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On October 21, 2004, approximately 1400 central daylight time, a Beech F35 single-engine airplane, N3889B, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed when it impacted hilly terrain near Chester, Arkansas. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal cross-country flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The flight to Stillwater, Oklahoma, originated at Tunica, Mississippi, approximately 1230.
Approximately 0915, the pilot contacted the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Greenwood Flight Service Station (FSS) and requested a weather briefing for a visual flight rules (VFR) flight. The pilot stated he was "looking for a VFR flight," and then the FSS briefer and pilot began to laugh. The FSS briefer reported the following weather conditions to the pilot, "Stillwater right now is 100 overcast obscure ceiling ¾ of a mile mist, we do have a flight precaution for IFR your entire route of flight, it is all IFR ranging from about 300 to 600 broken to overcast, some of ah, around Ponca City indefinite 100, 1/4 mile and fog, it is just absolutely nasty out there right now, VFR is definitely not recommended...and it looks like about noon time departure should only improve to about a 1,000 overcast from, for, Memphis area, Mississippi area and this, this looks like it's going to go on until probably 3 o'clock along your route of flight, so it doesn't look any better until at least for Mississippi and eastern portion of Arkansas until at least 2 or 3, so a..." The pilot then informed the briefer, "Okay, well we better just call you back." There was no further contact recorded by Greenwood FSS from the pilot.
According to personnel at Carson Flying Service, Tunica Muncipal Airport (UTA), the pilot and passenger arrived on October 15, 2004. Originally, the pilot and passenger planned on staying one evening in Tunica, then fly back to Stillwater; however, the weather was poor and they decided to stay until the weather conditions improved. Prior to the accident flight, the passenger stated to the Carson Flying Service personnel they were exhausted from being [in Tunica] so long and the pilot was "so ready to get home." They also reported the pilot and passenger seemed tired and anixous to get home. At the time of departure, the personnel reported the ceiling was approximately 2,000 feet and visibility was 6 miles or greater.
According to a witness, who was located in her residence, approximately 1400 she heard a sound similar to a small airplane. The sound lasted a few seconds and then disappeared. Five seconds later, the sound was heard again, but only for a few seconds and then it suddenly ended. About that time, the witness heard a "thud," which she thought may have been one of her children in the home. The witness looked around inside her residence and checked her children, and then walked outside. The witness did not hear any airplane sounds, see any smoke or fire, or smell any odors. Due to "misty and foggy" weather conditions, she could only see 100 to 200 yards from her home. Later that afternoon, she received news that an airplane had crashed approximately 1/4 mile from her residence.
Radar data depicted a VFR target squawking a transponder code of 1200, flying in a west-northwesterly direction at 1335. Approximately 1400, the radar indicated the target had executed a series of 360-degree turns. At 1403:54, radar contact with the VFR target was lost.
Approximately 1530, the airplane wreckage was located by the landowner, a brother to the witness. The wreckage came to rest approximately 1/4 mile from his residence.
The pilot received his private pilot certificate, with an airplane single-engine land rating, on January 31, 1986. The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on February 5, 2004, with the restriction, "Must Wear Corrective Lenses." According to the pilot's insurance records provided by the owner's insurance representative, dated February 6, 2004, the pilot had accumulated 2,363 total flight hours, 1,165 flight hours in the accident airplane make and model, and 96 total hours in the preceding year.
The 1955-model Beech F35, serial number D-4139, was a single-engine, low wing, retractable landing gear, semi-monocoque design airplane. The airplane was powered by a six cylinder, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, normally aspirated Continental E-225-8 (serial number 31056-D-5-8), engine, rated at 225 horsepower, and equipped with a two-bladed constant speed Hartzell HC-A2MV20-4A1 propeller, hub serial number AK1288. The airplane was configured to carry a maximum of four occupants.
The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate and was certificated for normal category operations. The airplane's current registration was issued to the pilot on December 21, 1993. A review of the airframe logbooks revealed the airframe underwent its most recent annual inspection on December 24, 2003, at a total airframe time of 4,199.92 hours and a tachometer time of 83.0 hours. A review of the engine logbook revealed the engine underwent its most recent 100-hour inspection on December 24, 2003, at a total engine time of 1,041.8 hours since major overhaul, and 83 hours since top overhaul. The tachometer indication at the accident site was 131.8 hours.
At 1353, the Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM), Fort Smith, Arkansas, automated surface observing system (ASOS), located approximately 23 nautical miles southwest of the accident site, reported the wind from 060 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 1,700 feet, sky broken at 2,600 feet, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 17 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of Mercury.
At 1416, FSM ASOS reported the wind from 070 degrees at 13 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 2,600 feet, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 17 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.92 inches of Mercury.
At 1446, the FSM ASOS reported the wind from 070 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky broken at 2,900 feet, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 17 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of Mercury.
