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On August 11, 2002, about 1640 central daylight time, a Beech C23 single-engine airplane, N24041, was destroyed when it impacted a tree and terrain shortly after takeoff from the Centerville Municipal Airport (GHM), Centerville, Tennessee. The private pilot and his two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Tullahoma Aviation Inc., of Tullahoma, Tennessee, under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the local personal flight. The flight departed GHM shortly before the accident.
The pilot rented the airplane and had departed from Tullahoma about 1515, with a female passenger. The flight landed about 40 minutes later at Centerville. The pilot shut down the engine, and both occupants exited the airplane. The female departed the area. According to witnesses, the pilot and two male passengers boarded the airplane, and the flight departed to the north. The airplane was observed at a low altitude in a left turn. The airplane then entered a nose-low attitude, impacted a tree, and then the ground. A post-crash fire erupted.
The burnt remains of the wreckage were located at 35 degrees 51.015 minutes north latitude and 87 degrees 25.771 minutes west longitude, approximately 0.8 nautical miles north-northeast of the departure end of GHM.
The pilot was issued a second-class medical certificate on May 29, 2002, with no limitations. According to that medical certificate application, the pilot accumulated 145 hours total flight time, of which 80 hours were accumulated within the previous six months. The pilot's logbooks were not located during the course of the investigation.
According to Tullahoma Aviation personnel, the pilot had received a checkout (lasting approximately one hour) in the accident airplane three days prior to the accident flight. The Tullahoma Aviation personnel added that this was the pilot's first trip in the accident airplane since the checkout. The pilot listed a total of 141 hours on Tullahoma Aviation's rental agreement checkout form.
According to the Tullahoma Aviation personnel, the aircraft maintenance records were kept in the aircraft and are presumed destroyed. A student at Tullahoma Aviation made copies of some of the maintenance record entries in preparation for a check ride and provided them to the NTSB investigator-in-charge. According to the maintenance record copies, the aircraft underwent its last annual inspection on June 6, 2002, at an aircraft total time of 5,559.56 hours. As of August 5, 2002, the airplane had accumulated a total of 5,628.04 hours.
The pilot, who weighed 170 pounds (according to his medical certificate), was sitting in the left front seat. One male passenger weighing about 170 pounds (according to a witness) was sitting in the right front seat, and a male passenger, weighing 359 pounds (according to the autopsy report) was seated in the rear seat. The owner of the airplane told investigators that two 50-pound bags of gravel, used to balance the airplane when there were only two occupants in the front seats, were in the baggage compartment. The owner also told investigators that the airplane was full of fuel when it departed Tullahoma, and there should have been about 300 pounds of fuel onboard the airplane at the time of the accident.
Using the aforementioned information and weight and balance information provided by the owner, investigators calculated weight and balance information for the accident flight. The calculated weight of the airplane at the time of the accident was 2,657 pounds, with a center of gravity between 116.77 and 117.67 inches aft of datum. The maximum takeoff and landing gross weight for the accident airplane was 2,450 pounds, with an aft center of gravity limit of 118.3 inches aft of datum.
At 1653, the closest weather observation facility located in Nashville, Tennessee (approximately 41 miles northeast of the accident site), reported the wind from 010 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, a few clouds at 7,500 feet and scattered clouds at 25,000 feet, temperature 88 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury.
The GHM airport elevation was 768 feet msl, and the computed density altitude at the time of the accident was 2,662 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft came to rest in a forested area with closely spaced trees. The airplane impacted an 80-foot tree and came to rest in an upright position at the tree's base. No visible damage to the trees in the area was noted, with the exception of those trees that closely surrounded the wreckage. A post-impact fire ensued, destroying the aircraft.
