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On October 7, 2005, at 1551 eastern daylight time, a Beech A36, N97CM, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain, while on approach to Pike County Airport (PBX), Pikeville, Kentucky. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Barkley Regional Airport (PAH), Paducah, Kentucky, about 1345. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot telephoned the Louisville, Kentucky Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), about 1215. The pilot advised the AFSS specialist of his intended flight, and asked about "echoes" in the Eastern Kentucky area.
The specialist advised of light to moderate rain over the central portion of the planned route, and at PBX. The specialist also provided current and forecast weather conditions along the planned route of flight. The provided forecast for Eastern Kentucky was: ceiling 700 feet broken; 1,500 feet overcast; visibility 4 miles in light rain and mist; wind northerly at 5 knots; valid for the rest of the daylight hours. The pilot then filed an IFR flight plan, but did not list an alternate destination airport.
The flight proceeded uneventfully to the Pikeville area, and the pilot was in radio contact with Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center.
At 1527, the pilot advised air traffic control (ATC) that he had the current weather conditions at Pikeville, and requested the ILS Runway 27 approach. ATC then began to vector the flight for the approach.
At 1546, ATC cleared the flight for the ILS Runway 27 approach, and the pilot acknowledged the clearance.
At 1548, the pilot reported established on the localizer course. ATC then approved a change in radio frequency, and requested the pilot cancel his flight plan on the current radio frequency, or through relay with another aircraft.
At 1548, the pilot acknowledged the transmission, and no further communications were received from the accident airplane.
The airport elevation was 1,473 feet msl, and the decision height for the approach was 1,664 feet.
At 1550:40, a radar target indicated the airplane was at 2,300 feet msl, about 1 mile from Runway 27 threshold. The four subsequent radar targets indicated that the airplane traveled left of course.
At 1551:20, radar contact was lost, as the airplane descended below 1,800 feet msl. At that time, the target indicated the airplane was about 1 mile south of the airport, near the accident site.
The wreckage was located about 4 hours later, approximately 1 mile south of runway 27.
Witnesses at and near the airport reported hearing the sound of continuous engine noise, followed by the sound of impact. One witness was a the pilot of a Cessna Citation Encore, that landed at PBX about 1530. He reported that a that time, the ceiling was 230 feet agl; however, after landing, he observed the weather conditions oscillate above and below the minimum conditions required for the approach. The witness then heard:
"N97CM coming down the ILS. A few seconds later, at what I think was near DH, the aircraft sounded like it was going south of the airport, at approach speed, approach power settings, and either level or a slight descent until we could not hear him anymore...I did not hear the impact."
Another witness, who was a helicopter pilot, was performing maintenance tests on the ground at PBX. The witness reported that the ceiling was 200 to 300 feet overcast, and visibility was at least 3/4-mile. The witness further stated that the weather had been deteriorating all day. He heard an airplane fly past the airport to the south, "It sounded normal and we assumed he did the approach, missed, and performed a missed approach...We never heard the sound of the crash."
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight; located 37 degrees, 32.84 minutes north latitude, and 82 degrees, 34.22 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane.
The last entry in the pilot's logbook was dated July 24, 2005. At that time, the pilot recorded a total flight experience of approximately 527 hours. The pilot also recorded about 323 hours of actual instrument experience; however, a review of an excerpt from the logbook revealed that the pilot logged all of the flight time as "actual instrument."
His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on June 24, 2005.
The aircraft logbooks were not recovered. Review of maintenance records from an aircraft repair facility revealed that the airplane received an annual inspection on February 22, 2005. At that time, the airplane had accumulated 2,593.4 total hours of operation.
The reported weather at PBX, at 1544, was: wind from 330 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 4 miles; scattered clouds at 300 feet; broken ceiling at 2,100 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point 18 degrees C; altimeter 29.81 inches Hg.
