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On April 28, 2005, approximately 0855 central daylight time, a Cessna 172 single-engine airplane, N8314L, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering near Midland, Texas. The airline transport pilot (ATP) and the commercial rated passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the aerial pipeline patrol training flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight departed from the Skywest Airport (7T7), near Midland, Texas, about 0715.
The purpose of the flight was to train a new company pilot in locating contract oil fields and the procedures for reporting oil spills/leaks. According to a company pilot, once an oil leak was detected, the pilot would orbit the site with 10 degrees of flaps selected. The pilot will then annotate the location on his route sheet and, depending on the contact, contact operations via radio, or telephone them after landing. The pipeline patrol flights are flown solo, below 500 feet (agl). The company was granted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wavier for flights below 500 feet.
Approximately 0930, an airplane in the area reported hearing a signal from an Emergency Locater Transmitter (ELT). At 1307 a pilot performing a pipeline patrol flight, located the accident site and reported its location to Midland Approach Control.
There were no reported eye-witnesses to the accident.
Radar data obtained from Midland Approach Control showed the accident airplane maneuvering and "tracking back-n-forth", below 500 feet (agl) in the general area of the accident. The last radar hit, at 0843, had the airplane approximately two miles west of the accident site at an altitude of approximately 300 feet (agl).
The 51-year old pilot, who was occupying the right front seat, was an airline transport pilot with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land. The pilot's most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued on April 5, 2005, with no restrictions or limitations. At the time of his medical examination, the pilot reported having accrued a total of 10,000 flight hours.
The 25-year old pilot who was occupying the left front seat, held a commercial pilot rating for single-engine airplane. He was also an advanced and instrument ground instructor. The pilot's last FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on April 26, 2005, with the limitation "must wear corrective lenses." On April 11, 2005, the pilot reported a total time of 755 flight hours. The commercial pilot was unable to exercise pilot-in-command privileges, since he had received a 30-day suspension of his airman's license beginning April 5, 2005.
The airplane was a 1968 model Cessna 172I, which was a single-engine, high-wing, all-metal airplane, configured for four occupants, with fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses.
The airplane was equipped with two main 21-gallon wing fuel tanks and an 18-gallon auxiliary fuel tank installed in the aft cabin. Fuel from the auxiliary tank is transferred to the right main fuel tank via an electric fuel pump. The installation of the auxiliary tank was approved by a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). The total fuel capacity of the airplane was 60 gallons.
The last annual inspection was performed on July 8, 2004, at a tach time of 8,846.0 hours. The time accrued on the airplane since the last annual inspection was 961 hours. The total time on the airframe was 15,088.7 hours.
The airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2D reciprocating engine, serial number L-25235-27A, rated at 150 horsepower. The engine had accumulated 1,619.6 hours since its last major overhaul.
At 0853, the automated weather observing system at the Midland International Airport (MAF), located approximately 20 miles northwest of the accident site, reported wind from 340 at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.94 inches of Mercury.
The pilots were not in communication with air traffic control during the flight and no distress calls were received from either pilot.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest in a flat pasture with low vegetation, on an measured heading of 245 degrees. The accident occurred during daylight hours, at the coordinates of 31 degrees 43.767 minutes north latitude; 101 degrees 52.512 minutes west longitude, and at a field elevation of 2774 feet (Mean Sea Level). All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.
The left wing remained attached to the airplane and came to rest perpendicular to the fuselage. The outer six feet of the wing was destroyed, and the leading edge was crushed aft, in an "accordion" like appearance. The right wing was found partially attached to the fuselage with damage to the inboard section of the leading edge and wrinkled upper skin. The aft fuselage was intact from the aft cabin rearward. All tail surfaces were attached in their respective positions, and exhibited minor damage. The elevator trim tab was found 15 degrees tab-up, and the wing flaps were found extended to the 10 degree position.
The initial impact mark was a ground scar which exhibited fragments of red navigational lens, consistent with the left wingtip, was identified approximately eight feet south of the left wing. The main wreckage, with the engine still attached to the fuselage, was over a small crater. The impact marks were consistent with a left wing low and nose down attitude.
Both wing tanks and or fuel lines had been breached by the impact. The right wing fuel tank had approximately 3.5 inches of fuel, and the left wing had approximately 2 inches of fuel in the tank. The main fuel tanks were measured in the position that they came to rest in the crash. The amount of fuel remaining in the aft auxiliary fuel tank was not verified. A sample of fuel, drained from the right wing tank, was collected in a container. The appearance of the fuel was consistent with a mixture of automotive fuel and 100 LL aviation fuel. The airplane was approved by an STC, to be fueled with automotive gasoline. The fuel sample was absent of debris and water.
The main fuel tank selector valve was found in the both position.
The propeller remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade was bent approximately 90 degrees forward at mid-span. From mid-span outward, the non-cambered side exhibited polishing. There was no leading edge gouging or chord-wise scratching.
The other blade was bent slightly forward at mid-span towards the cambered side. There was no leading edge gouging or chord-wise scratching.
The engine was removed from the airframe while on site to facilitate an inspection. All spark plugs were clean with no mechanical deformation. The spark plug electrodes were gray in color, and appeared normal. A borescope inspection revealed no mechanical deformation on the valves, cylinder walls, or internal cylinder head. The engine was manually rotated with an adapter connected to the engine's vacuum pump drive. The engine rotated freely and the valves moved approximately the same amount of lift in firing order. Investigators obtained thumb compression on all cylinders. Investigators then rotated the engine for inspection of the magnetos; the left magneto produced spark at all posts at the magneto cap (ignition leads cut), the right magneto was destroyed by impact, but rotation of the magneto drive was observed.
Control continuity to all flight controls and systems, was established up to the rescue cuts. The stall warning horn was found to be functional.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on April 29, 2005, by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Division of Forensic Pathology, Lubbock, Texas.
Toxicological Testing was conducted by, the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The occupants were wearing their respective seatbelts at the time of the accident.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on April 29, 2005, and recovered to Air Salvage of Dallas, Lancaster, Texas.
A handheld GPS (Garmin 95 XL) was removed from the accident airplane and sent to the manufacturer, for further information/download. However, the GPS manufacturer reported that the memory unit was damaged in the accident, and data was not retained.