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On July 31, 2001, about 0922 eastern daylight time, a Lancair 360 experimental amateurbuilt airplane, N41EH, registered to and operated by a private individual, as Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near St. Mary’s, Georgia. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The dual student received fatal injuries, and the commercial-rated flight instructor is missing and presumed fatal. The airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from Savannah, Georgia, the same day, about 0847.
According to the transcript of communications obtained from the FAA, at 0748:37, the pilot of N41EH telephoned FAA Macon Flight Service Station, requesting a weather briefing. During this initial request the pilot stated that he was in Savannah, Georgia, and wanted to go to Brookesville, Florida. As the briefing proceeded, the pilot was informed of the developing line of thunderstorms which was south of Brunswick "that goes from inland to offshore", and at 0754:18, was advised to go inland and not offshore, because he may get stuck there. After the initial briefing, the pilot again called FAA Macon Flight Service for an update, and at 0820:33 stated "we were thinking maybe we could make it to Saint Augustine." In response, at 0820:40, the briefer stated that just south of Saint Simons Island, there was a line of level three to level five thunderstorms developing, and further stated at 0820:46, that the pilot would be able to get around the west side of it and possibly down to Saint Augustine. The pilot then filed an instrument flight rules flight plan, and after the flight plan had been filed, at 0822:52, the briefer informed the pilot again of the "weather" that was south of Saint Simons Island, stating that he was going to need vectors to get around it. At 0823:07, in parting, the briefer again told the pilot that he will need to go west of the line of level three to five thunderstorms en route to Saint Augustine.
At 0902:15, the pilot of N41EH made initial contact with the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) Brunswick radar controller, reporting that he was at 6,000 feet, and was given the Brunswick altimeter setting. At 0907:16 asked if he would be vectored around the "stuff" in front of him, and the radar controller acknowledging the heavy weather ahead, gave the pilot a heading of 170 degrees. At 0908:06 the radar controller asked the pilot to let him know if he needed to deviate further east, and at 0910:47 the controller gave N41EH a 160-degree heading. At 0916:16 the radar controller asked the pilot how the heading of 160 degrees was looking, and the pilot answered that it was looking "pretty good", adding that he had just come around some "stuff" and was now heading 170 degrees. At 0917:10 the radar controller advised N41EH that the radar showed that he was 300 to 400 feet high, to which the pilot responded that he had just come through some pretty heavy updrafts. The radar controller then advised of additional areas of moderate to heavy precipitation about 10 miles ahead, and advised the pilot to let him know if further deviation to the east was needed. At 0917:43, the radar controller again notified the pilot of the weather in front of N41EH, and asked if he wished to deviate east of course around the weather, to which the pilot responded asking at that time if he could go west. At 0917:52, the radar controller affirmed that the pilot could go west if he wished, and further said that a 220-degree heading would work, asking the pilot if that heading also looked good to him. At 0918:02 the pilot affirmed the heading, informing the controller that he was steering 220 degrees. At 0919:44, the radar controller then gave the pilot of N41EH a heading of 210 degrees, and the pilot again acknowledged. At 0919:54, the radar controller instructed the pilot to contact Jacksonville Approach control on a frequency of 119.0 mHZ, and at 0919:57, the pilot acknowledged the frequency change. At 0923:11, a Jacksonville Approach controller called the Brunswick radar controller, informing him that N41EH had not checked in with him, and asked the Brunswick radar controller if he still had contact with N41EH, and suggesting that if he did that he turn N41EH to the east or the northwest because the weather was pretty bad for the next 10 miles. Starting at 0923:22 FAA controllers made several attempts to communicate with the occupants of N41EH, but with negative results. According to the radar controller, he last observed N41EH on radar, about 4,100 feet, in rapidly descending turn.
Radar data obtained from the FAA, showed that at 0921:17 the N41EH was indicating an altitude of 7,000 feet. The last radar indication which occurred at 0922:29 showed N41EH to be at an altitude of 4600 feet, in the geographic position, 30 degrees, 47.05 minutes north, 081 degrees, 17.22 minutes west.
At 1014, the U. S. Coast Guard received initial notification of a possible downed airplane, and diverted a U.S. Navy P-3 airplane to N41EH's last known position. At 1114, the crew of the U.S. Navy P-3 which the Coast Guard had diverted, located debris at latitude 30 degrees, 46.1 minutes north, longitude 081 degrees, 17.04 minutes west.
