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On February 25, 2003, about 1751 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172P, N97890, registered to and operated by Eagle Flight LLC, collided with trees then the ground near Osteen, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight from the Orlando Sanford International Airport. The airplane was destroyed and the private-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated about 1734, from the Orlando Sanford International Airport.
According to a transcription of communications with the Orlando Sanford International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower, the pilot established contact with ground control at 1723, and advised the controller that the flight intended to depart to the east. The pilot was cleared to taxi to runway 9C, which he acknowledged, and the flight was cleared to takeoff at 1734:23. A review of the voice tape containing communications from the air traffic control tower and the accident pilot revealed that after the flight was cleared to takeoff, the controller advised the pilot that frequency change was approved; the pilot did not acknowledge that transmission. There are no known witnesses to the accident.
A review of NTSB plotted radar data revealed after takeoff, the flight proceeded eastbound then turned to a northeast direction, and when the flight was east-northeast of the Orlando Sanford International Airport, performed approximately four 360-degree turns to the left. During each orbit, the airplane moved progressively closer to the Orlando Sanford International Airport. The last recorded radar target at 600 feet was located at 28 degrees 49.1 minutes North latitude and 081 degrees 01.73 minutes West longitude.
An emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was reported to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on the day of the accident at 1837, or approximately 44 minutes after the accident. The ELT signal was later determined to be located 2.1 miles and 270 degrees from the actual accident site. Personnel from AFRCC immediately contacted Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center and St. Petersburg Automated flight Service Station who advised there was no overdue aircraft. An individual from the operator reportedly contacted the St. Petersburg, Florida, Automated Flight Service Station (PIE AFSS) on the day of the accident at approximately 1900 hours and questioned whether the PIE AFSS had communicated with the pilot of the accident airplane. There was no record with the PIE AFSS of a flight plan or weather briefing associated with the accident airplane. At 2017, an ELT signal was recorded south of Tampa, Florida. At 2115, an ELT signal merge at coordinates that were later determined to be located 5.67 miles and 238 degrees from the actual accident site. A note in the AFRCC log at 2134 indicates, "...will not go to mission status at this time due to intermittent and unreliable S/S data and no missing/overdue aircraft." At 2255, another ELT merge at coordinates that were later determined to be located 5.21 miles and 215 degrees from the actual accident site. A mission to search for the accident airplane was assigned by AFRCC at 2343 hours, and at 0035 hours on the 26th of February, the PIE AFSS advised the AFRCC of the missing airplane and provided a registration number for the airplane. The PIE AFSS disseminated an Alert Notice for the missing airplane at 0042 hours. The Volusia County Sheriff Department was notified of the missing airplane at 0133 hours on the 26th of February. At 0323, the Civil Air Patrol had ground crews headed to the area where the ELT signals were located. At approximately 0435 hours, the wreckage was spotted by Air 1 of the Volusia County Sheriff Department.
The accident occurred during daylight hours, and the accident site was located at 28 degrees 49.478 minutes north latitude and 081 degrees 01.117 minutes West longitude, or approximately 061 degrees and .66 nautical mile from the last radar target.
The pilot was the holder of a commercial pilot certificate with rotorcraft helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. He was also the holder of a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. There was no records of previous accidents/incidents, or Federal Aviation Administration enforcement actions. His last flight review occurred on December 17, 2001, in which he obtained his instrument airplane rating on a flight that was flown in the accident airplane. He was the holder of a first class medical certificate with no limitations that was issued on march 12, 2002.
Two pilot logbooks were located in the wreckage. A review of one of the logbooks which contained entries from November 30, 2000, to February 2, 2001, revealed all entries were for a UH-60A helicopter. He logged a total time between these dates of 24.8 hours. A review of the second logbook which contained entries from March 1, 2001, to June 15, 2002, revealed logged flights in a UH-60A helicopter of various identifications, and civilian airplanes of various models. He logged a total time between these dates of 167 hours. Of the 167 hours, 80.9 hours were in various models of a Cessna 172 airplane. He logged a total time of 2.2 hours in the accident airplane; the last logged flight in the accident airplane occurred on December 22, 2001.
The airplane was manufactured by Cessna Aircraft Company in 1984, as a model 172P, was designated serial number 17276238, and was certificated in the normal and utility categories. It was equipped with a 160 horsepower Lycoming O-320-D2J engine with a fixed pitch McCauley 1C160/DTM7557 propeller.
A review of the maintenance records revealed the airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection that was completed on January 14, 2003. The airplane had accumulated 70.2 hours since the inspection at the time of the accident.
A METAR weather observation taken at the Orlando Sanford International Airport on the day of the accident at 1753 (approximately 2 minutes after the time of the accident), indicates the wind was from 060 degrees at 7 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, few clouds existed at 5,000 feet, the temperature and dew point were 22 and 16 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter was 30.07 inHg. The accident site was located approximately 12 nautical miles and 077 degrees from the Orlando Sanford International Airport.
