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On March 19, 2006, about 1940 mountain standard time, a Beech F33A, N41PT, collided with a mountain during cruise flight about 38 miles southeast of Kingman, Arizona. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. The personal cross-country flight departed from Henderson Executive Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, about 1850, with a planned destination of Scottsdale Airport, Scottsdale, Arizona. Both instrument and visual meteorological conditions prevailed along the intended route of flight. The pilot did not file a flight plan.
On March 19, 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notification (ALNOT) after receiving notice from a concerned family member that the airplane was missing and overdue. Both the Civil Air Patrol and local authorities were notified of an overdue aircraft; they located the airplane wreckage on March 20, 2006.
During the investigation, the recorded radar data and Air Traffic Control (ATC) transcripts were obtained and reviewed by a National Transportation Safety Board investigator.
The transcripts revealed that the pilot first made contact with ground control at Henderson at 1843:15. After departing, the pilot made his final recorded transmission at 1851:32, when a controller relayed the frequency for Las Vegas Approach Control.
Recorded radar data covering the area of the accident was supplied by the FAA in the form of a National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) printout from Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control (Las Vegas TRACON) and Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The airplane did not have a discreet beacon code; rather, investigators reviewed radar tracks from aircraft with 1200 transponder codes and altitude encoding. The radar data was analyzed for the time frame and proximity to the anticipated flight track of the airplane en route from Henderson to Scottsdale. A suitable track was identified that was consistent with the time frame of the accident flight and the anticipated flight track.
Las Vegas TRACON radar data consisted of approximately equidistant radar returns from 1850:23 to 1922:27. The data was consistent with the airplane flying in a southeasterly direction and gradually descending towards the Kingman VOR (very high frequency omni-directional range) after climbing from about 2,700 feet mean sea level (msl) to 9,000 feet msl.
Los Angeles ARTCC radar data revealed that the airplane continued flying in a southeasterly direction during the 26 minute 49 second recording. The target was first identified at 1909:15, on a Mode C reported altitude of 8,500 feet msl. During the proceeding 13 minutes, radar returns disclosed a gradual descent towards the Kingman VOR, which it reached at 19:21:30. After arriving at the VOR, the radar track reflected a southerly bearing towards Scottsdale at 6,500 feet. The remaining radar plot stretched over a distance of 30 nautical miles (nm) in 13 minutes 55 seconds, equating to a radar-derived ground speed of about 129 knots. Radar returns revealed a gradual increase in altitude at 1927:07 from 6,500 feet until radar contact was lost at 19:36:04 at an altitude of about 9,100 feet. Using the distance between and the altitudes of the last two radar hits equates to a 1,500 foot-per-minute (fpm) climb.
The last radar return was about 0.62 nm southwest of the accident location on a true course of 165 degrees. The majority of the radar returns were uniformly spaced and followed anticipated tracks towards Kingman VOR and Scottsdale Airport. The data plots are contained in the public docket for this report.
According to the FAA Airman and Medical records files, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane rating for single engine land, which was issued on January 12, 2006. The pilot's most recent third-class medical certificate was issued without limitations on September 07, 2005.
The pilot's flight records were obtained from the family and consisted of a bound logbook (dated from August 07, 2005, to March 02, 2006). The summation of flight hours from the logbook revealed that the pilot had accumulated 102.5 hours of total flight experience, with 52.6 amassed in the accident airplane (the only F33 time logged). The logs additionally disclosed that he had accrued 3.6 hours of flight time under simulated instrument meteorological conditions. Based on the airport identifiers listed in the logs for flight origin and destination points, the pilot had never completed the same route as the accident flight.
In a written statement, the pilot's certificated flight instructor (CFI) stated that he did not know how many hours total the pilot had accumulated. He reported that the pilot flew regularly and estimated that he would fly about 3 times per week. He reported that the pilot did not keep a record of all his flight time, rather used the handheld global positioning satellite (GPS) unit to store his trips. The instructor stated in a telephone conversation with a Safety Board investigator that the pilot would always use his GPS unit for navigation purposes and was very comfortable with the technology.
