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On September 1, 2002, about 1650 eastern daylight time, a Gulfstream American AA-5A, N9807U, registered to and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed shortly after takeoff at Greeneville, Tennessee. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The private-rated pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
The accident airplane struck trees and impacted the ground about 0.5 mile from the center of the airport, north of the departure end of runway 05, and a postcrash fire ensued.
A witness stated that she was in her back yard, and heard three loud noises each sounding like a "backfire", and she looked up and saw an airplane over a road near her home. The witness further stated that the engine was not operating, and it appeared that the airplane was gliding towards the airport, and it descended in a wooded area, followed by the sound of a loud "boom", after which she saw smoke.
Another witness stated that she was sitting outside and she heard an airplane engine "sputter', and the propeller was observed to have stopped turning. She said that when the engine 'sputtered", the airplane turned toward the airport, and from that point on she did not hear the engine operating. She said the airplane started descending, and she heard a loud " boom" and saw smoke.
A third witness, a flight instructor, stated that he and his student were getting into a Cessna 172 for an instructional flight, and he heard the accident airplane being started. He said it sounded a little rough and was having a difficult time maintaining idle rpm. He stated that he focused on teaching his student and did not observe the accident airplane take off, and was next aware of the airplane when a crash was reported.
A fourth witness , a person working at the airport, stated that he observed the pilot/owner attempting to start the engine several times. He stated that the engine finally started then stopped, and the pilot/owner got out and "worked on the front of the aircraft" then got back in the aircraft. The witness said he then returned to his previous duties and did not observe anything else.
A fifth witness, a pilot, stated that he was performing preflight checks on his airplane in preparation of a flight, and he noticed a man trying to start another airplane. The witness further stated that it took the man at least 5 minutes to get the engine started, and when the engine started, immediately it ceased operating. He said he observed the person again trying to start the airplane and the same result happened a few times more. After a little while he said the man got out of the airplane and did something to the engine, got back in the airplane and was able to start the engine. He said that the engine was then operated at a high power setting, because when reduced it sounded as if it was going to cease operating. The witness said that he was about 50 to 75 feet away and he could hear the engine "struggling", but the pilot still maintained a high power setting and taxied the airplane for takeoff.
The pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate, last issued on March 24, 1999, with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings. He also held an FAA Class 3 medical with the stated limitation , "must possess corrective lenses for near vision while exercising privileges of this certificate", issued on February 18, 2000. At the time of the accident, based on information obtained from the pilot's flight log, the pilot had accumulated about 695 total flying hours, of which about 280 flight hours in the same make and model airplane, about 7.0 flight hours were obtained in the last 90 days, and about 3.5 flight hours were obtained in the last 30 days.
The airplane was a Gulfstream American, Model AA-5A Cheetah, serial number AA-5A-0207, Manufactured in 1976. It was equipped with a Textron Lycoming O-320-E2G, 150 horsepower engine, serial number L-45412-27A.
No tachometer or hour meter was recovered at the wreckage site, but a review of records did show that both an annual and 100-hour inspection had been completed on May 4, 2002, at which time the engine log showed that the recording tachometer reading was 3687.8 hours.
Airplane records also indicated that the airplane was equipped with a two-bladed metal McCauley model 1C172-BTM7359 fixed pitch propeller, whose serial number was M1007.
According to a county official it had rained heavily, with about 4 inches of rain having fallen the day before the day of the accident. On the day of the accident, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the 1700, Greeneville-Greene County Municipal automated surface weather observation, was winds light, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 85 degrees F, dewpoint temperature 61 degrees F, altimeter setting 30.17 inHg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane had departed from runway 05 and shortly thereafter struck a tree which was 60 to 70 feet in height, and located north of the departure end of runway 05. Several other trees were stuck at approximately the same height. A section of the right wing lay near the base of the fourth impact point, which was approximately 81 feet from the initial point of impact . The debris path from the initial impact point to the main wreckage site lay along a direction of approximately 255 degrees with an overall debris path length of about 150 feet.