On the date, time, and location of the accident, the sunset and end of civil twilight were calculated to occur at 1822 and 1846 hours, respectively. The accident occurred approximately 31 and 55 minutes respectively, before the calculated sunset and end of civil twilight times.
The pilot was not in contact with any air traffic control facility at the time of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed on property owned by Miami Corporation. The accident site was wooded and consisted primarily of pine trees which exhibited damage at decreasing heights from the first tree contacted to the location where the wreckage came to rest. The heading from the first to second tree was oriented on a magnetic heading of 324 degrees. Components of the airplane were located along the energy path. The main wreckage consisting of the fuselage, right wing, engine and propeller, portion of the vertical stabilizer and rudder assembly, and both horizontal stabilizers with attached left and right elevators came to rest inverted on a magnetic heading of 346 degrees, approximately 225 feet from the first contacted tree.
Examination of the airplane revealed the fuselage was fractured in several locations, while the engine with attached propeller remained connected to the airframe by one stretched cable. Both wings were fragmented in two major sections; a section of right wing from the flap/aileron split location inboard remained secured to the fuselage. All structural components necessary to sustain flight remained attached or were found in close proximity to the accident site. No evidence of fire damage was noted to any components of the airplane. Elevator flight control cable continuity was confirmed from the bellcrank near the control surface to the bellcrank in the cockpit; the elevator push/pull tube was fractured with the fractured end exhibiting "D" shape. Both rudder control cables were connected at the bellcrank near the control surface and at the rudder bar, but the left rudder bar cable attach point was fractured. Right aileron flight control continuity was confirmed, while the left aileron flight control exhibited tension overload approximately 5 feet from the turnbuckle located near the drum assembly under the instrument panel. The aileron balance cable exhibited tension overload in the left wing area. The flaps were retracted as indicated by the flap actuator.
Examination of the cockpit revealed the fuel selector valve was on the "both" position; there were no obstructions noted of the fuel selector valve. The master switch, beacon, and landing lights switches were in the "on" position. The throttle control was pulled from the panel, while the mixture control was 3/4 inch from the full rich position. The primer was in the locked position, and the flap selector was in the retracted position.
Examination of the engine revealed impact damage to the propeller, propeller flange, and starter; the propeller flange was bent an undetermined number of degrees. Six quarts of oil were drained from the oil sump. The oil filter and oil suction screen were clean. The magnetos were timed to specification, 25 degrees before top dead center. The engine was removed from the firewall and the impact damaged propeller was removed from the engine. A replacement propeller was installed on the engine which was installed on a non-airworthy airplane. An alternate fuel supply was plumbed to the carburetor and the engine was started and operated to approximately 2,300 rpm; a vibration was noted from the engine during the engine run. The engine rpm decreased between 100 and 150 when performing each magneto check, and the oil pressure was noted to be in limits during the run.
Examination of the impact damaged propeller revealed one blade was bent aft approximately 75 degrees and the leading edge was twisted towards low pitch, while the other propeller blade was bent aft approximately 20 degrees. Chordwise scratches were noted on both propeller blades.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by Districts 7 and 24 Medical Examiner's Office. The cause of death was listed as multiple fractures and internal injuries and the manner of death was listed as "suicide."
Toxicological analysis of postmortem specimens of the pilot was performed by Wuesthoff Reference Laboratory (Wuesthoff), located in Melbourne, Florida, and the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory (CAMI), located on Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of analysis by Wuesthoff was negative for volatiles, carbon monoxide, and tested drugs. The results of analysis by CAMI was also negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A dispatcher for Avion Air Academy reported that on the day of the accident between 1600 and 1700 hours, the pilot contacted the facility and inquired if any Cessna 172s were available that evening; the pilot was advised that several were available. The pilot advised the dispatcher that he would come by later to fly; he arrived sometime after 1700 hours, and questioned which aircraft other pilots like to fly at night. Of the aircraft named, the accident airplane was the only one available. The dispatcher reported that the pilot advised he was going to meet someone, would fly for approximately 1.5 hours, and was going to fly south of New Smyrna, "...over the shore for a little while." He was reminded that the airplane was scheduled to a student at 2000 hours. The pilot borrowed a headset due to a reported malfunction with his headset. The dispatcher further reported that at no time did he display any signs of stress or unusual behavior.
A review of the flight school invoice for the accident flight indicates the route of flight as, "EVB>SFB." The invoice indicates that the hour meter and tachometer at the time the airplane was dispatched was 5531.9 and 2129.3, respectively. At the time of the accident, the hour meter and tachometer indicated 5532.4 and 2129.7, respectively. The airplane departed with full fuel tanks.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not retain any components from the wreckage. The wreckage was released to Kevin Twiss, insurance adjuster for Phoenix Aviation Managers, Inc., on December 10, 2004.