FTW03LA041
FTW03LA041

On November 17, 2002, approximately 1344 central standard time, a Cessna 152 single-engine airplane, N4794P, landed without incident after the pilot occupying the left seat pilot of the airplane departed the airplane during descent near Houston, Texas. The airplane was registered to AB Aviation, Inc., Tomball, Texas, and was being operated by National Aviation Services, Inc., of Spring, Texas, under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight instructor, who occupied the right seat, was not injured, and the private pilot, who exited the airplane from the left seat, received fatal injuries. The airplane was not damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the scheduled instructional flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight departed David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (DWH), Houston, Texas, approximately 1300.

During interviews, conducted by an FAA inspector, the operator and the certified flight instructor (CFI), reported that when the private pilot scheduled the instructional flight, he had stated that he had an ear operation and needed to see how his ears would feel at altitude before he went for an FAA medical certificate. He also stated that he was contemplating doing some aerial photography, and wanted to see how the aerial visibility was from a Cessna 152 during turns at altitude.

The CFI further reported that during preflight, the private pilot requested to not wear the shoulder harness; however, the he advised the private pilot that he was required to wear the shoulder harness during takeoff and landings. Following the takeoff, the private pilot removed the shoulder harness. The airplane was flown to an altitude of 9,500 feet msl where the private pilot opened the left window. Running out of the scheduled flight time, the CFI advised the private pilot they needed to turn back to DWH, and instructed the private pilot to perform a shallow turn to the left and initiate a descent of the airplane to 4,000 feet. The private pilot stated that he wanted to "check his ears" and requested that the CFI fly the airplane. During the shallow left turn, the private pilot reached into the baggage compartment to have a drink of water, and then requested for the CFI to increase the angle of bank. Upon reaching 30 degrees of bank the private pilot requested that the CFI further increase the angle of bank.

Subsequently, the flight instructor increased the turn to 45-degree bank and started a 300 to 500 foot per minute descent rate. The CFI stated that he heard a "noise that sounded like maybe the seat belt hitting the side of the [air]plane" and the CFI looked to his left and saw the private pilot exiting the airplane. The CFI pulled the seat belt into the airplane and closed the left door of the airplane. The CFI leveled the airplane momentarily, and prepared to make an emergency transmission when he noticed the #1 communication radio was already tuned to 121.5 MHz (emergency frequency). The CFI stated that the private pilot had tuned the radio to 121.5 MHz. The flight instructor continued to descend the airplane and notified air traffic control that the private pilot had exited the airplane. The CFI received vectors to DWH and landed the airplane without further incident.

The FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, reported there were no discrepancies found with the aircraft restraint system or the left cabin door.

Evidence and statements obtained by friends and co-workers of the private pilot indicated an ongoing treatment for depression and a recent intent to take his own life by using an aircraft. A note found in the private pilot's vehicle stated in part: "I'm tired of being depressed. I've been this way for almost 2 months. I'm about ready to do anything to stop feeling this way."

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