ATL04FA093
ATL04FA093

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 12, 2004, at 1008 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 182S, N364ME, registered to and operated by the private pilot, collided with trees and the ground in North Augusta, South Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument flight rules (IFR) plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The private pilot and two passengers received fatal injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight departed Aiken Municipal Airport in Aiken, South Carolina, at 0939 on April 12, 2004.

According to air traffic control records, the flight received its IFR clearance and radar contact was established two miles southwest of Aiken Municipal Airport at 0941:29. A controller cleared the flight to proceed direct to the Colliers VOR at 3,000 feet, and the pilot acknowledged. At 0943:04, the controller issued a heading of 340 for the flight's climb, and the pilot did not respond. After three subsequent transmissions of the airplane's call sign from the controller, the pilot acknowledged, and the controller stated, "yes sir fly heading of three four zero vector for your climb climb and maintain eight thousand," and the pilot replied, "... we'll climb and maint." Subsequent transmissions between the controller and the pilot included the controller asking the pilot five times if he was climbing before receiving an answer from the pilot. At 0952:59, the controller asked the pilot his heading, and the pilot replied, "... we're three four zero." The controller observed on the radar that the flight was changing altitudes up and down and not tracking the assigned course. The controller stated, "okay you're nowhere near a three forty heading check your equipment and let me know what heading you're on." The pilot did not reply, and at 0953:49, the controller stated, "four mike echo what altitude are you gonna maintain you can't fly the headings for me," the pilot stated, "... six thousand," and the controller stated, "okay I'm showing you descending check and maintain six thousand sir." At 0954:34, the pilot stated, "... we're in a little trouble here."

The controller asked the pilot if he wanted to declare an emergency and land at either Daniel Field or Augusta Regional at Bush Field, Augusta, Georgia. The controller told the pilot to level off the airplane, and "let me know what you want to do." At 0956:42, the pilot stated, "we'd like to turn on course please." The controller asked the pilot if he could proceed direct the LaGrange VOR, and the pilot replied in the affirmative. At 0958:33, the pilot stated, "ah give me the ah call sign for lagrange please," and the controller stated, "okay sir ah it's lima golf charlie I'm going to recommend that you land at Augusta ... ." The pilot replied, "I've got it under control," and the controller stated, "okay yeah you're going eastbound you should be going northwest bound you've leveled at four thousand seven hundred let me know what you wanna do," and the pilot replied, "ah gimme that call sign again please." At 0959:23, the controller stated, "... you're descending on me again," and the pilot stated, "... I think we'll land." The controller instructed the pilot to level off at any altitude.

The controller asked the pilot if he was familiar with a surveillance approach or could he do an ILS approach, and the pilot stated, "I'm wondering what I can do here." The pilot was assigned a different frequency to communicate alone with one controller for an approach to Augusta Regional at Bush Field. At 1004:27, the controller stated, "ok anything else going wrong is it just navigation problem," and the pilot stated, "navigation problems." The controller provided heading and altitude assignments, and the airplane continued to descend and turn off course. At 1006:01, the controller stated, "... you're coming down to fifteen hold it back up to seventeen hundred," and the pilot replied, "... seventeen hundred you still want us to fly the ah two seven zero," and the controller stated, "affirmative sir ... I don't need for you to turn the aircraft at all ... ." At 1006:53, the controller stated, "... I need you to take it up there to seventeen hundred and hold it there heading of two seven zero please and your low altitude alert indicates six hundred," and the pilot stated, "four mike echo we've got to try to (unintelligible)." The controller stated, "no sir you're not VFR you're IFR ... ." The pilot stated, "... we saw some," and "... we're trying for (unintelligible)," and the controller stated, "ok sir do not do not take off on your own ... I need for you up to seventeen hundred feet." At 1007:39, the pilot stated, "four mike echo I understand that," and no further radio communication was received from the flight.