According to family members, the passenger had prior aeronautical experience, which he acquired flying small airplanes sometime around the early 1970s. No record of the individual was found during a review of the FAA Airman and Medical records database.
The Beech F33A, serial number CE-1175, was manufactured in November 1987. The last known aircraft total time in service was 1,294.25 hours, which was noted on the last recorded maintenance entry performed on February 17, 2006. The Continental IO-520-BB engine, serial number 578288, was the original Beech installed engine and had accumulated the same total time in service as the airframe. There was no record that engine had never been overhauled.
The most recent annual inspection of the airframe and engine was completed on June 11, 2005, at a total time of 1,237.64 hours.
Henderson Airport records revealed that the airplane was refueled 2 days prior to the accident with the addition of 22 gallons of 100 low lead (LL) aviation fuel. The record noted that the airplane was topped off for both the right and left fuel tanks. It further revealed that the airplane did not fly since the last refueling until the accident flight.
A review was conducted of an FAA approved Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) for a F33A applicable to the serial number of the accident airplane. Within the POH a "Cruise Speeds" chart displayed the airplane's performance at 3,200 pounds. The chart indicated that at 9,000 feet msl, with the airplane configured at a power setting of 2,300 revolutions per minute (rpm), or 65 percent power, it will cruise at a true airspeed of about 161 knots true airspeed. The handbook indicates that in this configuration, the engine power would be at full throttle.
The closest aviation weather observation station was located at Kingman Airport, about 32.4 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, at an elevation of 3,384 feet msl. A routine aviation weather observation (METAR) was issued at 1859 reporting the following conditions: wind from 220 degrees at 7 knots with gusts to 17 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; light rain; ceiling 5,500 feet broken, 7,000 feet broken, and 10,000 feet overcast; temperature 7 degrees Celsius; dew point -1 degree Celsius; altimeter setting 29.74 inches of Mercury (inHg); rain began at 1850; trace (<0.01 inch) of precipitation 1759 to 1859. The observation was updated at 1959 reporting: skies 7,000 feet scattered clouds; ceiling 9,500 feet overcast; rain ended at 1943.
The upper air sounding data for the approximate accident location was taken from the North American Mesoscale Model (NAM12). The sounding at 1900 indicated that about 6,235 feet msl the relative humidity was around 70 percent, which it remained at or above until 20,235 feet msl. The freezing level was additionally identified to be around 6,235 feet msl.
The closest Level II Doppler Weather Radar data was located in Las Vegas (ESX), and was reviewed using the Integrated Data Viewer. ESX Base Reflectivity Images were taken at approximately 1928, 1934, and 1940, with 0.5-degree elevation angles. The images gathered are contained in the public docket for this accident.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Number 10 (GOES-10) data was reviewed using the Man-computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS). The infrared longwave imagery (band=4) provided a color enhanced, full 4-kilometer (km) resolution. The satellite imagery was reviewed at approximately 1900, 1930, and 1945. The longwave band 4 image for 1900 at 4x depicted an extensive area of overcast skies in the vicinity of the accident site. At 1930, the radiative temperature at the accident site was approximately -13.4 degrees Celsius. A correlation to the NAM upper air data indicated that cloud tops were near 11,500 feet msl.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Aviation Weather Center (AWS) located in Kansas City, Missouri, issued an in-flight weather advisory (AIRMET) for the region where the wreckage was located at 1650 on the day of the accident. AIRMET Zulu (Update 6 for Ice), issued at 1650 and valid until 2000, warned of occasional moderate rime or mixed icing in clouds and in precipitation between 7,000 feet msl and 14,000 feet msl. AIRMET Sierra (Update 6 for Mountain Obscuration), issued at 1540 and valid until 2000, warned of mountains occasionally obscured by clouds, precipitation, mist, and fog.
