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On December 5, 2001, at 1011 mountain standard time, a Cessna 182E, N3049Y, collided with level desert terrain shortly after takeoff from runway 21L at Ernest A. Love Field Airport (PRC), Prescott, Arizona. The pilot/owner operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane was destroyed in the collision sequence and post impact fire. The private pilot and the passenger in the front seat were fatally injured; the two passengers in the rear seat were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that was scheduled to terminate at the Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) Airport, Puerto Penasco, Mexico. No flight plan had been filed.
According to the rear seat passengers, the purpose of the flight was to look at some property in Mexico for development. Both passengers had each packed a gym type bag with a change of clothes and toiletry items, that each weighed about 10 pounds. They also did not recall the airplane being refueled the day of the accident.
The male passenger indicated that he had flown with the pilot a couple of times prior to the accident. He stated that on the day of the accident, about 0700, he and the female passenger met the pilot at the pilot's office. Waiting at the office was the pilot and the front seat passenger. They drove over to the airport for breakfast before departing on their flight. He stated that they went to the airplane first, and the airplane was turned so the sun could "catch it." The male passenger did not recall how long breakfast was, but indicated that some time had passed before they returned to the airplane. After arriving back at the airplane he noted that there was "still ice on the wings - sun was glistening off the ice."
The passenger indicated that he, the pilot, and the front seat passenger started to chip ice off the wings. He was positioned at the tail section and was using a small plastic comb to pop "pieces of ice off." During the chipping off of the ice, he noted a recessed area, tie down area, where water had gathered and frozen.
The male passenger reported that the tops of the wings were not easy to get to and the ice was heaviest in that area; however, the ice was starting to melt on the trailing edge of the wings. He further stated that no ladders were used to reach the tops of the wings to remove the ice. At one point the passenger asked the pilot if they were okay to fly, and the pilot responded with 'yeah.'
When they were finished removing ice from the airplane, they got in and taxied to the runway, where they were instructed to wait for a landing airplane. The passenger remembered calling his daughter at 1000, while they were waiting to takeoff. During that time, he recalled seeing an airplane across the field that appeared to be taking a "shower." The pilot explained to the passengers that the airplane was being deiced. The pilot then taxied the airplane to the runway and took off.
The passenger remembered that after takeoff, the airplane banked to the right, then the left, then back to the right. He also recalled the pilot saying something like "this isn't right," or "something's wrong." The passenger stated that there seemed nothing out of the ordinary with the engine.
The female passenger stated that once they arrived at the airport they turned the nose of the airplane to the west so that the sun "from the east could beat directly on the wings," then went to breakfast. Once they arrived back at the airplane after breakfast she got into the airplane and did not assist with the ice removal. She noted that the ice on the wings was "thick ice, not like you could brush it off," and estimated it to be about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick, and the pilot and front seat passenger were "struggling to get the ice off." The passenger reported that the pilot and front seat passenger did not use ladders to reach the top part of the wings, nor did they stand on any parts of the airplane to remove the ice.
At one point she asked the pilot if they would be all right. The pilot stated, "Once they got up in the air the ice would melt at higher altitudes." She did not remember anything after the takeoff roll.
A certified flight instructor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University had taken off behind the accident airplane. The instructor stated that he saw the airplane accelerate at a normal rate down the runway. At that point, he had been cleared to taxi into position and hold. He looked up and noted that the accident airplane was not climbing as much as he thought it should. He estimated that the climb rate was about 150-200 feet per minute. The instructor stated that he did not think much of it until they rotated and were climbing out. He looked outside and saw the accident airplane below the horizon about 1/4-mile from the departure end of the runway. He estimated that his airplane was about 300 feet above ground level (agl). At that point he knew something was wrong. He then heard the local controller asking if the accident airplane needed assistance.
The instructor stated that he saw the accident airplane bank about 35 degrees, and estimated its altitude to be about 150-200 feet agl and not climbing. It appeared to him that the pilot was initiating a course reversal to return to the airport. He saw the bank angle increase to about 80 degrees and the left wing "suddenly dropped" like it had stalled. It appeared to the instructor that the accident pilot attempted to recover from the situation; however, the right wing immediately dropped and stalled, placing the airplane into a spin. He stated that the airplane was inverted when it contacted the ground.