Witnesses at a nursing home a few hundred yards from the accident site reported seeing the airplane flying low and erratic just over treetop height. One witness stated the airplane was "weaving back and forth, the engine was sputtering." The witness stated, "it seemed the airplane was going to hit the building until the pilot seemed to pull up a little, then the plane took a dip first to the right, then a hard left," then it nosed down into the trees. The witness ran into the building to telephone the 911 operator, and he and nurses from the home ran to the accident site and found the airplane on the ground.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He held a third class medical certificate dated May 15, 2002, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses." A review of the pilot's logbook revealed he logged a total of 768.4 hours, which included 595.9 hours pilot-in-command, 595.9 hours in high-performance airplanes, 5.6 hours night time, 102.4 hours simulated instrument time, and 13.9 hours actual instrument time.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Cessna 182S was manufactured in 2000, was powered by a Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5 230-horsepower engine, and was equipped with a McCauley B3D36C431-C three-blade, constant-speed propeller. A review of maintenance records revealed an altimeter, encoder, transponder, and static system certification test was performed August 21, 2002. An annual inspection of the airplane was completed on August 1, 2003, at a tachometer reading of 387.7 hours. Damage precluded tachometer and hour meter readings at the accident site. The most recent maintenance log entry on April 1, 2004, recorded a tachometer reading of 503.7. The airplane was topped off with 28.2 gallons 100LL prior to departure.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded weather data from the Augusta Regional at Bush Field weather observing station revealed at 0953 conditions were winds from 140 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 6 statute miles with mist, ceiling 700 feet overcast, temperature 18 degrees centigrade, dew point 18 degrees centigrade, altimeter setting 29.74 inches, with remarks rain began at 0901 and ended at 0910. At 1035 conditions were winds from 130 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, ceiling 1,100 feet overcast, temperature 20 degrees centigrade, dew point 19 degrees centigrade, altimeter setting 29.75 inches, with remarks ceiling 800 feet variable to 1,400 feet.

A review of WSR-88D Doppler Weather Radar Level III images revealed at 1000 and 1005, an area of precipitation was approximately 10 miles west of Aiken Municipal Airport. The precipitation area extended approximately 30 miles from north to south, and the location of the accident site corresponded with the southeast edge of the precipitation area. A review of National Weather Service In-flight Weather Advisories revealed AIRMETs SIERRA and TANGO were in effect for the area and time of the accident for IFR conditions and occasional moderate turbulence below 12,000 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed the wreckage came to rest in a wooded area approximately 16 nautical miles southwest of the Aiken Municipal Airport, and 8.6 nautical miles north of Augusta Regional at Bush Field. Wreckage debris was scattered approximately 50 feet along a 285-degree magnetic heading, and a strong odor of fuel was present at the site. The engine was partially separated from the fuselage at the engine mount, and the engine mount and firewall were crushed aft. A ground crater 14 feet long and 7 feet wide was observed off the right side of the fuselage. The instrument panel was damaged, the avionics stack was displaced, and the left control column was separated at the drum assembly. The engine controls were displaced in the console, the throttle control was one-quarter inch aft, the mixture control was one inch aft, and the propeller control was separated and full forward. The fuel selector handle was positioned to "both." The glareshield was removed to facilitate examination, and the pitot-static and vacuum lines were observed connected to their respective instruments. The pitot mast was damaged, tree debris was embedded in the inlet, the fuselage was crushed at the left static port, and the static line was separated at the left port. The vacuum filter was free of debris.

The left wing was separated and found on the ground 24 feet west of the fuselage, and the left wing strut was separated and in a tree. The wing fuel tank was breached, and fuel was recovered. The flap was damaged and attached to the wing trailing edge, and the push-pull rod was separated. The aileron was attached at the inboard hinge and bent approximately 90 degrees. The aileron push-pull rod and bellcrank were in place, and the cables were attached. Continuity for the direct cable and the crossover cable was established from the bellcrank to separations near the wing root. The inboard end of the direct cable was attached at the control column.

The right wing was buckled approximately midspan, crushed from the leading edge aft, and found adjacent to the fuselage; emergency response personnel reported cutting the airplane at the right door post and moving the right wing aside. The fuel tank was breached. The strut was attached to the wing and separated from the fuselage. The flap was damaged and attached, and the flap jackscrew extension was consistent with a flaps-retracted position. The aileron was attached and damaged, the push-pull rod and bellcrank were in place, and the cables were attached. Continuity for the direct cable was established from the bellcrank to the cut at the door post, and the inboard end of the direct cable was attached at the control column. Continuity for the crossover cable was established from the bellcrank to the separation near the left wing root.

The empennage was hanging to the right of the fuselage, attached by the upper skin and control cables. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were attached to a crushed and separated section of the tail cone, and the rudder was attached. The rudder control cables were attached at the rudder horn, and control cable continuity was established from the rudder horn to a crushed area at the cockpit center pedestal. The left side of the horizontal stabilizer was crushed from the leading edge aft, and the left side of the elevator was separated and under the cabin. The right side of the horizontal stabilizer was crushed with the right side of the elevator and elevator trim tab attached. The elevator bellcrank and push-pull tube were in place; control cable continuity was established from the bellcrank to a crushed area at the cockpit center pedestal. Cable continuity for the elevator trim was established from the trim tab to a crushed area at the cockpit center pedestal.

