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On February 18, 2001, at 2018 mountain standard time, a Beech V35, N5757K, operated by the pilot, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain approximately 25 miles north of Wendover, Utah. The non-instrument rated private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Wendover shortly before 1853.
According to family members, the pilot was en route to Eureka, Nevada, to pick up his son and return to Wendover. Prior to departure, he called the fixed base operator at Eureka and asked that he remain at the airport because he would need to refuel. He estimated his time of arrival at 2000. When the airplane failed to arrive at Eureka, family members became concerned and notified FAA. An ALNOT (alert notice) was issued on February 19 at 0208. A lengthy search was conducted by various state and local agencies but without success. Search dogs eventually located the wreckage on March 4, 2001.
The accident occurred during the hours of darkness at a location of 41 degrees, 8.47' north latitude, and 114 degrees, 1.53' west longitude.
The pilot, age 44, held a private pilot certificate, dated October 7, 1979, with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. The pilot applied for and was issued a third class airman medical certificate on February 16, 2000. At that time, he listed his occupation as "stuntman" for the screen actors guild, and he estimated his total flying time to be 200 hours. On October 23, 2000, FAA revoked the certificate, citing the pilot for violation of FAR 67.483(a)(1), in that he failed to report a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction in Nevada that occurred on April 21, 1999. On his previous third class airman medical certificate, dated June 26, 1997, the pilot estimated his total flying time to be 300 hours. Before that, on his application for a third class airman medical certificate dated February 10, 1995, the pilot admitted to "alcohol dependence or abuse." When the pilot applied for aircraft insurance on December 30, 2000, he estimated he had accrued 1,000 hours total flying time, of which 950 hours were in retractable landing gear airplanes, and all 950 hours had been accrued in the Beech V35.
The pilot's personal logbook was never located. According to the pilot's brother, a captain for American Eagle Airlines, he had given him a biennial flight review approximately one year previous. No corroborating documentation was ever received.
A search of FAA records disclosed the airplane was registered to the pilot's father in Durant, Oklahoma. The father passed away on March 2, 2000. There was no record of ownership or registration passing to the pilot.
The airplane maintenance records were never located. The pilot's brother said he thought the airplane was due for an annual inspection in April 2001. A mechanic at Wendover Airport said the pilot approached him "about a year ago" and inquired as to the cost of an annual inspection. When he was told, the pilot thanked him and departed. The mechanic never gave the airplane an annual inspection.
The following pertinent METARs (METeorological Aviation Report, or Aviation Routine Weather Report) were recorded at Wendover, Utah (ENV), on February 18, 2001:
ENV 0155Z (1855 MST): WIND, CALM; VISIBILITY, 10 STATUTE MILES; CEILING, 3,200 FEET BROKEN, 4,000 FEET OVERCAST; TEMPERATURE, 6 DEGREES C.; DEW POINT, 1 DEGREE C.; ALTIMETER, 30.05 IN HG.
ENV 0315Z (2015 MST): WIND, CALM; VISIBILITY, 10 STATUTE MILES; SCATTERED CLOUDS, 2,900 FEET; CEILING, 4,500 FEET BROKEN, 7,500 BROKEN; TEMPERATURE, 5 DEGREES C.; DEW POINT, 1 DEGREE C.; ALTIMETER, 30.04 IN HG.
GOES-10 infrared satellite photographs, taken at 1800, 1900, 2000, and 2100, showed a dark area of cloud cover over the Utah-Nevada border. Two other infrared satellite photographs, taken at 1700 and 1800, contain surface pressure, fronts, and weather radar superimposed. The first photograph showed an area of high pressure over the Utah-Colorado border behind a low pressure trough. The trough extended from the Wyoming-South Dakota border to the Colorado-Nebraska border, then dropped back towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was little change in the second photograph, other than the upper portion of the trough bent further eastward into western Nebraska and central South Dakota. Both photographs depicted cloud cover over the Utah-Nevada border.
A pilot, who had arrived at Wendover earlier in the afternoon, observed a Beech V35 take off on runway 12. He said the weather had been clear when he landed, but clouds moved in from the west to the east and began to obscure the mountains to the far southwest. When the V35 took off, "there was a light rain falling and the skies were overcast." The airplane disappeared to the south. The pilot said he took off about 1850 to return to Salt Lake City.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The on-scene investigation was conducted on March 7, 2001. The wreckage was found on the south face of a deep, tree-covered ravine, at the 6,944-foot msl level, north of Pilot's Peak. Both wings separated from the fuselage and lay adjacent to the airplane. Both wings bore extensive chordwise aft crushing along their entire lengths. Both ailerons and flaps remained attached and exhibited similar damage. The left wing flap actuator measured 1.8 inches which, according to the Raytheon Aircraft Corporation representative, corresponded to the flaps up position. Both main landing gears remained attached to their respective wings and were found in the retracted position.
The fuselage was completely fragmented. Fire had consumed the cockpit and cabin area, and had scorched the leaves of surrounding trees. Recovered from this area were the landing gear motor and lower fuel screen housing from the fuel selector valve. The left stabilizer and ruddervator remained attached to the aft portion of the fuselage. The right stabilizer and ruddervator were separated. Both exhibited aft chordwise crushing along their entire lengths. The left balance weight remained attached to its ruddervator, but the right balance weight separated and lay adjacent to its ruddervator. Tab horns and cables remained attached to the left trim tab, which remained attached to the ruddervator. Fire consumed the inboard portion of the right stabilizer and ruddervator.
The engine separated from the fuselage and was buried in a crater under 3 to 4 feet of dirt. Upon extrication, it was noted that cylinder no. 5, with most of its head gone, was crushed aft into cylinder no. 3, and cylinder no. 6 was crushed aft, the head was broken off, and most of the piston was gone. The crankcase in this area was breeched. Both magnetos were broken off. The crankshaft was bent slightly to the left. Part of the crankshaft was broken off, and a portion of the propeller flange remained attached. Part of the propeller hub was attached to this portion of the flange. Both propeller blades had separated from the hub and were buried in the crater. After extrication, one blade bore "S" bending with chordwise scratches and leading and trailing edge gouging. The other blade bore similar damage, and was bent forward near its tip.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy (#R200100278) was performed by the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office. According to a medical examiner spokesman, insufficient specimens and identification of those specimens precluded a toxicological screen from being performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Radar data retrieved from Hill AFB was instrumental in locating the wreckage of N5757K. The data disclosed a primary target just east of Wendover on a southwesterly track at 1853:44. It made a left turn at 1905:33 and flew north, passing Wendover shortly after 1913:20. It flew towards the northeast, then turned northwest and held this course until 1928:33, when it made a 270 degree turn to the left, followed by another left turn of at least 270 degrees. It then continued on an easterly course until 2018:03, when radar contact was lost. The accident site was near this last radar contact. No Mode C (altitude reporting) returns were recorded.
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation included the Raytheon Aircraft Corporation and Teledyne Continental Motors.
The wreckage was verbally released to the pilot's brother on March 8, 2001.