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On January 30, 2003, at 0956 mountain standard time, a Beech V35B, N935V, piloted by a private pilot was destroyed when it impacted terrain 14.5 nautical miles east of the Rock Springs/Sweetwater County Airport (RKS), Rock Springs, Wyoming. A post-crash fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal cross-country flight was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan from Casper, Wyoming, to San Diego, California, under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot on board sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at 0829.
At 0918, the pilot reported that he was in the weather and picking up moderate rime icing. The Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) controller informed the pilot that the weather extended for quite a ways, that he might want to check the weather with Flight Service, and that he might want to make an intermediate stop. After considering the extent of the weather, the pilot requested to land at RKS. The Salt Lake City ARTCC controller cleared the pilot to proceed direct to RKS and maintain 13,000 feet mean seal level (msl). The pilot reported his ground speed was 64 knots.
At 0931, the pilot reported he was "in the clear" and between cloud layers. The pilot also said he had a moderate amount of rime ice on his wings. Salt Lake City ARTCC cleared the pilot to descend.
At 0939, the Salt Lake City ARTCC controller asked the pilot if he wanted to plan on the ILS approach. The pilot said, "Ah yes ... we'll do the ILS. I still got quite a load of ice here on my wings". The controller gave the pilot a vector for the localizer.
At 0943, Salt Lake City ARTCC cleared the pilot to descend and maintain 11,000 feet msl. At 0947, the pilot said, "Ah center ... I'm picking up a lot of ice here." The controller cleared the pilot to descend and maintain 10,000 feet msl.
At 0951, Salt Lake City ARTCC cleared the pilot for the ILS approach to RKS. The pilot acknowledged and said "... I'm going down to nine thousand one hundred right away."
At 0955, the pilot reported breaking out of the clouds and having trouble identifying the airport. The Salt Lake City ARTCC controller advised the pilot that the airport was at 11 o'clock at 12 miles. The pilot said, "... I'm coming around a big peak here. It looks like I let my altitude slide a bit. I apologize. I'm going to go around that."
At 0956, radio and radar contact was lost with the airplane. At the last known position, the airplane was 14.49 nautical miles on a bearing of 097 degrees from RKS, at an altitude of 8,000 feet msl.
At 1054, Salt Lake City ARTCC issued an Alert Notification (ALNOT) for N935V.
The Wyoming Civil Air Patrol found the airplane at 1730.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine and instrument ratings. At his most recent flight physical on April 17, 2001, the pilot reported having 475 total flying hours. The pilot successfully completed a flight review on November 11, 2001.
The pilot held a third class medical with no restrictions, dated April 17, 2001.
The airplane was manufactured in 1974, was co-owned and operated by the pilot, and used for pleasure. The airplane's current registration was dated August 22, 2001.
The airplane had an annual inspection performed on August 1, 2002.
The co-owner of the airplane said the airplane was brought to Casper, Wyoming, 15 months earlier. He reported that during that time he had logged 200 hours in the airplane, and experienced no problems with it. The co-owner said that everything in the airplane worked except the clock, and that the airplane was not equipped with distance measuring equipment.
At 0954, the routine aviation weather report at Rock Springs, Wyoming was 3,900 feet overcast skies, 10 miles visibility, temperature 41 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 25 degrees F, winds 250 degrees at 22 knots, gusts to 26 knots, and altimeter 30.09 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board on-scene investigation began on January 31, 2003, at 1200.
The accident site was in open, hilly, sagebrush-covered terrain, located approximately 8 miles south of Point of Rocks, Wyoming, and approximately 1 mile east of Black Buttes. The geographical coordinates of the site were 41 degrees 33.53 minutes north latitude, and 108 degrees 46.34 minutes west longitude. The accident site elevation was at 6,937 feet msl.
An area of burned grass and sagebrush encompassed the accident site. The accident site covered an area approximately 75 feet north to south and 150 feet east to west.
The accident site began with the airplane main wreckage, which was located at the west-northwest edge of the burned area and oriented on a 120-degree magnetic heading. The airplane main wreckage consisted of the remains of the left and right wings, the engine, propeller, remains of the airplane cabin and fuselage, the main landing gear struts and wheel hubs, and the remains of the empennage.
The airplane's engine rested at a 40-degree down angle in an impact crater. The impact crater measured 58 inches wide, 40 inches long, and was 22 inches at its deepest point. The airplane's propeller and spinner were buried in the crater beneath the engine. The smell of aviation fuel was prevalent in this area.