The instructor further stated that during his preflight inspection of his airplane he noted about 1/2-inch of frost, snow, and ice mixture covering the airplane. During the taxi to the Forest Service facility to deice the airplane, he observed that the pitot tube was completely iced over, and he activated the pitot heat. The deicing crew then deiced the airplane. The instructor also noted that during their run-up the VSI returned back to its null position at a slower than normal rate. Before they were ready for takeoff they conducted further tests of the alternate static system. The VSI improved and he and his student decided to continue the flight.
Another witness, located at the Forest Service facility, was deicing airplanes at the time of the accident and saw the accident airplane taxiing along taxiway Charlie towards runway 21L. He stated that it caught his attention because it was one of the first airplanes out of the airport that morning. He further reported that on the morning of the accident there was ice present not only on the airplanes but also on the ramps and taxiways.
The witness indicated that there is a small window (time) where they can see and hear aircraft takeoff on the runway; about 900-1,300 feet down runway 21L. He observed the accident airplane in this area accelerate down the runway, and the engine sounded normal. He stated that around the 4,000-foot mark of the runway, the airplane slowly rotated into ground effect in a wings level attitude. The witness stated that it appeared the pilot was conducting a soft field/high performance takeoff to obtain "climb airspeed." From his estimate, the airplane stayed within 10 feet of the runway until 1,000 feet from the runway threshold of runway 3R. The airplane entered a slow descent, in a wings level attitude towards the runway, which terminated about 4 feet from the runway. He stated that the airplane pitched up slowly at first then became abrupt at the end of the runway. The airplane began a 45-degree right bank turn at an estimated 20 degrees per second roll rate. The witness stated that he thought this was abnormal and he continued to watch the airplane. He lost sight of the airplane as it went behind some trees that ran along the west end of runway 3R on the golf course. The airplane came back into view above the tree line for about 4 seconds. When he saw the airplane again it was in an 80-degree bank and was continuing to pitch up in relation to the horizon. The witness saw the airplane enter a right-hand spin and become inverted. The last view he had before the airplane disappeared behind the tree line was of the airplane's landing gear dropping behind the tree line, nose first with the roll rate still noticeable, but decreasing.
The witness noted the general weather conditions for that morning. The winds were light and variable, but prevalent from 170-250 degrees, with high scattered clouds. The temperature was minus 4 degrees Celsius, with a dew point spread of about 1 degree. He stated that the ground icing conditions were "quite severe," with wings covered in about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick of rime ice with a clear ice coat. He did not observe any icing conditions present on the accident airplane as it taxied by or as it took off, but noted that the other aircraft operating from the north ramp area had a moderate frost buildup visible on the lifting surfaces.
A compilation of witnesses from various locations at the airport observed an ice, snow, and frost mixture present on the wings of parked airplanes. They indicated that the ice, snow, and frost mixture did not completely thaw until about noon on the day of the accident. The witnesses also noted that this was the heaviest ice that they had seen in a few years, and definitely the heaviest that they had seen this year.
One witness reported observing the accident pilot refuel his airplane the day before the accident with auto fuel. However, he did not know how much fuel the pilot added or what the total fuel quantity was after the refueling.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. Repeated requests to obtain the pilots personal flight records from the spouses' attorney were unsuccessful.
A review of the FAA medical records revealed that the pilot had been issued a third-class certificate with no limitations or waivers on August 18, 1999. According to the airman medical records, on the pilot's last medical application, he did not indicate the use of medications or the diagnosis of any medical conditions.
