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On December 29, 2005, approximately 1300 eastern standard time, a Cirrus SR22, N799TM, registered to Energy Systems Cirrus LLC, and operated by a private individual, as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with the Savannah Ridge Mountain near Sylva, North Carolina. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and the IFR flight plan filed by the pilot for the flight from Sylva, North Carolina to Pesacola, Florida, was not activated. A post crash fire ensued, and the airplane was destroyed. The private-rated pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed Jackson County Airport, Sylva, North Carolina, on December 29, 2005, at an undetermined time. The airplane was reported missing on December 29, 2005.
On December 29, 2005, about 1227, a person identifying himself as the pilot N799TM contacted the FAA Gainesville, Georgia; Flight Service Station (FSS) requesting to file an instrument flight plan and received a weather briefing for a flight from Sylva, North Carolina, to Pensacola, Florida. The Gainesville FSS briefer informed the pilot of the current weather conditions, and referenced the flight precaution for mountain obscuration through out the day. The pilot stated to the briefer "that he was looking through a "hole" right now, and was pretty sure he could stay VFR. The pilot also informed the briefer "he could see the top of the clouds, and see a little bit of the blue". The briefer also informed the pilot of a flight precaution for moderate turbulence below ten thousand feet. The pilot stated, "that he would be looking for it". Prior to departing Jackson County Airport, the pilot inquired as to how to activate an IFR flight plan once he departed. The briefer informed the pilot he could open the IFR flight plan once airborne. There were no further communications or records of radar data for the airplane once airborne.
Witnesses in the area of the accident site reported hearing an airplane flying low in a southerly direction. The airplane changed course several times, and it seemed as though the pilot was lost. Witnesses heard the sound of the engine fade away, and then "rev-up" followed by the sound of trees breaking along with a loud "thump". Witnesses recalled that the weather at the time of the accident was foggy, and stated "that you could not see more that 50-feet in front of you". The witnesses called the 911 operators at 1302, and reported the accident.
Search and rescue operations were initiated by the Jackson County Emergency Communication Center. The wreckage of N799TM was located on the Savannah Ridge Mountain on December 30, 2005, at 0932 at an elevation of 4,400 feet.
Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on June 2, 1997, with ratings for airplane single-engine land. The pilot was issued an instrument rating on June 30, 2001. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed he had a total flight time of 782.7 hours of which 227.2 flight hours were in the Cirrus SR-22. The pilot logged 60.3 flight hours of actual instrument time, and 86.3 flight hours of simulated instrument time. The pilot completed his last flight review on March 6, 2005. The private pilot held a third class medical certificate dated December 17, 2004, with restrictions for corrective lenses.
Review of aircraft logbooks indicated that the last recorded altimeter, static system, transponder, and altitude system checks were completed on January 18, 2004. The last annual inspection was conducted on February 10, 2005. The Hobbs time and total aircraft time at the annual inspection was 144.8 hours. Review of the airplane's flight log revealed on December 29, 2005 prior to the flight the Hobbs time indicated 263.1 hours. The Hobbs meter and engine tachometer were fire damaged.
The surface observations from the nearest weather observatory are as follows:
Macon County Airport (K1A5), Franklin, North Carolina: Field elevation 2,020 feet msl, located approximately 256 degrees at 9 nautical from the accident location, Aviation Weather Observation Station-3 (AWOS-3) forecasted: Time-1240; winds 350 degrees at 10 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky condition scattered 2,300 feet, and ceiling overcast 4,100 feet; temperature 43 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.68.
Andrew-Murphy Airport (KRHP), Andrews, North Carolina: Field elevation 1,697 feet msl, located approximately 264 degrees at 30 nautical miles from the accident location, AWOS-3 forecasted: Time-1302; winds 210 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 1 miles; sky conditions scattered 2,200 feet, and ceiling overcast 2,900 feet; temperature 43 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.71.
Asheville Regional Airport (KAVL), Asheville, North Carolina: Field elevation 2,165 feet msl, located approximately 072 degrees at 37 nautical miles from the accident site, AWOS-3 forecasted: Time-1354; winds 360 degrees at 14 knots, gusting 21 knots, visibility 10 statue miles, ceiling 1,200 foot overcast, temperature 37 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting 29.65.
