MIA06FA008
MIA06FA008

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 19, 2005, about 1457 eastern daylight time, a Cessna P337H, N5HU, registered to River Aviation, Inc., and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, impacted a residence in an uncontrolled descent in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The private pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the cross country flight. The flight originated in Boca Raton, Florida, about 1431, and the intended destination was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

According to recorded radar data provided by Palm Beach (PBI) approach control, N5HU departed Boca Raton Airport under visual flight rules (VFR) at 1431 and headed northbound. The pilot contacted PBI at 1434, requesting VFR flight following. The controller acknowledged, told the pilot that PBI already had an IFR flight plan on file, and asked if the pilot wished to fly under IFR instead of VFR. The pilot responded that he wanted to go direct to Ormond Beach, and that if he could do so, he would accept an IFR clearance. The controller advised that such a route would be possible at or below 9,000 feet and instructed the pilot to squawk 3574.

After radar identifying N5HU, the PBI controller cleared the pilot to Myrtle Beach (MRB) via radar vectors west of the PBI airport area, then direct to Vero Beach, Melbourne, Ormond Beach, Craig, direct MRB. The pilot acknowledged. At 1441, the pilot asked to deviate to the east to go around some buildups. The controller responded, "Deviations approved, when able direct Vero Beach. It looks like direct Vero Beach is the best shot for you. There's some weather west of Stuart - that track should keep you out of it." The pilot then said that if he could get a higher altitude, he might be able to go direct instead of deviating. The controller issued clearance to 9,000 feet, and the pilot acknowledged. At 1450, the PBI controller instructed the pilot to contact Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZMA) on 135.3.

N5HU contacted ZMA sector 3 at 1450 and reported level at 9,000 feet. The controller acknowledged and issued the Vero Beach altimeter setting. The pilot then asked for a higher altitude, and the controller replied, "...I'll have higher for you in about two minutes if that works for you." N5HU responded that he might have to deviate left or right but was not sure yet, and then stated that he wished to deviate to the east. The controller approved the deviation and instructed the pilot to go direct to Vero Beach when able. At 1451, N5HU was handed off to ZMA sector 22 and told, "...contact Miami Center 133.47 for climb clearance."

The pilot contacted sector 22 at 1452 and immediately requested to climb. The R22 controller issued clearance to 11,000. The controller further advised of, "...a weather area twelve o'clock five miles moderate to heavy precipitation. I do show a break about five miles wide and then picks back up to heavy extreme and uh correction moderate to heavy and extreme precipitation. Advise of your deviations, please." The pilot responded, "5HU deviations to the west around that weather, looks clear behind that." The R22 controller asked, "all right uh understand you want to go west?" The pilot replied, "Yes sir, I'm heading three hundred right now to get by that weather."

At 1453, the pilot of N5HU asked, "...does my heading look clear to you at this point?" The R22 controller responded, "...I cannot suggest any headings because my weather radar only picks up precipitation and is not as accurate as what you see out the window. You are cleared to deviate left and right of course, when able direct to Melbourne - just advise when you can go back." The pilot replied, "Wilco."

At 1455:23, the R22 controller became involved in a coordination call regarding an unrelated flight. At 1455:25, an unidentified pilot sounding similar to N5HU transmitted, "I'd like to have a block altitude." At 1455:33, the pilot of N5HU asked, "Do you have any weather ahead of me right now?" At 1455:41, the pilot transmitted, "5HU request assistance." None of these transmissions were acknowledged because the controller was engaged in coordination.

At 1455:49, the controller transmitted, "5HU go ahead." The pilot responded, "..…are you showing what the weather is in front of me? I'm a little uh in difficult shape here." The controller advised, "OK - November 5HU I'm showing you encountering weather at this time moderate to heavy precipitation slight uh actually uh extreme precipitation, do you need uh say intentions." The pilot replied, "...give me a heading please." The controller responded, "OK - 5HU this is a suggestion only a suggestion only I cannot issue assigned headings. 20 degrees right please." At 1456:20, the pilot stated, "5HU roger that turning." Shortly afterward, the airplane entered a rapid descent.