The airplane was a single engine Cessna 182E (serial number 18254049), equipped with a 230-horsepower Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) O-470-R engine (serial number 83001-1-R), and a constant speed, two-bladed McCauley propeller (model number 2A36C29AEG, serial number 62672). A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed a total airframe time of 2,225.5 hours at the last annual inspection, which was completed on July 16, 2001.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) utilized the Cessna Aircraft Company FAA approved Pilot's Operating Handbook charts to calculate the weight and balance of the accident airplane. The airplane was calculated to be 98 pounds over gross weight with full fuel tanks, and out of the center of gravity envelope (aft). The airplane, with 30 gallons of fuel, was calculated to be within the gross weight; however, fell outside of the center of gravity envelope (aft). Figures used to calculate the weight and balance:
Empty weight - 1738.3 lbs
Gross weight - 2800 lbs
Pilot - 210 lbs (at time of autopsy)
Front seat passenger - 170 lbs (at time of autopsy)
Rear seat passenger - 170 lbs (FAA standard weight for a male)
Rear seat passenger - 140 lbs (obtained from drivers license at the accident site)
Known baggage weight - 20 lbs (2 bags, 10 lbs each belonging to the rear seat passengers)
Estimated baggage weight - 20 lbs (pilot and front seat passenger)
Wire bundle in baggage compartment - 17 lbs
Fuel - estimated at full tanks 60 gallons (360 lbs)
Fuel - estimated at 30 gallons (180 lbs)
A staff meteorologist for the Safety Board prepared a factual report, which included the following weather for the departure area.
The Ernest A. Love Field Airport (PRC) is equipped with an automated surface observing system (ASOS) and is augmented with National Weather Service certified observers.
A routine aviation weather report (METAR) for PRC was issued at 0953. The METAR reported the wind from 170 degrees at 3 knots; visibility unrestricted at 10 statute miles, sky clear below 12,000 feet; temperature -1 degrees Celsius; dew point -4 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 30.30 inches of mercury.
A special weather observation was made at 1020, which reported the wind from 170 degrees at 4 knots; visibility unrestricted at 10 statute miles, sky clear below 12,000 feet; temperature 0 degrees Celsius; dew point -4 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 30.30 inches of mercury.
The area forecast issued at 0431 on December 5, 2001, and valid until midnight on December 6, 2001, stated that for Northern Arizona occasional visibilities would be 3 to 5 miles in mist. After 1100, there would be occasionally scattered to broken cloud layers at 12,000 feet with the tops near 18,000 feet. After 1300, there was a possibility of isolated snow showers.
During the previous 24-hour time period, the Safety Board specialist noted that the meteorological conditions varied from instrument flight rules (IFR), to marginal visual flight rules (MVFR), and eventually visual flight rules (VFR). On December 4, 2001, light rain, light snow, and mist were present with mixed freezing precipitation noted at 1853. The temperature ranged from 0 to -6 degrees Celsius throughout the 24-hour period. The sky conditions varied between overcast, broken, and clear.
A review of the recorded air-to-ground communications at the Prescott Air Traffic Control Tower revealed that the pilot contacted the ground controller for a taxi clearance to runway 21L. The pilot informed the ground controller that he had the most current automatic terminal information service information, at 1002.
At 1006, the pilot contacted the local controller for a departure clearance. A portion of the departure clearance was for the pilot to turn left for a departure to the south. The tower controller advised him that he would be departing behind an arriving Citation, and provided him with an advisory for wake turbulence.
At 1008, the pilot was cleared for departure and given another advisory for wake turbulence.
At 1010, the local controller observed the airplane losing altitude and making a banking turn to the right back toward the airport. The controller asked the pilot if he was experiencing difficulty, to which he replied he was. The controller asked him what runway he wanted, but received no response.
At 1011, an airplane that had departed behind the accident airplane reported an airplane down and on fire.
The Airport/Facility Directory, Southwest U. S., indicated that the Ernest A. Love Field, Prescott, Arizona, runway 21L was 7,550 feet long and 150 feet wide. The runway surface was composed of asphalt and porous friction courses. The airport elevation is 5,045 feet mean sea level (msl).
The Ernest A. Love Field Airport does not provide deicing services to the public. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University owns and operates ground deice equipment for use on their own aircraft. They have a contract with the Forest Service for use of their area and Occupational Safety and Health Administration required disposal of the deice product.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Safety Board IIC, along with representatives from the Cessna Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM), who were parties to the investigation, examined the airframe and power plant on scene. The wreckage was located about 1/2-mile south of the departure end of runway 21L. The airplane had been involved in a post impact fire. The area was flat desert terrain that consisted of shrub trees typical of desert terrain. The ground was hard and frosted over when the Safety Board investigator arrived the following morning.
