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On January 5, 2002, at 1259 Pacific standard time, a Cessna T337H, N1348L, collided with terrain in Buena Park, California. The airplane rolled to a vertical nose down attitude while in a right turn from base to final for landing on runway 06 at Fullerton Municipal Airport, Fullerton, California. The commercial pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot sustained fatal injuries; the collision sequence and post crash fire destroyed the airplane. The personal local flight departed Fullerton about 1245. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The primary wreckage was at 33 degrees 52.161 minutes north latitude and 117 degrees 59.418 minutes west longitude.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the air traffic control tower (ATCT) controller that handled the airplane as it approached Fullerton. The pilot contacted the ATCT and said that he was 20 miles east and inbound for landing. The controller cleared him into the traffic pattern on the south side of the airport for right traffic to runway 06, because there were slower planes in the pattern on the north side for left traffic.
The controller cleared the airplane to land, and watched the airplane execute a continuous right turn while it was on the base leg for landing. The controller thought that the airplane appeared to be a little high and that the landing gear down was not down. The controller informed the pilot that the gear did not appear to be down, and then saw the airplane roll to the right to a vertical nose down attitude. Once in the vertical attitude, the controller did not see any more roll as the airplane disappeared behind buildings just prior to impact.
After the pilot acknowledged the clearance to land, the controller heard no other transmissions from the airplane. The pilot never informed him of any problems. Throughout all of the transmissions the controller thought that the pilot sounded very competent.
Another witness was a pilot, airframe and powerplant mechanic, engineer, and familiar with this pilot and airplane. He watched the airplane continuously from downwind. He said that the downwind was normal, but the turn to base was early. The airplane remained high during the base leg and the turn to final. He observed that the landing gear was still in the retracted position.
The witness observed the right wing drop 70-80 degrees, and the airplane entered a sharp right turn through 180 degrees of rotation. The nose started dropping and after 360 degrees of turn, the nose was down about 70 degrees. He heard the engines go to full power, and noted an effort to stop the rotation after 450 degrees of turn. The nose rose to 60 degrees nose low prior to impact. He did not see a change in the landing gear configuration, and did not observe the flap position.
One pilot witness reported that the airplane departed Fullerton about 15 minutes prior to the accident. The engines sounded good, and he noticed nothing wrong with the airplane.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine and multiengine land ratings. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on May 29, 2001. It had the limitations that the pilot shall wear lenses that correct for distant vision, and possess glasses that correct for near vision.
An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated an estimated total flight time of 1,650 hours. He logged an estimated 7 hours in the last 90 days; 6 were in this make and model. He had an estimated 340 hours in this make and model.
The airplane was a Cessna T337H, serial number 33701840. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed a total airframe time of 1,821.7 hours. The logbooks contained an entry for an annual inspection dated November 17, 2000.
The front engine was a Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-360H1B, serial number 233262-R. Total time recorded on the factory-rebuilt engine at the last 100-hour inspection was 670.6 hours.
The rear engine was a Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-360-HB2B, serial number 239964-R. Total time recorded on the factory-rebuilt engine at the last 100-hour annual inspection was 849.1 hours.
The pilot was in contact with the ATCT at Fullerton on a frequency of 119.1.
The Airport/ Facility Directory, Southwest U. S., indicated that Fullerton's runway 06 was 3,121 feet long and 75 feet wide, and it had a displaced threshold of 427 feet. The runway surface was asphalt. The traffic pattern altitude was 1,600 feet msl (1,504 agl) for multiengine aircraft.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest in a vacant lot between commercial and residential buildings. The airplane crushed so that the tallest piece of wreckage was about 3-feet high. A post crash fire consumed a majority of the cabin.
The orientation of the wings was primarily 040/260 (left and right wing, respectively). The outboard 6 1/2 feet of the right wing sheared off when it contacted a concrete block fence.
The principal impact crater (PIC) was about 3-feet deep, and was in the center of the main wreckage. The main wreckage area contained all of the major airframe and engine components. All wreckage that investigators located was within 100 feet of the PIC. The most distant piece of wreckage was the front propeller, which was 100 feet southeast of the main wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Orange County Coroner completed an autopsy. The autopsy report included a toxicology report. It contained the following results: butalbital, acetaminophen, and pseudoephedrine detected, and 0.053 (mg/L) of codeine in postmortem blood.
The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot. They did not test for carbon monoxide or cyanide.
The FAA toxicology report contained the following results: no ethanol detected in the kidney; 17 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in muscle; 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde detected in muscle. A note indicated that the ethanol was from postmortem ethanol formation, and not from the ingestion of ethanol.
