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On May 18, 2001, at an undetermined time between 1032 and 1109 Pacific daylight time, a Beech D45, N8NV, impacted rising terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude up a valley about 5.8 nautical miles (nm) south (197 degrees, magnetic) of Julian, California. The airplane was owned by the United States Navy and operated by the North Island Navy Flying Club, San Diego, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the personal flight, and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight was performed under 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post impact fire. The front seated private pilot and the rear seated pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The operator reported that the front seated pilot was the pilot-in-command during the accident flight, which originated from the NAS North Island Airport at 1011.
In accordance with Navy directives, prior to the pilot's departure for the cross-country flight, a person at the airport who had flight clearance authority with the military flying club reviewed his qualifications, planning procedures, and documents. Thereafter, the pilot was released for the flight.
The last recorded radio communication with the pilot was at 1015:38, at which time the pilot informed the NAS North Island tower controller that he was proceeding outbound (from the airport). The controller responded and informed the pilot to change radio frequencies.
A North Island flying club member reported that his brother, who was in the city of Chula Vista, observed a T34 flying over his location on the morning of the accident. The Safety Board investigator interviewed the brother.
The brother reported that between 1000 and 1030 he had been at a house in a residential area of the city. The brother stated that he had observed an airplane passing nearly overhead. He recognized the airplane as being a T34 that he had flown in. The airplane was flying below a marine layer of clouds. The cloud layer was starting to breakup. The brother further stated that he also heard the airplane's engine, and nothing unusual was noted. The brother stated that, at the time of the overflight, he estimated that the airplane was approximately 500 feet above ground level. Thereafter, the airplane proceeded flying in an easterly and then a northeasterly direction until he lost sight of it.
The Safety Board investigator subsequently determined that the brother/eyewitness was about 12 nm and 093 degrees, magnetic, from the NAS North Island Airport. This location is about 32 degrees 38.72 minutes north latitude by 116 degrees 59.34 minutes west longitude. At this location, the elevation is about 490 feet mean sea level (msl).
The route of flight that the accident pilot flew between the eyewitness's location and the accident site was not determined. No persons were identified as having witnessed the accident.
The accident pilot's flight planned destination was the airport at Agua Caliente, California. This airport is located about 18.6 nm east (084 degrees, magnetic) of the accident site.
The pilot was on active duty in the United States military service. According to his supervisor, the pilot had acquired all his flight training through civil aviation sources. By the accident date, the pilot's total flight time was approximately 220 hours. He had 19 hours of flight time in the accident make and model of airplane, of which 14 hours were acquired as its pilot-in-command. During the preceding 90-day period, the pilot had flown the accident model airplane for 8.4 hours. The pilot possessed airplane single engine land and multiengine land ratings.
The supervisor additionally reported that the pilot had acquired 868.5 hours of flight time as a crew chief in the UH-1N "Huey" helicopter and maintenance in-flight tester on the AH-1W "Super Cobra" helicopter. The pilot was familiar with the accident site area, and he had traveled over the scene of the mishap extensively while performing duties as a UH-1N helicopter crew chief.
The airplane was maintained by contract mechanics certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The airplane was classified as a civil aircraft, and it was maintained on a program of annual and 100-hour inspections.
A San Diego County deputy sheriff, who responded to the accident site at 1220, reported that upon his arrival there were no clouds in the area. There was a light wind.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The global positioning satellite coordinates for the estimated 3,400-foot msl accident site are about 32 degrees 59.730 minutes north latitude by 116 degrees 39.553 minutes west longitude. The airplane was found in an upright attitude. It was on a 345-degree magnetic heading on the rocky, mountainous terrain. The terrain's upslope angle on the hillside was estimated at 15 degrees. Both pilots were found in the cockpit. No evidence of parachutes was found.
The terrain's elevation to the north, east, and west sides of the accident airplane was higher than the elevation of the terrain where the airplane had crashed. The terrain elevation was lower south of the airplane down the valley. The estimated height of the hill north of the airplane was 3,700 feet msl.
