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On March 8, 2005, approximately 1745 central standard time, a Cessna 172F single engine airplane, N8382U, registered to and operated by a private individual, sustained substantial damage when it impacted heavily wooded terrain during a forced landing approximately one-quarter mile east of the approach end of runway 23 at the Hot Springs Memorial Airport (HOT), Hot Springs, Arkansas. The airline transport rated pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight departed from Sherrill, Texas, approximately 1630, and was destined for a private airstrip near Caddo Gap, Arkansas.
According to a friend of the pilot, the airplane departed from a private airstrip near Caddo Gap, Arkansas, early morning on March 8, 2005, with approximately 15 gallons of fuel. The intent of the flight was to fly to Sherrill, Texas, where the pilot had scheduled an annual inspection. The mechanic who performed the annual inspection reported that that pilot departed from Sherrill, approximately 1630. When the pilot did not return to Caddo Gap later that evening, the pilot's family and friends became concerned.
A person, who was building a tree house approximately one-quarter mile east of the accident site, observed an airplane flying in a westerly direction at approximately 100 feet above ground level (agl) sometime between 1730 and 1800. He reported that the "engine was not running," but he could hear "the sound of wind coming over the wings of the airplane." He watched the airplane fly over a tree line and disappear, but he did not hear any kind of impact noise. The person became concerned and decided to drive to the airport to ensure that the airplane had landed safely. When he arrived at the airport, he saw a similar airplane practicing takeoffs and landings and assumed that it was the same airplane. It was not until the next morning that the witness learned that the airplane had crashed.
An emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was activated in the vicinity of Hot Springs, and the local Civil Air Patrol located the wreckage of the accident airplane on March 9, 2005, at 0400 in the morning.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the pilot, who was a retired airline captain, held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land and a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and glider. Additionally, the pilot held a turbojet flight engineer certificate and a certified flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, instrument airplane, and glider.
According to FAA records, the pilot's last known medical certificate was issued on July 6, 1995, with the limitation, "must have available glasses for near vision." On the medical certificate application documents, the pilot reported his total flight time to be 40,500 hours, as of July 6, 1995. Family and friends of the pilot reported that he had
According to family members, the 1965 model Cessna 172F airplane, serial number 17252282, was owned, operated, and maintained by the pilot since it was new. The general condition of the airplane at the accident site suggested that it had been well maintained. Total airframe time could not be determined due to the non-availability of complete aircraft records. However, it appeared that a new tachometer and engine had been installed. Available records did show an annual inspection was performed on December 16, 2003. There were no records found that showed an annual inspection had been conducted on March 8, 2005. The tachometer showed 159.3 hours at the scene of the accident.
According to available records, the airplane's engine, a Continental O-300-D, serial number 31775-D-4-C, had approximately 159.3 hours since its installation. The propeller was a McCauley model 1C172, serial number E1343.
At 1753, the automated weather observing system at HOT reported wind from 350 degrees at 5 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dew point minus 5 degrees, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.98 inches of Mercury.
No radio transmissions were heard from the accident airplane. There was a report by a friend of the pilot that the radio in the airplane was inoperative.
The published field elevation of at the approach end of runway 23 is 540.4 feet mean sea level (msl). Global positioning system (GPS) elevation at the accident site was 520 feet msl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:
The airplane wreckage was found within a heavily wooded area, consisting of tall bushes and small trees, on a magnetic heading of 140 degrees. The GPS coordinates at the accident site were 34 degrees 29.103 minutes North and 93 degrees 04.974 minutes West. The airplane's initial point of impact was identified within the tops of trees adjacent to the wreckage. The airplane was found in a nose-down, right wing low attitude. Impact damage included damage to the engine cowling, wing tips and leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer. The basic shape and volume of the cabin was not altered. The fuel tanks in both wings were not breached.
The airplane was leveled, and approximately 1.5 gallons of clear automotive gasoline was drained from the airplane's fuel tanks. There did not appear to be an odor of fuel present when the investigation team first examined the wreckage. The wing-mounted, vented fuel caps were found secured. When the fuel level transmitter from each fuel tank was removed, the float arms for each moved smoothly, and were not restricted. Power was applied to the aircraft and each transmitter float moved through their full range of motion, and valid indications were observed on both fuel level gauges. The fuel selector handle was found in the "Both" position.
Control cable continuity from the cockpit to the wing, elevator, and rudder flight control surfaces, and each flight control surface was found intact and secured to their respective attachment points. The flap actuator was found positioned at 30-degrees extension. The elevator trim tab position indicated a 10-degree tab up position.
Both front seats were found outside the aircraft. Rescue personnel had removed the seats to extract the pilot. The pilot's seat was intact with the exception of the forward inboard roller assembly, which remained attached to the seat rail within the cabin. The lap belts for each seat were found intact. Shoulder harnesses were not installed, and by FAA regulations, they were not required to be installed in the 1965 year model airplane.
The propeller was found attached to the crankshaft, and the spinner was crushed. One blade was found bent 30 degrees toward the non-cambered side and exhibited chord wise scoring. The second blade did not exhibit any damage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION:
The family of the pilot did not report any serious pre-existing medical conditions that the pilot may have had prior to the flight. An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Office of the Medical Examiner, Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock, Arkansas. The pilot sustained head and chest injuries during the impact. The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic and Accident Research Center examined the toxicology specimens taken by the medical examiner. The toxicological tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide and alcohol.
TESTS AND RESEARCH:
On March 10, 2005, the wreckage was recovered to a nearby hangar, and the engine was partially disassembled. The spark plugs and valve covers were removed, and the crankshaft was rotated. Continuity was confirmed to all cylinders and the rear of the engine. Hand compression was confirmed on all cylinders. Both magneto impulse couplings snapped at top dead center on the number one cylinder.
The throttle control was attached and the actuating arm was found broken due to impact damage. The mixture control was found attached and intact. The carburetor heat control was found attached, however, the control linkage was found separated from the control shaft. The top spark plugs were removed and examined. They exhibited normal wear and light gray deposits were observed in the electrode areas.
The right muffler, which supplies cabin heat, was examined. A three-quarter inch crack was observed on the rear outboard section of the inner muffler lining.
Both magnetos sparked at all terminals when the crankshaft was rotated. The carburetor bowl was separated from the throttle body, and the top of the bowl had sustained impact damage. No fuel was observed in the bowl. The metal float and needle valve were found in place and undamaged. The fuel screen was removed and found clean and clear of debris. The oil screen was removed and exhibited heavy carbon deposits and a few metal flakes.
No pre-impact anomalies were found during the engine and airframe examinations.
According to manufacturer’s documentation, the total fuel capacity of the airplane was 39 gallons (both tanks), of which, 3.0 gallons are not usable (1.5 gallons per tank). The total fuel found on-board at the accident site was approximately 1.5 gallons. Total flight time, from when the pilot last refueled the airplane with 15 gallons, could not be determined.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on March 10, 2005.