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On April 14, 2001, at 1451 central daylight time, a Fairchild PT-19A tandem seat, tailwheel equipped airplane, N58123, registered to the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum of Midland, Texas, and operated by the Confederate Airforce of Midland, Texas, was destroyed when it impacted the ground shortly after takeoff from runway 16R at the Midland International Airport, Midland, Texas. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries and his pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.
According to transcripts of the pilot's radio transmissions with the Midland control tower, the pilot requested that he wanted to execute a right turn out after takeoff to fly over the Confederate Airforce's hangar during his departure. The tower acknowledged his request and cleared him for a "no delay" intersection departure as a Boeing 737 was on a three mile final. An air traffic control specialist located in the tower stated that he observed the airplane take the "wrong" route to the runway and "appeared" to be "at a faster taxi rate than normal." After take off, he observed the airplane climb out to the right and it "appeared to be at a slower airspeed than normal." During the turn, the "wings rocked back and forth a couple of times" and then the airplane made a "hard left turn to the ground."
In an interview with the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the passenger, who was seated in the aft cockpit and who was a rated pilot, stated that the aircraft run-up and takeoff were "normal." He stated that as the airplane passed over the ramp in a climbing right turn, "a downdraft hit the airplane." He could not recall the altitude at the time, but "remembered looking down at the roof of the tower" and that the airplane was still in a climbing attitude when "we started rolling to the left." The next instant, the airplane was "going ninety degrees nose down when we hit the ground." He stated that he heard the engine throughout the flight.
Another witness who was standing on the ramp adjacent to the accident site, reported that he saw the airplane heading west and it "looked like it was in trouble, and then, it was in my opinion, stalling." The airplane then turned to the south and "went into a nose dive from one hundred to two hundred feet."
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings. He was issued a second-class medical certificate on May 26, 2000, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses as an airman. According to records provided by the Confederate Airforce, the pilot was approved to fly as pilot in the PT-19 airplane on April, 26, 1999. Since then, the pilot had accumulated 41 hours in the PT-19. The pilot's total flying time since 1987 was approximately 710 hours, mostly in single-engine airplanes.
The PT-19A was primarily used as a military trainer in the 1930's and 1940's. The cantilevered low-wing, open cockpit airplane has a fabric covered welded steel fuselage, plywood-covered wing center section and outer wing panels, a two-blade wood propeller, and is powered by a Ranger L-440-1 175 horsepower reciprocating engine. The accident airplane, serial number T42-3230, was one of three restored PT-19A's in the Confederate Airforce fleet. It had accumulated 2,438 total airframe hours at the time of the accident, and its last annual inspection was performed on February 7, 2001. The airplane flew 15 hours since the annual inspection.
The reported wind for Midland at 1453 was from 250 degrees at 9 knots gusting to 18 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a concrete ramp area adjacent to taxiway "P" on airport property. The main wreckage was upright, with the airplane standing on its nose. The front cockpit structure was crushed rearward and the aft cockpit structure and empennage were relatively intact. The propeller was found attached to the hub and both wood blades were severely splintered. Several ground scars, which appeared to be propeller strike marks, were observed at the impact point. Remnants of fabric and wood were scattered around the main wreckage. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the elevator, rudder, and aileron control surfaces. Fuel was found in the fuel lines and carburetor, and both fuel tanks were intact with usable fuel present. No pre-impact anomalies with the airframe, flight controls, and engine were found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Division of Forensic Pathology, Lubbock, Texas. No pre-existing medical conditions were found. Toxicology tests were performed by the Civil Aero Medical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology tests were negative for carbon monoxide, alcohol, and drugs.
The wreckage was released to the owner on April 15, 2001, at the conclusion of the on-scene investigation.