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On April 12, 2002, approximately 0942 Central Daylight Time, a Cessna T182 single-engine airplane, N983HH, was destroyed when it impacted an electrical generating power plant while maneuvering near Amarillo, Texas. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. The instrument rated pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal cross-country flight. The flight originated at the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport (FNL), Fort Collins, Colorado at 0600 Mountain Daylight Time, and was destined for the Amarillo International Airport (AMA), Amarillo, Texas.
The pilot called the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) the evening prior to the flight and the morning of the accident to check the weather for the route of flight. At 2117 MDT, on the evening before the flight, the pilot informed the briefer that he would be arriving Amarillo at approximately 1000 CDT. The briefer informed the pilot that the terminal area forecast (TAF) for Amarillo indicated that between 0500 CDT and 0900 CDT, there would be occasional visibility of 5 statute miles, mist, and overcast clouds at 2,000 feet.
At 0419 MDT on the morning of the accident, the pilot contacted the AFSS for a second briefing and was informed by the briefer of a lingering stationary front which ran through the northern portion of the Texas Panhandle, becoming a cold front through northern Oklahoma. The briefer also informed the pilot that at 0412, Amarillo was reporting visibility 4 statute miles and mist, with a few clouds at 400 feet. The briefer also stated that Amarillo had earlier reported visibility 5 statute miles and mist, and that there was a "tight temperature/dew point spread." The pilot then filed two VFR flight plans; one from Fort Collins to Amarillo, and the other from Amarillo to Fredericksburg, Texas.
At 0818 CDT, the pilot of N983HH called Denver Flight Watch over La Junta, Colorado, 213 nautical miles north northwest of Amarillo, to obtain weather information over his route of flight. The pilot was informed that convective Sigmet 33C was in effect for a line of severe thunderstorms, and advised the pilot that flight under visual flight rules (VFR) was not recommended. The Flight Watch controller also informed the pilot that he had not activated his VFR flight plan. The pilot was referred to Denver Radio to accomplish this.
At 0821CDT, the pilot called Denver Radio over La Junta RCO (Remote Communication Outlet) to activate his VFR flight plan. The in-flight controller activated the VFR flight plan and ensured that the pilot was aware of the latest weather advisories for his route of flight.
At 0933 CDT, the pilot contacted Amarillo approach, reporting he was approximately 20 miles north of Amarillo inbound for landing. The controller asked the pilot if he had the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), and told the pilot that Amarillo was operating under instrument flight rules (IFR). The pilot stated that he had the current ATIS information and requested Special IFR, which was later corrected to Special VFR. The pilot was then given a transponder code to squawk and reported to the controller that he was at 3,700 feet and sixteen miles from Amarillo (AMA elevation is 3,605 feet mean sea level), going over railroad tracks and a big railroad bridge. The controller, unable to identify N983HH on his radar, instructed the pilot to continue southbound, and to let him know when he was about eight miles north of the airport.
At 0940 CDT, the pilot reported to approach control, as requested, that he was 8 miles north of the airport. The controller informed the pilot that he still didn't have him in radar contact, and asked what his heading was. The pilot replied, "Heading is 143 degrees." The controller then asked the pilot if he was still at 3,700 or 3,800 feet, to which the pilot responded "affirmative." Radar contact was established when the aircraft was approximately 6 miles north of the airport.
At 0941 CDT, the pilot was given permission to enter Class C airspace, to maintain Special VFR conditions while in Class C airspace, and to contact Amarillo tower on frequency 118.3 MHz. The pilot confirmed the tower frequency but did not confirm the clearance. There were no further communications with N983HH.
The airplane had impacted an electrical generating power plant located approximately 5 miles northwest of the Amarillo International Airport at the 154 foot level. According to a witness working at the power plant, "It was very foggy at the time, but we looked up and saw a single-engine blue and white airplane flying from northwest to southeast, directly towards the power plant." Another witness, who was working at a nearby warehouse, reported seeing the plane fly over a "high rate of speed," clearing a 25 foot thaw shed by about 20 feet. "It was so low and loud I ducked and looked up and saw the plane. About 5 to 7 seconds later I heard a loud explosion."
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land and instrument airplane rating. The Federal Aviation Administration Airmen (FAA) Certification Branch, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, reported the pilot obtained his private pilot certificate on July 6, 1946. The pilot's most recent biennial flight review was conducted on October 12, 2001. According to his logbook, the pilot had accumulated approximately 2,860 hours of total flying time.
The pilot held a third class medical certificate dated May 1, 2001, with the restriction that he must wear corrective lenses.
