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On July 18, 2002, approximately 0930 central daylight time, a North American AT-6A, single-engine airplane N42BA, struck the terrain during an uncontrolled descent while maneuvering near Albany, Texas. The private pilot, who occupied the forward cockpit, received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight departed Albany Municipal Airport, approximately 0830.
A witness, located 2 miles south of the pilot's residence, reported to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) that approximately 0830 the airplane flew over, "wagged his wings" and then departed to the west. This witness estimated the airplane was between 500 and 700 feet above ground level (AGL). This witness was to meet the pilot at 1200; however, the pilot never made the appointment. A second witness, who was located 1 1/2 miles south of Albany, observed the airplane perform a barrel roll type maneuver 1-2 times approximately 0900, and then fly south. A witness near the river observed the airplane flying south at an estimated 300 feet agl. Another witness, who was on an oil drilling rig located at 32 degrees 54.38 minutes North; 099 degrees 30.15 minutes West (0.4 nautical miles on a measured magnetic heading of 136 degrees from the accident site), reported to the NTSB IIC that approximately 0900, the airplane flew from east to west in level flight (approximately 500 feet agl) by the rig, climbed, turned left in a 30 degree bank, and departed the area to the northeast.
According to the witnesses, the prevailing winds were from the south at 5 to 10 miles per hour. The weather was clear with a few clouds, and the temperature was approximately 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
At 0700, on July 19, 2002, search and rescue activities were initiated by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Confederate Air Force, Shackelford County Sheriff's Department, and civilian pilots assisted in the search area (estimated at 945 square miles). Approximately 1830, the wreckage of the aircraft was located and rescue personnel responded to the accident site.
On March 20, 1986, the pilot was issued his private pilot certificate with the airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot was issued a third class medical certificate on April 12, 2002, with the limitation "Holder shall wear corrective lenses." On the pilot's last medical application, he reported a total pilot time of 3,778 hours of which 83 were in the previous 6 months. In the private pilot's logbook, on July 13, 2002, his accumulated logged flight time was 3,861.1 hours. From November 22, 2001, through July 13, 2002, the pilot logged 47.3 hours (3.8 in last 30 days) in the accident aircraft.
On June 15, 1993, N42BA, a North American AT-6A, serial number 88-9723, was issued an experimental special airworthiness certificate (category: exhibition/air racing). Registration to the current owner/pilot was dated July 21, 2000. The airplane was equipped with the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN1 (serial number 16104) reciprocating (9-cylinder) radial engine rated at 600 horsepower, driving a Hamilton Standard, model 12D40-305, 2-bladed propeller installed. The last major overhaul of the engine was performed in 1988. On July 2, 2001, the last condition inspection was performed. No evidence of uncorrected discrepancies was found in the maintenance records.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The GPS location (26.4 nautical miles on the Abilene VORTAC 122 degree radial) of the accident site was 32 degrees 54.58 minutes North; 099 degrees 30.33 minutes West (0.4 nautical miles on a measured magnetic heading of 316 degrees from an oil drilling rig). The main wreckage came to rest upright, on a measured magnetic heading of 070 degrees, in a rocky creek bed bordered on the north by a 74-foot ravine. Deformation of the airplane and the physical evidence at the accident site was consistent with a near vertical, left wing low attitude, at the time of ground impact. Fragments of plexiglass and pieces of airplane skin continuing along the wreckage distribution path for 83 feet. The left wing leading edge was crushed aft approximately 11 inches, and approximately 5 1/2 feet of the outboard leading edge was bent upward 10 degrees and aft 5 degrees. The right wing leading edge was crushed aft approximately 11 inches.
The vertical stabilizer and elevators remained attached to the airframe. The integrity of the fuel system was compromised, and physical evidence of fuel and oil was found on the foliage located forward and to the left of the wreckage distribution path. The fuel selector handle and the cockpit indicator were found destroyed. The fuel valve was removed from the airplane, and a bench flow test revealed that the reserve tank was selected.
Flight control continuity was confirmed. The hand grip for the front cockpit flight control stick was found separated from the upper portion of the metal stick. Physical evidence found during an examination of the hand grip, the bolt holes, and the metal stick revealed that the deformation of the holes, scrapes on the metal stick, and shearing of the bolt was consistent with overload.
Impact deformation (compression) of the forward and aft cockpit precluded a determination of the cockpit settings for the throttle, mixture, propeller controls, flaps, landing gear, flight instruments, hydraulic, and electrical systems. The main landing gear were found in the wheel wells, and physical scrapes found on the tires, wheel hubs, and gear struts were consistent with the main landing gear being in the retracted position. A visual examination found the flaps in the extended position; however; deformation of the hydraulic flap system precluded a determination of the flap position prior to the impact. The aft fuselage was bent forward and upward.
The engine and propeller were found resting in the initial impact crater (measuring 64 inches by 21inches and 17 inches deep). Two pieces from the outboard portion of one propeller blade, fragments of the engine cylinders, several push rod covers, sections of the exhaust pipes, and engine accessory components were found in the ground scar. The two pieces of the propeller blade, found in the ground scar, exhibited leading edge gouges and chordwise striations. Gouges were found on both surfaces of the two pieces and the separated surfaces exhibited deformation consistent with overload. The propeller remained attached to the engine and the spinner was compressed around the hub. Both propeller blades exhibited torsional rotation, leading edge gouges, and chordwise striations. No debris was found in the engine oil screen, fuel system screen, or the carburetor fuel screen. Examination of the engine and engine accessories did not reveal any discrepancies that would have precluded operation of the engine prior to the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, Fort Worth, Texas, on July 20, 2002. Specimens for toxicological test were taken from the pilot by the medical examiner.
The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic and Accident research Center examined the specimens taken by the medical examiner. The pilot's toxicology showed no indication of performance impairing drugs at the time of the accident. According to CAMI, the toxicological tests were positive for postmortem alcohol and it's metabolites.
The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was found in the "OFF" position with the unit connected to the external antenna. During a bench test, the ELT did not operate in the "ON" or "ARMED" position.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative.