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On September 29, 2004, at 1417 central daylight time, a Cessna 172L, N4336Q, registered to and operated by Bald Eagle Aviation, Inc., operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 instructional flight, collided with power lines and the Coosa River while maneuvering in the vicinity of Gadsden, Alabama. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was destroyed. The commercial pilot flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. The flight originated from Gadsden Municipal Airport, Gadsden, Alabama, on September 29, 2004, at 1300.
A witness stated he heard an airplane approaching his home located next to the Coosa River. He looked out his window and observed the airplane flying about midway between the top of the trees and the river towards Wagnon's Ferry Road Crossing. He figured the pilot knew the area due to the power lines crossing the river at Wagnon's Ferry. The airplane continued past his home and disappeared from view. Another witness heard the airplane approaching his home flying towards the south. He looked out his window and observed the red and white airplane in straight and level flight above the tree tops. The airplane was observed to make a steep right turn estimated at a 45-degree angle of bank and disappeared from view. The witness heard a "pop" sound and immediately left his house to investigate. He arrived at the Coosa River and Wagnon's Ferry Road Crossing. The witness observed the power lines on both sides of the Coosa River had been broken. The airplane was located by the Etowah County Rescue Squad in the Coosa River at Coats bend at 1700.
Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate on June 14, 2003, with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot held a flight instructor certificate (CFI) with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, and instrument airplane issued on November 11, 2003. The pilot's last biennial flight review was conducted on November 11, 2003. The CFI held a second class medical issued on April 12, 2004, with the restriction, "Must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision." The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 350 total flight hours. Review of the CFI's log book revealed he had 605.6 total flight hours of which 449.2 hours were in single engine airplanes and 156.4 hours were in multiengine airplanes. The pilot had logged 539.6 hours as pilot-in-command, 233.3 hours as a flight instructor, and 241.7 hours in the Cessna 172.
The student pilot had not completed his pre-solo requirements required by the FAA, and did not have an FAA medical or student pilot certificate. According to the Manger for Bald Eagle Aviation, the student pilot's log book was in the airplane at the time of the accident. The student pilot's log book was not recovered. Review of the CFI's log book revealed the student pilot had flown 10 flights with the CFI for a total of 11.9 hours.
Review of the airplane logbooks revealed the last annual inspection was conducted on October 21, 2003. The tachometer and airframe time at the annual inspection was 7170.9. The last 100 hour inspection was conducted on July 28, 2004. The tachometer and airframe time at the 100 hour inspection was 7664.1. The engine was overhauled by G and N Aircraft Engines in Griffith, Indiana, on July 28, 2000. The tachometer and airframe time at the crash site was 7747.2. Review of refueling records on file at Bald Eagle Aviation Inc., revealed the airplane had been topped off with 20.3 gallons of 100 low lead fuel before the airplane departed on September 29, 2004. According to the Manager of Bald Eagle Aviation Inc., the dispatch sheet with the tachometer time at departure from Gadsden was in the airplane at the time of the accident. The dispatch sheet was not located and the actual flight time could not be determined.
The 1440 surface weather observation at Isbell Field, Fort Payne, Alabama was: wind 290-degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, 4,800 scattered, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 29.96.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located adjacent to Wagnon's Ferry Road Crossing in the Coosa River at Coats Bend, 14.3 miles east of Gadsden Municipal[al Airport, Gadsden, Alabama. Power lines on both sides of the Coosa River were separated and were located in the river attached to the airplane and an electrical power transformer. The wreckage was recovered and transported to Griffin, Georgia, for further examination.
The engine assembly separated from the engine mounts and remained attached to the airframe by the throttle cable. The upper and lower engine cowling was not recovered. The propeller blades remained in the propeller hub attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. One propeller blade was bent aft 30-degrees 12-inches outboard of the propeller hub. Chord wise scarring was present on the camber side and face side of the propeller blade. The remaining propeller blade was bent aft 10-degrees 12 inches aft of the propeller hub. The spinner was fragmented and an 11-inch piece of the spinner remained attached to the spinner flange.
