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On February 22, 2006, at 0950 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172R, N3536C, was destroyed during collision with terrain while maneuvering for landing after an instrument approach to Freeway Airport (W00), Mitchellville, Maryland. The certificated airline transport pilot and the private pilot were fatally injured, and the passenger was seriously injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated at Warrenton-Fauquier County Airport (W66), Warrenton, Virginia. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The RNAV (GPS) Runway 36 approach at Freeway Airport had an inbound course of 345 degrees. The minimum descent altitude inside the final approach fix, which was BOKVE waypoint, was 700 feet. The BOKVE waypoint was 5 miles from the airport.
Radar data from the Federal Aviation Administration showed a target identified as the accident airplane approach the airport from the south, and descend toward the airport on an approximate heading of 345 degrees. The airplane leveled, and flew towards and then over the airport about 500 feet. The airplane then performed a missed approach, and completed a 5-mile, right-hand circuit and returned for a second attempt on the same approach. While the airplane was vectored for the second attempt, the controller asked the flight crew what the weather conditions were over the airport during the first attempt. The pilot responded, " (the clouds) were broken at 600 to 700 but we couldn't see the runway."
During the final segment of the second approach, the airplane descended and leveled at 500 feet. The last radar target was observed at 400 feet, about 1/4 mile prior to the approach end of runway 36, before radar contact was lost. The airport elevation was 168 feet.
Several witnesses employed at Freeway Airport were interviewed and provided written statements. The accounts were similar in content and detail. The airport manager stated that a pilot called about 0800 to ask about the weather at the airport. The manager responded that the ceiling at the time was 500 feet with one mile of visibility in rain. The pilot on the phone said he would attempt a landing at Freeway about 0830. A few minutes later, a gentleman arrived at the airport office and stated that he was to be picked up shortly by an airplane arriving from Warrenton, Virginia.
About 0930, a pilot announced over the UNICOM frequency that he was 5 miles from the airport, and inbound on the RNAV (GPS) Runway 36 approach. The airplane over flew the airport, and the pilot then asked over the radio if the runway lights were illuminated. The airport manager answered that the lights were on, but recommended to the pilot that he continue to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) for landing, because the "visibility was only 1/2 mile in heavy snow." The pilot did not respond.
A few minutes later, the pilot announced that he was inbound on a second approach. The airplane appeared out of the clouds over the south end of the runway, between 200 and 300 feet above the ground, and flew the length of the runway at low altitude. At the north end of the runway, the airplane turned west away from the airport, then circled to the right in a "dramatic" and "nose-high attitude" back towards the runway.
The airplane over flew the runway headed south and turned west away from the airport, as engine power increased, and the flaps were retracted. The airplane then entered a steep left bank back towards the airport and "nose-dived" out of view. Seconds later, the sounds of impact were heard.
The last passes down the runway, and the turns at each end before the final descent to the ground, were below radar coverage.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 56 minutes north latitude, and 76 degrees, 46 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land. He held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane.
The pilot's most recent first class medical certificate was issued April 12, 2005. He reported 2,900 total hours of flight experience on that date.
The copilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He did not possess an instrument rating. His most recent third class medical certificate was issued February 10, 2004. Examination of his logbook revealed that the pilot had logged about 180 total hours of flight experience.
The airplane was a 2001 model, with approximately 2,411 total aircraft hours. The most recent 100-hour inspection was completed February 4, 2006, at 2,401 aircraft hours.
The airplane was equipped with an IFR capable Bendix/King KLN 94 GPS receiver, and a Bendix/King KMD 540 Multi-function display. The GPS navigation database card was placarded with an effective date of April 14, 2005, and an expiration date of May 11, 2005. Due to impact damage, the GPS unit could not be adequately tested. The data card was placed in a bench-test unit, and the expiration date displayed was October 26, 2005.
According to an employee of the airplane's owner, the pilot had periodically updated the GPS data card via the Internet. A search of the manufacturer's records revealed no updates after the October 26, 2005 expiration date.
The data card for the multi-function display was effective June 14, 2001, and expired July 11, 2001.
At 0941, the weather reported at Andrews Air Force Base, 9 miles southwest of Freeway Airport, included scattered clouds at 300 feet, an overcast layer at 500 feet, with 2 miles of visibility in snow and fog. The wind was from 140 degrees at 3 knots.
At 0942, the weather reported at BWI, 14 miles north of Freeway Airport, included broken clouds at 500 feet, an overcast layer at 900 feet with 3/4 mile of visibility in snow and fog. The wind was from 160 degrees at 3 knots.
Witnesses at the airport said the clouds were "on top of the trees" and that visibility was about 1/2 mile due to snow and fog.