A Safety Board computer program was used to determine the position and illumination of the sun and moon at the time of the accident. At 1852, sunset occurred, with astronomical twilight taking place at 2017. At 1936, the sun was -9.8 degrees below the western horizon. The moon was 43.9 degrees below the northeastern horizon. Data from the United States Naval Observatory indicated that the phase of the moon was waning gibbous with 77 percent of the moon's visible disk illuminated.
There was no indication that the pilot received a weather briefing from the Flight Service Station (FSS).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT
The accident site was located on a slope in hilly terrain, comprised of soft dirt and brush. The wreckage was about 105 nautical miles from Las Vegas on a bearing of 129 degrees, and about 110 nautical miles from Scottsdale on a bearing of 313 degrees. The GPS coordinates for the crash site were 34 degrees 52.899 minutes north latitude and 113 degrees 28.007 minutes west longitude at an altitude of about 5,450 feet.
The main wreckage came to rest with the nose facing upslope on a bearing of about 170 degrees; the slope was estimated to be about 30 degrees. The flight control surfaces were all contained in the immediate proximity of the main wreckage. An initial upsloping ground disturbance was a crater 5 feet in diameter observed about 10 feet northwest (slightly downslope) of the main wreckage. This disturbance was characterized as a gouge-like depression in the ground; the propeller blades and nose landing gear were embedded in within the dirt crater. A median path of disturbed ground and aircraft debris was distributed over a horizontal distance of about 100 feet, with wreckage components scattered about 40 feet both upslope and downslope of the median debris field.
The nose and fuselage were extensively crushed and accordioned rearward. The left wing sustained crush deformation with the leading edge skin folded aft and the bottom skin displaying a similar rearward-crush accordioned appearance; the top skin was displaced and ballooned upward. The wing remained attached to the fuselage at the carry-through structures. The fuel bladder was ruptured and distributed around the accident site. The right wing was separated outboard with the inboard area attached to the fuselage (up to the end of the flap section). The remaining section of right wing, found adjacent to the wreckage, was compromised of accordioned skin attached to spar structure; the aileron was affixed to the separated wing section. The flaps on both wings were visually in the up position. The main landing gear was in the retracted positions inside their respective wheel wells.
The tail section remained intact with the vertical and horizontal stabilizers attached. An interview with first responders and a review of their photographs revealed that the airplane's tail initially came to rest positioned atop of the fuselage structure. The upper portion of the vertical stabilizer came to rest on top of the engine. The tail cone was pointing skyward, consistent to the tail folding over toward the fuselage (scorpioned forward). The right horizontal stabilizer had a circular divot on the outboard section about one foot in length.
The cockpit area was extensively fragmented, and investigators were unable to locate any flight instruments on scene.
Following initial on-site documentation, the extensively fragmented wreckage was removed from the mountain and taken to the facilities of Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona, for a detailed examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Mohave County Coroner's Office completed an autopsy. The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory performed toxicological testing on specimens of the pilot and passenger. The results of analysis of the pilot's specimens revealed no evidence of ethanol or drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
An examination of the wreckage was conducted on March 24, 2006, at the facilities of Air Transport. Present at the examination was a Safety Board investigator, as well as a representative from both Raytheon Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM).
The airplane was separated into four major components for the purpose of recovery. The wreckage consisted of the left and right wing, fuselage (with the engine separated), and empennage. Recovery personnel detached both wings from the fuselage at their respective inboard root; control cables that were separated for recovery purposes were marked prior to separation. The empennage was separated near the aft baggage bulkhead between station 207.0 and 233.5.
The aileron balance cables were traced by investigators and found to be intact; both cables remained affixed to the bell crank arms that were separated from their respective bell cranks. The aileron cables were additionally found to be intact to the control column, which had sustained extensive deformation. The aileron chain had separated and become lodged in the sprocket (also displaced), consistent with impact damage. The left aileron cable was attached to the bell crank arm, which had separated from the bell crank. Both flap actuators measured 1 7/8 inches, which the Raytheon representative stated was consistent with the full up (retracted) position.
