LAX05LA241
LAX05LA241

On July 21, 2005, at 0727 Pacific standard time, a Bellanca 8GCBC, N629AP, impacted terrain near a fairway at the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Golf Course in Beaumont, California. Aerial Promotions, Inc., operated the banner towing flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries, and there were no ground injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Long Beach Airport (Daugherty Field - LGB), Long Beach, California, about 0610, and was scheduled to terminate at LGB.

A compilation of witnesses indicated that they did not hear anything abnormal with the airplane's engine; however, it was flying low to the ground and not climbing. Other witnesses indicated that there was a high pitch noise coming from the engine that was not constant; it sounded as if the engine was revving up and down.

Witnesses reported to the FAA that the banner remained attached to the airplane, and was drug through trees and the ground until it was released from the airplane, about 200 feet above the ground. The banner came to rest in a pond. Witness reported that the airplane had a nose-high attitude, and when the banner was released, the nose pitched forward and the airplane struck the ground.

Immediately following the accident, the pilot reported to a police officer that the throttle control was all the way forward, but the airplane would not climb. He was not sure if he had an engine failure and attempted to make a forced landing at the golf course.

The pilot submitted a written statement. He reported that the purpose of the flight was to overfly construction sites in Beaumont with a banner in tow. There were no discrepancies noted with the takeoff, banner pickup, or the flight towards Beaumont. About 2.5 miles from the Banning Pass, he began to circle over a construction site located adjacent to a golf course. The pilot entered a turn to the west and the airplane began to sink rapidly. The pilot added full power and made a turn towards an easterly heading. He stated that the airplane continued to sink. He thought that he might have encountered wind shear, but that he would be able to fly out of it. However, as the airplane continued to descend, he thought that he might have an engine problem and needed to get the airplane on the ground immediately. He chose a landing spot on the golf course, and simultaneously reached down for the banner release handle and lowered the nose to "pick up flying speed."

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane on-scene and reported that the banner came to rest about 150 feet from the main wreckage. He inspected the release mechanism, with no discrepancies noted. He stated that there were no visually obvious mechanical anomalies noted with the engine.

The closest official weather observation station was March Air Reserve Base, Riverside, California (RIV), located about 15 nautical miles (nm) west of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 1,535 feet mean sea level (msl). A routine aviation weather report (METAR) for RIV was issued at 0755. It stated: skies few clouds at 15,000 feet above ground level; visibility 35 statute miles; winds were calm; temperature 86 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 63 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter 29.94 inHg.

The next closest official weather observation station was Palm Springs International Airport, Palm Springs, California (PSP), located about 25 nautical miles (nm) east of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 477 feet msl. A routine aviation weather report (METAR) for PSP was issued at 0753. It stated: skies clear; visibility 10 statute miles; winds from 160 degrees at 5 knots; temperature 95 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 63 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter 29.82 InHg.

According to the icing probability chart, with a temperature of 86 degrees and a dew point of 63 degrees, conditions were conducive to serious icing with descent power, and the relative humidity was about 40 percent.

There was no pertinent pilot weather report (PIREP's) for the area during the time of the accident. The winds aloft reported in the area around the time of the accident were:

At 3,219 feet msl winds were from 202 degrees at 3 knots
At 3,317 feet msl winds were from 148 degrees at 1 knot
At 4,127 feet msl winds were from 244 degrees at 4 knots
At 4,961 feet msl winds were from 254 degrees at 4 knots

Investigators from the National Transporation Safety Board, the FAA, and Textron Lycoming, a party to the investigation, examined the airframe and engine at Long Beach Airport on July 26, 2005. The examination of the airframe revealed no mechanical discrepancies.

There were no obvious mechanical deformities observed during the visual examination of the engine. Investigators removed the top spark plugs, which were gray in color and exhibited no mechanical damage. According to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 Chart, the spark plug electrodes' gray coloration corresponded to normal operation. A borescope inspection of the cylinders revealed no mechanical deformation to the valves, cylinder walls, or internal cylinder heads. Mechanical and valve train continuity was established via manual rotation of the crankshaft. Investigators obtained thumb compression on all cylinders in firing order. The magnetos were manually rotated and produced spark at all posts. A visual examination of the carburetor revealed that it was partially displaced from the engine, but the remaining portion was secured at the mounting pad. The throttle and mixture controls had been removed by recovery personnel. The carburetor inspection revealed that the leather cup of the accelerator pump plunger had worn through about 180 degrees of its circumference. Fluid was found in the fuel bowl, which was similar in color and odor to 100-low lead aviation fuel. There were no further discrepancies noted with the carburetor. According to the manufacturer's representative, there were no preimpact anomalies that would have precluded the engine from producing power.

Visual examination of the propeller assembly revealed that it remained attached at the crankshaft flange. One propeller blade tip was curled and had chordwise scratching. The other propeller blade had S-bending. Both propeller blades displayed leading edge gouging.

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