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On October 14, 2002, at 1052 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 150F, N8735G, collided with mountainous terrain at 2,200 feet mean sea level (msl) following an in-flight loss of control about 19 miles east of Julian, California. The airplane, owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, was destroyed in the collision sequence and post crash fire. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the personal cross-country flight that originated at Imperial, California, at 1017, destined for Ramona, California.
According to information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), at 0814 on the morning of the accident, the pilot contacted the San Diego Automated Flight Service Station and requested an abbreviated weather briefing for a flight from Imperial to Ramona. The pilot was advised that VFR flight was not recommended due to low clouds and fog in the Ramona area, and that he should call back around 1000 or 1100 for an update. The pilot declined to receive NOTAMS. There is no record that the pilot recontacted any FAA facility regarding weather information.
At 1019, the pilot contacted Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and stated that he had just departed Imperial and wanted VFR advisories to Ramona because his "GPS was acting up." The pilot was given a discrete transponder code and when radar contact was established, the controller noted that the airplane was nearly in an active restricted area (R2510A). The controller assisted the pilot to navigate around the restricted area as the flight climbed to a mode C reported altitude of 6,500 feet. A short time later, the pilot asked the controller to help him find the Ramona airport and the controller gave the pilot a suggested heading to fly. At 1037, the pilot ceased talking on the radio and attempts by the controller to reestablish contact by using other airborne airplanes to relay messages was unsuccessful. The controller reported that the airplane then began a left descending spiral turn.
Recorded radar data was obtained from the FAA Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in the form of a National Track Analysis Program data printout. The secondary beacon was first observed at 1020:30 with a mode C reported altitude of 1,800 feet msl. Subsequent beacon returns and mode C reports showed the airplane climbing at an average rate of 500 feet per minute until 6,500 feet, which was achieved at 1039:41. After that time, the airplane continued to climb with rates that varied from zero to 500 feet per minute. At 1045:28, the airplane reached 7,300 feet, then began a descent for 1 minute down to 7,100 feet, then a climb back to 7,300. At 1047:04, the mode C altitude reports show a descent at an average rate of just over 1,000 feet per minute in a left descending spiral turn with about a 2,000-foot diameter, which continued for at least 900 degrees (2 1/2 complete turns). The rate of descent computed from the mode C altitude reports began about 500 feet per minute and increased to about 1,500 feet per minute by the time of the last two secondary beacon returns. The last secondary beacon return showed a mode C reported altitude of 4,100 feet and was located about 0.6 nautical miles east of the impact location.
Ground based witnesses at a small airstrip about 10 miles south east of the accident location reported that they saw the airplane fly overhead and a short time later saw the smoke rising from the accident site. The winds were described as calm and the skies clear.
Review of the FAA airman and medical records files for the 77-year-old pilot disclosed that he held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. The original issuance date of his certificate was 1953. The pilot's most recent medical certificate was issued as a third-class on October 31,2000, and contained the limitations that he wear correcting lenses. Review of the last four applications for medical certificates revealed that he answered "no" to all questions concerning medical history, denied taking any medications, and that no physicians or medical practitioners had been seen in the past 3 years.
The pilot's personal flight records were not recovered. On his last application for a medical certificate the pilot reported a total flight time of 5,025 hours, with 15 accrued in the last 6 months. On an August 2002 application for an aviation insurance policy, the pilot reported a total flight time of 5,000 hours, with 30 accrued in the last year. The pilot reported 200 hours in the Cessna 150 type on the insurance application.
As part of the San Diego County Medical Examiners death investigation, the pilot's daughter was interviewed regarding her father's recent medical history. She reported that she knew of no recent illness or physical problems.
No historical maintenance records were found for the aircraft and the recent maintenance and inspection history could not be determined. According to the FAA aircraft and registry files, the airplane was manufactured in 1966 and first registered to the pilot in 1995.
Imperial Flying Service holds the fuel concession at the Imperial airport. According to their records, the airplane arrived at 0745 on the morning of the accident. In accordance with the pilot's instructions, the airplane's fuel tanks were topped off with 11.1 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel
The accident site is on the eastern side of a coastal mountain range in the greater Borrego Springs area of the south central California desert.
Satellite imagery for the time of the accident showed clear conditions. Winds aloft observations reported by the National Weather Service for times bracketing the accident noted light and variable winds between 3,000 and 9,000 feet msl.
Ground based witnesses located about 10 miles east observed smoke rising vertically from the accident site over a time frame estimated to be within 15 minutes of the accident. The winds were described as calm and the skies clear. None of the witnesses observed any severe or unusual meteorological phenomena.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site is on the north face of the Vallecitos Mountains in the Anza Borrego State Park's Vallecitos Wilderness area at an approximate elevation of 2,200 feet msl. The coordinates obtained by GPS were 33 degrees 06.208 minutes north latitude by 116 degrees 12.984 minutes west longitude. The area consists of a rock-covered slope, with rocks of various diameters from baseball sized to 3-foot diameter boulders. Sparse desert cactus vegetation populated the ground.
The remnants of the airplane and burn residue were contained in a rough 40-foot diameter. The airplane was extensively crushed, fragmented, and thermally destroyed, with only ashen outline remains of the right wing and empennage control surfaces remaining. The crushed, distorted, and burned left wing was present. All major airframe components were accounted for in the wreckage. The flap actuator was in the retracted position. The elevator trim actuator was in the near neutral position.
The Continental O-200A engine, serial number 62559-5-A, sustained frontal impact damage. The crankshaft was displaced rearward into the crankcase and could not be turned. Both cylinder heads for cylinder nos. 3 and 4 were fractured. The engine sustained thermal damage to the accessory section and the carburetor was partially melted. The oil sump was crushed. The right exhaust muffler was deformed by crushing forces; however, both ends of the muffler were in place. The cabin heat valve was found in the closed position.
The McCauley 1A100 propeller, serial number F1395, was wrapped back around the thermally destroyed engine compartment. Both blades exhibited leading edge damage, chordwise striations and torsional twisting toward a low pitch blade angle. About 10 inches of one blade's tip was torn from the inboard portion of that blade.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMAITON
The pilot sustained fatal injuries in the accident and an autopsy was conducted by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. According to the autopsy report, the heart weighed 580 grams with left ventricular hypertophy and microscopic myocardial fibrosis evident. Other findings included arteriolar nephrosclerosis and changes in the kidneys consistent with hypertension. The attesting pathologist reported that while it is possible that a sudden cardiac event or hypertensive intracerebral event could have contributed to the accident sequence, such findings could not be determined by the autopsy. The pathologist officially listed the cause of death as due to multiple blunt force injuries.
During the autopsy, specimens were retained for toxicological analysis by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. In addition, separate toxicological tests were performed by the San Diego County Medical Examiners office. The results were negative for alcohol, carbon monoxide, and all screened drug substances.
Safety Board investigators did not take custody of the wreckage. No parts or pieces were retained following the on-scene examinations.