The reported weather at PBX, at 1556, was: wind from 330 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 3/4 miles; overcast ceiling at 200 feet; temperature 18 degrees C; dew point 18 degrees C; altimeter 29.81 inches Hg.
A pilot report (PIREP) was received from the pilot of a Cessna 560, over PBX at 1655. The report included and indefinite ceiling, with remarks that the ceiling was less than 100 feet and the flight visibility was less than 100 feet.
The airport was serviced by runways 9/27 and 2/20. Runway 27 was 5,350 feet long, 100 feet wide, and consisted of asphalt. Runway 27 was equipped with runway end identifier lights and medium intensity runway lights.
Review of an FAA instrument approach procedure chart, for the ILS Runway 27 approach at PBX, revealed that the airport elevation was 1,473 feet msl. The decision height (DH) for the approach was 1,664 feet msl, which was 200 feet above the touchdown zone elevation. The minimum visibility required for the approach was 3/4-mile.
The missed approach procedure stated, "Climb to 3000 then climbing left turn to 4000 direct AZQ VOR/DME and hold."
A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was in effect for runway 9/27 markings.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on October 9, 2005, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage was resting about 100 feet below the peak of a mountain. The wreckage was oriented about a northerly heading, at an elevation of approximately 1,520 feet. A debris path was observed, which consisted of severed trees, and extended about 100 feet to the main wreckage. The trees were severed about the same height, oriented about a 270-degree heading to the main wreckage. Fragments from the right wingtip were located on the right side of the debris path, and fragments from the left wingtip were located on the left side of the debris path. A majority of the main wreckage, including the cockpit and cabin, was consumed by a post-crash fire.
The right wing, right wing flap, and right wing aileron sustained impact damage. The inboard portion of the right wing remained partially attached to the fuselage, and the right flap remained partially attached to the inboard section of right wing. The right aileron also remained partially attached to the right wing. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the right aileron bellcrank. The bellcrank had separated consistent with overload. A measurement of the right wing flap actuator revealed that the flaps were in the fully retracted position. The outboard portion of the right wing was located about 10 feet north of the inboard section.
The left wing, left wing flap, and left wing aileron sustained fire damage. The inboard section of the left wing also remained partially attached to the fuselage. The left flap remained partially attached to the left wing, and the left aileron remained completely attached to the left wing. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the left aileron bellcrank, and the bellcrank had separated consistent with overload. The outboard section of the left wing was located about 15 feet west of the inboard section.
The empennage had separated from the fuselage, was resting upright near the cabin area, and sustained little damage. Flight control continuity was established from the elevator and rudder to the cockpit area. A measurement of the elevator trim actuator corresponded to an approximate five-degree tab up (nose down) trim position. All three landing gear were found separated from the fuselage, consistent with the landing gear in the extended position at the time of impact.
The engine separated from the airframe, and was located about 40 feet beyond the main wreckage, along the debris path. The crankshaft was unable to be rotated by hand. The front left, number six, valve cover was cracked consistent with impact damage. All valve covers were removed for inspection, and oil was noted throughout the engine. The number six bottom and number five top spark plugs were destroyed. The remaining spark plugs remained intact, and their respective electrodes were intact. The mechanical fuel pump was recovered, and although it sustained heat damage, the drive coupling was intact. Both magnetos and vacuum pump were destroyed by fire. The fuel metering unit was recovered, and the fuel screen was intact and absent of debris. The oil filter was recovered and no metallic debris was observed in the filter.
The propeller and propeller flange had separated from the crankshaft. One blade was curled at the tip, and had leading edge gouges. The second blade exhibited twisting and s-bending, and the third blade was bent aft.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Associate Chief Medical Examiner, Frankfort, Kentucky.
Toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Review of Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.169 revealed that an alternate airport is required on an IFR flight plan if the weather is forecast to be below a ceiling of 2,000 feet or a visibility of 3 miles, from 1 hour before to 1 hour after the estimated time of arrival.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner’s family on October 9, 2005.