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On March 1, 2002, at 1641 central standard time, a Beech A36 single-engine airplane, N7236L, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during a missed approach at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), near Austin, Texas. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. The instrument rated private pilot and his non-pilot rated passenger received fatal injuries. The flight was in instrument meteorological conditions at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 320-nautical mile cross-country flight originated from the Wiley Post Airport (PWA), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, at 1358, and was destined for Austin.
At 0959, the pilot contacted the Mc Alester Automated Flight Service Station (MLC AFSS) and requested a weather briefing for an IFR flight from PWA to AUS departing at 1400 cst. The briefer informed the pilot of an Airmet for light turbulence along the route of flight. The briefer also informed the pilot of the terminal forecast for AUS, which included: Before 1600, clouds scattered and broken at 400 and 1,500 feet, respectively. After 1600, clouds scattered at 3,000 feet, ceiling 6,000 feet broken, and visibilities greater than 6 miles. At 1358, the airplane departed PWA and flew to Austin.
According to FAA air traffic control (ATC) records, at 1616, the flight was at 6,000 feet and contacted Austin Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (AUS TRACON). At 1617, the flight was issued the weather for AUS (wind from 020 at 4 knots, visibility 1/4 miles in fog, runway 17L runway visual range (rvr) 1,800 feet at touchdown, 2,000 feet at mid-field and 2,000 at feet roll-out, and ceiling 100 foot overcast) and was told to expect the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 17L.
At 1629, the flight was cleared for the ILS approach to runway 17L. At 1633, the flight was cleared to land on runway 17L. At 1637, the pilot declared a missed approach and the tower controller issued the following instructions: Fly runway heading and maintain 3,000 feet. The pilot acknowledged. At 1638, the tower controller issued the following instructions: As soon as speed and altitude permit turn left heading 080 degrees and maintain 3,000 feet. The pilot acknowledged the instructions. At 1638:49, the flight was instructed to contact approach on 125.32, and the pilot acknowledged. The flight did not check in on 125.32, and no distress calls were received.
Radar data from the approach phase of flight revealed, the airplane was in a steady descent and only small heading changes were made during the approach. The airplane descended to an altitude of 700 feet msl (209 feet agl) and then a climb was initiated to 400 feet. At 1638:50, the final radar return was received, and the final radar return depicted the airplane at 900 feet msl (500 feet agl).
At 1642, the Austin Air Traffic Control Tower (AUS ATCT) notified the Airport Fire Department, Police Department, and airport personnel of a possible airplane accident and a search was initiated. At 1740, airport personnel located the airplane approximately 1/4 mile east of the departure end of runway 17L (east of the runway 35R localizer centerline in the southeast corner of the airport). The airplane was found engulfed in flames. Airport Rescue Fire Fighters (ARFF) responded and a pathway was cleared through heavy brush and trees into the accident site. At 1845, ARFF accessed the accident site, and at 1850, the fire was extinguished.
The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on April 18, 1987. He held single and multi-engine land ratings and an instrument rating. On July 9, 2001, he completed his most recent biennial flight review (BFR). According to the check pilot who administered the BFR, the accident pilot completed appropriate maneuvers for an airplane check-out and the BFR. He stated that some basic instrument flying was accomplished and approximately three instrument approaches were flown. The check pilot does not recall the pilot being deficient in any areas. According to insurance company records, as of July 2001 the pilot had accumulated a total of 682 hours, of which 210 were in the make and model of the accident airplane, and 604 were in retractable gear airplanes. The pilot's logbook was not located during the investigation.
He held a third class medical certificate that was issued on June 1, 2001.
The 1985 model airplane was equipped with a 300-horsepower Teledyne Continental IO-550-B engine (serial number 296620R) and a 3-bladed, constant speed McCauley propeller. The airplane was also equipped with a KFC-150 flight director (autopilot).
On April 22, 2000, the airplane underwent its most recent pitot-static inspection. On May 22, 2001, the airframe and engine underwent their most recent annual inspections, at which time they had accumulated a total of 2,082.8 hours and 522.2 hours since major overhaul, respectively. A review of the airframe, engine and propeller logbooks did not reveal any uncorrected maintenance entries.
Austin Bergstrom International Airport's runway 17L is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The runway is equipped with high intensity runway lights (HIRL), a standard 2,400 foot high intensity approach lighting system with centerline sequenced flashers (ALSF-II), and an Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI-L). Runway 17L is also equipped with an ILS approach and landing system. The decision height for the ILS runway 17L approach is 691 feet msl, (200 feet agl) and the minimum landing visibility is 0.5 miles or a runway visual range of 1,800 feet.
