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On February 12, 2001, approximately 2015 central standard time, a Bellanca 17-30A single-engine airplane, N1256R, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Pampa, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. The non-instrument rated private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions 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 Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 1822, and was destined for the Perry Lefors Field Airport (PPA) near Pampa, Texas.
The pilot contacted Albuquerque clearance delivery for a clearance out of the Class C airspace for his flight to Pampa. The pilot reported to clearance delivery that he had a problem with his transponder and had tried to get it fixed while at Albuquerque; however, he was not sure if the problem was corrected. The pilot was told departure control frequency would be 123.9 (south radar) and instructed to squawk 4325. The pilot then contacted ground control and received progressive taxi instructions to runway 08. As the pilot was taxiing the airplane to the takeoff runway, a pilot of another aircraft reported to ground control that N1256R still had its pitot cover flapping under the left wing. The ground controller asked the pilot if he heard the radio transmission. The pilot acknowledged hearing the radio transmission.
While holding short of runway 08, the pilot contacted the air traffic control tower (local control) and was instructed to taxi into position and hold. The pilot was then cleared to takeoff. After takeoff, the tower's radar was not receiving N1256R's transponder or mode C (the tower radar had the aircraft as a primary target only). As the airplane was leaving the air traffic control tower's airspace, the pilot was instructed to contact departure control. The pilot contacted departure control on frequency 127.4 (north radar) and reported climbing through 7,000 feet msl (for a cruising altitude of 9,500 feet). He was instructed to contact departure control on frequency 123.9 (south radar). When the pilot made contact with departure control on frequency 123.9, he reported that he was at 9,100 feet and climbing (south radar had the aircraft as a primary target only). As the airplane was leaving departure control's airspace, the pilot was instructed to contact Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) on frequency 133.65 (sector 90 radar position).
The pilot contacted Albuquerque Center and reported level at 9,500 feet (Albuquerque Center radar had the aircraft as a primary target only). As the airplane continued toward its destination, radar contact was lost, and the pilot was instructed to squawk 1200 and contact Albuquerque Center on 127.85 (radar associate 15 position) when near Tucumcari, New Mexico. The pilot complied with the instructions.
According to Albuquerque Center, at 1955, 20 miles prior to the intended destination, the pilot terminated VFR flight following. At midnight, the destination airport (PPA) manager was notified of an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) transmitting in the vicinity of Pampa. A check of the airport did not locate the ELT. A continuing search for the ELT resulted in finding N1256R about 0130, approximately 1.8 miles east of the airport.
There were no reported eyewitnesses to the accident.
According to FAA records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on April 12, 1999, with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot held a third class medical certificate, which was issued June 6, 2000. The medical certificate stipulated a limitation to have corrective lenses available for near vision while operating an aircraft.
A review of the pilot's flight logbook revealed a complex airplane endorsement and a high performance (Daytime VFR only) airplane endorsement dated June 25, 2000. On October 1, 2000, there was an additional high performance airplane endorsement with no limitations. On September 10, 2000, there was a biennial flight review endorsement, which was completed in a Bellanca 17-30A airplane. The logbook also revealed that as of February 4, 2001 (last entry in logbook), the pilot had logged a total flight time of 404.0 hours, of which 51.1 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot had logged 49.4 flight hours in night conditions and 4.1 flight hours in simulated instrument conditions. The last logged night flight was on January 14, 2001, and the last logged simulated instrument conditions flight was on November 7, 1999.
The 1971-model Bellanca 17-30A, was a low wing, four-place airplane, which had retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane was powered by a Continental IO-520-K engine rated at 300 horsepower, and a Hartzell three-bladed, constant speed-controllable pitch propeller. The pilot purchased the airplane in June 2000.
The maintenance records for the airplane were not located; however, a copy of the work order for the last annual inspection was obtained from the maintenance facility that performed the service. The aircraft received its last annual inspection on June 29, 2000, at a tachometer time of 1,042.7 hours and an aircraft total time of 1,652 hours.
The aircraft's maximum takeoff weight was 3,325 pounds, and an estimate of the weight of the aircraft at the time of the accident placed it within weight and balance limits.
