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On April 18, 2001, about 2000 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 152, N95655, was destroyed when it nose-dived into terrain during low-level maneuvering over La Grange, Kentucky. The certificated student pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed for the local flight, which originated at Bowman Field (LOU), Louisville, Kentucky. The solo instructional flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to several witnesses, the pilot was airborne when he called his brother's home via cell phone, to advise he'd soon be flying overhead. The airplane arrived in the accident area and began circling, and was also seen wagging its wings. The airplane's altitude was estimated by several witnesses as ranging between 100 and 300 feet above the ground.
After maneuvering for about 5 minutes, the airplane headed southwest, towards a prison complex. As it flew over one of the prison's plowed agricultural fields, it suddenly nose-dived into the ground. A witness noted that just prior to the nosedive, "the plane suddenly seemed to move up and down on an axis."
Just before the nosedive, one witness thought the engine "faltered a little," another thought the engine was "operating normally," and a third witness heard the engine "get loud."
The accident occurred about 20 minutes before sunset, at 38 degrees, 24.9 minutes north latitude, 85 degrees, 25.3 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a student pilot certificate. His logbook indicated that he had 35.6 hours of flight time prior to the accident flight. On the day of the accident, he had flown 1.1 hours during an earlier solo flight. The student pilot's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was dated February 20, 2001.
According to a written statement provided by the student pilot's flight instructor, within the 3 weeks prior to the accident, the student pilot had also completed three supervised solos, an unsupervised solo at Bowman Field, and an area checkout. On the day of the accident, prior to the earlier solo flight, the instructor told the student pilot "not to fly less than 2,000 ft msl, and to practice coordination exercises, steep turns, etc."
The flight instructor also stated that the student pilot had called him, about 1815, and asked if he could make another solo flight. Because of favorable weather conditions, the instructor agreed, and met the student pilot at the airplane. The instructor again advised the student pilot of "the necessity of not doing any low flying or any other inappropriate flying, [and the student pilot] assured me that he was past that sort of thing."
Weather, recorded about the time of the accident at an airport approximately 20 miles to the southwest, included clear skies, winds from 260 degrees true at 9 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, a temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and a dewpoint of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to U.S. Naval Observatory data, sunset was at 2022. Sun position at the approximate time of the accident, was about 280 degrees magnetic from the accident site, and 3.4 degrees above the horizon.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On-scene examination of the accident site revealed no ground scar marks, other than those directly beneath the wreckage. Although deformed, the airplane remained intact, with the exception of shards of plexiglas which were spread mostly north of the wreckage, for up to 30 feet. Both main wings exhibited leading edge crushing, consistent with a ground impact angle of approximately 90 degrees. The flaps were up. The engine and propeller were buried in the ground, and the cabin area exhibited fore-to-aft crushing, and a slight twisting to the right. The cockpit instruments were mostly destroyed, and the empennage was folded forward, over the main wings, and to the right. Control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces.
The fuel tanks were compromised; however, the day after the accident, there was still a strong odor of fuel in the surrounding dirt. When the engine was pulled out of the dirt, it was found that the propeller had penetrated the "Kentucky yellow clay" to a depth of approximately 14 inches. The propeller blades were bent aft, and exhibited chordwise scratches. The engine starter ring was broken, and the back side of the ring exhibited rotational scoring. The starter gear housing exhibited severe scoring, consistent with a rotating starter ring being pressed against it. Engine compression and continuity were confirmed, and spark plugs were light gray in color.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On April 19, 2001, an autopsy was performed on the pilot's remains by the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office, Louisville, Kentucky. Toxicological testing was subsequently performed by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma city, Oklahoma, with no drugs or carbon monoxide detected.
On April 19, 2001, the wreckage was verbally released to a representative of the owner's insurance company, USAIG, Toledo, Ohio. He was also provided a release form, which he subsequently returned with the airplane owner's signature of acknowledgement.