The aircraft came to rest in an inverted position, and a postcrash fire had ensued, consuming about 90 percent of the airframe. The fuel tanks had been breached and the fuel lines had burned. Installed gauges and radios had incurred impact and/or heavy heat damage, and were not recognizable or readable. Damaged but readable gauges consisted of the VSI which indicated 2,000 feet downward, the suction gauge which indicated zero, and the attitude indicator which showed a nose down attitude and that it had tumbled. The fuel selector was found in the debris, and it was positioned in the "left" tank position, with the "D" part of the shaft at about the 1 o'clock position as compared with that belonging to a similar airplane. Most of the major sections of the airframe were identifiable, and flight control cable routing from the cockpit area back to the empennage was confirmed. Aileron flight control routing was confirmed for the left wing toward the aileron bellcrank and the right aileron cable system, to the wing root area.
One propeller blade had been bent back about 45 degrees, about 9 to 10 inches from the center of the hub, and the opposite blade was relatively straight with its face displaying rotational scuffing and minor leading edge nicks.
The engine was found in an inverted position, partially attached to the firewall by the engine mount and it had some discoloration as a result of the postcrash. An examination of the engine revealed no anomalies. The cylinder case halves, rear accessory housing, and air/oil sump housing remained relatively intact, but had sustained impact and fire damage. The carburetor upper body had remained attached to the air/oil sump housing. The metal float assembly sustained impact damage leaving one float attached to the bracket. The lower body was located in the wreckage area and it had sustained impact damage. A large section of the bowl was broken out and a small portion of the flange to the accelerator pump chamber was broken off. The main fuel nozzle stem was broken off and the accelerator pump nozzle was intact. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was clear of contamination, and the screen material was discolored. The throttle plate was in the open position and the mixture arm was in the mid range position.
The magnetos and the engine-driven fuel pump also sustained fire damage, and were removed to facilitate the rotation of the crankshaft. The fire had melted both magneto internal plastic parts, and they were relatively intact but discolored. The impulse coupling of the left magneto could only be rotated until the paws contacted the stop pins. The drive shaft did not rotate due to the internal parts of the magneto having melted. The drive shaft of the right magneto had similar fire damage and its drive shaft also would not rotate. Spark plug electrodes were intact and they displayed a gray color, when compared to Champion chart AV-27. The ignition harness had incurred fire damage.
After the magnetos and engine driven fuel pump were removed, the crankshaft was free to rotate, and compression and suction were obtained on all cylinders. There was valve train continuity at all eight rocker arms and the rear accessory gears. Oil was present in the rocker arm/ valve spring areas. The rear mounted oil cooler was intact and the hose fittings were tight. The oil filter element had also sustained heat damage, and when the folds of the element were separated, no metal contamination was found. In addition, the oil suction screen was also examined and no contamination was found.
Each of the cylinder combustion chambers were visually examined with a borescope, revealing that the top of the pistons, the combustion chamber walls and the valve heads were intact and coated with a dark tan colored deposit. The muffler was examined for blockage through the exhaust pipe and none were noted.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by a Forensic Pathologist, Johnson City , Tennessee, and the cause of death was attributed to multiple injuries, burns and inhalation of smoke and superheated gases. No findings which could be considered causal to the accident were reported.
The autopsy report noted containers of medications which were received with the body: One container had Altace (Ramipril), 10 mg #30, to be taken one capsule daily, which had been filled on August 23, 2002, and had 24 capsules remaining. The other container had Paxil (Paroxetine), 20 mg #30, to be taken one tablet each day, and which had been filled on August 23, 2002, and there were 23 tablets remaining.
Postmortem toxicology studies on specimens obtained from the pilot were performed by the FAA Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The specimens were tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles and drugs, and 0.279 (ug/ml, ug/g) paroxetine was detected in blood. In addition, paroxetine was detected in urine.
Paroxetine is a prescription antidepressant, often known by the trade name Paxil. In addition to depression, the medication is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and social anxiety disorder.
The NTSB released the airplane wreckage on September 3, 2002 to Detective Daniel Ricker, Greene County Sheriff's Department.