FTW01LA032
FTW01LA032

On December 6, 2000, approximately 1230 central standard time, a Smith Team Tango 2 amateur-built experimental airplane, N6204D, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Dry Creek, Louisiana. The airplane was built, registered to and operated by the pilot. The non-instrument rated private pilot, sole occupant, was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from Georgetown, Texas, at 1135, and was destined for Gainesville, Florida.

According to a friend of the pilot, the pilot was flying the composite airplane to the Team Tango Builder's Center, located in Gainesville. The pilot called the San Angelo (SJT) Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) between 0914 and 0924 on December 6, 2000, to obtain a weather briefing. The pilot indicated that he intended on flying at 9,500 feet. The briefer provided the current AIRMET Sierra for IMC over eastern Texas, AIRMET Zulu for occasional icing conditions, and the current conditions for Mobile, Alabama (KMOB) and Gainesville, Florida (KGNV). The briefer also provided the pilot with two pilot reports of icing over southwestern Louisiana. The en route forecast was based on the Area Forecast for southeast Texas, southeast Louisiana, Mississippi, and northern Florida, which indicated visual meteorological conditions and marginal visual meteorological conditions. The briefer then provided the terminal airport forecasts for KMOB and KGNV. Also provided was the winds aloft forecast for 9,000 feet of a west wind, from 270 degrees at 30 knots over eastern Texas and Louisiana.

The weather briefing did not include a synopsis of the current conditions influencing the route of flight, or a discussion of the radar or satellite data. The briefer also only provided limited current conditions and none over southwestern Louisiana, where the accident occurred. The Area Forecast for southwest Louisiana was also not disseminated in the briefing. The pilot did not question or request any other information during the briefing except an aircraft type with regards to an icing pilot report, which was in the immediate vicinity of the accident site.

A search for the airplane was initiated after the pilot's friends and family members became concerned when the pilot had not called to let them know that he had reached his destination. Radar data was unavailable for the flight and the exact accident time is unknown. The airplane wreckage was located by a search flight on December 7, 2000.

The FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, stated that the airplane impacted a creek bank in a heavily wooded area. The inspector noted that none of the trees in the accident area appeared to have impact damage. The airplane's cockpit was partially submerged in the creek, and the engine and propeller were embedded in the sand. The airplane was "shattered," and its wreckage encompassed a 30-foot area. Excerpts of the aircraft maintenance records and pilot logbook were located within the wreckage area.

An NTSB Meteorological Specialist reviewed the weather in the accident area and reviewed the pilot's weather briefing. According to the Meteorology Study, the National Weather Depiction Chart for 1000, on the day of the accident, indicated a large area of IMC over the northwest section of Louisiana and eastern Texas. An area of marginal visual meteorological conditions surrounded the IMC area and extended from the Gulf Coast to the northern plains and Great Lakes, and bordered the accident site. A few weather reporting stations indicated continuous rain over southwest Louisiana and rain was identified over the Lake Charles, Fort Polk, and Alexandria, Louisiana areas with cloud ceilings from 3,200 feet to 4,400 feet msl.

Surface observations for Fort Polk Air Force Base (KPOE, located 20 miles northwest of the accident site) and Lake Charles Regional Airport (KLCH, located 33 miles south of the accident site) were as follows:

KPOE at 1155, wind variable at 2 knots, visibility 2.5 miles in light rain and mist, ceiling broken at 500 feet agl, overcast at 3,000 feet agl, temperature and dew point 7 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.16 inches of mercury, remarks; tower visibility 1.5 miles.

KPOE at 1255, wind variable at 3 knots, visibility 2.5 miles in light rain and mist, ceiling broken at 500 feet agl, overcast at 3,000 feet agl, temperature and dew point 7 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.13 inches of mercury.

KLCH special weather observation at 1303, wind from 360 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 2 miles in light rain and mist, ceiling broken at 2,500 feet, overcast at 3,200 feet, temperature 8 degrees Celsius, dew point 7 degrees Celsius, altimeter 30.13 inches of mercury, remarks; surface prevailing visibility 3 miles, precipitation since last report 0.01 inches.

A review of the weather radar data revealed areas of moderate to strong rainfall in the area of the accident between 1205:25 and 1305:08. There were 6 pilot reports (some urgent) concerning the area surrounding the accident site. The pilots reported ice build up between 8,000 feet and 12,000 feet, and 500-foot ceilings and 5 miles visibility in light rain and haze.

The area forecast for southwestern Louisiana, issued at 0445, forecasted scattered clouds at 1,500 feet agl, ceiling overcast at 4,000 feet, with occasional ceilings overcast at 1,000 feet with visibilities 3 to 5 miles in light rain and mist. The cloud tops were expected to be layered with tops to 22,000 feet. The terminal forecast for KLCH around the time of the accident expected VFR with occasional MVFR conditions.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was issued a third class medical certificate on July 17, 2000, with the limitation, "must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision." The medical certificate application indicated that the pilot had accumulated 2,000 total flight hours. It was estimated by the pilot's friend that the pilot had accumulated approximately 40 hours in the accident airplane.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office and Forensic Facility located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. No pre-existing conditions were noted that would have contributed to the accident. Toxicology tests for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were conducted on the pilot. An unquantified amount of quinine was detected in the pilot's kidney and liver. Quinine is a medicinal herb commonly used for cancer, fever, hemorrhoids, indigestion, jaundice, malaria, mouth and throat diseases, parasites, stimulation of hair growth, and varicose veins.

According to an individual, who was familiar with the accident airplane, the pilot had installed an airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, artificial horizon, directional gyro, altimeter, and a vertical speed indicator. In addition to the basic flight instruments, he also had a hand held global positioning system in the aircraft and a single-axis/wing leveler autopilot system.

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