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On January 1, 2006, at 1444 eastern standard time, a Beech D55, N8165W, was substantially damaged while on approach to the Dawson Municipal Airport (16J), Dawson, Georgia. The certificated private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. A pilot-rated passenger and two additional passengers were seriously injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight which originated at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport (UMP), Indianapolis, Indiana, at 1030. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to the pilot-rated passenger, who was acting as a "co-pilot" on the flight, they departed UMP with full fuel on the morning of the accident. They were en route to Florida, and planned to stop in Georgia to refuel. The pilot attempted instrument approaches at two different airports, but couldn't land because the "ceilings were too low." The pilot-rated passenger reported that the flight then proceeded to 16J; however, the airplane was "running out of fuel." He stated they used a handheld GPS to fly a traffic pattern for runway 31; however, the weather was "too bad" to land and they only obtained visual contact with the runway 2 or 3 times. The pilot-rated passenger stated that the cloud layer descended to approximately 100 feet; however, they "had to get down," and even considered landing on a road. He stated that while on the downwind leg, the airplane tilted toward the ground just prior to impact.
He additionally reported that at the time of the accident, they had been flying for a little over four hours. He stated that the engines continued to run during the flight and the accident sequence.
A review of recorded voice communications provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), revealed that:
At 1335, the pilot contacted Jacksonville Center and requested the VOR RWY 22 approach at the Moultrie Airport (MGR), Moultrie, Georgia. The pilot was cleared for the approach, and at 1410 he reported he was performing a missed approach, that the ceiling was too low, and that he needed an alternate.
The controller asked the pilot if he would like to "try Albany." The pilot requested and was given the weather there, and then asked if the ILS was available. The controller responded that it was available, and the pilot was then given vectors to the ILS RWY 4 at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport (ABY), Albany, Georgia. While being vectored to the approach, at 1420, the pilot requested to "cut it a little short" because he was low on fuel.
At 1423, the pilot was cleared for the approach, and at 1430, the pilot reported to the controller that he needed to find another airport nearby, as he was "running out of fuel." The controller asked the pilot if he could see the ground, and he replied, "negative." The controller then asked how much fuel remained in time, and the pilot responded "about 15 minutes."
The controller issued vectors to the Dawson Airport, and at 1441 radar contact was lost with the airplane. The controller continued to call the pilot, and at 1442, the pilot reported they were "trying to get this thing down."
No further communications were received from the airplane.
Witnesses who were working outside of a building located at the Dawson Airport, approximately 300 yards east of runway 31, reported that the airplane approached runway 31 from a 45-degree angle, heading south. The airplane then crossed over the runway and "made three passes, circling the runway." During its final pass, the airplane "swung around," and the nose suddenly dropped straight down, impacting the ground.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third class medical was issued on July 15, 2002. At that time, he reported 950 total hours of flight experience.
Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed entries from August 21, 1996 to November 22, 2005. During that time, the pilot accumulated 1,538 total hours of flight experience and 142 hours of total instrument experience. In the previous 90 days, the pilot accumulated 14 hours of total flight experience. In the previous 6 months, the pilot accumulated 0.4 hours of actual instrument experience, which was recorded on October 8, 2005. No specific instrument approaches were listed in the actual instrument entry, and the pilot did not record any simulated instrument experience in the previous 6 months.
Additionally, the pilot's most recent flight review occurred on February 11, 2003.
Examination of maintenance records revealed that the airplane's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on October 29, 2005, with no anomalies noted. The airplane had flown 6 hours since the inspection.
Weather conditions reported at ABY, 17 nautical miles to the southeast, at 1450, included wind from 160 degrees at 4 knots, 1 statute mile visibility, mist, overcast clouds at 100 feet, temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches Hg.
On January 1, 2006, at 0930, the pilot contacted the Terre Haute, Indiana (HUF) Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), to obtain current weather for a flight from UMP to MGR, and to his final destination of Page Field Airport (FMY), Fort Myers, Florida. He also requested to file two IFR flight plans, one for the flight from UMP to MGR, and one for the flight from MGR to FMY.