The aircraft, a 1981 model Cessna T182, received its last annual inspection on September 26, 2001, in conjunction with an engine overhaul. Total time on the engine at the time of overhaul was 1,940.3 hours. At the time of the accident the aircraft's Lycoming O-540 six-cylinder engine had accumulated a total of 100.7 hours since overhaul.
On April 11, 2002, at 2117 MDT, the evening prior to the flight, the pilot called the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) by telephone to obtain an outlook briefing for a flight from the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport (FNL), Fort Collins, Colorado, to the Gillespie County Airport (T82), Fredericksburg, Texas, with an intermediate refueling stop at the Amarillo International Airport (AMA), Amarillo, Texas. The briefer informed the pilot of a cold front running north and south along the front range of Colorado, down to about Roswell, New Mexico, and eastward into Texas. The briefer further stated that there was no precipitation associated with the low, that the precipitation was in northern Texas, and that there would be clear skies along the route of flight. The briefer stated there was some precipitation to the east in Colorado, extreme eastern Colorado, but mostly in western Kansas and in central Nebraska, and that the pilot's destination "looks like it's in the clear." The briefer then informed the pilot that the Amarillo TAF from 0400 CDT to 1200 CDT indicated wind 060 degrees at 6 knots, visibility unrestricted, scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, and occasionally between 0500 CDT and 0900 CDT, visibility of 5 statute miles, mist, and overcast clouds at 2,000 feet.
On April 12, 2002, at 0419 MDT, the pilot called the AFSS by telephone to obtain a briefing for his proposed flight from Fort Collins to Fredericksburg, with an intermediate stop in Amarillo for fuel. The briefing specialist informed the pilot of an Airmet for icing in Kansas and northern Oklahoma above 10,000 feet and that a high pressure system was starting to build and move in from the northwest. The briefer also informed the pilot of a lingering stationary front which ran through the northern portion of the Texas Panhandle, becoming a cold front through northern Oklahoma. He then advised the pilot that at 0412, Amarillo was reporting winds 020 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 4 statute miles and mist, a few clouds at 400 feet, and that earlier they were reporting visibility 5 statute miles and mist, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point 11 degrees C, and that there was "a tight temperature, dew point spread there." The briefer also informed the pilot that there was one thunderstorm approximately forty to fifty miles north of Amarillo.
At 0818 CDT, the pilot of N983HH contacted Denver Flight Watch over La Junta, Colorado, saying he was on his way to Amarillo and was "just wondering how things are looking there. I'll be there in about an hour." The specialist informed the pilot that there was still some thunderstorm activity to the north and east of Amarillo, and convective Sigmet 33C was in effect. The specialist further stated that there were strong thunderstorm cells with tops in excess of 45,000 feet about 30 miles east northeast of Amarillo moving southeastward. The specialist then advised the pilot that Amarillo had been IFR with a 500 foot ceiling, and was currently reporting wind 030 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 6 statute miles in fog, few clouds at 500 feet, ceiling 1,000 feet overcast, temperature 13 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C. The specialist then informed the pilot that the terminal forecast for Amarillo for the next 90 minutes called for occasional ceilings of 600 broken, and then after 1000 CDT, Amarillo was expected to become ceiling 4,000 feet, broken clouds 4,000 feet, visibility unrestricted, with winds 090 degrees at 10 knots. The specialist further informed the pilot that VFR flight was not recommended in the Texas panhandle at this time due to current forecast, and that there would be continued IFR conditions for about the next 90 minutes.
The 0927 special weather observation for Amarillo, distributed by the National Weather Service (NWS), revealed that the wind was from 040 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 20 knots, visibility 4 statute miles in mist, broken clouds at 300 feet, overcast clouds at 700 feet, temperature 13 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.14 inches of mercury.
At 0953, the weather observation facility at Amarillo reported wind 050 degrees at 14 knots, visibility 8 statute miles, overcast clouds at 500 feet, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.15 inches of Mercury.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Division of Forensic Pathology, Lubbock, Texas. The pilot's cause of death was blunt impact injuries.
Toxicology tests on the pilot were conducted by the Universal Toxicology Laboratories, LLC, of Midland, Texas. According to the postmortem toxicology report, results were negative for drugs, antidepressants, and acetaminophen.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A Global Positioning System (GPS) recorded the accident location at North 035 degrees 17.940 minutes latitude and West 101 degrees 44.760 minutes longitude, at an elevation of 3,600 above sea level. The airplane had impacted an electrical generating power plant building at approximately the 154 foot level on a magnetic heading of 145 degrees, colliding with the 11th and 13th floors of the power plant.