The dual student/airplane owner did not possess a certificate. According to FAA records, the student/owner had last received an FAA medical examination on October 21, 1997, and he was not issued a medical certificate. Records show that the flight surgeon's report listed him as undergoing a medial evaluation. A copy of the student/owner's flight logbook was later provided to the NTSB by the insurance company, and the logbook showed that he had accumulated about 112 total flight hours.
FAA records indicate that the flight instructor/pilot in command held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single and multiengine land and instrument ratings, issued on December 29, 1999, as well as a flight instructor certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings, last issued on June 26, 2000. The records also showed that the flight instructor's last medical certificate was a second class certificate, issued on April 27, 2001, with the stated limitation that the holder shall wear corrective lenses, and at the time of his application for the certificate he reported having a total of 4200 total flight hours.
N41EH was a Lancair experimental amateur-built airplane, serial number 831320673FB, registered to the dual student. According to records provided by the insurance company, the pilot had constructed the airplane from a kit, and it had received its certification as an experimental category airplane on January 3, 1996. N41EH last received a condition inspection on March 26, 2001, and at the time of the inspection the airplane had accumulated a total of about 270.3 total hours.
According to the logbook, N41EH was equipped with a 180-horsepower Lycoming O-360 SER A&C engine, serial number L3289-36. The engine had accumulated a total of about 270.3. The logbook also showed that it was last equipped with an IVO Magnum inflight adjustable propeller.
About the time of the accident, the Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Florida, 0903 surface weather observation was winds calm, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 2,200 feet, temperature 24 degrees C, dew point temperature 23 degrees C, altimeter 30.12 inHg. The Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Jacksonville, Florida, 0956 surface weather observation was winds calm, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling 1700 feet broken, 4,300 feet broken, temperature 26 degrees C, dewpoint temperature 24 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.13 inHg. The Jacksonville International Airport, Jacksonville, Florida, is located about 231 degrees, at 25.9 miles from the point where the debris field was discovered.
The Brunswick, Georgia (SSI) 0853 surface weather observation was winds 060 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 2,600 feet, 3,700 feet scattered, ceiling 5,500 feet broken, temperature 28 degrees C, dewpoint temperature 23 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.12 inHg. The Brunswick, Georgia 0953 surface weather observation was winds o70 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 2,600 feet, temperature 28 degrees C, dewpoint temperature 23 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.14 inches Hg,
The NTSB performed a meteorological study of weather in the area at the time of the accident. The study encompassed a detailed look at radar data, satellite data, lightening data, the area forecast, and current in-flight weather advisories that were in effect. About the time of the accident, radar data obtained from the Jacksonville, Florida, WSR-88D Doppler weather radar showed the presence of intense radar echoes (VIP level 4 and 5) in the area of the debris field, and the general movement of the weather echoes was from east to west. Geostationary Orbital Environmental Satellite (GOES) data showed that about the time of the accident, there were clouds and convective activity in the area of the debris field, and that based on radiative temperatures the cloud tops reached as high as 35,000 feet. In addition, lightening data showed that there were many lightening strikes in about a 15 mile radius of the debris location about the time of the accident. The investigation also showed that for the period covering when the accident occurred, the National Weather Service had issued an Area Forecast for the Georgia coastal waters, and at 0915, a Center Weather Advisory was also issued.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
At 1114, the crew of the U.S. Navy P-3 which the Coast Guard had diverted, located debris at latitude 30 degrees, 46.1 minutes north, longitude 081 degrees, 17.04 minutes west.
Fragmented sections of the airplane structure and control surfaces, as well internal portions of the cabin were recovered from the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. The fragmented sections were staged and examined by the NTSB, and no anomalies were found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The flight instructor/pilot in command is missing and is presumed to have been fatally injured, and the dual student/airplane owner was found to have received fatal injuries. After recovery by search and rescue assets from the Atlantic Ocean, the body of the pilot/owner was transported to the Duval County Medical Examiner's Office, Jacksonville, Florida for a postmortem examination. The medical examiner's report revealed that the cause of death was due to multiple injuries sustained as an occupant of a small airplane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. No findings that could be considered causal to this accident was reported.
The Duval County Medical Examiner's Office also conducted toxicological studies on samples obtained from the student/owner and only caffeine was detected.
The FAA Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also performed toxicology on samples from the student/owner. The samples were tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs. Arenolol was found to be present urine, and 10.345 (ug/ml, ug/g) salicylate was detected in blood.