At 1456:40, an unknown pilot sounding similar to N5HU transmitted, "Help." At 1457:34, the R22 controller made two unsuccessful attempts to contact the pilot of N5HU. The pilot of AAL1968 transmitted, "...somebody's yelling for help that they're going to die." The R22 controller transmitted, "Say again?", and the pilot of AAL1968 repeated the message. The controller again tried to contact N5HU with no response. At 1458:06, AAL1968 advised that they heard a pilot yelling, "Help help help." There were no further contacts with N5HU.

According to witnesses "bad weather" was present in the area at the time of the accident, with heavy rain and lightning being observed. Several witnesses stated that they saw the accident airplane emerge from the clouds at an altitude of about 300 feet, on its side, and descending. The witnesses further said the airplane appeared to roll inverted, and again rolled onto a side. They said that it became level as it climbed to an altitude of about 600 to 800 feet, and proceeded in a northeasterly direction, descended again, and started to head to the south. It then made a turn to the east, and was at a low altitude which permitted them to clearly observe the pilot and the airplane. They said the airplane then headed east, turned north, and descended below the tree line. According to witnesses, the engines sounded as if they were operating, and there were no noticeable problems with the airplane. One witness remarked that it appeared as if the airplane was "performing maneuvers." Witnesses further stated that the airplane impacted a house at a steep angle, with the sound of a loud "pop," followed by a loud explosion. A fire ensued, engulfing the house and the airplane.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land limited to center thrust, and instrument airplane. His most recent medical certificate was a third class medical issued on April 27, 2005, with the limitation, must have glasses available for near vision. Review of the pilot's logbook indicated he had accumulated about 1,488 hours total flight time. According to the logbook, the pilot had logged 346 hours of actual instrument time and 71 hours of simulated instrument flight time. His most recent instrument competency check was completed on April 7, 2005. Since that check, the pilot had not logged any hours of actual or simulated instrument flight time.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Review of the airplane's maintenance records indicated that the 1978 model Cessna Skymaster received its most recent annual inspection on December 23, 2004, at a total time of 1,639.7 hours. As of that date, the front and rear engines, both Continental TSIO-360CB models, S/N 236251-R and 236252-R, respectively, had each accumulated 574 hours since installation in the airplane on February 3, 1999, following zero time overhauls by Continental. The most recent maintenance actions recorded were engine oil and filter changes performed on October 14, 2005. As of that date, the airplane had accumulated 1,740.7 hours, and the engines had accumulated 675 hours since overhaul.

The records indicated the airplane's most recent 14 CFR Part 91.411 IFR certification of the altimeter, encoder and static system took place on June 24, 2003. Examination of the maintenance records revealed no evidence of any uncorrected maintenance discrepancies.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A regional radar mosaic chart for 1454 was obtained from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The chart depicted two bands of echoes extending across Florida, with the primary band of echoes extending from the Fort Myers area on the west coast of Florida, to Lake Okeechobee, northeastward into the Vero Beach area, and extending off shore to the northern Bahamas. Several defined areas of rain showers and thunderstorms were identified in the vicinity of the accident site.

The closest official weather reporting facility was from Witham Field Airport (KSUA), Stuart, Florida, located approximately 10 miles southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 18 feet msl. The airport was equipped with an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS-3) and issued the following Meteorological Aerodrome Reports (METARs) surrounding the period of the accident. The following observations are taken from standard code provided in plain language, with cloud heights reported above ground level (agl).

KSUA weather observation at 1347, wind from 160 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 17 knots, visibility unrestricted 10 miles with showers in the vicinity, scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, ceiling broken at 10,000 feet, temperature 31 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 24 degrees C, altimeter 29.95 inches of Mercury (Hg).

KSUA weather observation at 1447, wind from 120 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 7 miles with showers in the vicinity, scattered clouds at 3,000 feet, ceiling broken at 5,000 feet, temperature 28 degrees C, dew point temperature 24 degrees C, altimeter 29.95 inches of Hg.

KSUA weather observation at 1547, wind from 320 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 15 knots, visibility 6 miles in thunderstorms and moderate rain, ceiling broken at 2,000 feet, broken at 4,000 feet, temperature 26 degrees C, dew point 22 degrees C, altimeter 29.96 inches of Hg. Remarks: occasional lightning in-cloud and cloud-to-ground, thunderstorm southwest moving north.

The closest National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Surveillance Radar-1988, Doppler (WSR-88D) was located at Melbourne (KMLB), approximately 50 miles north-northeast of the accident site. The radar produces three basic types of products, reflectivity, radial velocity, and spectral width. Reflectivity is normally displayed in decibels (dBZ) and is a general measure of echo intensity.

The FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-24B titled "Thunderstorms" dated January 2, 1983, defines the echo intensity levels and potential weather phenomena associated with those levels. If the maximum VIP Level is 1 "weak" and 2 "moderate", then light to moderate turbulence is possible with lightning. VIP Level 1 corresponds to 15 to 29 dBZ and Level 2 corresponds to 30 to 39 dBZ. VIP Level 3 is "strong" and severe turbulence is possible with lightning. VIP Level 3 corresponds to 40 to 44 dBZ. VIP Level 4 is "very heavy" and severe turbulence is likely with lightning. VIP Level 4 corresponds to 45 to 49 dBZ. VIP Level 5 is "intense" with severe turbulence, lightning, hail likely, and organized surface wind gusts. VIP level 5 corresponds to 50 to 54 dBZ. VIP Level 6 is "extreme" with severe turbulence, lightning, large hail, extensive surface wind gusts and turbulence. VIP Level 6 corresponds to 55 dBZ or greater.

The KMLB WSR-88D base reflectivity image for the 1.45 degree elevation scan completed at 1456 depicts the flight track of N5HU approaching an area with reflectivities in the range of 55 dBZ echoes (border line VIP Level 6), and entering into reflectivities of 35 to 40 dBZ (VIP Level 2 to 3). The KMLB 1.45 and 0.5 degree base reflectivity images ending at 1501 and 1500, respectively, depict reflectivities ranging to over 50 dBZ along the flight track. The images confirm that N5HU penetrated an intense to extreme VIP Level 5 to 6 echo.

For further weather information, see the Meteorology Factual Report in the public docket for this accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane impacted a residence located at 572 SE Walters Terrace in Port St. Lucie. The residence was destroyed by the post-crash fire. The airplane wreckage was recovered and examined at the facilities of Sea and Air Recovery, Fort Pierce, Florida. The examination took place on November 15, 2005, under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge, with the participation of representatives from the Cessna Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors.

The majority of the airframe was consumed by the post-crash fire. A portion of the left side of the fuselage and a section of the left wing from the boom to the wing root were not consumed. Flight control continuity could not be established due to the extent of the damage.

The front engine exhibited extensive impact and thermal damage. The oil sump was approximately 85 percent melted onto the lower portion of the engine. Due to the thermal damage and melting of the oil sump, the engine could not be rotated. The upper spark plugs were removed, the cylinders were borescoped, and varying degrees of rust, water, and other contaminants were observed. The cylinder combustion chambers and piston heads had a normal amount of combustion deposits and the bores were free of scoring. The magnetos had fractured from the engine case and were still attached to the engine via the ignition leads. Both magnetos were disassembled and exhibited thermal damage to their interior components. The fuel pump exhibited extensive thermal damage and melting. The fuel pump drive was intact and could not be removed from the engine driven gear. The fuel manifold exhibited extensive thermal damage and melting. The fuel nozzles were unrestricted and exhibited a sooty residue on the exterior. The throttle body assembly exhibited extensive thermal damage and was approximately 75 percent missing. The vacuum pump could not be rotated by hand and was disassembled. The vacuum pump drive was intact, and the vanes were intact and free floating. The propeller exhibited extensive thermal damage. One of the blades of the two-bladed propeller had separated from the propeller hub.

The rear engine exhibited extensive impact and thermal damage. The upper spark plugs were removed, the cylinders were borescoped, and varying degrees of rust, water, and other contaminants were observed. The cylinder combustion chambers and piston heads had a normal amount of combustion deposits and the bores were free of scoring. The engine was rotated by turning the propeller, and valve train and accessory gear continuity were established. Thumb compression was noted on cylinders #2, #3, and #5. Thumb compression was not present on cylinders #1, #4, and #6. During crankshaft rotation, it was noted that the #1 exhaust valve, the #4 intake and exhaust valves, and the #6 intake and exhaust valves would actuate, but would stick partially open and not close fully. When the associated rocker arms were tapped with a rubber mallet, the valves would close. The magnetos remained attached to the engine case. Both magnetos were disassembled and exhibited thermal damage to their interior components. The fuel pump exhibited extensive thermal damage and melting. The fuel pump drive was intact and could not be removed from the engine driven gear. The fuel manifold exhibited extensive thermal damage and melting. The fuel nozzles were unrestricted and exhibited a sooty residue on the exterior. The throttle body assembly exhibited extensive thermal damage. The vacuum pump could not be rotated by hand and was disassembled. The vacuum pump drive was intact, and the vanes were intact and free floating. The propeller exhibited extensive thermal damage. Both propeller blades were fractured outboard of the propeller hub.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the District 19 Medical Examiner, Fort Pierce, Florida. No findings that could be considered causal were reported. Toxicological tests on specimens from the pilot were performed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory. The test results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol and drugs.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Air Traffic Control Information