Examination of the engine revealed the propeller and spinner were attached. The spinner was crushed, and the propeller blades displayed twist deformation, bending, chordwise scratches, and the absence of paint along the leading edge and camber side. Crankshaft and valve train continuity was established when the engine was rotated at an accessory drive, and compression developed on all six cylinders. The oil filter and suction screen were free of debris. The ignition harness was damaged, the magnetos were damaged, the timing was correct, and both magnetos produced spark on all towers when rotated. The No. 1 bottom spark plug was not accessed for examination; the remaining spark plugs exhibited color and wear consistent with the "normal" condition on the Champion AV-27 comparison chart. The fuel servo flange was attached to the mount, and the fuel servo was separated from the flange and hanging by the attached lines. The fuel inlet screen was free of contaminants. The fuel flow divider diaphragm was intact, the fuel injector nozzles were free of obstruction, and fuel was observed in the fuel pump, fuel servo, the line from the servo to the fuel flow divider, and in the fuel flow divider. The fuel pump produced tension when actuated by hand.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by Newberry Pathology Associates, P. A., Newberry, South Carolina, on April 13, 2004. The report stated the cause of death was "... blunt force injury ... ." The report also noted "cardiomegaly" and "severe atherosclerosis of one coronary artery." Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration, Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report stated no carbon monoxide and no cyanide were detected in the blood, no ethanol was detected in the vitreous, and no drugs were detected in the urine.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Examination of the KI 525A Pictorial Nav Indicator and the KG 102A Directional Gyro revealed no evidence of pre-impact abnormalities. The KA 51B slaving accessory switch was damaged, and the metal toggle was bent. Examination and metallurgical examination revealed no conclusive witness marks of the pre-impact position of the switch. Examination of the attitude indicator, the 215CC air pump, the 216CW air pump, the vacuum regulator, and the check valve manifold revealed no evidence of pre-impact abnormalities.

Test bench examination of the KC 140 Flight Control Computer and the KCM 100 Configuration Module revealed the units functioned through the preflight checks and engaged, and the computer functioned through the full parameter tests to production specifications. Test bench examination of the KMT 112 magnetic azimuth transmitter, the KS 270C Pitch Servo, the KS 272C Trim Servo, and the KS 271C Primary Servo revealed all units performed to production specifications.

Test bench examination of the digital NAV/COMM radio from the No. 1 and the No. 2 installed position revealed the frequencies displayed and the flip-flop features functioned. A test bench CDI (course deflection indicator) was connected to each radio, and testing revealed the CDI responded normally when VOR as well as localizer test frequencies were selected on each radio. Examination of data from the KLN 94 GPS unit revealed the stored coordinates corresponded with the accident site, and no flight plan data corresponding with the pilot's filed flight plan were stored in the unit.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A review of the Flight Progress Strip revealed the filed flight plan was from Aiken Municipal Airport, Aiken, South Carolina, direct to the Colliers VORTAC (identifier IRQ, frequency 113.9), direct to the LaGrange VORTAC (identifier LGC, frequency 115.6), direct to Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, direct to Mid Delta Regional Airport, Greenville, Mississippi. The Colliers VORTAC is 24.1 nautical miles west northwest from Aiken Municipal Airport. A review of radar data revealed the flight's direction after departure was generally southwest outside the boundary of the precipitation area depicted on the WSR-88D Doppler Weather Radar Level III images.

A witness who was lineman at Aiken Municipal Airport saw the pilot and the passengers preparing for departure, and he stated the pilot checked the weather. The witness stated he "overheard the group talking about flying south to avoid rain, and then heading west from there." The witness stated that, prior to departure, he observed "the plane idled for an unusually long time, moved to another part of the ramp, idled some more, and proceeded to the approach end of runway 24." He stated the airplane held for a landing airplane, then took off.

A witness on the ground approximately 3 nautical miles south of Aiken Municipal Airport reported an airplane was circling low over his home the morning of the accident. He stated the airplane was flying in the fog below the clouds, and he thought it was lost. He stated the fourth time it went over his home, it descended and he thought it was going to hit the ground or the home next to his, then it proceeded toward North Augusta.

An instrument-rated pilot who was monitoring the air traffic control frequencies as the accident flight was being vectored for the approach at Augusta Regional at Bush Field stated he found the pilot's responses to the controller's directions "strange" and "shocking." The witness stated he heard the pilot state on the radio he was trying to fly through holes in the clouds.

The wreckage was released to a representative of United States Aviation Underwriters, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, on December 14, 2004.

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