The airplane was examined at the site on the day of the accident, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented 035 degrees, and was approximately 90 feet long. The initial ground scar was narrow, concave, about 18 feet long, and the same approximate dimension as the leading edge of the wing. The second scar was an oval-shaped crater, about 8 feet at its widest, and 18 inches deep. The engine cowling stood next to the crater and was damaged extensively by impact. A faint, but discernable third scar ran away from the crater in line with the first scar, and ended beneath the right wing tip. The third scar was also narrow, concave, and the same approximate dimension as the leading edge of the wing.
The airplane came to rest upright on its main gear, facing opposite the direction of travel. The engine laid flat on the ground over a collapsed nose gear, and the instrument panel, cockpit and forward cabin area were destroyed by impact.
Rescue personnel separated the left wing from the airframe, and the right wing remained attached. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft in compression outboard of the wing struts.
The aft cabin was largely intact. The roof was buckled aft of the wing box, and the fuselage was buckled aft of the main landing gear and also aft of the baggage compartment. The empennage and tail cone were largely intact. The tail section was intact.
The propeller was attached to the engine, and one blade was bent aft about mid-span. The paint of both blades showed chordwise abrasion on the leading edges.
Control cable continuity was established to all flight control surfaces from the cockpit area. The flaps were found in approximately the 10-degree setting.
The wreckage was moved from the site on February 23, 2006.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, Maryland, performed autopsies on both pilots.
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed toxicological testing on both pilots.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The engine was examined in Clayton, Delaware on February 24, 2006. Examination revealed that the magnetos, mixture control, oil filter adapter, lower vacuum pump, and exhaust system were heavily damaged by impact.
Both vacuum pumps were removed, and the engine was rotated through the upper vacuum pump drive. Continuity was established through the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The magnetos were rotated by hand, and spark was produced at all towers.
Fuel was observed in the fuel pump, the servo supply line, the servo, and the flow divider. The fuel pump was actuated by hand and produced pressures at both ports.
The upper vacuum pump was rotated by hand and produced pressures at both ports. The lower vacuum pump was destroyed by impact. The pump was disassembled and the rotor was destroyed by impact, however, the vanes were intact and free to move in their guides.
WEIGHT AND BALANCE
The pilot's flight plan indicated a departure with two persons on board and 5 hours of fuel. Interpolation of the manufacturer's weight and balance charts was conducted after examination of aircraft records, fuel records, flight times, and the weights of the 3 persons on board the aircraft. Interpolation revealed that at takeoff, the airplane weighed 2,604 pounds; 147 pounds above the manufacturer's maximum allowable gross weight of 2,457 pounds.
Further calculations based on nominal fuel consumption rates revealed that at the time of the accident, the airplane weighed about 2,526 pounds; 69 pounds above the manufacturer's maximum allowable gross weight of 2,457 pounds.
In an interview with an FAA inspector, the passenger stated that the purpose of the flight was to pick up a passenger at Freeway Airport, and continue to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The passenger who was to board the airplane at Freeway Airport weighed approximately 175 pounds.
A review of FAA-H-8083-3, Airplane Flying Handbook, revealed:
"...At the same gross weight, airplane configuration, and power setting, a given airplane will consistently stall at the same indicated airspeed if no acceleration is involved. The airplane will, however, stall at a higher indicated airspeed when excessive maneuvering loads are imposed by steep turns, pull-ups, or other abrupt changes in its flightpath. Stalls entered from such flight situations are called "accelerated maneuver stalls..."
"...Failure to take immediate steps toward recovery when an accelerated stall occurs may result in a complete loss of flight control...
"...At any given airspeed, the load factor increases as angle of attack increases, and the wing stalls because the angle of attack has been increased to a certain angle...The speed at which a wing will stall is proportional to the square root of the load factor."
According to the load factor chart in FAA Advisory Circular 61-23C, Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, a bank angle of 45 degrees will produce a load factor of 1.4, a bank angle of 60 degrees will produce a load factor of 2, and a bank angle of 80 degrees will produce a load factor of 6 (or 3 times the stalling speed).
A review of the "Stall Speeds" chart in the 172R Skyhawk Information Manual revealed that at maximum gross weight, the most rearward center of gravity, and with a 10-degree flap setting, the airplane would stall at the following calibrated airspeeds:
1) At a bank angle of 30 degrees, the stall speed would be about 52 knots.
2) At a bank angle of 45 degrees, the stall speed would be about 58 knots.
3) At a bank angle of 60 degrees, the stall speed would be about 69 knots.
A note at the bottom of the chart stated: "Altitude loss during a stall recovery may be as much as 230 feet."
The airplane wreckage was released on April 24, 2006, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.