At 1353, the Drake Field Airport (FYV), Fayetteville, Arkansas, ASOS, located approximately 20 miles north of the accident site, reported the wind from 200 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, sky overcast at 1,500 feet, temperature 24 degrees Celsius, dew point 19 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of Mercury.
At 1453, the FYV ASOS reported the wind from 180 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 8 statute miles, sky overcast at 1,500 feet, temperature 23 degrees Celsius, dew point 19 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was located at 35 degrees 41.079 minutes North latitude, and 094 degrees 15.146 minutes West longitude at an elevation of 1,550 feet. The airplane wreckage came to rest upright on a measured magnetic heading of 150 degress on a rocky, open, 20-degree sloping hillside, approximately 150 feet below the ridge line. The airplane impacted the terrain in a nose down attitude with the wings approximately parallel to the slope, and the engine was embedded approximately 3 feet into the ground. There were no ground scars noted except for the scars beneath the main wreckage.
The outboard 4 feet of the left wing was partially separated, and the inboard section remained attached to the fuselage. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. The ruddervators remained intact and attached to the empennage. The flaps were found in the up position, and the landing gear was retracted.
The cockpit and cabin area were destroyed. Both control yokes were separated from the single control tube, and the left control horn was separated on both control yokes. The engine remained partially attached to the engine mounts and airframe. The two blade propeller assembly remained attached to the engine crankshaft, and one blade was separated from the propeller hub.
The wreckage was recovered to the facilities of Air Salvage of Dallas, Lancaster, Texas, for further examination.
On October 25, 2004, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock, Arkansas. According to the medical examiner, the cause of death for the pilot was multiple traumatic injuries. Specimens for the toxicological tests were taken from the pilot.
The Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic and Accident Research Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, examined the specimens taken by the medical examiner. According to CAMI, the toxicological tests were negative for carbon monoxide and all screened drug substances. The toxicological test revealed 10 mg/dl of ethanol detected in blood, 15 mg/dl of ethanol detected in muscle, 9 mg/dl of ethanol detected in brain, 19 mg/dl of acetaldehyde detected in blood, and 11 mg/dl of acetaldehyde detected in muscle. According to CAMI, the ethanol found may potentially be from postmortem ethanol formation and not from the ingestion of ethanol.
TEST AND RESEARCH
On November 4, 2004, at the facilities of Air Salvage of Dallas and under the supervision of the NTSB Investigator-In-Charge, representatives from the FAA and Teledyne Continental Motors examined the wreckage. The examination of the airframe revealed the left wing leading edge was crushed aft and upward to the forward spar along its entire length. The aft spar was separated approximately 1 foot outboard of the flap. The flap remained attached to its respective attach points. The aileron remained partially attached to its respective hinge points, and the aileron was bent at its midpoint. Control continuity to the flap and aileron was established. The main and auxilliary fuel cells were ruptured and the fuel caps were found secure. A discoloration/stain was noted around the auxilliary fuel vent. The landing gear was in the retracted position.
The right wing leading edge was crushed aft and upward to the forward spar along its entire length. The flap and aileron remained attached to their respective attach points. Control continuity to the flap and aileron was established. The main fuel cell was ruptured and the fuel cap was found secure. The auxilliary fuel cell was found intact. The landing gear was in the retracted position.
The empennage was separated from the fuselage during the recovery process. The left and right ruddervators were intact and remained attached to the empennage. The tail cone was cracked near the retaining screws and partially separated. Control continuity to the ruddervators and trim was established. The ruddervator trim was measured and determined to be in a slightly nose up position.
The cockpit and cabin floor was crushed aft toward the empennage. The flight and engine instruments were separated from their respective mounting structure and destroyed. The attitude indicator was destroyed and disassembled. The pendulous vane assembly displayed rotational scorring marks. The cockpit throttle, mixture, and propeller controls were found in the full forward position. The fuel selector was found in the left tank position. The left and right forward seats displayed forward to aft crushing. The left seat belt was separated from the floor attach point. The door handle was found in the latched position and the door pin was in the engaged position.
The engine was separated from the airframe during the recovery process. Both magnetos were separated from the accessory case, and the top portion of the accessory case was destroyed. The intake pipes were separated and the exhaust manifold was crushed. The number 4 and number 6 valve covers were partially crushed. The top sparks plugs were removed and according to the Champion Spark Check-A-Plug chart AV-27, the spark plug electrodes displayed light wear and coloration consistent with a lean mixture operation. The magnetos were functionally tested and spark was produced at all terminals. The carburator was separated from its mounting structure and destroyed. The fuel pump drive shaft was fractured; the fracture surfaces were consistent with an overload fracture. The vacuum pump cover was removed; the pump rotor and vanes were found intact.
The propeller hub remained attached to the engine crankshaft. The propeller spinner and bulkhead was crushed and deformed around the propeller assembly. One blade remained attached to the hub and one blade was separated from the hub. Both propeller blades displayed leading edge and chordwise gouging. The outboard 4 inches of one blade was separated and not located at the accident site.
The airplane wreckage was released to the owner's representative on January 10, 2005.