Examination of the accident site disclosed that wreckage debris was scattered over a 100 foot square area at ground level, directly below the primary impact site. Additional debris was located on two overhead conveyor ducts, approximately 65 feet high, with additional debris located inside the conveyor areas. The impact angle between the building's wall and nose of the aircraft was less than 30 degrees. The initial impact angle was at a shallow positive pitch angle into the north side of an offset and ascending conveyor at the 13th floor. Subsequent impacts occurred on the north side of the 11th floor where additional holes were found and evidence of fire could be seen externally. Light soot could be seen in an upward pattern near the initial impact point and the soot became darker and thicker further to the south of the north-facing wall. The aircraft's engine was inside the corrugated sheet metal siding of the west-facing wall and resting inside the building's east wall ironwork.
The aircraft's initial impact with the building was approximately 60 feet east of the engine's entry into the building. The aircraft was fragmented and the majority of the aircraft was located on the ground and on two conveyor ducts oriented in a east-west direction, adjacent to and below the impact area.
The fuselage sustained substantial damage from impact forces and post-impact fire. The left wing, empennage, left elevator and stabilizers were found on the overhead conveyor ducts. The remainder of the airplane, excluding various small parts and the engine, were located at ground level. The cabin overhead and entry doors were detached from the fuselage and the tail cone was separated at the forward end of the dorsal fin. The forward cabin area was substantially fire damaged. The instrument panel and control columns were separated from the remainder of the cabin. The flap and aileron cables were attached at the bellcranks of both wings, but the cables had broomstrawed separations. Flight control continuity could not be established due to the fragmentation of the airframe. No remarkable cable separations were observed.
The left wing, located on an overhead conveyor, was separated into two main sections at the flap/aileron split area. The flap and aileron remained attached to the wing and the flap cables were attached to the pulley. The wing was twisted and bent with substantial sooting and burn marks. There was also substantial fire damage around the fuel tank.
The right wing was located at ground level approximately 45 feet west of the main wreckage area. The leading edge was damaged across its span, with damage more severe toward the wing tip. The forward spar remained intact. The aileron and flap were attached to the wing and both ends were crushed. The lift strut was detached and laying in front of the wing. The fuselage attach fitting was separated and the flap jackscrew was not extended.
The tailcone and the vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer and left elevator remained attached. The rudder, located 2 feet north of the right wing, was flattened and detached from the vertical stabilizer. The counterweight was not attached. The right horizontal stabilizer's tip was destroyed by impact, and the right elevator, located at ground level and 68 feet to the right of the main wreckage area, was detached at the hinges and the torque tube adapter.
The rudder cables were attached at the rudder bars and ran through the cabin where they exhibited overload signatures. The trim tab rod was separated from the trim tab. The trim chain in the cabin was intact; however, a trim position could not be determined at the indicator. The forward elevator was attached to the forward elevator bellcrank and the control column.
The fuel system was compromised from impact forces and fire damage. No fuel was observed at the accident site. Vented fuel caps were installed at both fuel ports. The left wing was burned in the area of the fuel tank and the upper skin containing the port was separated and compressed. The right fuel tank was compromised, but no evidence of fire was observed. The right fuel tank finger screen was free of debris. The fuel selector handle was not observed. The selector valve was removed and found to be rotated approximately 10 degrees clockwise of the "Both" position. The valve rotated freely. The fuel strainer remained intact and was disassembled. The bowl contained no sediment and showed some pitting on its inner lower surfaces. The screen had some particles on its outer surface.
The engine exhaust system, turbocharger, carburetor, vacuum pump, starter, alternator and the three left side cylinder heads were observed separated from the engine. Approximately one-half of the propeller hub was fractured and separated from the engine. The propeller blades were separated from the propeller hub. Both blades exhibited severe gouging. One blade exhibited a cut perpendicular to the leading edge that extended into the blade about 2 inches.
Due to the cabin and cockpit areas being substantially fire damaged, no instrument readings, gauge readings, or switch positions could be recorded
TEST AND RESEARCH
On April 23, 2002, the engine was examined under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge at the facilities of Air Salvage of Dallas in Lancaster, Texas. The crankshaft would not rotate due to impact damage. The propeller blades separated from the propeller hub, the propeller hub was broken, and a portion of the hub remained attached to the crankshaft flange. The cylinder heads for #1, #3, and #5 were separated from the cylinder barrels. The dual magneto was broken at the top right position and was loose on the case. The carburetor was separated and its inlet screen was clean. The engine driven fuel pump outlet line was separated. #1, #3, and #5 top and bottom spark plugs were destroyed. The #2 bottom spark plug was broken. All other spark plugs displayed low service life and color consistent with "normal" combustion when compared to the Champion Spark Plug Wear Guide. The ignition harness was destroyed. The starter, alternator, and vacuum pump were all separated from their mounts. The oil reservoir and left side of the oil pan were breached. There was no oil present.
The aircraft wreckage was released to Unites States Aviation Underwriters on October 9, 2002.