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On August 14, 2001, about 1545 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150, N63351, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees then terrain on residential property in McGaheysville, Virginia. The certificated flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB), Martinsburg, West Virginia, about 1455, destined for the Shenandoah Regional Airport, Shenandoah, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the instructional cross country flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
Review of air traffic control communications revealed that the pilots had received flight following services from Richmond approach control, Richmond, Virginia, while en route to Shenandoah.
The last recorded communication with the pilots was when they contacted Richmond approach control, reported the Shenandoah Airport in sight, and cancelled flight following services. Approach control then advised them that radar service was terminated, and to change to advisory frequency.
Examination of radar data revealed a target tracking south of Martinsburg toward Winchester Regional Airport, Winchester, Virginia, at 1455. At 1509, the target crossed the Winchester Airport at an approximate altitude of 4,600 feet before the radar data momentarily ended. At 1516, the target was reacquired and it now tracked south toward the Linden VOR, Linden, Virginia. At 1519, the target crossed the Linden VOR at an altitude of 4,300 feet. The target then tracked to the southwest on a direct course for Shenandoah Airport.
Between 1541 and 1544, the target climbed from an altitude of 4,300 feet up to 4,900 feet, and began to track to the south.
At 1545, the target was at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Only two more radar returns were recorded after the target reached this altitude. Examination of the last two radar returns revealed that the target had descended to an altitude of 4,300 feet in approximately nine seconds.
The last recorded radar return was located at 38 degrees, 23 minutes north latitude, and 78 degrees, 43 minutes west longitude.
During a telephone interview, a witness said that he was standing on his back deck, which was located about 300 yards from the accident site. It was just before 1600, when he heard an airplane's engine "just cut-out". The witness looked up and saw the airplane "flying as it should" at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet. He said the airplane then "turned into a nose dive" and started to spin toward the ground.
As the airplane was descending, the witness said it appeared as if the pilot was fighting the airplane. He also heard the engine trying to be re-started. The witness said the airplane "stayed in a consistent spiral with a really wide axis" as it descended to the ground and disappeared into the trees.
The witness also said the airplane took a long time to descend to the ground, and that the pilot had plenty of time to recover.
A second witness was in his home when he heard the sound of a tree falling in his backyard. In a written statement, he said:
"At approximately 3:45 p.m., I heard a sound like a tree falling. I proceeded to look out the back door and saw a lot of leaves, limbs, and dirt flying around in our lower woods. Then I noticed the tail end of an airplane, white in appearance...I did not go down to the aircraft."
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 23 minutes north latitude, and 78 degrees, 43 minutes west longitude. The elevation was approximately 1,444 feet mean seal level (msl).
The flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine land. He was limited to flying Cessna series aircraft from the right seat only due to physical limitations of his right arm. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical was issued on August 9, 2001.
Two of the instructor's logbooks were examined. The first logbook began in April 1998, and then continued into another logbook, where the last entry was made on July 31, 2001. Between those times, the pilot had recorded a total of about 1,485.7 hours, of which 234.4 hours were in make and model, and 1,051.6 total hours were as flight instructor.
Examination of the student pilot's logbook revealed that the first entry was made on July 2, 2001, and the last entry was made on August 8, 2001. He had accrued a total of 27.1 hours, of which 26.2 hours were in make and model. Also, there were no written remarks in his logbook that indicated he had received spin training. The student pilot's most recent FAA medical was issued on July 12, 2001.
According to the president of Shenandoah Flight Services, the student pilot's primary flight instructor was not available to fly on the day of the accident, so he asked another flight instructor to substitute. According to the primary flight instructor, he did not brief the substitute instructor or provide him with a flight lesson plan before the flight.
Weather at Shenandoah Valley Airport (SHD), Harrisonburg, Virginia, at 1545, was reported as wind from 040 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 84 degrees F, dew point 70 degrees F, and altimeter setting 29.97 inches HG.
An on-scene examination of the wreckage was performed on August 14-15, 2001, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest in a wooded area with 100-foot high trees, in the backyard of a private residence. The airplane came to rest upright, with it's left wing low, on a heading of 045 degrees.
