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On November 5, 2000, approximately 2005 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 152, N53301, collided with trees while flying over hilly terrain about five miles northwest of Corvallis, Oregon. The private pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries, and the aircraft, which was owned and operated by HB Aviation, was destroyed. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal pleasure flight, which departed Mahlon Sweet Field, Eugene, Oregon, about 25 minutes earlier, is believed to have been operating in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan had been filed. The ELT, which was damaged during the accident sequence, did not transmit.
According to family members, on the day of the accident, the pilot and his wife flew from Independence, Oregon, to Eugene, in order to attend dinner with other family members. The pilot was observed conducting a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft about 1630, just prior to his departure from Independence. The aircraft log sheet showed that the pilot added 17.1 gallons of aviation fuel to the aircraft prior to departure. After arriving in Eugene, both occupants attended the family dinner as planned. While at dinner, the pilot mentioned that when he was en route to Eugene, he had encountered weather in the Corvallis area, and had considered returning to Independence. He then stated that after confirming that the weather was VFR in Eugene, he continued the flight. During the dinner, around 1830, the pilot left the table in order to make a telephone call to gather weather information. According to others who were present, he did this more than once. Although the phone bill at the home where the calls took place indicates that the pilot listened to the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) at McNary Field, Salem, Oregon, which is located about nine nautical miles northeast of his planned destination, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show that he did not contact an Automated Flight Service Station for a weather briefing. In addition, a review of the records of the two commercial providers of the computer-accessed Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) weather briefing system, revealed that the pilot had not used that source either.
After the dinner, the pilot and his passenger returned to McNary Field, whereupon they departed Eugene for the return flight to Independence at 1940. After departing the McNary Field Class Delta airspace, the pilot made no other contact with FAA service providers. When the pilot did not notify family members that they had safely returned home as expected, a search was initiated. The next day, the aircraft wreckage was found on the densely forested southeastern slope of Forest Peak.
The pilot earned his private pilot certificate on September 14, 2000, about 50 days prior to the accident. He had no waivers or limitations. A review of his logbook revealed that he made two other round-trip flights from Independence to Eugene, both of which included some period logged at night. He logged approximately five hours total night time prior to the date of the accident.
The first hourly surface weather observations (METAR's) recorded after the pilot departed Independence en route to Eugene were taken approximately 1655. The Salem observation for that time indicated winds of 170 degrees at 8 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, an overcast ceiling at 3,500 feet, temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point of 46 degrees, barometric pressure of 30.01 inches of Mercury, and light rain.
The observation for Corvallis showed winds of 170 degrees at 6 knots, 10 miles visibility, an overcast ceiling at 3,400 feet, temperature of 54 degrees, dew point of 45 degrees, and a pressure of 30.02"Hg.
The Eugene METAR showed winds from 210 at 4 knots, 10 miles visibility, 3,500 feet overcast, temperature of 52, dew point of 43, and a pressure of 30.04"Hg.
At the time the pilot departed McNary field for his return flight to Independence, the most recent METAR's taken at the aforementioned locations showed no change in visibility, and very little change in winds, temperature, and barometric pressure. But since the time of his original departure from Independence, the cloud base (ceiling) at each of these stations had gradually decreased. The last recorded ceiling at Eugene at his time of departure was 2,500 feet overcast. At the time recorded radar data showed the aircraft passing Corvallis, the ceiling at the Corvallis observation site was 2,000 feet, and the ceiling at Salem was 2,500 feet.
Witnesses who were in the Corvallis area on the night of the accident said that in the period between 1900 and 2000, a couple of isolated rain showers moved through the area. According to these individuals, visibility of distant light sources was significantly degraded as the showers passed between them and the light source.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The initial impact was at North 44 degrees, 40.68 minutes, West 123 degrees, 18.40 minutes. The aircraft collided with four 100-foot coniferous trees about ten feet from their tops, at a location that was about 150 feet below the summit of a heavily forested ridge. The diameter of the trunks at the point of impact was about five to seven inches. After the initial collision, it traveled approximately 215 feet along the impact tract on a magnetic course of 323 degrees. The slope along the impact track was 10 degrees uphill, and the terrain 90 degrees to the right of the track was at an upslope of 20 degrees. About 57 feet down-track, the aircraft struck three more trees about 80 feet above the ground. A portion of the right wing tip was found at the base of these trees. By the time the aircraft came to rest, both wings and the entire empennage had separated from the passenger cabin (see attached Wreckage Track Diagram).
