On September 1, 2004, approximately 1945 central daylight time, an amateur-built Cassutt IIIM single-engine airplane, N3TW, registered to and operated by a private individual, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of control while in the landing pattern at the Pearland Regional Airport (LVJ), near Pearland, Texas. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Visual metrological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from LVJ approximately 40 minutes prior to the time of the accident. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
In a written statement, a witness, who was the pilot of a Cessna 206 that was on a left downwind for Runway 32R, at an altitude of 800 feet above ground level (agl), reported that he observed N3TW approximately 1/4 mile away "descending rapidly in a nose down attitude through approximately 500 feet agl." The witness stated that the airplane "fell straight down in a spin" until it impacted terrain.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the site of the accident, another witness reported observing the airplane turn left base at a bank angle of approximately 90 degrees. A family member of the pilot reported to the FAA inspector that the pilot stated that the airplane had approximately 6 gallons of automotive gasoline onboard the airplane prior to departure.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on December 13, 2002.
A review of the private pilot's logbook revealed that he accumulated approximately 241.6 flight hours. As of June 16, 2004, the most recent logbook entry, the pilot had accumulated 2 hours of flight time in the accident make/model airplane.
The 1974 Cassutt IIIM was an amateur built mid-wing airplane composed of a tubular steel frame covered by fabric. The airplane was equipped with a Continental O-200-A engine rated at 100 horsepower. The former owner of N3TW reported that he had recently sold the airplane to the pilot in February of 2004. The former owner added that the airplane was designed for competition air racing and was "challenging to fly."
Review of the airplane logbooks revealed that the most recent Annual/100-hour inspection was performed on March 13, 2003, at an airframe and engine total time of 280.1 hours. The engine was last overhauled on August 8, 1994.
The Pearland Regional Airport features 3 runways: 14R/32L (4,302-foot long and 70-foot wide asphalt runway), 14L/32R (2,800-foot long and 90-foot wide turf runway), and 4/22 (2,400-foot long and 100-foot wide turf runway). The airport is an uncontrolled airfield operating under class G airspace. The common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) is 122.8 megahertz.
At 1953, the automated surface observing system at LVJ reported wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 80 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.03 inches of Mercury. The NTSB investigator-in-charge calculated the density altitude to be 1,376 feet.
Examination of the airplane by the FAA inspector revealed that the airplane came to rest upright in a hay field approximately 1/2 mile south of LVJ. The fuselage area forward of the aft section of the cockpit was crushed aft, and both wings were crushed aft throughout their respective spans. Flight control continuity was established throughout the airplane. The FAA inspector also reported that there was a strong odor of fuel at the accident site.
On September 3, 2004, at the facilities of D&N Aviation, near Pearland, Texas, under the supervision of an FAA inspector, a representative from Teledyne Continental Motors, examined the Continental O-200-A engine (serial number 231221R).
Examination of the engine revealed the left and right magnetos were separated form their respective mounts. The oil sump was pushed aft and upwards. The exhaust pipes were crushed upwards and aft. The top sparkplugs were removed, and when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Chart, displayed moderate wear, dark deposits in the electrode area. Rotational continuity throughout the engine and accessories housing was established when the engine was rotated by hand using the propeller. Compression was noted from all four cylinders. The gascolator screen was absent of debris. The carburetor was separated from its mount and was impact damaged. No fuel was found within the gascolator bowl. The throttle body was partially separated from the carburetor bowl. The fuel screen was absent of debris. No fuel was observed within the carburetor bowl.
The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. One blade was separated approximately 1/3 of its length outboard of the propeller flange. The other blade was crushed aft and splintered.
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the office of the Galveston County Medical Examiner in Galveston, Texas, on September 2, 2004. According to the report, "The cause of death...[was] multiple blunt force injuries." Toxicological tests performed by the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) were negative for carbon monoxide, alcohol, however was positive for trace amounts (values confirmed by the FAA) of Sertraline, Desmethylsertraline, Diphenhydramine, and Burpropion.
According to an FAA Medical Examiner, the use of Sertraline and Burpropion would have disqualified the pilot's medical certification if it had been reported.