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On May 12, 2001, at 1025 central daylight time, a Cessna 150G, N3370J, registered to, owned, and operated by the pilot, collided with trees and the ground while maneuvering over mountainous terrain near Dunlap, Tennessee. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed, and the private pilot received fatal injuries. The flight departed John C. Tune Airport in Nashville, Tennessee, at 0925.
At 0623, a pilot who identified himself as the pilot of N3370J, telephoned Nashville Automated Flight Service Station and requested weather information for a visual flight rules (VFR) flight from John C. Tune Airport in Nashville, Tennessee, to Martin Campbell Field in Copperhill, Tennessee. The air traffic control specialist gave the pilot an abbreviated weather briefing that included flight precautions for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions and rain showers between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee., The pilot was also briefed concerning possible rain showers and thunderstorm activity for the Chattanooga area. The pilot asked if it would be better to delay departure until 1000, and the briefer stated there would probably be a fair chance of getting to the destination then. The pilot stated he would call back later. There is no record of the pilot calling for a subsequent weather briefing before departure. Fueling records indicate the airplane received 7.1 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel prior to departure.
According to Nashville Air Traffic Control Tower transcripts, at 0928:13, the pilot established radio contact with Nashville Radar West and requested to transition the Class B airspace. The pilot was instructed to squawk transponder code 0432. At 0929:15, the controller acknowledged radar contact with the flight six miles south of John C. Tune Airport. A review of radio communication showed normal air traffic handling. The pilot reported a cruise altitude of 3,500 feet.
At 0944:12, the pilot requested to descend to 3,000 feet for cloud clearance. The controller approved the pilot's request. At 0952:17, departure control terminated radar service 25 miles southeast of Nashville. The pilot was instructed to squawk 1200. Recovered radar data showed that air traffic radar continued the track N3370J until 1026:18. From 0955:04 to 10:15.04, radar data in five-minute increments showed the airplane at 5,500 feet, then 4,600 feet, then 4,900 feet along a steady heading. From 1024:30 to 10:26:18, radar data showed the airplane executed a 360-degree turn at 3,700 feet over a dirt airstrip. The airstrip was a private agricultural aircraft staging area with a runway 2,500 feet long and 150 feet wide and a field elevation of 2,300 feet. After the turn over the airstrip, the airplane resumed its previous flight heading and course toward its destination. The last radar position, at 1026:18, showed the flight approximately one-half mile northwest of the accident site at 3,700 feet.
The Sequatchie County Sheriff's Department reported that an unidentified witness saw an airplane in a left turn followed by a hard right turn and a spiral. No further visual contact with the airplane was seem by the witness. When the flight failed to arrive at its destination, authorities were notified, and aerial and ground searches began and lasted 14 days. A ground search party found the airplane on Saturday, May 26, 2001, in a heavily wooded area on Mt. Fredonia, 80 nm southeast of John C. Tune Airport and 60 nm northwest of its destination at an elevation of 2,212 feet MSL. Local authorities stated rain and low clouds were in the vicinity of the accident site about the time of the accident.
The pilot held a private certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot's total flight time was approximately 847 hours, and the pilot completed a biennial flight review in the Cessna 150G.The pilot held a third-class medical certificate, dated March 23, 2000, with a limitation for corrective lenses. Pilot logbooks were not recovered for examination.
The Cessna 150G, N3370J, was owned by a private owner. N3370J was a high-wing airplane powered by a Continental Motor O-200-A, 100-horsepower engine. Airframe and engine logbooks were not recovered for examination.
The Lovell Field Airport (CHA) 0953 weather observation reported winds 230 at 5 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 19 degrees C, dew point 17 degrees C, few clouds at 2,300 feet above ground level (AGL), and altimeter 30.15. Weather information provided by people in the area varied between good visibility with high clouds to low clouds and light rain. The 1053 weather observation reported winds 260 at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 2,400 feet AGL, scattered clouds at 6,000 feet AGL, temperature 23 degrees C, dew point 17 degrees C, altimeter 30.15. Lovell Field Airport in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is 26 nautical miles southeast of the accident site.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site disclosed that wreckage debris from the airplane was scattered over an area of 80 feet by 25 feet. The wreckage path was oriented on a 310 degree magnetic heading. There was a 45 degree swath through the trees. Both wings had contacted trees during the accident. Crush damage to the airframe allowed for a partial control cable continuity check for the rudder and elevator assemblies. The fuel system was ruptured and no fuel smell was noticed at the accident site. Some discoloration was noted on the ground near the left fuel tank.
The cabin was in a compressed condition. The two seats were found partially separated from their associated seat tracks.
Examination of both wings showed evidence of tree collision. The leading edges of both wings received chordwise damage and embedded debris from trees. The leading edge of each wing was compressed aft into the wing structure. The trailing edge of each wing had separated along the trailing edge rivet row. The right main wheel gear leg were separated from the airframe. The left wing and empennage remained attached to the fuselage. The right wing was found separated from the fuselage. The right aileron was found separated from the wing. The tail section was found inverted and on the top portion of the cabin. Flight control cable continuity was established for both ailerons from the control surface to cockpit.
The engine assembly was found adjacent to the main wreckage. The engine was buried about two feet into the ground. The field examination of the engine revealed the left magneto was damaged, and the right magneto produced ignition spark when rotated. Examination of the engine disclosed no evidence of mechanical malfunction or component failure. Several freshly cut tree branches were found in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. Examination of the propeller assembly showed one blade was bent aft, and the other blade exhibited s-bending.
Examination of the cockpit area and instrument panel revealed flight instruments and switches were damaged and no readable information was recovered. The examination of the airframe and the engine components failed to disclose a mechanical failure or system malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by Dr. Charles Harlan, at theTennessee State Medical Examiner' office, in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 26, 2001. The reported cause of death was blount force truma. Forensic toxicology was not performed due to the condition of the recovered samples.
The wreckage was placed in a secure yard owned by the Sequatchie County Sheriff's Department.