The propeller was broken at the hub. The propeller cylinder was broken open. Both propeller blades were broken from the hub. Both blades showed torsional bending and chordwise scratches. The spinner was crushed aft and twisted counter-clockwise. The top and aft portions of the engine were charred by fire.
The airplane's cowling was broken open, crushed aft, and fragmented. The fractured pieces were charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The front cowling ring was crushed aft and charred by fire. The airplane's firewall was broken aft, charred and melted. The nose gear was charred and melted. The nose wheel tire was consumed by fire. The forward fuselage was charred, melted and consumed by fire.
The remains of the airplane's cabin rested on top of the engine. The cabin was broken open, crushed aft, charred melted and consumed by fire. The windscreen was broken out, fragmented, charred, and melted. The instrument panel was broken aft, fragmented, charred, and melted. The flight, navigation, and engine instruments, radios, and controls were broken out, charred and melted. The cabin seats, interior, walls and ceiling were charred, melted and consumed by fire. The main cabin door was broken out, crushed aft, charred, and melted. The aft baggage door was broken out, buckled aft, and charred by fire.
The airplane's fuselage, aft of the baggage area was bent upward and forward such that the empennage rested on top of the cabin remains. The aft fuselage was also twisted 15 degrees counter-clockwise at the bend. The fuselage section was broken open, charred, melted, and consumed by fire.
The empennage rested just aft and on top of the cabin remains. The V-tail and ruddervators were melted and consumed by fire. Flight control continuity to the ruddervators was confirmed.
The airplane's wings were oriented on a line running along a magnetic heading south-to-north of approximately 030 degrees.
The airplane's left wing was crushed aft to the forward spar along the entire span of the leading edge. The forward spar rested at a 45-degree down angle. The ground was pushed upward just forward of the wing leading edge. The upper wing skin was buckled aft, charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The bottom wing skin was consumed by fire. The left fuel tank was broken open, melted, and consumed by fire. The left wing tip fuel tank was broken forward longitudinally, broken open, charred, and melted. The left main landing gear was in the extended position, and was charred and melted. The left main landing gear tire was consumed by fire. The left wing flap was in the retracted position. The flap surface was melted and consumed by fire. The left aileron was bent upward, charred, melted, and consumed by fire. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed.
The airplane's right wing was crushed aft to the forward spar along the entire span of the leading edge. The forward spar rested at a 36-degree down angle. The upper wing skin was bent and buckled aft, charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The bottom wing skin was melted and consumed by fire. The right wing fuel tank was broken open, melted, and consumed by fire. The right wing tip fuel tank was broken aft longitudinally. The right main landing gear was in the extended position. The aft portion of the gear trunion was pushed upward through the upper wing skin. The gear was charred and melted. The right main landing gear tire was consumed by fire. The right wing flap was in the retracted position. The flap surface was charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The left aileron was charred, melted and consumed by fire. Flight control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed.
The right wing tip fuel tank rested 6 feet west of the right wing tip fracture. The tank was broken open, charred, and consumed by fire.
A debris field extended east southeastward from the main wreckage in a 50-degree arc for approximately 16 feet. The debris field contained the airplane's VOR antennae, VHF-radio antennae, numerous pieces of fragmented and charred clear Plexiglas, pieces from the left wing tip fuel tank, pieces of torn and charred bladder from the main fuel tanks, and several engine and flight instruments.
A field examination of the airplane's systems revealed no anomalies. The airplane's engine was retained for further testing.
County search and rescue units arrived at the accident site on January 30, 2003, at 2000. The fire that had destroyed the airplane and burned the surrounding sagebrush was out.
Examination of the remaining airplane showed no evidence of fire preceding the impact with the ground.
The burned area of sagebrush surrounding the airplane wreckage extended northwest to southwest from the wreckage for approximately 15 feet, southeast for approximately 50 feet, and east to northeast for approximately 70 feet.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Sweetwater County Coroner at Rock Springs, Wyoming, conducted an autopsy of the pilot on January 31, 2003.
The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens taken from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane engine was examined on February 5, 2003, at Greeley Colorado. The examination revealed no pre-existing anomalies that could have contributed to the accident.
Parties to the investigation were the FAA Flight Standards District Office, Casper, Wyoming.
All aircraft wreckage was released and returned to the insurance company.