The airplane collided with the Savannah Ridge Mountain at coordinates, 35:14:46N, 083:14:38W approximately 5 miles southwest of the Jackson County Airport. The top of the mountain is 4,600 feet, and the airplane collided with the mountain on a 300-degree heading at an elevation of 4,400 feet. All components of the airplane were located at the accident site. The cockpit, and cabin area was consumed by fire, including the instrument panel. The fire damage extended aft to the empennage. The throttle, propeller, and mixture controls were fire damaged. Flight control continuity was confirmed from both control wheels reward to all flight control surfaces. The nose wheel landing gear was separated from the airframe and lodged under the engine.
The aft fuselage was destroyed by fire forward of the empennage. The vertical stabilizer was attached to the empennage with the rudder attached. The right, and left horizontal stabilizers were fire damaged. The right elevator was separated at the center and outboard hinge. The left elevator was attached to the horizontal stabilizer.
The right wing assembly was attached to the fuselage and fire damaged. The right aileron was attached at the inboard hinge, and the outboard aileron hinge bolt was separated from the aileron. The right wing tip assembly was separated from the wing. The right main fuel tank was rupture and fire damaged. The flap remained attached to the right wing assembly, and was in the retracted position. The right main landing gear was separated from the fuselage, and fire damaged.
The left wing assembly remained attached to the fuselage and was fire damaged. The left aileron was separated from the wing assembly and fire damaged. The left main fuel tank was rupture and fire damaged. The left flap was attached and fire damaged. The flap actuator was extended two inches and attached to the torque tube. The left main landing gear was separated from the fuselage, and fire damaged.
The engine assembly was attached to the mounts, separated from the firewall, displaced to the right and fire damaged. The engine crankshaft could not be rotated. Examination of the engine assembly revealed the starter and the number two alternator were separated from the engine. The intake pipes were melted on top of the engine. The exhaust pipes were crushed upwards, and all accessories on the rear of the engine were melted. The number two cylinder head was partly separated exposing the piston. The number one cylinder head had impact damage, and the number one cylinder exhaust rocker arm was separated. The through bolt nuts on the cylinders one, two, and four in the upper left hand corner were separated. All engine cylinders were bore scope in accordance with the Continental Service Bulletin SB03-3. The cylinder barrels were rusted, and corroded. The piston heads revealed combustion deposits. All of the valves were in place except the number two-intake valve, which was separated. The crankshaft, and camshaft were examined with a bore scope from the bottom of the engine. They both were intact, and lightly coated with oil. The gears on the crankshaft and camshaft were not damaged, and were lightly coated with oil.
Examination of the throttle control revealed it was connected to the throttle body, and was in the mid-range position. The mixture control was separated, and melted away from the rear of the fuel pump. The propeller governor control was connected, and in the full aft position.
The left and right magnetos were attached to the engine, and fire damaged. The magnetos were disassembled, and were internally fire damaged and melted. The ignition harnesses were fire damaged.
The upper and lower spark plugs were removed for examination and the electrodes revealed "normal wear" when compared to the Champion "Check-A-Plug" Chart.
The fuel pump was attached to the engine case, and fire damaged. The drive coupling was intact and not damaged. The fuel pump was dissembled and the rotor vanes were damaged.
The fuel manifold was fire damaged was safety wired, remained attached to the engine, attached to the engine assembly, and was fire damaged. The fuel manifold was dissembled, and the diaphragm was melted. The internal fuel screen was clean of debris and dry. All injector lines and nozzles were attached to the engine cylinders, and were fire damaged. The oil pump was melted, and fire damaged exposing the bottom rotor gear. The oil sump was removed and no metal or oil was found in the sump.
The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft, the spinner was crushed, and all three blades were loose in the hub. Blade number one was twisted toward the direction of rotation, and wrinkled at the blade tip. Blade number two was curled toward the non-cambered side, and curled at the tip. Blade number three was bent toward the non-cambered side, and curled at the tip.
The Ballistic Parachute System (BRS) rocket was located near the right side of the fuselage aft of the wing and was fire damaged. Sections of the incremental bridle were found fire damaged.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina preformed the postmortem examination of the pilot on December 31, 2005. The cause of death was "blunt force trauma". The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina preformed the postmortem and Toxicology examination of the passenger on December 31, 2005. The cause of death was "blunt force trauma". The results of the toxicology report were negative for ethanol.
The wreckage of the airplane was released to Phoenix Aviation, Atlanta, Georgia, on March 21, 2006.