The latitude and longitude were obtained from a Global Position System (GPS) as 34 degrees 38.571 minutes north, and 112 degrees 26.282 minutes west. The accident site elevation was 5,158 feet. The wreckage was located on private property that was being developed by the pilot, and was accessible via a dirt road.
The wreckage was distributed along a linear path about 140 feet long, oriented on a magnetic bearing of approximately 020 degrees. The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was about 35 feet in length located in-between trees. Debris from the left wing was scattered between the FIPC and the main wreckage. Part of the left wing tip was also at the FIPC. The left door was also found in the FIPC. All major airplane and power plant components were found within the wreckage distribution area. The right wing was underneath the left wing and parallel to the fuselage, and the tail section separated from the empennage.
Investigators established flight control continuity from the cockpit to each of the primary flight controls. The wings separated from their respective attach points on the fuselage at the wing roots. Flight control continuity was established through the cables from the wing roots outboard. Investigators also established flight control continuity to the flaps. The aileron cables remained attached at the flight control bellcranks. The right aileron direct cable and the flap and aileron crossover cables were separated. The separated cables were broomstrawed in appearance. The left direct cable remained intact. The flight instruments were destroyed and unreadable due to impact forces and post impact fire. The fuel tank selector was selected to the BOTH position.
Investigators conducted a visual examination of the power plant on scene. The TCM representative removed the carburetor and noted that the throttle, propeller, and mixture arms were in the full forward position. The carburetor arm was extended aft about 2 inches, and the butterfly valve was in the closed position. The TCM representative removed the top spark plugs. According to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Chart AV-27, the spark plugs displayed coloration consistent with carbon-fouled operation. Investigators noted torsional S-bending from the hub outboard of the propeller blades. The propeller blades also displayed chordwise striations.
A liquid sample was removed and retained from the left wing. The fluid appeared yellow in color and smelled similar to auto fuel.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Yavapai County Office of the Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on December 6, 2001. The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner performed a toxicological analysis from samples obtained during the autopsy. The results of the analysis were positive for diphenhydramine and venlafaxine.
The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed a toxicological analysis from samples obtained during the autopsy. The report contained the following positive results: 0.696 (ug/mL, ug/g) desmethylvenlafaxine detected in blood; 0.372 (ug/ml, ug/g) venlafaxine detected in blood; 0.143 (ug/ml, ug/g) diphenhydramine detected in blood.
Venlafaxine is a prescription antidepressant (also known by the trade name Effexor) and desmethylvenlafaxine is the primary metabolite of venlafaxine.
Diphenhydramine (commonly known by the trade name Benadryl) is an over-the-counter antihistamine with sedative effects, most commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The engine was sent to TCM, Mobile, Alabama, for further examination. On January 16, 2002, under the auspices of the Safety Board, an engine inspection was conducted. There were no mechanical discrepancies noted with the engine inspection and teardown that would have precluded it from producing power.
TCM did note that a silicon sealant was used on the crankcase parting surfaces. According to the TCM Overhaul Manual, there are no allowances made to allow silicon to be used as a sealant on the crankcase party surfaces.
In 2002, the Airplane Owners and Pilot Association's (AOPA) Air Safety Foundation published an article titled AIRCRAFT ICING, which was sponsored by the FAA's Flight Safety Branch with technical assistance from National Aeronautics and Space Administration Glenn Research Center's Icing Branch. According to the article, "ice can distort the flow of air over the wing, diminishing the wing's maximum lift, reducing the angle of attack for maximum lift, adversely affecting airplane handling qualities, and significantly increasing drag. Wind tunnel and flight tests have shown that frost, snow, and ice accumulations (on the leading edge or upper surface of the wing) no thicker or rougher than a piece of coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30 percent and increase drag up to 40 percent. Larger accretions [of snow, ice, or frost] can reduce lift even more and can increase drag by 80 percent or more."