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On May 20, 2002, at approximately 1050 central daylight time, a Beech BE-35 single-engine airplane, N3157V, owned and operated by a private individual, was destroyed following a loss of control while maneuvering to land on Runway 14 at Clark Field Municipal Airport (SEP), near Stephenville, Texas. The commercial pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial observation flight. The local flight originated at 0945 from SEP.
Several witnesses observed the aircraft as it approached the airport. They reported the following information.
According to two witnesses, who were monitoring the UNICOM at the time of the accident, stated they heard the pilot report a 45-degree entry to the downwind for Runway 14. The witness heard the pilot report base and observed the landing gear and flaps in the extended position. The witnesses noticed a Cessna 140 that did not have a radio on final approach for Runway 14, and notified the pilot of the accident aircraft. The pilot then turned back to downwind and the Cessna 140 broke traffic to the right. The pilot then turned back to base. The witnesses saw the left wing drop and the aircraft nose over to what appeared to be a 90-degree angle. They did not see the aircraft impact the ground, due to a hangar obscuring his view. According to one of the witnesses, the airplane was approximately 400-500 feet AGL when the "aircraft went vertical."
A third witness, who is a private pilot and was driving westbound on business highway 377, observed the aircraft flying north as it crossed over 377. The aircraft was in front of the witness, in full view until "dropping down" behind the City Limits Building. The aircraft continued to fly low and the speed "appeared to be slow" until just as the aircraft went over "front" first, dipping towards the right wing and then nosed down.
A fourth witness, who was in her front yard and facing east, saw the aircraft "going down at an angle, as if they were making a loop." The witness saw the aircraft go down past the tree line, and the engine was still running. The witness stated she was anticipating the aircraft to "come back up, as if making the loop." She heard the impact, and reported that the engine continued running for two to three more seconds. The witness did not see any smoke.
A fifth witness, who was on a golf course, reported that he heard the aircraft fly over the course. He thought the aircraft was flying over the course to check on a brush pile that was burning. The aircraft was west of the course, circling south, "as if it was going to the airport." The witness observed the aircraft make some "jerking" moves, and the engine sounded like it stalled out, and it recovered and continued to fly. At that point, the witness thought the pilot was learning to fly.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with single-engine land and instrument ratings. His personal flight logs were not recovered. However, on the application form for his most recent FAA second-class medical certificate completed on December 15, 2001, he had reported a total flight time of 420 hours. According to individuals at the fixed based operation at SEP, the pilot had accumulated approximately 100 hours in the accident aircraft.
Examination of the aircraft's maintenance records revealed that the 1947 model Beech BE-35, serial number D-587, received its most recent annual inspection on December 15, 2000, at an airframe total time of 7,215.5 hours. At the time of the accident, the engine, a 165-rated horsepower Continental E-185-1, had accumulated 1,084.90 hours since major overhaul, and 163 hours since the last annual inspection.
A review of the maintenance records indicated no evidence of any uncorrected maintenance discrepancies.
At 1053, the weather facility at Mineral Wells, Texas, located 34 nautical miles northeast of SEP reported the winds from160 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 20 degrees Celsius, dew point 48 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.24 inches of Mercury. The NTSB Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) calculated the density altitude (DA) to be 1,930 feet MSL.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft impacted a small pond approximately 3/4 miles from the approach end of Runway 14. The wreckage distribution was confined to an area of approximately a 50-foot radius from the main wreckage. The aircraft came to rest at a measured magnetic heading of 25 degrees. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates were 32 degrees, 13.910 minutes North, and 098 degrees, 11.200 minutes West. The aircraft came to rest upright in water approximately 3 feet deep, with the wings partially submerged and the left ruddervator completely submerged.
The engine was completely submerged and remained attached to the airframe. Both crankcase halves were cracked. The propeller spinner was crushed around the propeller hub assembly. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub assembly and were bent aft 90 degrees.
The cockpit was destroyed by impact forces. The engine tachometer displayed 0 rpm and a time of 0379.5 hours; the airspeed indicator displayed 0 knots; the altimeter displayed a setting of 30.25 inches of mercury and the airspeed was not obtained due to impact damage; the attitude indicator displayed 90 degrees right bank and nose down 5 degrees; the vertical speed indicator displayed 1,500 feet per minute descent; the directional gyro displayed 40 degrees; the manifold pressure displayed 30 inches; the oil pressure displayed 0 and the oil temperature was placarded as "inoperable;" the cylinder head temperature displayed 0; the fuel selector valve position was not obtained due to impact damage; the left fuel gage displayed 0 gallons. The navigation radio displayed a frequency of 111.8 and the communications radio displayed a frequency of 122.8. The throw-over control yoke was on the left side; the fuel pump handle was retracted. The cowl flaps were in the open position. The landing gear lever was found in the up position. The magneto switch was found in the "BOTH" position. The magnetic compass displayed a heading of 25 degrees and the clock displayed a time of 11:01. The emergency locator transmitter was found in the "armed position."
The aileron cables were tight to the bellcrank. The right aileron control rod was connected and at full deflection at the time of impact. The left aileron control rod was connected and at full deflection at the time of impact. The flaps were retracted. The right flap actuator was separated and the left actuator remained intact with less than 1 1/2 inches of travel, which is consistent with the flaps in the retracted position. The ruddervader pushrods were intact and the latest airworthiness directive had been complied with. The elevator trim actuator was attached. The elevator cables had continuity. The leading edges of the right and left wings were crushed and exhibited compression span wise from the wing root to the wing tip. The fuselage aft of the rear cargo door was buckled due to compression and was bent to the left.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, Medical Examiner Division, Dallas, Texas. No evidence of any preexisting disease that would have contributed to the accident was found.
Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Toxicology tests were negative for drugs, carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on December 10, 2002.