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On April 15, 2006, approximately 1630 central daylight time, a single-engine Air Tractor AT-602 agricultural airplane, N5003E, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering at low altitude near Meridian, Mississippi. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by H&P Flying Service Inc., of Pelahatchie, Mississippi. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight. The local flight originated from a private airstrip about 1540.
According to a witness, the accident airplane was flying in a level attitude "high" above the treetops. The airplane then "took a downward turn at an estimated 45-degree angle" before leveling off just above the treetops. As the witness turned her back to the airplane, she heard the sounds of a crash and a "split second later" she heard a second crash.
Another witness observed the airplane turn and fly just above the treetops. She then heard a sound "like a wing hitting a tree," followed by a "boom."
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical was issued on February 15, 2006, with no limitations.
The pilot's logbooks were not recovered during the course of the investigation; however, the operator reported the pilot's accumulated flight time as 8,600-hours, with 800-hours in the same make and model airplane, and 500-hours in the last ninety days.
The 1996 model Air Tractor AT-602, serial number 602-0397, was a low wing, tail-wheel equipped, agricultural airplane, configured for a single occupant. The airplane was powered by a Pratt and Whitney of Canada PT6A-45R engine, rated at 1,050 horsepower. The engine was driving a 5-bladed constant speed Hartzell propeller. According to the airplane's records, the most recent annual inspection was completed on October 9, 2005, with a total time of 9,461 hours.
At 1653, the weather observation facility at Key Field Airport (MEI), near Meridian, Mississippi, located 30 nautical miles south from the site of the accident, was reporting wind from 200 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear of clouds, temperature 84 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure setting of 29.84 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On site documentation of the wreckage was conducted by an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and an investigator from Air Tractor Incorporated. The inspector and investigator reported that all major components of the airplane were located at the wreckage site and continuity was established to all of the airplane's flight controls.
The wreckage was located in an area of low vegetation and small pine trees. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were 32 degrees 48.487 minutes North latitude and 88 degrees 41.835 minutes West longitude. The airplane impacted terrain on a magnetic heading of 105-degrees and came to rest in an upright position on a heading of approximately 165-degrees. A post-impact fire engulfed the airplane.
The propeller was examined at Hartzell Propeller Incorporated, on August 10, 2006, by a Hartzell Propeller investigator and a representative from the FAA. According to a report provided to the NTSB IIC, no discrepancies were found that would have precluded normal operation of the propeller. The report further added that damage to the propeller was consistent with the propeller rotating and in the non-feathered position during impact.
The engine was examined under supervision of the NTSB on April 29, 2006, at the facilities of the Pratt & Whitney Engine Services in Bridgeport, West Virginia. The examination revealed no pre-impact anomalies.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Office of the Medical Examiner of Kemper County, Mississippi, performed an autopsy on the pilot on April 17, 2006.
The FAA, Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. The pilot was found to have hydrocodone and alprazolam in specimens submitted for toxicology evaluation.
According to the NTSB medical officer, hydrocodone has shown to have a negative effect on psychomotor task and performance for up to 6 hours after the ingestion of twice the typical single maximum dose of medication. The level of hydrocodone reported in the pilot's blood was more then 50 times the level expected about one and a half hours following a typical single maximum dose of medication.
The medical officer further reported that alprazolam has shown to impair performance of many cognitive and psychomotor tasks, in doses as low a 0.5 mg for the first 4-6 hours after use. The level of alprazolam reported in the pilot's blood was consistent with more than a 1 mg dose within the previous 2 hours.
The wreckage was released on January 18, 2007, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.