The engine, with one attached propeller blade, was found separated from the fuselage. It was located about 115 feet west-southwest (246 degrees, magnetic) from the airplane's left wing. The other propeller blade was located about 70 feet east-southeast (145 degrees, magnetic) behind the airplane.
The right magneto was found about 100 feet southwest (232 degrees, magnetic) of the engine. Engine accessories and related items were located in a debris field between the main wreckage and the engine.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On May 21, 2001, an autopsy was performed by the Naval Medical Center Laboratory Department, San Diego, California 92134. The Department of Defense, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306, performed toxicology tests on specimens from the pilot. No evidence was found of screened drugs including ethanol and cyanide. The carboxyhemoglobin saturation in the blood was 1 percent.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Airframe and Propeller Examination.
The structural examination of the airframe, which was equipped with dual flight controls, revealed that the fuselage was disintegrated from the floor level to the roof. The fuselage and empennage had burned predominantly to ashes. All flight control surfaces were found with the main wreckage.
The left and right wings were found attached to the fuselage. The left wingtip was found about 25 feet north of the main wreckage. The right wingtip remained attached to the wing. The leading edges of the wings did not display evidence of deformation in an aft direction.
The wings appeared positioned at right angles to the airplane's longitudinal axis. The wing flaps and the landing gear was found in the retracted position. The fuel tank selector was found positioned to the BOTH tank position.
Both propeller blades were observed deformed into an "S" shape. The leading edge of each blade was observed gouged and the blade tips were broken off.
The engine sustained impact damage and the case was cracked in several locations. No evidence of preimpact oil or fuel leakage was noted from the engine or accessories. All upper spark plugs were removed and examined. According to an FAA airworthiness inspector, they exhibited normal wear indications. Also, the electrode gap in all plugs appeared normal. The crankshaft was rotated and the continuity of the valve and gear train was confirmed. The FAA also indicated that compression was noted in all cylinders except number six, which was impact damaged.
The right magneto's drive gear was rotated by hand, and its impulse coupling was found functional. Although the magneto's wiring harness bundle was impact damaged, during rotation of the magneto's drive gear spark was observed at the end of one harness wire. The left magneto and its associated harness wires were destroyed.
Radar Track Data.
A quality assurance specialist at the San Diego Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility performed a search for radar targets that had a track profile consistent with the flight profile of the accident airplane. Only one target was found that departed NAS North Island Airport about the time of N8NV's departure, and then flew over the witness's location. A further review of this track indicated that about 1019, the subject target had passed over the witness's location at an approximate mean sea level altitude of 800 feet, according to its Mode C transponder. Thereafter, the target turned toward the northeast in the direction of the crash site, and the radar track disappeared.
Radar Coverage Area.
The Safety Board investigator flew over and 1 mile south of the crash site. During the overflight, it was noted that the lowest altitude at which radar interrogated the aircraft's transponder was between 3,600 and 3,700 feet msl.
Accident Time Estimation.
The straight line distance and magnetic bearing between the eyewitness's location and the accident site is about 26.5 nm and 025 degrees, magnetic. According to Navy Flying Club personnel, the airplane's nominal cruise speed is 120 knots. Given the airplane's passage over the witness at 1019, at this average ground speed the earliest that the accident airplane would have arrived at the crash site is calculated to be 1032. At 1109, firefighters near the Cleveland National Forest smelled smoke in the accident site area.
Minimum Flight Altitude Regulations.
The FAA delineates the minimum safe altitudes for flight in the general operating and flight rules section of 14 CFR Part 91.119. In pertinent part, the FAA specifies that no person may operate an airplane below an altitude of 1,000 feet above congested areas of a city, town, or settlement.
The Safety Board investigator verbally released the airplane wreckage while on scene to Navy personnel, who indicated that they would have it recovered from the mountainside.