Examination of the trees surrounding the wreckage revealed impact scars to only one standing tree. The engine, which remained attached to the airplane, came to rest against the left side of this tree. Examination of the tree revealed successional impact scars down the southwest side of the tree. The last impact mark on the tree was near the base. This impact mark curved to the left toward the opposite side of the tree. Several small and medium sized tree branches were noted on top of, and around the airplane.
Both wings remained attached at the wing root, but were partially swept backwards. The right wing had leading edge impact damage along the mid-section of the wing. The impact damage and wing strut exhibited brown transfer streaks. These streaks were perpendicular and vertical in relation to the wing's leading edge. Embedded in these streaks were small pieces of tree bark. The outboard section of the wing was bent upwards, and the tip was intact. The flap and aileron exhibited impact damage.
The right fuel tank had a small rupture on the lower inboard seam. Fuel was noted to sporadically leak from the tank during the on-scene examination. The fuel cap was intact, and fuel was present inside the tank.
The left wing had leading edge impact damage, and the strut was compressed under the wing. The outboard section of the wing was intact and bent upward about 135 degrees. A dead tree was found lying on the fractured portion of the wing, parallel to the fuselage. Examination of the tree revealed a fresh impact scar with white and red transfer marks at the point where the tree was laying across the left wing. Red electrical wires were found in the area where the wing was fractured. The wires exhibited impact damage. The aileron and flap exhibited impact damage.
The left wing fuel tank was intact and filled with fuel. The fuel was light blue in color and absent of debris.
The flap actuator was in the zero degree position.
The empennage was pulled downward from its attachment point to the fuselage.
The tail section was intact. The right horizontal stabilizer, elevator, and elevator trim control surfaces were intact. The elevator trim actuator was measured to be about 1.4 degrees tab down.
The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator exhibited wrinkling along the top surface. The elevator's torque tube was separated from the bell crank assembly. The fracture surface of the hinge appeared shiny.
The vertical stabilizer's leading edge was intact, but the tip of the stabilizer was twisted. The rudder trim tab appeared to be neutral.
Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces. However, the left aileron cable was found separated at the point where the wing was damaged. The cable's end exhibited broom straw signatures.
The engine was examined on August 17, 2001. External examination of the engine revealed that the #4 and #2 cylinders exhibited impact damage. The cooling fins were broken on the #4 cylinder, and both exhaust stacks were partially separated from the cylinders. Both push rods for the #4 cylinder exhibited impact damage, and the rocker arm for the exhaust valve was displaced aft.
Valve train continuity from the power train to the accessory section was established on all but the #4 cylinder when the propeller was manually rotated. During the valve train continuity check, spark was produced to each ignition lead, except the #1 bottom lead. Examination of the #1 bottom spark plug ignition harness revealed a tear about 1-inch from the back of the magneto. However, spark was noted at this tear when the propeller was rotated. The spark plugs were removed and appeared dark in color.
Examination of the propeller revealed that one blade was undamaged, and the other blade exhibited s-bending with chordwise scratches. The blade also exhibited scoring along the length of the leading edge of the blade. The front face portion of the blade's tip exhibited pitting and gouging, and the spinner exhibited impact damage.
Fuel system continuity was established from the wings to the engine. Visual examination of the fuel system revealed that fuel was present in the lines.
The fuel strainer bowl was cracked, and examination of the fuel strainer screen revealed it was absent of debris.
The carburetor was partially separated from the intake. When the butterfly valve was moved, a small amount of fuel exited the carburetor. The carburetor was removed, disassembled and examined. The examination revealed that the metal floats, venturi and jet needle were intact. The bowl was moist and a trace of fuel was noted in the accelerator pump chamber. The fuel finger screen was absent of debris.
The engine oil screen was removed and contained a trace amount of debris.
Examination of the stall warning system revealed it was operational, and the stall horn produced noise when suction was applied. The pitot/static system was also intact and clear of blockages.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Western District, Roanoke, Virginia, performed autopsies on the flight instructor and student pilot on August 15, 2001.
The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the flight instructor and student pilot.
According to the FAA Flight Training Handbook, Advisory Circular (AC) 61-21A, page 154, a spin is described as, "an aggravated stall that results in what is termed 'autorotation' wherein the airplane follows a corkscrew path in a downward direction. The wings are producing some lift and the airplane is forced downward by gravity, wallowing and yawing in a spiral path."