Investigators established continuity of the rudder cable from the aft bell crank, along the pulleys to the forward bell crank. The left forward bell crank arm had separated. The elevator push pull tubes were separated at the aft bell crank located in the empennage. Both tubes were buckled and the fracture surfaces displayed a jagged, 45-degree lip. The aft elevator bell crank was intact and the control cables remained attached to their respective arms. Investigators traced the cables to the cockpit area where the airframe was extensively crushed. The mass weight was attached to the cable and lodged in the cockpit.
The elevator trim cables were intact from the cockpit to their respective actuators. The left actuator measured 1 1/2 inches and the right actuator measured 1 7/16 inches; the Raytheon representative stated that those measurements correspond to tab down of about 7 and 5 degrees, respectively.
The fuel selector was removed from the wreckage and disassembled. The selector position was found hyperextended past the right tank position. Upon rotation of the handle, investigators noted good detent in all three selection options. The fuel filter appeared to be installed correctly and was free of debris. A small amount of liquid was found in the fuel selector body, which investigators noted was similar in appearance and odor to that of avgas.
According to the Raytheon representative, the landing gear actuator was in the retracted position.
The engine was detached from the airframe and impact damage was observed on numerous areas of the crankcase; the engine mounts were heavily fragmented and deformed. The oil sump was impact damaged along with the exhaust and induction systems. Cracking was noted on the number 1 and 5 cylinders and surrounding fins, which was consistent with impact damage. Visual examination of the engine revealed no evidence consistent with a premishap catastrophic mechanical malfunction or fire.
The crankshaft was rotated by turning the crankshaft propeller flange. Thumb compression was established in all cylinders with the exception of the number 5 cylinder, which was visibly cracked. Valve train continuity was observed, with equal lift action at each rocker assembly with the exception of the number 5 exhaust valve, which only moved slightly. Oil was found in the rocker box areas on all cylinders.
Removal of the number 5 cylinder revealed no evidence of internal stress inside the crankcase. The cylinder combustion chamber and piston had very light combustion deposits. The intake valve head was a dark gray coloration; a black coating was on the backside of the valve. The exhaust valve head displayed a dark reddish coloration that appeared to be a rough cratered coating; the backside of the valve was a lighter reddish/brown coating. Investigators examined the remaining combustion chambers utilizing a lighted borescope. All the signatures and composites were consistent with rust-colored intake valve faces and dark gray exhaust valve faces.
The top spark plugs were secured at each position with their respective spark plug lead attached aside from the number 1 plug, which was missing. The spark plug electrodes were undamaged, displaying a dark gray coloration on the face of each spark plug. The TCM representative stated that the coloration and signatures on the spark plugs were consistent with normal operation.
Only the right magneto was located within the wreckage, and it was impact damaged. Investigators could rotate the flywheel, but the magneto failed to produce spark at any of the posts. Due to the extent of the impact damage, the magneto could not be functionally tested, nor could the engine timing be ascertained. The vacuum pump was dissembled; the vanes and rotors were intact.
The oil filter was removed and cut open, revealing a clean internal filter. The oil pump was removed and disassembled; the gears moved freely and the internal housing contained oil. There was no evidence of any preimpact lubrication system contamination.
The fuel manifold valve was removed and disassembled. The screen was clear and the diaphragm bladder was intact.
All three propeller blades were detached from the hub. Two of the blades had the tips separated about three inches inboard; both blades displayed s-bending. The remaining blade exhibited leading edge nicks and chordwise striations.
Pieces of a Garmin GPSMAP 396 handheld GPS were located at the accident site and sent to the manufacturer in an attempt to extract data from the non-volatile memory. According to Garmin, the components found in the wreckage did not include the main printed circuit board (PCB) that is where that data would be stored.