On November 7 to 9, 2005, at ZMA (Miami Center), Safety Board investigators interviewed controllers, reviewed a radar and audio replay of the accident flight, and collected recorded automation and other data related to the accident flight. During the course of these activities, it was confirmed that Miami Center is equipped with digital weather display capability that is designed to show Levels 2 through 6 on the VIP scale. Examination of recorded display data showed that when the pilot advised that he would be turning to a 300 degree heading to avoid weather, the display for sector 22 was showing moderate (Level 2), heavy (Level 3 to 4) and severe to extreme (Level 5 to 6) weather in that direction.

FAA order 7110.65, "Air Traffic Control," paragraph 2-6-4, "Weather and Chaff Services," states:

2-6-4. WEATHER AND CHAFF SERVICES
a. Issue pertinent information on observed/reported weather or chaff areas. Provide radar navigational guidance and/or approve deviations around weather or chaff areas when requested by the pilot. Do not use the word "turbulence" in describing radar-derived weather.
1. Issue weather and chaff information by defining the area of coverage in terms of azimuth (by referring to the 12-hour clock) and distance from the aircraft or by indicating the general width of the area and the area of coverage in terms of fixes or distance and direction from fixes.
2. Issue the level of echo intensity when that information is available.
3. When equipment limitations exist, controllers shall, at a minimum, ensure that the highest available level of echo intensity within their area of jurisdiction is displayed.
4. When a deviation cannot be approved as requested and the situation permits, suggest an alternative course of action.
b. In areas of significant weather, plan ahead and be prepared to suggest, upon pilot request, the use of alternative routes/altitudes.
{New-2004-12 1-1-3 Note Revised February 19, 2004}
NOTE-
Weather significant to the safety of aircraft includes such conditions as tornadoes, lines of thunderstorms, embedded thunderstorms, large hail, wind shear, microbursts, moderate to extreme turbulence (including CAT), and light to severe icing.
c. Inform any tower for which you provide approach control services if you observe any weather echoes on radar which might affect their operations.
PHRASEOLOGY-
WEATHER/CHAFF AREA BETWEEN (number) O'CLOCK AND (number) O'CLOCK (number) MILES
or
(number) MILE BAND OF WEATHER/CHAFF FROM (fix or number of miles and direction from fix) TO (fix or number of miles and direction from fix),
or
LEVEL (number(s)) WEATHER ECHO BETWEEN (number) O'CLOCK AND (number) O'CLOCK, (number) MILES. MOVING (direction) AT (number) KNOTS, TOPS (altitude),
or
DEVIATION APPROVED, (restrictions if necessary), ADVISE WHEN ABLE TO: RETURN TO COURSE,
or
RESUME OWN NAVIGATION
or
FLY HEADING (heading)
or
PROCEED DIRECT TO (name of NAVAID). UNABLE DEVIATION (state possible alternate course of action).
EXAMPLE-
1. "Level five weather echo between eleven o'clock and one o'clock, one zero miles. Moving east at two zero knots, tops flight level three niner zero."
2. "Level four weather echo between ten o'clock and two o'clock, one five miles. Weather area is two five miles in diameter."
3. "Level four and five weather echoes between ten o'clock and two o'clock, one five miles. Weather area is two five miles in diameter."
4. "Level two through four weather echoes between ten o'clock and two o'clock, one five miles. Weather area is two five miles in diameter."
NOTE-
Phraseology using level number(s) is only applicable when the radar weather echo intensity information is determined by NWS radar equipment or digitized radar equipment.
REFERENCE-
P/CG Term- Radar Weather Echo Intensity Levels.

For further air traffic control information, see the Air Traffic Control Factual Report in the public docket for this accident.

Additional Information

The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner on November 15, 2005. No parts were retained.

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