Examination of the Cessna 150 Commuter Pilot Operating Handbook (POH), page 4-17, "Intentional spins are approved in this airplane....It is recommended that, where feasible, entries be accomplished at high enough altitude that recoveries are completed 4,000 feet or more above ground level. At least 1,000 feet of altitude loss should be allowed for a 1-turn spin and recovery, while a 6-turn spin and recovery may require somewhat more than twice that amount.
"The normal entry is made from a power-off stall. As the stall is approached, the elevator control should be smoothly pulled to the full aft position. Just prior to reaching the "stall break", rudder control in the desired direction of the spin rotation should be applied so that full rudder deflection is reached almost simultaneously with reaching full aft elevator.
"A slightly greater rate of deceleration than for normal stall entries or the use of partial power at the entry will assure more consistent and positive entries into the spin. Care should be taken to avoid using aileron control since its application can increase the rotation rate and cause erratic rotation. Both elevator and rudder controls should be held full with the spin until the spin recovery is initiated. An inadvertent relation of either of these controls could result in the development of a nose-down spiral.
"For the purpose of training in spins and spin recoveries, a 1 to 2-turn spin is adequate and should be used. Up to 2 turns, the spin will progress to a fairly rapid rate of rotation and steep attitude. Application of recovery controls will produce prompt recoveries of from 1/4 to 1/2 of a turn.
"If the spin is continued beyond the 2 to 3-turn range, some change in character of the spin may be noted. Rotation rates vary and some additional slide slip may be felt. Normal recoveries may take up to a full turn or more."
During telephone interviews with three of the flight instructor's students, each said they had received spin training from the flight instructor. Each student said the spins were entered from an altitude between 4,000 and 5,500 feet msl and were conducted in the flight school's practice area. Two of the students said that they had practiced flight maneuvers over the same area where the accident occurred when they were returning from a cross-country flight with the flight instructor.
According to a student, he had asked the flight instructor to demonstrate a spin. He said the flight instructor entered the spin from a power-on stall at "3/4-full power", and then "dropped it" into a left hand rotating spin. The power setting stayed at 3/4-full until it was time to recover. The student reported that he never touched the controls during the maneuver, and the flight instructor recovered from the spin within a few rotations. The student said that the spin was conducted in a Cessna 172 airplane.
A second student, who also trained in a Cessna 172 airplane, said that he and the instructor were practicing stall maneuvers when the flight instructor asked him if he "wanted to spin." The student agreed. The flight instructor took control of the airplane and demonstrated how to enter and recover from a spin. The student said the flight instructor entered the spin from a full stall, and recovered after two rotations. However, he did not recall the exact power setting. When asked how he was taught to recover from the spin, the student said, "Opposite rudder, stop the spin, level out, and reduce power. As you level out, increase the power. I don't recall being instructed on what to do with the control wheel."
The second student also said that he would hold onto the control wheel without applying pressure when the flight instructor demonstrated the maneuver.
A third student said that she had recently started flying with the flight instructor when he asked her if she would like to "do a spin." The student said she was not familiar with spins at that time, and thought the maneuver was for fun and not instruction.
The third student said the flight instructor had demonstrated a spin on three different flight lessons, and that he flew the entire maneuver. One spin was executed while in a Cessna 150, and the other two spins were done in a Cessna 172.
According to the third student, the flight instructor demonstrated how to enter and recover from a spin. She said,
"He would enter the spin from a power-on stall, and the airplane would always spin to the left. He recovered the airplane after two to three rotations. However, during another spin demonstration, he "did a whole lot of rotations...way more than three. I estimated that we did about 10 rotations, but I am not exactly sure...The spiral was tight...The more we let it spin, the tighter the rotations. However, he had no problem recovering the airplane."
Additionally, the President of Shenandoah Flight Services said that only three of the flight school's instructors had authorization to conduct spin training with students. He reported that the flight instructor was not one of the authorized instructors.
Review of Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 61.107- Flight Proficiency, an applicant for a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land is not required to receive and/or log spin training in an airplane from an authorized instructor.
The airplane wreckage was released on August 17, 2001, to Hagerstown Aircraft Services, Hagerstown, Maryland, on behalf of the owner's insurance company.