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On October 29, 2004, about 2040 central daylight time, a Beech A36, N55448, piloted by an instrument rated private pilot, was in cruise flight, encountered an area of weather, and was lost on radar. The airplane was destroyed on impact with terrain and post impact fire near Downing, Missouri. The personal flight was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The flight departed from the Bob Wiley Field Airport, near Winner, South Dakota, about 1800 and was destined for the Anderson Municipal Airport-Darlington Field, near Anderson, Indiana.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records showed that the pilot established radio communications with the air traffic controller on duty at an Air Route Traffic Control Center's radar position about 2027. The controller gave the pilot the position's current altimeter setting. The air traffic controller observed the flight enter an area of weather. At about 2036, an air traffic controller advised the pilot that radar contact was lost. The pilot did not respond. No further radio communications were established with the flight.
A witness, who was a commercial pilot, stated, "Aircraft spun out of clouds, began recovery, hit the ground, [and] burst of flame immediately."
Another witness stated:
We just got out to unload the truck when a plane went directly over
our heads[.] It just sounded like it was going down[.] You could
see the red [and] white light spinning round [and] round[.] It went
over the hill and we were talking about it crashing[.] That's when
the entire sky burned bright orange.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for single engine land airplanes. He held an instrument rating. His most recent application for a FAA third-class medical certificate was dated May 14, 2004. On that application, he reported that he had accumulated 700 hours of total flight time and no hours of flight time within the six months prior to that application. The pilot was found to have mildly elevated blood pressure on that examination for FAA medical certification. He subsequently underwent a complete cardiology evaluation to include a nuclear medicine stress test, which was completely normal. His cardiologist recommended diet and exercise rather than medication for treatment of his borderline hypertension. The FAA Aeromedical Certification Division reviewed the pilot's additional evaluations and found him eligible for that third-class medical certificate.
N55448, a 1990-model Beech A36, serial number E-2548, was a low wing, single-engine, six-place airplane, which had retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane was equipped with a fuel-injected, air-cooled six-cylinder, horizontally-opposed Continental IO-550-B (6) engine, serial number 675545, which was rated at 300 horsepower. The airplane's maintenance records show that a Hartzell 3-bladed, all-metal, constant-speed propeller was installed under supplemental type certificate SA00719LA. The airplane was equipped with a storm scope.
According to the aircraft's maintenance records, the last recorded annual inspection was dated October 1, 2004. The airplane had accumulated 656.7 hours of total time as of that inspection.
Billing records showed that the airplane was fueled in Winner, South Dakota, with 29.1 gallons of aviation gasoline on October 29, 2004.
A Senior Meteorologist for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) compiled a Meteorological Factual Report for the investigation. Heights listed in the Surface Weather Observations are above ground level (AGL). Excerpts from that report follow:
1. Surface Weather Observations
The closest Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) to the
accident location was the Kirksville, Missouri ASOS (KIRK). It
was located approximately 19 miles away from the accident at 209
degrees. The elevation of this station is roughly  feet.
Kirksville, Missouri (KIRK)
Time.; wind.190 [degrees] at 19 knots, gusting to 28; visibility.10
statute miles; sky conditions.few at 10,000 feet; temperature.22
degrees Celsius (C); dew point temperature.17 [degrees] C; altimeter
setting.29.51 inches of Mercury (in Hg); Remarks.Peak wind was
190 [degrees] at 28 knots and it occurred at .
Time.; wind.220 [degrees] at 18 knots, gusting to 29; visibility.4
statute miles; weather.light rain; sky conditions.few at 1,100 feet,
scattered at 3,000 feet, and broken at 10,000 feet; temperature.21
[degrees] C; dew point temperature.18 [degrees] C; altimeter
setting.29.54 in Hg. Remarks.Peak wind was 220 [degrees] at 29
knots and it occurred at  and rain began at .
Time.; wind.240 [degrees] at 13 knots, gusting to 17;
visibility.10 statute miles; sky conditions.few at 4,600 feet, scattered at
9,000 feet; temperature.21 [degrees] C; dew point temperature.17
[degrees] C; altimeter setting.29.52 in Hg. Remarks.Peak wind was
210 [degrees] at 26 knots and it occurred at  and rain ended at .
3. In-flight weather advisories
The [National Weather Service] issues in-flight weather advisories
designated as Convective SIGMETs (WSTs), SIGMETs (WSs), and
AIRMETs (WAs). In-flight advisories serve to notify enroute pilots
of the possibility of encountering hazardous flying conditions, which
may not have been forecast at the time of a preflight briefing. In this
case, there was an AIRMET for turbulence valid at the time of the
accident, and there was a Convective SIGMET valid for the accident
AIRMET Tango ... was issued at  on October 29 and valid
until  on October . This AIRMET forecasted
occasional moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet due to moderate
to strong low level winds and a cold front moving through
the area. The Convective SIGMET nearest the accident site ...
was issued at  on October  and valid until , and it
warned of a line of severe thunderstorms 30 nautical miles wide
moving from 220 [degrees] at 45 knots, with tops of the storms
reaching 38,000 feet. The SIGMET also noted the possibility of
tornadoes, two inch hail, and winds gusts to 70 knots. The other
Convective SIGMET ... was issued earlier  and valid until
. It also advised of a severe line of thunderstorms 30
nautical miles wide moving from the southwest, with storm tops to
The FAA supplied recorded National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) radar data for the flight. That NTAP data was plotted on Doppler weather radar base reflectivity depictions. That plotted data showed that the airplane entered an area of weather consistent with level three to level four thunderstorm activity. The surface weather observations showed VFR weather was present in the area. The NTSB's Meteorological Factual Report is appended to the docket material associated with this case.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was found impacted in pastureland near Downing, Missouri. The airplane was found in sections. A static wick was found at latitude 40 degrees 23.052 minutes North and longitude 92 degrees 22.283 minutes West. A ground scar followed that static wick about 29 feet on about a 270-degree magnetic heading. The propeller was found about 39 feet from that static wick and the engine was found about 35 feet from that static wick. Sections of the airplane exhibited the presence of soot colored media.
An on-scene examination was performed. The propeller blades exhibited S-shaped bends. The engine's propeller flange separated from the engine and that flange remained attached to the propeller. The engine was rotated with the use of a lever applying a rotational force to the gear attached at the rear of the crankshaft. All cylinders moved in their normal relationship during the crankshaft rotation. Camshaft to crankshaft continuity was observed and was established. Both magnetos sustained impact damage. One magneto was disassembled. That magneto produced a spark at its center electrode when the magneto was rotated.
A gyro and its housing from a flight instrument were examined. That examination revealed rotational scoring. The turn coordinator was found destroyed. The face from the turn coordinator showed the airplane in a right bank turn.
A section of right wing tip was found near the ground scar. The navigation light on that wingtip contained a green media. The left wing was found detached from the fuselage. Sections of the left aileron and flap remained attached to it.
Control cables were traced. All breaks in control cables were consistent with overload. No airframe or engine pre-impact anomalies were detected.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Schuyler County Coroner's Office arranged for an autopsy to be performed on the pilot. The Office of the Medical Examiner in Columbia, Missouri, performed the autopsy on November 1, 2004. The examiner recovered specimens and sent them to the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) for examination.
CAMI received specimens of muscle, skin, and lung. Comparative DNA testing revealed that the muscle and skin specimens were from one individual and the lung specimens were from a different individual. Two separate reports were prepared. The first report, in part, stated:
0.308 (ug/ml, ug/g) PROPOXYPHENE detected in Muscle
0.341 (ug/ml, ug/g) PROPOXYPHENE detected in Skin
0.671 (ug/mL, ug/g) NORPROPOXYPHENE detected in Muscle
0.123 (ug/mL, ug/g) NORPROPOXYPHENE detected in Skin
BUPROPION detected in Muscle
DEXTROMETHORPHAN detected in Muscle
DEXTROMETHORPHAN detected in Skin
TRAMADOL detected in Muscle
TRAMADOL detected in Skin
A lung specimen received in this case was determined to be from another
individual and was not included in this report.
The second report was on the lung specimen and it stated, "PSEUDOEPHEDRINE detected in Lung." No identified reference samples were provided to CAMI for any of the aircraft occupants, and the tested remains were not associated with any particular individuals on board.
Parties to the investigation included the FAA, Raytheon Aircraft Company, and Teledyne Continental Motors.
The aircraft wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company.
Propoxyphene is a prescription narcotic painkiller also known by the trade name Darvon, and norpropoxyphene is a metabolite of propoxyphene.
Bupropion is a prescription medication also known by the brand name Wellbutrin, used for the treatment of depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is also used in smoking cessation (under the brand name Zyban).
Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant, available in a number of over-the-counter preparations.
Tramadol is a prescription painkiller also known by the trade name Ultram, used for the management of moderate to severe pain.
Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant also known by the trade name Sudafed, available in a number of over-the-counter preparations.