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On August 15, 2002, at 1445 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150J single-engine airplane, N5603G, was destroyed when it impacted the ground shortly after takeoff from runway 07 at the Glynco Jetport Airport, Brunswick, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured and his passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to a private individual and was operated by the pilot under the provision of 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and a flight plan was not filed for the local flight. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
According to the airplane owner, the pilot was interested in purchasing the accident airplane. The owner maintained and hangared the airplane at the local fixed base operator (FBO). On the day of the accident, the pilot asked the owner of the FBO if he could test fly the airplane. The owner of the FBO told the pilot he could not because it was not insured. The pilot then approached the son of the FBO owner and asked if he would fly the airplane with him. The FBO owner's son said no because the airplane was fully fueled and the two of them would be too heavy for the airplane. The son did indicate that the pilot could taxi the airplane around to see if everything worked properly. The son then left the pilot, and the pilot and a passenger took the airplane.
There were four eyewitnesses to the accident that provided written witness statements. Three of the witnesses (a certified flight instructor and two students) were located in an airplane that was 200 feet above the ground on short final for runway 07. The certified flight instructor (CFI) reported that the accident airplane was over the departure end of the runway approximately 400 feet agl. The CFI observed the airplane "making a right hand turn nose high." The right wing of the accident airplane "started dropping" and eventually was pointing down toward the ground. The instructor concentrated on their landing and did not observe the airplane impact the ground. The student (receiving training for his CFI certificate) located in the front seat observed the airplane in a nose low attitude off the departure end of runway 07. He assumed the airplane was trying to land back on the runway due to an emergency. He looked away shortly and when he looked back, the accident airplane was still pointed nose low until it disappeared behind trees. He then saw a column of smoke coming from the same area the airplane disappeared. The student-passenger seated in the rear seat observed the accident airplane approximately 400 feet agl over the departure end of runway 07. The airplane was "in a nose high attitude. The airplane appeared to stall and fall in what [he] believed was a left wing low attitude." The airplane "appeared to fall straight down and disappeared behind trees.
The instructor and CFI student reported the wind as a crosswind from the south-southeast approximately 7-10 knots.
Another witness, who was a mechanic located on the west end of the runway, reported he observed the airplane takeoff. He reported that the "rollout was normal" and the initial part of the takeoff appeared "normal." The accident airplane then appeared "to be climbing too fast" because "too much of the wing top surface was visible." The witness looked away to check his equipment. When he looked back toward the accident airplane, he observed a large plume of black smoke.
The airplane was located in a field approximately 3,400 feet from the departure end of runway 07.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. His last medical certificate was a third class medical, which was issued on August 5, 1994. According to the August 1994, medical application, the pilot had accumulated a total of 4,000 flight hours. The pilot's flight records were not located during the course of the investigation.
The airplane was manufactured and issued an airworthiness certificate in 1969. The current owner purchased the airplane in February 2002. The owner moved and was in the process of selling the airplane at the time of the accident. The owner requested the FBO keep the maintenance records in the aircraft until it was sold. The FBO owner indicated the airplane had accumulated approximately 7,000 flight hours at its last annual inspection, which took place in September 2001, and had flown approximately 100 hours since the annual.
The airplane was powered by a Continental O-200-A engine, which according to the FBO owner, was overhauled in 1995, approximately 1,300 hours prior to the mishap.
According to the FBO personnel, the airplane was full of fuel prior to the accident. Utilizing the weight and balance information from Cessna's original delivery documentation, the weights of the occupants (pilot - 263 pounds according to autopsy report; passenger - 230 pounds according to passenger's representative), and full fuel, a weight and balance computation was calculated by investigators. Based on that information, the aircraft would have exceeded its maximum gross weight of 1,600 pounds by 121 pounds. It should be noted that the loading graph found in the airplane's owner manual only went to 400 pounds for the pilot and passenger with a maximum moment of approximately 15.6 pound-inches. An accurate placement of the aircraft's center of gravity is not possible with the available information due to the fact that the weight and moments exceeded the airplane's originally designed maximum limitations.
There was no indication that the pilot conducted preflight weight and balance calculations.