At 0815, the pilot received a weather briefing from Fort Worth Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) for a flight from Pampa, Texas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. After receiving the briefing, the pilot inquired about weather conditions for an evening return flight. The briefer informed the pilot to look for scattered to broken cirrus clouds to dominate after six p.m. in the panhandle, and there would be no low clouds expected until around ten o'clock. The briefer stated "it should be good VFR."
According to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and a person who resides less than a mile from the accident site, there was fog in the area at the time of the accident.
There were no official National Weather Service (NWS) weather reporting stations in Pampa, Texas, therefore, the weather observations at surrounding area airports with observing systems were documented.
Borger-Hutchins Airport (KBGD), located 25 miles northwest of the accident site, reported at 1953, wind 140 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 9 degrees C, dew point temperature 6 degrees C, altimeter 30.06 inches of Mercury (Hg).
KBGD reported at 2053, wind from 150 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 8 degrees C, dew point temperature 6 degrees C, altimeter 30.05 inches of Mercury (Hg).
Amarillo Airport (KAMA), located 48 miles southwest of the accident site, reported at 1953, wind 140 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 8 degrees C, dew point temperature 6 degrees C, altimeter 30.06 inches of Mercury (Hg).
KAMA reported at 2053, wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 7 degrees C, dew point temperature 5 degrees C, altimeter 30.06 inches of Mercury (Hg).
Dalhart Municipal Airport (KDHT), located 94 miles northwest of the accident site, reported at 1953, wind 100 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 7 degrees C, dew point temperature 4 degrees C, altimeter 30.02 inches of Mercury (Hg).
KDHT reported at 2053, wind from 090 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 4 degrees C, dew point temperature 3 degrees C, altimeter 30.04 inches of Mercury (Hg).
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department, moonrise was at 2337.
The Perry Lefors Field Airport is located 5 miles northwest of the city of Pampa, at an elevation of 3,244 feet msl. The airport has two runways, 5/23, and 17/35. Both runways have medium intensity runway edge lights (MIRL), which are preset to low intensity and operate sunset to sunrise (pilot can increase intensity by activating frequency 122.7). Runway 35 has a pulsating/steady burning visual approach slope indicator (VASI). Runway 17/35 has runway end identifier lights (REIL); however, they were out of service at the time of the accident. The airport has a rotating beacon; however, it was out of service at the time of the accident.
WRECKAGE IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located using a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver at 35 degrees 36 minutes 21.3 seconds north latitude and 100 degrees 57 minutes 38.7 seconds west longitude. The accident site was about 1.8 statute miles east of the approach end of PPA's runway 35.
Examination of the accident site revealed a small ground scar at the beginning of the wreckage distribution path , which contained the green lens of the right position light. A large ground scar was found 37 feet on a magnetic heading of 030 degrees from the small scar. From the large ground scar, the airplane traveled on a 050 degree magnetic heading for 505 feet before coming to rest. The left wing was found on the left side of the wreckage distribution path 135 feet from the large ground scar. A flap, ailerons, gas tank, pieces of spar, and numerous pieces of the airplane were found throughout the wreckage distribution path. Flight control continuity could not be established due to aircraft damage.
The engine separated from the fuselage and traveled on a 070 degree magnetic heading for 693 feet from the large ground scar before coming to rest. The engine was intact with all of the accessories attached except for the propeller, starter, right magneto, and fuel metering unit. Continuity was established throughout the engine when the crankshaft was rotated. Both magnetos sparked at all terminals when they were rotated by hand. The vacuum pump was in place, and the drive coupling was not damaged. The pump was disassembled and no internal damage was noted.
The propeller was separated from the engine's crankshaft at the flange, and was found on the right side of the engine's energy path 383 feet from the large ground scar. All of the propeller blades were loose in the hub. Two of the propeller blades exhibited "S" bending and twisting toward the direction of rotation, and the third blade exhibited bending and twisting toward the direction of rotation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas, conducted an autopsy of the pilot. There was no evidence found of any preexisting disease that could have contributed to the accident.
The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute toxicology report noted 7.65 (mg/dl, mg/hg) acetaminophen was detected in urine. Chlorpheniramine was detect in blood and urine. According to the FAA Southwest Regional Flight Surgeon, chlorpheniramine is found in allergy and cold preparations. It is sometimes combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol). It may cause significant drowsiness, therefore, it is not recommended for use while performing safety-sensitive activities.
The airplane wreckage was released to the owner's representative on April 6, 2001.