The windshield separated from the airframe and was not recovered. The instrument panel separated at the left and right doorpost. The right forward door post separated from the airframe. Both control yokes separated from their control tubes. The left cabin door remained attached to the airframe and was open. The cabin door latching pin was extended and the door handle was in the locked position. The right cabin door separated from the airframe and was not located. The cabin roof separated from the main spar attachment points and the upper and forward doorposts. The aft center spar section separated from the right rear doorpost. The left and right side windows and the rear window separated from the airframe. The cabin roof was compressed aft to the left and right rear doorpost. The right front seat was not recovered. The right front seat seatbelt and shoulder harness remained attached to their associated attachment locations. The right inboard seat track was cracked through the aft hole 11-inches from the front of the seat track. The right outboard seat track was crushed through the seat track holes 1-inch and 10-inches from the front of the seat track. The left front seat separated from the seat tracks, and the seat back was bent aft. The rear left seat clamps were bent open to the left. The right front seat clamp was intact. The left front seat clamp was broken off to the left. The locking pin was extended .75 inches, and the locking mechanism moved freely. The left inboard seat track was bent and cracked at the center hole of the seat track 10-inches from the front of the seat track. The left outboard seat track was bent and cracked 11-inches from the front of the seat track. The left seat inboard attachment hinge for the lap belt separated from the floor structure. The rear seat remained attached to the cabin floor. The flight control cables were connected at the control column and extended aft through the wing root and tail cone pulleys and were attached to the flight control surfaces.
The right wing was pushed aft and remained attached to the forward wing attachment point. The rear spar was separated aft of the rear wing attachment point. The wing was separated at the flap and aileron junction. The upper wing skin received accordion crushing. The leading edge of the right wing received accordion crushing from the wing root outboard to the right wing strut attachment. The remainder of the leading edge was not recovered. The right main fuel tank was ruptured at the welding seam, and hydraulic deformation was present in the forward direction. The right vented fuel cap was missing and not recovered. The right flap remained attached to the flap track. No threads were exposed on the flap actuator jackscrew. The right aileron separated outboard of the middle hinge. The remaining aileron was not recovered. The right wing strut remained attached at the fuselage and wing attachments points. Wire marks were present on the right main landing gear strut fairing inboard of the brake assembly and extended inboard 5 1/2-inches. The landing gear strut fairing was twisted downward.
The right side of the tail cone was crushed inward at the baggage compartment bulkhead. The left baggage compartment door remained attached to the airframe and was open. The door latch was in the locked position. The left side of the tail cone was separated at the baggage compartment bulkhead. The dorsal fin was bent to the left. The vertical stabilizer leading edge was crushed to the left. The rudder and balance weight were attached. The rudder was buckled at the center hinge, and aft top, and moved freely when moved by hand. The left and right horizontal stabilizers and elevators were not damaged. The elevator balance weights were intact.
The left wing was pushed aft and was attached at the forward wing attachment point. The rear spar separated at the rear wing attachment point. The leading edge of the left wing received accordion crushing from the wing root extending outboard to the wing tip. The left wing tip fairing separated and was not recovered. The left main fuel tank was ruptured at the outboard section of the welding seam, and hydraulic deformation was present in the upward direction. The vented cap was installed with a tight seal. The left flap was retracted, buckled, and attached to the flap track. The left aileron was attached to the aileron hinges and was buckled. The left strut remained attached at the fuselage and wing attachment points. The left main landing gear was attached to the fuselage.
Examination of the engine assembly revealed the throttle assembly was damaged and the mixture control was in the idle cut off position. The carburetor heat control was destroyed. The carburetor was separated and damaged. The carburetor was removed and disassembled. The carburetor bowl screws were tight, the internal passages were free of debris, and no fuel leaks or stains were observed. The fuel inlet screen contained rust particles and was not obstructed. The plastic float and needle valve were intact. The oil filter adapter separated from its mounting pad and was damaged. The ignition harness was torn in several locations at the top front and left magneto. The left magneto flange was broken and the left magneto timing was unobtainable due to damage. The right magneto timing was 27-degrees before top center. Both were magnetos were removed and rotated with a power drill and ignition was present on all ignition towers. The No.1 exhaust push rod was damaged. The exhaust muffler was separated and not located. The induction air box was separated and not located. The upper and lower sparkplugs were removed and all sparkplug combustion deposits were gray in color. No oil remained in the engine. The oil suction screen was free and unobstructed. The oil filer was free of contaminants. The oil cooler was crushed and the return hose fitting was broken.
The engine was partially disassembled. The valve covers, and rear mounted accessories were removed. All cylinders were bore scoped and revealed no anomalies. The crankshaft was rotated by hand and internal valve and drive train continuity was confirmed. Compression and suction was obtained on all cylinders.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Huntsville, Alabama, conducted a postmortem examination of the flight instructor, on October 1, 2004. The reported cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries." The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the flight instructor. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, basic, acidic, and neutral drugs.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Huntsville, Alabama, conducted a postmortem examination of the student pilot, on October 1, 2004. The reported cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries." The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the student pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. Cyclobenzaprine was detected in the blood and urine.
The wreckage was released to Atlanta Air Recovery, Griffin, Georgia, on October 15, 2004.