On March 5, 2003, a flight inspection, conducted by the FAA, of the instrument landing system revealed no anomalies with any part of the system, including the localizer, glide slope, distance measuring equipment, and lighting system.
At 1619, the weather observation facility at AUS issued a special meteorological aerodrome report (METAR) with the following weather conditions: wind from 020 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 1/4 statute mile, runway 17L visual range 1,800 feet variable 2,000 feet, fog, ceiling 100 feet overcast, temperature 14 degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.97 inches of Mercury.
At 1653, the weather observation facility at AUS reported the following weather conditions: overcast ceiling at 100 feet, visibility 1/4 statute miles in light rain and fog, temperature 14 degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, runway visual range 2,000 feet variable to 2,400 feet, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of Mercury.
According to emergency response personnel, the ground visibility was limited to approximately 15-20 feet due to heavy fog.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT DATA
The main wreckage was located 2,410 feet east of the departure end of runway 17L. A Global Positioning System (GPS) recorded the accident location at north 030 degrees 10.810 minutes latitude and west 097 degrees 39.011 minutes longitude, at an elevation of 462 feet msl. The airplane came to rest intact in a wooded area on a measured magnetic heading of 190 degrees. The only trees with freshly severed limbs were located directly above the main wreckage. The cockpit and cabin were consumed by a fire. Both wings sustained fire damage from their roots outboard to midspan. Both wing leading edges were crushed aft to the front wing spars (from wing-tip to wing-tip). The left main landing gear assembly was displaced upward through the left wing's upper wing skin. The tail section was intact; however, sustained fire damage. The landing gear was found extended, and the flaps were found extended 15 degrees (approach setting). Flight control continuity was established for the elevator, elevator trim, rudder, rudder trim, aileron, and aileron trim control surfaces. According to a Raytheon Aircraft (Beech) representative, the elevator trim was determined to be 10 degrees tab down (nose high).
The cockpit and cabin were consumed by fire; however, the directional gyro (DG) and attitude indicator (AI) flight instruments were recovered and disassembled at the accident site. The DG's outer casing was intact and sustained little impact related damage. The DG's brass gimbal and gimbal housing displayed light circumferential scoring. The AI's outer casing displayed impact and fire damage. The AI's brass gimbal and gimbal housing exhibited heat damage and were sooted.
The engine remained attached to the airframe and was embedded in a crater that was approximately 3 feet deep. The engine's accessory section was the only portion of the engine that was visible. The engine was removed from the ground and the propeller hub was crushed; however, it remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade remained attached to the propeller hub; however, it was loose. This blade displayed leading edge polishing and a slight "S" type bend. Two blades separated from the propeller hub and were found in the bottom of the crater that the engine was extricated from. Both blades displayed a twist toward the direction of rotation, leading edge gouges and leading edge polishing.
The engine was examined at the accident site. The crankshaft was incapable of rotation due to impact and fire damage. All of the accessories, except for the air conditioner compressor, remained attached to the engine. The exterior of all engine accessories displayed fire damage including sooting and discoloration. The top spark plugs were removed and moderate wear was noted when the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Card (AV-27) was referenced. The main fuel screen was removed from the fuel injector, and was clear. The fuel manifold was opened and its internal parts exhibited thermal damage. Its diaphragm was melted to its screen. The fuel pump, which sustained fire and impact damage, was removed and its coupling was in place. The oil filter was removed, cut open and no metal was observed in the filter element. The vacuum pump's drive coupling was separated. The vacuum pump's internal carbon vanes (6) were removed. Five vanes were intact and one vane was shattered. The vacuum pump's rotor was cracked into five pieces. The vanes, rotor and their housing displayed heat damage and sooting.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Medical Examiner of Travis County, Austin, Texas. Toxicological testing, performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that no alcohol was detected in lung and muscle samples; however, unquantified levels of diphenhydramine were detected in liver and muscle samples. According to an FAA Assistant Regional Flight Surgeon, "Dipenhydramine is an antihistamine used in the treatment of allergic symptoms. It causes significant drowsiness, therefore it is not recommended for use while performing safety-sensitive activities."
The airplane was released to the owner's representative on April 22, 2002.