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On February 15, 2005, about 1700 eastern standard time, a Beech 35-C33 airplane, N3NM, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with two residences in Clearwater, Florida, following a loss of engine power during takeoff-initial climb, and subsequent uncontrolled descent. The airplane was being operated by the airplane's owner as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal maintenance flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The pilot, a certificated aircraft mechanic and private pilot, and the owner, who also held a private pilot certificate, received fatal injuries. No one on the ground was injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane departed the Clearwater Air Park, Clearwater, about 1655.
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on February 16, a witness said he spoke to the owner and the pilot prior to takeoff on the accident flight. He said the owner told him that he had been having problems with the fuel system. He said the owner told him the pilot had "blown out the fuel system" earlier that day, and they were going to take it for a test flight. The witness said he watched the airplane taxi to the end of the runway where it was run at a high power setting for at least 3 minutes before it departed.
Two other witnesses at the airport said they saw the airplane taxi for takeoff, and that the pilot/mechanic was seated in the left front seat. The witnesses said they saw the accident airplane taxi to the run-up area, where the airplane sat for 3-5 minutes, with the engine running at a high power setting. They then watched the airplane depart. They said everything appeared normal, the airplane climbed away from the airport, and started a right turn, which was a normal procedure for the area. They said the airplane then started a left turn, presumably back toward the airport, which they said was unusual unless there was a problem. They watched the airplane until it descended out of sight.
A student pilot in the area of the accident said he saw the airplane flying low and slow overhead. He said he had his car windows closed and could not hear the airplane. He said he saw the airplane's nose go up, and then enter a "classic stall-spin."
The local police department interviewed 27 witnesses. Some of the witnesses saw the airplane prior to takeoff, some saw it in flight, including the descent and impact, and some of the witnesses only heard the impact. All of the witnesses who were able to hear the airplane said they heard the engine "cutting in and out," as if it were running out of gas. All of these witnesses said at some point the engine quit. At least one witness said he heard the engine rev up just prior to impact. Several witnesses saw the airplane start a right turn, and then turn to the left prior to the steep descent. One witness stated he saw the airplane traveling very slowly, just above the tree tops, with its wings rocking back and forth.
The fuel truck operator at the airport who usually services the airplane, said he had not fueled the airplane the day of the accident.
According to a relative, the owner had recently had brain surgery, and considered himself physically unfit to fly. According to the owner's wife, he said he would not fly until released by his doctor, and she was not aware of the accident flight. At the accident site, the pilot/mechanic was found in the left front seat.
INJURIES TO PERSONS
The two people aboard the airplane received fatal injuries.
DAMAGE TO AIRCRAFT
The airplane was destroyed during impact with the ground and two houses.
One private residence received major damage when the airplane collided with the roof and an exterior wall. A second residence received minor damage when the airplane rebounded from collision with the first residence, and the airplane's tail struck its exterior.
According to FAA documents, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land. He also held an aircraft mechanic certificate. No pilot logbooks were discovered for examination. According to his most recent FAA application for a medical certificate dated May 9, 2003, the pilot had accumulated about 550 hours of total flying experience. The pilot was issued a third class FAA Medical Certificate on May 9, 2003.
According to FAA documents and the owner's pilot logbook, the owner held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. According to his most recent FAA application for a medical certificate dated January 27, 2004, he had accumulated about 5,500 hours of total flying experience. His third class FAA Medical Certificate was issued on January 27, 2004.
The airplane was a model year 1965 Beech 35-C33 single-engine, low wing, retractable gear airplane. Its last annual inspection was completed on May 17, 2004. According to a work order dated September 15, 2004, the airplane had accumulated 2306 service hours. No engine, airframe, or propeller log books were discovered for examination.
The accident occurred during initial climb from the Clearwater Air Park (CLW), Clearwater, Florida. The airport is a non-towered, public facility with two, asphalt- covered runways, runways 16 and 34. The accident airplane departed runway 16, which is 3,300 feet long and 75 feet wide.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The on-site investigation commenced on February 15, about 2030. The NTSB IIC was accompanied by a representative from the engine manufacturer. Approaching the site, the IIC was contacted by a fireman who stated that there was no postcrash fire, and they had not found any significant amount of aviation fuel at the site. The IIC observed that all 4 of the airplane's fuel tanks were breached during the impact, but there were no signs of any fuel leaks, pooling of fuel on the ground, or fuel blight on the surrounding vegetation. There were no fuel stains or fuel residue on the residence at the initial impact point. There was a slight odor of fuel around the wreckage. The airplane impacted the roof of the residence in a wings-level, 45-55 degree nose down attitude. The airplane impacted the roof directly over a solid concrete window-header for the master bathroom window, which was set into a concrete-block exterior wall. The airplane was severed at the instrument panel during the impact. Everything from the instrument panel forward came to rest inside the master bedroom of the residence, and everything from the instrument panel aft came to rest in a side yard, which adjoined a neighboring residence. A preliminary examination of the engine was immediately conducted in the master bedroom. The fuel injection manifold valve and associated fuel lines, which were intact, were disassembled, and no fuel was present. The rest of the wreckage examination was postponed until the next morning.
The on-site investigation recommenced on February 16, about 0800. The NTSB IIC was accompanied by representatives from the engine manufacturer, and the airplane manufacturer. Further examination of the engine revealed significant impact damage, but no evidence of any preimpact mechanical anomaly.
The three bladed, constant-speed propeller was examined. All three blades were in the hub, and exhibited aft bending near the mid-section with multidirectional scratches.
The spark plugs had carbon deposits and "normal" wear signatures in accordance with the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug comparison chart. The magnetos sparked on all leads.
The fuselage came to rest between two residences. The wings were folded at the root, up and over the fuselage. The front of the passenger compartment was open, and the tail-cone was bent upward aft of the baggage compartment. The forward, lower portion of the fuselage had crush lines up and aft at 45-55 degrees. Both wings exhibited extreme aft crushing throughout their span, and their fuel tanks were breached. The landing gear was retracted. According to measurements of the flap actuator, the flaps were in the retracted position.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed under the authority of the Florida State Medical Examiner, District 6, 10900 Ulmerton Road, Largo, Florida, on February 16, 2005. The examination revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma injuries to the head and torso. Tissue samples were sent to the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for toxicological examination. A review of available FAA medical records, autopsy, and toxicological results, did not disclose any evidence of any preimpact incapacitating medical conditions.
A postmortem examination of the owner was performed under the authority of the Florida State Medical Examiner, District 6, 10900 Ulmerton Road, Largo, Florida, on February 16, 2005. The examination revealed the cause of death was blunt force injuries to the head, torso, and pelvis. Tissue samples were sent to the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for toxicological examination. Pseudoephrine was detected in the liver, and Chlorpheniramine was detected in the liver and kidney.
No pieces or parts of the airplane were taken or retained by the National Transportation Safety Board.