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On January 20, 2005, approximately 1810 central standard time, a Beech J-35 single-engine airplane, N399RH, was destroyed during a forced landing following a loss of engine power while maneuvering near the Abernathy Municipal Airport (F83), near Abernathy, Texas. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The local flight originated from the Biggin Hill Airport (TA67), near Shallowater, Texas, approximately 1750.
According to a witness who was flying in the area approximately 450 feet above the ground (agl) at the time of the accident, N399RH was observed on a left downwind for runway 17 at F83 with the landing gear and flaps extended. The airplane's altitude was estimated at about 1,000 feet agl. The witness added that when N399RH was abeam the north end of the runway, it began to descend below 500 feet agl in a northerly direction. The airplane was then observed in a descending right turn toward a southerly heading over a cotton field. Subsequently, the witness observed airplane impact the ground in a right wing low attitude. Within seconds after the airplane came to rest, it was engulfed in flames.
According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) records, the airplane was not in contact with Lubbock Tower or Approach Control, and there was no radar track of the airplane.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. A review of an insurance document that was completed in early 2004 indicated the pilot had estimated his total flight time to be 1,360 hours. This document also indicated that the pilot had accrued approximately 512 hours of flight time in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on November 14, 2003, with no limitations or waivers.
The low wing 1958-model airplane, serial number D-5720, had a retractable tricycle landing gear and was configured to carry a maximum of four occupants. The airplane was co-owned by the pilot.
The airplane was powered by a normally aspirated, direct drive, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, six-cylinder Teledyne-Continental IO-470-C engine, serial number 71421-8-C, rated at 250 horsepower at sea level, driving a Beech model 78-204-21 two-bladed propeller.
A review of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed that the last annual inspection was performed on the airplane on February 4, 2004, at a tachometer time of 516.89 hours and a total time of 2,527.38 hours.
The airplane had a total fuel capacity of 60 gallons. Each of the airplane's main fuel cells were capable of holding 20 gallons of fuel, of which, 17 gallons were usable. The airplane also featured two auxiliary fuel cells (right and left). Each of these two fuel cells were capable of holding 10 gallons of fuel, of which, 9.5 gallons were usable. A review of the before landing checklist in the aircraft flight manual for the accident airplane revealed that prior to landing, the fuel selector must be positioned to the "MAIN TANK MORE NEARLY FULL."
At 1753, the automated weather observing system at Lubbock International Airport (LBB), located approximately 11 nautical miles south of the accident site, reported wind from 270 degrees at 8 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, broken clouds at 25,000 feet, temperature 63 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure of 30.18 inches of Mercury.
F83 is an uncontrolled airport that features one active runway (17/35). Runway 17/35 is 4,000 feet long and 75 feet wide. The terrain surrounding the airport is open, flat, and cultivated. At the time of the accident, the majority of the cultivated fields contained one-foot high cotton plants.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
An on-scene investigation was conducted on January 20, 2005. The wreckage of the airplane came to rest in an upright position in a flat cotton field, approximately 1.67 miles from F83. The global positioning system (GPS) location of the accident site was latitude 33.519 degrees North, longitude 101.442 degrees West, at a field elevation of 3,331 feet mean sea level (msl). The airplane came to rest on a magnetic heading of 160 degrees, with the landing gear extended and the flaps retracted.
All major components of the aircraft were accounted for at the accident site, and control continuity was established to all control surfaces.
There were four ground scars along the wreckage distribution path aligned on a magnetic heading of 140 degrees. The initial point of impact was a ground scar approximately nine feet long located about 62.5 feet from the main wreckage The ground scar was consistent with the dimensions of the right wing tip that reportedly impacted the ground first. The second ground scar was approximately 16 feet long by 8 inches wide, and was observed to the east of the initial ground scar. This scar began 59.4 feet from the main wreckage, and was consistent with the right landing gear impacting the ground. The third ground scar, located east of the second ground scar, was approximately 2 feet long by 7 inches wide, and was consistent with the nose gear impacting the ground. The fourth ground scar was approximately 15 feet long by 8 inches wide. This scar began 47.5 feet from the wreckage, and was consistent with the left landing gear impacting the ground during the impact sequence. The nose gear door was found west of the distribution path and 23 feet from the main wreckage.
The main wreckage consisted of the following:
The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange and had shifted forward approximately 2-3 inches. The propeller blades remained securely attached to the propeller hub assembly. The propeller spinner did not show any signs of rotational damage. One propeller blade was bent outboard from the root approximately 70 degrees and did not exhibit any twisting or scoring. The other blade was in good condition and did not exhibit any bending, twisting, or leading edge gouging. There was, however, damage to the outward 10 inches of the trailing edge on which the airplane came to rest.
The IO-470 engine detached from the engine mounts, came to rest in the inverted position, and exhibited fire damage. The interior of the engine cowling did not exhibit any heat damage consistent with a pre-impact fire. The engine was recoverd to a nearby maintenance facility for further examination.
A post-impact fire consumed the cockpit and cabin area of the airplane. The fuel selector was found in the "auxiliary" fuel tanks position. The fuel screen in the fuel selector was clear of debris and installed with the cone upward.
No evidence of logbooks was found in the wreckage. The pilot's checklist and a sectional aeronautical chart were found in a side pocket of the left cabin wall.
The right main fuel tank was ruptured and destroyed by fire. The right auxiliary tank contained residual fuel that was blue in color. The fuel cap was secure, and the finger strainer was free of debris. The left main fuel tank contained approximately 3/4-inch of blue fuel. The left auxiliary tank contained approximately two inches of blue fuel. The fuel cap was secure, and the finger strainer was free of debris.
The empennage of the aircraft remained relatively intact. The interior of the empennage appeared to be in good condition, and did not exhibit any severe fire damage. The exterior of the empennage was in relatively good condition and exhibited "bubbling" heat damage to the white paint.
The tail section of the aircraft, which consisted of the left and right "ruddervators," remained relatively intact. The elevator trim tab was found in a five-degree down position.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on January 21, 2005, by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, division of forensic pathology, Lubbock, Texas.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic and Accident Research Center examined the specimens taken by the medical examiner. The toxicological tests were negative for cyanide, ethanol, and all screened drug substances.
The 1958-model airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses. The occupants were wearing their respective seatbelts at the time of the accident. The main cabin door was located on the right side of the fuselage.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On January 21, 2005, an engine examination was performed under the supervision of the NTSB at a nearby maintenance facility. The engine was rotated by hand at the crankshaft. Valve train continuity and piston movement were verified on all six cylinders. Both magnetos remained intact, but were removed and tested. The left magneto sparked at all towers, and the right magneto sparked once. Both were disassembled and fire damage was observed. The oil filter was removed and appeared to be free of debris. The fuel pump was removed and did not contain any fuel. The fuel screen was free of debris.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on January 23, 2005.
This report was modified on June 30, 2005.