The AFSS specialist advised there were no weather advisories until the flight entered Georgia. An AIRMET for IFR conditions was issued for portions of Georgia and Florida, which forecasted occasional ceilings below 1,000 feet and/or visibility below 3 statute miles in precipitation, mist, and fog. A high-pressure ridge was dominating over the route of flight with a stationary front lying along southern portions of Alabama and Georgia. The weather en route indicated the sky conditions to be clear below 12,000 feet. From the southern portions of Tennessee to the area north of ABY, the weather was marginal visual flight rule (MVFR) conditions. The ABY Terminal Area Forecast (TAF) was the closest for use en route to and for MGR. The specialist indicated that at 1000 the weather would be ceiling broken 800 feet, overcast clouds 1,500 feet with 5 statute miles with mist. The NWS expected some improvement between 1000-1300; however, marginal conditions after 1300.
The closest weather reporting station to UMP was 13 miles to the southwest. The weather reported at the time of the briefing included wind from 110 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, and sky clear below 12,000 feet.
A review of flight service station data revealed no record of the pilot requesting any in-flight weather information.
Dawson Municipal Airport was comprised of a single 4,510-foot runway, oriented in a 13/31 configuration. The airport had VOR/DME and GPS instrument approaches to runway 31.
The initial impact point (IIP) was a ground scar located approximately 590 feet from the approach end of runway 31, and 110 feet to the south of the runway. Propeller slash marks were observed in the ground at the IIP. The wreckage path continued approximately 50 feet, to the main wreckage, on a heading of 112 degrees.
The airplane came to rest on a heading of 103 degrees, facing the approach end of runway 31. The wings and tail section remained attached to the fuselage; however, both wingtips and the left side of the horizontal stabilizer exhibited impact damage. Additionally, the nose section of the airplane was crushed inward to the instrument panel.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces.
The fuel selectors for both engines were selected to the main tanks. The fuel tanks in each wing were drained, and contained approximately 4 gallons of total fuel. The fuel tanks and fuel lines were not compromised.
The left and right engine crankshafts were rotated by hand at their respective propeller flanges. Valve train and crankshaft continuity was confirmed to the rear accessory drive on both engines. Thumb compression and suction was also obtained on all cylinders. The magnetos from both engines were tested on the engines, and produced spark at all terminal leads. Examination of the top spark plugs, on both engines, revealed their electrodes were intact and light gray in color.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Division of Forensic Sciences performed an autopsy on the pilot on January 2, 2006.
The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. According to the pilot's toxicology test results, pantoprazole was detected in the pilot's blood and lung.
A review of the pilot's FAA medical file revealed that the pilot was taking Celebrex for muscle discomfort. Additionally, two recently refilled prescription medications were observed in the wreckage: Protonix (40mg) and Lipitor (20mg).
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A handheld Garmin GPSmap 296 unit, which was recovered from the wreckage, was sent to the manufacturer for data extraction. Examination of the data revealed the airplane departed UMP at 1040, and proceeded direct to the Moultrie, Georgia area. The airplane performed one approach to the Moultrie Airport, then proceeded to the Albany Airport and attempted one approach there. The airplane then continued to the Dawson Airport, where it circled the airport 5 times before its position was last recorded at 1444, just west of the runway.
According to fuel receipts, the airplane was last fueled on December 31, 2005, at UMP, with 36 gallons of fuel. According to personnel at UMP, this fueling filled the airplanes tanks.
According to the Beechcraft Baron Pilot's Operating Handbook, the airplane was equipped with an auxiliary fuel system, and had a total capacity of 136 gallons of useable fuel. Assuming an altitude of 8,000 feet and a power setting of 2300 rpm, each engine would consume approximately 12-13 gallons of fuel per hour giving the airplane an endurance of approximately 4.5 hours.
According to 14 CFR Part 61.57 (c), "No person may act as pilot in command under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR, unless within the preceding 6 calendar months, that person has performed and logged…(i) at least six instrument approaches; (ii) holding procedures; and (iii) intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigation systems."
The airplane was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on November 28, 2006.