The left wing separated from the fuselage and was fragmented. One three-foot section of the left wing was located in the tree, while the majority of the left wing was found on top of the left half of the horizontal stabilator. The wing sustained a large amount of post-impact fire damage. The left aileron was separated from the wing, exhibited impact damage on its outboard end, and was partially consumed by the fire. The aileron hinges remained attached to the aileron and had portions of the wing still attached to the hinges. The aileron pushrod end remained attached to the aileron, but the remainder of the pushrod separated from the rod end. The left aileron bell crank was located in the wreckage. The bell crank had separated from the wing, but the aileron pushrod remained attached to the bell crank. One of the left aileron control cables remained attached to the bell crank, while the remaining control cable bell crank attachment arm was found fractured. The other aileron control cable was located in the wreckage, with the fractured bell crank attachment arm attached. The left flap was separated from its wing and sustained fire damage. The left main landing gear remained attached to the main wing spar.
The right wing remained attached to the airplane but was later removed for transport to a hangar for further examination. The post-impact fire consumed the right wingtip and a majority of the inboard portion of the wing. The leading edge displayed a large impact mark (approximately 2 feet in length) near its mid-span. The impact mark exhibited chord-wise crushing in the aft and downward direction. The right flap was separated from the wing and consumed by the post-impact fire. The right aileron remained attached to the wing, and its pushrod, bell crank, and cables remained intact and attached. The right main landing gear separated from the wing spar.
The post-impact fire consumed the fuselage. The forward terminating ends of both elevator control cables remained attached to the control column. Both aileron cables remained attached to the aileron control column chain. Both forward ends of the rudder control cables were located in the cockpit remains and their terminating ends were intact. The manual flap actuator handle was in the retracted position. The fuel selector handle was selected to the right fuel tank position. A substantial amount of gravel was located within the fuselage remains, and was confirmed to be the two fifty-pound ballast weights (originally contained in two canvas bags) utilized in the rear of the airplane.
The empennage remained attached to the aft fuselage. The horizontal stabilator remained intact, but exhibited a large amount of fire consumption damage. The left half of the stabilator sustained an impact mark with chord-wise crushing approximately one foot inboard of the fiberglass tip attach point. The stabilator trim tab remained attached to the stabilator, and its actuator measured 1.25 inches, which according to the manufacturer, corresponded to approximately 3 degrees tab down. Both stabilator control cables remained attached to the stabilator control arm. A majority of the vertical stabilizer and rudder were consumed by the fire, leaving approximately eight inches of rudder attached by its lower hinge point and approximately 2.5 feet of the vertical stabilizer attached to the empennage. The right rudder control cable remained attached to the rudder bell crank, while the left rudder control cable was separated from the bell crank. The cable end was found in the wreckage and was intact.
The engine remained attached to the firewall but sustained some post-impact fire damage. The fire consumed the carburetor and fuel pump, and only a few internal components were identifiable. The magnetos were in place and secured to the engine accessory section; however, the fire damage precluded a timing or functional check. The sparkplugs were removed for examination. All of the electrode gap settings were "normal" according to the engine manufacturer, and the plug coloration varied between gray, brown, and black with mostly moderate wear noted. The engine crankshaft was rotated manually and continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives was established. Each cylinder produced thumb compression while the crankshaft was rotated. A lighted bore scope was utilized to inspect the internal power section and top end components. No anomalies were noted.
The propeller remained attached to the engine. One blade was bent aft against the side of the engine, while approximately 13 inches of the other blade was partially consumed by the fire. Several tree limbs, approximately 2 to 5 inches in diameter were found freshly cut along a diagonal plane at the accident site.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was conducted on the pilot by the Tennessee Department of Health's Office of the Chief Medical Examination. No medical issues were noted that would have prevented the pilot's ability to fly the accident airplane. Toxicological tests conducted on the pilot revealed no ethanol or drugs were found. The toxicological tests were positive for 0.59 ug/ml of cyanide in the pilot's blood.
According to Tullahoma Aviation Inc., when the pilot was checked out in the accident airplane he was given a questionnaire that included a weight and balance computation and discussion.
The wreckage was released to the owner on August 13, 2002.