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On May 30, 2002, about 1850 eastern daylight time, a Cessna A185F, N1577B, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in Pleasant Mount, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot, a passenger, and a dog were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight that originated from DeKalb County Airport (07C), Auburn, Indiana. The flight was conducted on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan under 14 CFR Part 91.
On May 27, 2002, the pilot initiated a trip from a private airstrip on his property, Flying Ridge Airstrip (CT52), Newtown, Connecticut. He flew to Naper Aero Club Airport (LL10), Naperville, Illinois, on business.
On May 30, 2002, the pilot initiated a return trip. At 1152 (1552 UTC), the pilot contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Kankakee Flight Service Station, Kankahee, Illinois, for a pre-departure weather briefing. The pilot reported that he could fly either under instrument flight rules, or visual flight rules. He also reported that he was going to make an en route stop near Fort Wayne Indiana. The pilot was advised of an area of convective activity, with tops of FL 330 (33,000 feet). The system ran from Akron, Ohio, and Youngstown, Ohio, to north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Isolated rain showers were reported. Convective activity was reported south of Youngstown, with tops to 34,000 feet, and about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. The weather system was moving eastward. The pilot did not receive any further weather briefings.
The pilot then departed Naperville, en route to Auburn. At Auburn, the airplane was serviced with 67.2 gallons of 100 low lead aviation grade gasoline. The pilot departed Auburn under visual flight rule, about 1445 central daylight time (1545 eastern daylight time).
After departure from Auburn, the pilot contacted air traffic control and requested to air-file an IFR flight plan to Oxford, Connecticut. The airplane was at 13,000 feet when control was transferred from the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) to the New York ARTCC. About 1836, the airplane was descended to 11,000 feet at the pilot's request. About 1846, control of the airplane was transferred to the Boston ARTCC.
At 1848:52, the pilot requested to deviate around weather. The request was approved, and the controller advised the pilot to report when the airplane was back on course. No further transmissions were received from the pilot, and the airplane disappeared from the controller's radarscope.
Four witnesses in the Pleasant Mount area, observed the airplane, descending in a nose down attitude, traveling to the northwest. Some of the witnesses could hear the engine running, and agreed that the airplane was traveling fast. The witnesses observed the airplane come apart in the air, while descending below the base of the clouds. The descent angle as reported by the witnesses, varied between 30 and 45 degrees nose down. One of the witnesses reported hearing wind noise in addition to the engine noise. All of the witnesses agreed there were clouds and weather in the area. One reported a dark sky with thunder, while the others reported no violent weather at their location. In addition, none of the witnesses reported any smoke, vapors, or fire emitting from the airplane.
One witness reported that the dive the airplane was in, appeared to shallow just prior to the airplane coming apart.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 41 degrees, 43.408 minutes north latitude, and 75 degrees, 18.767 minutes west longitude.
According to records from the FAA, the pilot held single and multi-engine land, and single and multi-engine sea ratings, and an instrument airplane rating. On his last FAA airman medical application, dated January 19, 2001, he listed his total flight experience as 6,800 hours, with 150 hours in the preceding 6 months.
The pilot's logbook was not recovered, and the pilot's recency of experience and date of last flight review was not determined. In addition to the accident airplane, which the pilot had access to, the pilot also owned another airplane. The pilot was also reported to have taken a three-week trip to the Dominican Republic in April 2002. The pilot was estimated to have accumulated about 300 hours since his last FAA airman medical application for a total flight experience of about 7,100 hours, including about 50 hours in the 2 1/2 months that preceded the accident.
The FAA had filed a violation against the pilot, and the pilot had accepted a 180-day suspension to settle the occurrence. The suspension, which began on November 27, 2001, was divided into two sections. The pilot's certificate was returned to him on March 13, 2002. According to a letter from the FAA, the pilot was supposed to surrender his pilot certificate again, not later than May 12, 2002, to serve out the remainder of his suspension. The FAA reported that they had not received the pilot's certificate.
The passenger did not posses a pilot certificate or FAA airman medical certificate. However, the pilot's brother reported that the pilot had been teaching the passenger how to fly the airplane, and perform simple maneuvers. The level of proficiency attained by the passenger was not determined.
The airplane was a 1976 Cessna A185F. It was equipped with functioning dual flight controls. The engine power controls were located between the two pilot seats, on the lower instrument panel. The airplane had been modified with several supplemental type certificates (STC), which included the installation of a larger engine, and various high lift devices to enhance slow flight capability on the airplane. These modifications included the addition of vortex generators on both the underside of the horizontal stabilizer, and the tops of the wings.
According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook for the 1976 Cessna 185 Skywagon, the never exceed speed Vne was 182 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed); the maximum structural cruising speed was 146 KIAS; the maneuvering speed Va was 118 KIAS at 3,350 pounds; 105 KIAS at 2,650 pounds, and 90 KIAS at 1,950 pounds.
The airplane was issued a dual airworthiness certificate. This allowed the airplane to be flown in the normal category when not being used for aerial photography. To accommodate the aerial photography equipment, the rear seat had been removed from the airplane. However, no cameras were installed in the airplane at the time of the accident.
The tachometer was not identified in the wreckage. The last annual inspection occurred on July 16, 2001, at a total airframe time of 4,470.4 hours. The airplane was estimated to have accumulated about 100 additional hours since the last annual inspection.
A straight line from Auburn to Oxford, penetrated the line of weather the pilot had been briefed on, at 1152. The weather extended for over 60 nm north and south of the line between Auburn and Oxford.
According to the NEXRAD radar from Binghamton, New York, at 1808, and 1903, there was line of thunderstorms, orientated northeast/southwest moving eastward through the area. The area to the northeast and southwest of the accident were more intense than the area near the accident site. Some of the witnesses reported hearing thunder and seeing dark skies nearby to the accident site. However, none of the witnesses reported rain at the time of the accident.
The 1854, weather observation at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania, located 30 nautical from the accident site on a magnetic heading of 231 degrees, recorded a ceiling of 5,000 feet overcast, visibility 10 statue miles, and winds from 210 degrees, at 4 knots.
In addition, two convective SIGMETS (significant meteorological information) 97E and 98E were issued. They noted that thunderstorms were moving to the east (250 degrees) at 20 knots. In addition, the warning included winds to 50 knots, tops of convective activity to FL 400 (40,000 feet), and hail up to one inch in diameter.
RADAR AND OTHER REMOTELY RECORDED DATA
Radar data was received from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania, TRACON, and the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZNY). The airplane was identified by its assigned beacon code of 7413. Data from both facilities indicated the airplane was proceeding eastward at 11,000 feet. The data from ZNY was recorded about every 10 seconds. The data from the TRACON was recorded about every 4.7 seconds.
In addition, the data from ZNY also included meteorological returns. The meteorological returns were classified on the intensity of the their reflectivity. The classifications used were low, medium, and high. According to the data, there was low reflectivity about 2.6 nautical miles (NM) north of the airplane at the last radar contact. Additional low returns were ahead of the airplane.
The data from the TRACON revealed that at 1848:27.87 UTC, the airplane's position was about 300 feet north of the track that it had previously been maintaining. The last radar contact occurred at 1848:56.04, with a recorded altitude of 9,300 feet, when the airplane's position was about 3,500 feet south of the track it had previously been maintaining. Weather returns were not recorded by the TRACON system.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest in an open pasture, in a fragmented condition, with debris scattered along a heading of 330 degrees magnetic. The debris field measured 1,519 feet long, and contained a ground impact crater.
The debris field which led to the impact crater measured 1,033 feet long and contained pieces of plexiglass, sections of both wings, and the tail surfaces. None of the items had leading edge impact damage, nor were they splattered or covered with mud.
The main impact crater was 20 feet wide and 15 feet long. The depth of the crater was about 2 1/2 feet on the left side and shallowed to about 1 inch on the right side, looking in the direction of debris travel. Small pieces of debris were found on the left side of the crater. One propeller blade was lodged in the mud on the left side of the crater. Debris on the left side of the crater was associated with the nose of the airplane, and was buried deeper than on the right side of the impact crater.
The second debris field started from the impact crater, and included the airplane fuselage, engine, propeller, and small items from the airplane. All observed items were splattered with varying amounts of mud. The length of this debris field was about 486 feet, and was consistent with a post-impact debris field.
The fuselage was about 180 feet beyond the impact crater. The engine, and all aerodynamic surfaces, and control surfaces had separated from the airplane, except for the lower 1/3 of the rudder. The cabin was crushed and distorted. The engine sump structure had separated from the engine and remained with the fuselage structure.
The engine was about 30 feet to the left of the main wreckage, and about 185 feet beyond the impact crater. The top of the engine was covered with mud. Impact damage prevented rotation of the crankshaft. A borescope examination of all cylinders revealed no holes in the pistons and all valves in place. The engine accessory section was fragmented, and separated from the rear of the engine. Both magnetos, which attached to a single drive, had received impact damage and could not be tested. The exhaust manifold was crushed with malleable bending. Rotational scoring was found on the inside of the turbocharger case. In addition, some of the blades on the compressor side of the turbocharger, were found with bending in the opposite direction of rotation. The shear shaft to the vacuum pump, and all vacuum pump vanes were intact.
The propeller hub had separated from the crankshaft flange. However, the bolts were still in place on the flange. One propeller blade had separated from the hub and had "S" bending on the leading and trailing edges. One other propeller blade was missing its tip.
The left and right horizontal stabilizers exhibited downward bending, and partial separation at the mid-span splice. All bends on spars were in a downward direction.
Both wings were fragmented, with the largest pieces being the inboard section to the mid-wing splice. All observed fractures on spars between wing segments were in a down, or down and aft direction. The fracture breaks on the lift struts at the wing attach point were bright and granular in appearance.
Several boxes of varying size, many with hard cases were found scattered in the debris field beyond the impact crater. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of a cargo net or other means to separate the items in the aft cabin from the forward pilot seats. A spiral book was found in the debris field. A page dated May 26, 2002, contained a list of maintenance discrepancies for N1577B. One of the discrepancies was, "...Stormscope Inaccurate...."
Additional discrepancies included:
Alt Encoder 400' [feet] low
ADF Needle No Direction
Gas Leak Left Wing
Unable Turn Off Cabin Heat
Gas Smell When Tanks Full
# 2 Radio Indistinct
More Ventilation Feet
Headrests for Seats
Radios Too Hot In Flight
New Sideglass L & R
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.
Autopsies were conducted on the occupants on June 1, 2002, for the Wayne County, Pennsylvania, Coroner's Office.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The attitude indicator and turn coordinator were examined in the Safety Board Materials Laboratory. The axis of the attitude indicator gyro rotor was aligned vertically, and was found to have rotational scoring. The axis of the turn coordinator gyro rotor was aligned laterally, and did not have rotational scoring.
The aircraft wreckage was released to the insurance adjustor on June 1, 2002.