the altimeter and transponder were checked during the annual inspection and found to meet the requirements set forth in FAR 91.411, 91.413 and Part 43 Appendixes E and F. A review of the airframe and engine maintenance logbooks revealed no open maintenance discrepancies.
At 1653, the weather observation facility at the William P. Hobby Airport, Houston, Texas, (located 30 miles east of the accident site) reported clear skies, visibility 10 miles, wind from 310 degrees at 6 knots, temperature 64 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of Mercury.
The pilot of the Cessna 172 reported that, at the time of the accident, there were no restrictions to visibility and she estimated that the visibility was 10 miles or greater.
Two pilot witnesses submitted statements regarding sun glare from the west at the time of the accident. One witness, who also departed from the Easterwood Airport near the same time as the Cessna 150, and flew the same southerly route as the Cessna 150, stated that the sun was "blinding from [his] 2:00 o'clock to 4:00 o'clock position." He added that the visibility to the south and east was 15 miles or greater, and the sky was clear of clouds. Another witness, who departed from West Houston Airport at 1650, and was traveling on a northwesterly heading, reported that he observed a "very strong sun glare" and it "seemed impossible to see within plus or minus 15 degrees from the sun's bearing." He added that a cold front had passed through the area the day before the accident, and the sky was clear of clouds and haze.
According to data from the U.S. Naval Observatory at 1710, in Katy, Texas, the sun was at an altitude of 2.2 degrees above the horizon and an azimuth of 244.2 degrees (east of north). Sunset occurred at 1724.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Cessna 150 came to rest in a grassy area adjacent to the eastbound lanes of I-10. A GPS receiver recorded the location at latitude 029 degrees 46.632 minutes North and longitude 095 degrees 51.645 minutes West. The propeller and engine were embedded in the ground. The cockpit and cabin area were destroyed by impact forces. The left wing remained intact and attached to the fuselage by control cables and the entire span of the leading edge was compressed rearward to the main spar. The right wing was fragmented and sections were located in a swampy area, within 500 feet south of the accident site, and in a field approximately 1,000 feet north of the accident site. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained intact; however, they remained attached to the fuselage by control cables only.
Examination of the Cessna 172, at the West Houston Airport, revealed that the right main landing gear had separated at the fuselage attaching point. Red and brown paint transfer markings were observed on the bottom side of the right wing. A section of the right wing was folded under and aft, and a section of the right wing and aileron were missing. Propeller slash markings along the fold initiated at a point 3 feet 2 inches inboard from the right wing tip's trailing edge. The slash markings, which consisted of curled edges of wing skin, extended inboard, ending just aft of the main spar.
The missing sections of the Cessna 172's right wing and aileron were found in a field north of the Cessna 150's main wreckage. The right main landing gear was located adjacent to the concrete barrier that separated the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-10.
Further examination of the Cessna 172 revealed that the landing light, red rotating beacon light located on the tail and the red and green navigation lights were in operational condition. The front windscreen was clear and free from scratches. The elevator trim tab setting was 25 degrees tab-up.
Further examination revealed that the Cessna 150's elevator trim tab was in the 5 degrees tab down position. All cockpit switch positions were destroyed during the impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot of the Cessna 150 by the Office of the Medical Examiner of Harris County, Houston, Texas. Toxicological test results performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were negative for ethanol and drugs.
The Cessna 172 was released to the owner's representative on November 28, 2000, and the Cessna 150 was released to the owner's representative on November 30, 2000.