The report contained the following results: 3.101 (ug/ml, ug/g) butalbital detected in kidney; 4.061 (ug/ml, ug/g) butalbital detected in liver; amlodipine present in blood; amlodipine present in liver; azacyclonol present in liver; ephedrine present in blood; pseudoephedrine present in liver; and pseudoephedrine present in blood.
The Safety Board's Medical Officer examined the autopsy report, personal medical records, and a certified copy of the airman's medical records. He prepared a factual report, and the following paragraphs summarize the findings.
The pilot did not indicate the use of butalbital-, codeine-, or triazolam-containing products on any application for Airman Medical Certificate in the FAA maintained records. Although a 1977 application did indicate "yes" in response to "Frequent or severe headaches,"and physician reports in the FAA records noted probable "vascular headaches" treated previously with Fiorinal #3 (butalbital, aspirin, caffeine, and codeine) and Cafergot (ergotamine and caffeine). The pilot noted that a food allergy caused the headaches. He reported that diet corrected the problem, and that he no longer needed medication. The pilot's most recent application for an Airman Medical Certificate on May 29, 2001, indicated "no" to questions that asked if the applicant currently used any medication or experienced frequent or severe headaches.
Records subpoenaed from a physician seen by the pilot documented the use of Fiorinal, Fioricet (butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine), and Tylenol #3 (acetaminophen and codeine) to treat headaches for nearly 15 years. Records subpoenaed from a mail-order pharmacy that the pilot used noted prescriptions filled for 400 Tylenol #3, 1800 Fioricet or generic equivalent, and 540 triazolam (0.25 mg) in the 2 years prior to the accident. The pharmacy filled additional prescriptions for Norvasc (amlodipine) and Allegra-D (fexofenadine/pseudoephedrine).
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The IIC and investigators from the FAA, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Teledyne Continental Motors examined the wreckage at Eastman Aircraft Services in Corona, California, on January 10, 2002.
Investigators measured the elevator trim at 2.9 inches; the airframe manufacturer's representative said that 2.88 inches was equal to zero degrees tab deflection.
Investigators measured 5.75 inches of flap actuator extension, which the airframe manufacturer's representative equated to flaps down 25 degrees.
The nose gear was in the wheel well, and the gear doors impinged into the tire. The main gear fracture surfaces lined up in the retracted position.
Both primers were in the locked position.
All flight control surfaces were accounted for. There were multiple disconnects in the control system, and control continuity could not be established. The flight control actuating cables were measured, and accounted for the approximate total cable lengths for each control surface. All cable disconnects exhibited broomstraw patterns. Both aileron control rods bent, and both rods fractured on 45-degree angular planes.
Front Engine and Propeller
The front engine sustained mechanical damage, and the crankshaft would not rotate. Its pistons were in symmetrical positions, and the engine representative determined that they exhibited normal combustion deposits.
The spark plugs displayed similar gaps, and exhibited no mechanical damage. The top plugs were gray, and the bottom plugs were wet and muddy.
The right magneto rotated, and the impulse coupling clicked. However, the rear of the case sustained damage, and the magneto would not spark. The left magneto sparked on all posts when manually rotated.
The crankshaft, oil pump, and cam gears were all undamaged. The turbocharger separated and became lodged in the belly of the airframe.
One blade of the front propeller fractured and separated from the hub. About 4 inches of the tip separated from the blade along a jagged diagonal plane. The blade had chordwise striations, and its actuating pin fractured. The front propeller's second blade exhibited an S-Bend, leading edge dents and scrapes, and diagonal chordwise striations. This blade's tip curled aft and had a midchord longitudinal split that was about 2 inches long.
Rear Engine and Propeller
The rear engine sustained mechanical damage, and the crankshaft would not rotate. The pistons exhibited no mechanical damage, and the pistons were in symmetrical positions. The engine representative determined that the pistons exhibited normal combustion deposits.
All of the spark plugs exhibited similar gaps, and exhibited no mechanical damage. The engine had been on its right side, and the plugs for cylinders no. 2, 4, and 6 were oily. The remaining plugs were gray.
The turbocharger impellor turned freely.
The drive coupling for the left magneto was distorted in the direction opposite of rotation. The left magneto had part of the firewall wrapped around it, and investigators could not rotate it. The right magneto melted.
The rear propeller had leading edge gouges in both blades, and one blade had a broken actuating pin.
The IIC released the wreckage to the owner's representative.