Both wings exhibited one or more points of direct rearward crushing along their leading edge. The left wing leading edge, at a location directly in front of the fuel tank cap, had been driven aft a distance of one-half the chord of the wing. The aft end of this indentation was circular in shape, with a diameter of eight inches. The alignment of this indentation was essentially perpendicular to both the lateral and longitudinal axis of the aircraft, and parallel with its vertical axis. The left wing lift strut, which was bent about 90 degrees near its middle, had pulled from the fuselage, but was still attached to the wing.
The right wing was crushed directly aft to the front spar at a location about two feet outboard of the fuel tank. The alignment of this impact damage was similar to the aforementioned indentation. The right lift strut also separated from the fuselage, but remained straight and attached to the wing. Outboard of this damage, the wing experienced significant crushing, tearing, and deformation. Flap position on both wings at the time of impact was not determined, and both flaps moved freely when external pressure was applied by hand.
Flight control continuity and elevator trim position could not be determined because of the extent of structural damage suffered during the accident sequence. The empennage, and the fuselage area just forward of the empennage, tore lose from the airframe structure at a point where a circular indentation on the right side of the fuselage had crushed nearly 80 percent of the way through the airframe. The empennage itself showed evidence of being impacted from several different directions, and although it was relatively intact, it was twisted, dented and deformed. The Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was torn from the fuselage and was damaged both externally and internally. When tested, it would not transmit. The weighted aerodynamic counterbalance area at the top of the rudder had been torn off.
The cabin area, which had been partially torn open, came to rest at the base of a deciduous tree. The engine was still attached to the firewall by its mount, and all of the accessories and cylinders were still attached. The propeller had separated from the crankshaft flange, but both blades were still intact. Each blade was bent aft about ten degrees starting about half its span. Both blades showed small amounts of longitudinal twisting, and each showed a considerable amount of very light chordwise scarring.
A teardown inspection of the engine established mechanical continuity from the crankshaft through the valve train and to all accessories. Both magnetos produced a spark when rotated by hand, and all spark plugs showed normal wear, with no evidence of arcing, abnormal coloration, or build-up of contamination. The carburetor finger-screen was clean, and there was no water or contaminants in the carburetor bowl. The gasculator screen and its bowl were also without contamination. The vacuum pump rotor and vanes were not damaged, and its ports showed no evidence of foreign material build-up. The carburetor float and float needle showed no evidence of damage, deterioration or abnormal wear. Examination of the interior of the engine crankcase revealed no evidence of thermal distress or lack of lubrication. At the completion of the teardown inspection no evidence of any pre-impact anomaly or malfunction had been found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Dr. Roy J. Apter, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was determined to be multiple traumatic injuries due to rapid deceleration.
The Federal Aviation Administration's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory performed a toxicological examination on specimens from the pilot. The results of that examination showed no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, legal or illegal drugs were found in the blood. In addition, the vitreous fluid tested negative for ethanol.
ADDITIONAL DATA AND INFORMATION
A plot of data points provided by a National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) radar printout indicates that the aircraft's code 1200 squawk was identified about one mile southwest of Junction City at 1946, about six minutes after takeoff. At that time the aircraft was indicating 1,600 feet above sea level (MSL). From there, it proceeded on a northerly course until it was established about one-half mile west of Peoria Road, which runs between Harrisburg and Corvallis. From that point, the aircraft roughly paralleled Peoria Road, staying about one-half mile to the west of its route as the pilot proceeded to the north. When the aircraft was about three miles north of Corvallis, it made a gradual turn to the west (left), and proceeded on a course of about 290 degrees (see attached Radar Track Map). About two minutes after initiating the turn, the pilot entered an area of mountainous hilly terrain (see attached Topographic Map). The last recorded radar data point was approximately two miles east of the initial impact point. Except for four transponder indications near the end of the flight, all reported altitudes where between 1,500 feet and 1,700 feet MSL. About one minute before radar contact was lost, four NTAP data recordings indicate that the aircraft descended to 1,400 feet for about 30 seconds, but returned to 1,500 feet prior to termination of its transponder code transmission.
On September 9, 2000, the wreckage was released to Tracy Barrus, an insurance claims representative for Phoenix Aviation Managers.