At 1438, the recorded weather at the Glynco Jetport Airport was wind from 170 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 15 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 33 degrees Celsius, dew point 26 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.21 inches of mercury. The density altitude was calculated as 1,809 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft came to rest upright in a field located off the departure end of the runway. The entire cockpit/cabin area was destroyed by the post-impact fire. The empennage, with its rudder and elevators attached and intact, sustained minimal fire and impact damage. The aft end of the empennage (near the tail tie-down) came to rest on the ground. The empennage remained attached to the fuselage via the floor board which was bent 90 degrees down approximately 1.5 feet aft of the landing gear. The landing gear remained attached to this floorboard section, which came to rest along a near vertical plane.
The wings remained in their respective positions in relation to the fuselage, but were separated from the fuselage and found lying on the ground. The leading edges of both wings were compressed aft and fire damage was evident throughout the wingspans. The left wing sustained substantially more fire damage than the right wing, and the left wing skin was melted exposing the left fuel tank lying in its place. The left fuel tank was bulged out and had expanded from the inside out. The left flap was almost entirely burnt away with the exception of the outboard leading edge. The ailerons remained attached to their respective wings.
The instrument panel was destroyed, and the cockpit's engine and flight controls sustained extensive fire damage. The only instrument found in the wreckage was the airspeed indicator, whose needle was found pointing to approximately 50 knots. The seat cushions were no longer visible and only the seat frames and springs remained. The seatbelts were consumed by the post-impact fire. The surrounding cockpit structure was melted away. The fuel selector was not located and all of the fuel lines in the cockpit/cabin area were destroyed.
Flight control continuity was confirmed through cables from the cockpit to the various flight control surfaces. In the cockpit area, the aileron interconnect turnbuckle and the forward elevator bellcrank were melted by the fire. The flaps were found in the retracted position and the elevator trim was found in a neutral position.
The propeller spinner sustained fire damage and melting, but its trailing edges were compressed aft around the propeller blades. The propeller remained attached to the engine and sustained melting damage to both blade tips. The engine came to rest upright and its mounts were crushed aft. The carburetor was found separated from the engine. The engine and carburetor were relocated to a local hangar for disassembly and examination.
The carburetor was disassembled and it was noted that the solder that had attached one of the floats to the bracket had melted. The carburetor's floats and gaskets also sustained heat damage. The accelerator pump and its gasket also sustained heat damage. The carburetor inlet screen was found clear from debris.
Examination of the engine revealed the accessory section sustained substantial heat damage to its components. The ignition lines were destroyed. The sparkplugs were removed and examined. Some of the sparkplugs displayed a dark sooted appearance, while others displayed a lighter colored appearance. Their electrodes displayed nominal wear. Two of the bottom spark plugs were coated with oil. The magnetos were removed and disassembled. Both magnetos sustained extensive heat damage that melted their internal components. The damage precluded functional testing of the magnetos.
The engine was disassembled. No internal anomalies were noted with any of the components. The crankcase, crankshaft, camshaft, and connecting rods all displayed a dark black discoloration from the heat damage. The cylinders were examined and displayed no damage to the pistons, rocker arms or valves.
The oil pump was intact and displayed no anomalies. The oil screens and filters sustained heat damage. The oil filter's gasket and filter element were charred. No blockages were noted.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORAMTION
An autopsy was conducted on the pilot at Georgia's Division of Forensic Sciences. According to the autopsy report, the pilot died from "multiple blunt force injuries" and "no soot was seen in the airways, indicating he died as a result of these injuries and not the fire."
Toxicological tests conducted on the pilot revealed 0.028 ug/ml of propoxyphene and 0.192 ug/ml of norpropoxyphene was detected in his urine. Propoxyphene is a painkiller commonly referred to as Darvon.
Due to the extent of the passenger's injuries, he was not interviewed immediately following the accident. A letter, written by the passenger's representative, indicated the pilot paid $12,500.00 cash for the airplane, and there were no instructions to not fly the airplane. The passenger stated that the FBO owner fueled the airplane prior to their departure to Blackshear, Georgia, where they were going to have the airplane cleaned and resold. According to the representative's letter, the passenger reported they were approximately 800 feet when the engine lost power. The pilot was "attempting to restart" the engine until the time of impact.
According to the Glynn County Police Report, $12,500.00 in cash was found in the pilot's automobile.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on August 16, 2002.