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On November 6, 2006, approximately 1130 mountain standard time, an Air Tractor AT-502A, single-engine agricultural airplane, N1541T, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering during an aerial application near Deming, New Mexico. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to Southeastern Aerial Crop Service, Inc., Fort Pierce, Florida, and operated by M and M Air Service, Inc., Beaumont, Texas. 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 departed a private airstrip near Deming, New Mexico, at 1122.
According to the operator and witness information, the pilot was applying dry chemical to a field. After refueling and reloading dry chemical, the pilot departed for the second flight of the day. A rancher, who owned the field the pilot was spraying, was in contact with the pilot via hand-held radio. The pilot and rancher discussed the terrain and application flight paths. The pilot elected to start the application at the top of a ridge and fly downhill. The pilot reported that the downhill pass felt okay, and he was going to make the second pass up slope. The up slope application pass was successful. The rancher then observed the airplane climb to about 500 feet above ground level over a saddle gap between two 6,300 foot ridges, and the airplane began a turn back to the field. Subsequently, the pilot reported over the radio that he was " in a bind and was going to crash." The rancher then observed the airplane "pitch over abruptly and enter a tight spin." The airplane made three turns prior to impact with terrain. The airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine airplanes and rotorcraft. The pilot was issued a second-class medical certificate on February 7, 2006, with a limitation for corrective lenses. According to the operator, at the time of the accident the pilot had accumulated approximately 27,000 total flight hours and 5,000 hours in the make and model accident airplane.
The 1992-model Air Tractor AT-502A, serial number 502A-0173, was a single-engine, low wing, fixed landing gear, agricultural airplane. The airplane was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45R (serial number PCE 84123) engine, rated at 1,170 horsepower, and a 5-blade Hartzell propeller. The airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate and was certificated for restricted category operations. The airplane's current registration was issued on April 14, 2000.
According to the operator, the airplane underwent its most recent inspection on September 1, 2006. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated 7,049 total hours, and the engine had accumulated 9,396 total hours and 1,740 hours since major overhaul.
At 1153, the Deming Municipal Airport, Deming, New Mexico, automated surface observing system, located approximately 10 miles southeast of the accident site, reported the wind from 080 degrees at 12 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point minus 6 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.22 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to information provided by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector and a representative from Air Tractor, Inc., the accident site was located on hilly terrain approximately 5 miles north of the private airstrip. A global positioning receiver recorded the location as 32 degrees, 33.171 minutes north latitude and 107 degrees 44.898 minutes' west longitude at an elevation of approximately 5,960 feet. The accident site was contained to an area approximately 60 feet in diameter. The main wreckage came to rest on a northwesterly heading approximately 30 to 40 feet from the initial impact point.
Examination of the airplane was limited due to the resting position of the wreckage and post-impact fire damage. All flight control surfaces were found within the accident site. The forward and mid fuselage tubular sections were bent and fractured. The cockpit, inboard portion of the right wing, and left wing were destroyed by fire. The main wing spars were crushed aft toward the rear spar. The empennage was partially consumed by fire, and the flight control surfaces remained attached to their respective attach points.
The engine remained attached to the mount ring. The propeller reduction gearbox was separated and located approximately 50 feet forward of the main wreckage. The propeller output shaft was fractured, and the propeller hub contained three blades. Two blades were separated from the propeller hub and found adjacent to the main wreckage. The blades exhibited "S" bending and "extensive damage."
Flight control cable continuity could not be established due to the position of the airplane and damage from the impact. All flight control surfaces control remained attached to their respective hinges. The inspection of the wings revealed that the aileron control cables were attached to their respective aileron bellcranks. The rudder control cables were found attached to the rudder horn and the rudder pedal brackets were found installed. The rudder pedals and cable attach brackets were consumed by fire. The flap control system was consumed by fire. The flap torque tube was found and examination revealed the rod ends of the flap push tubes were installed.
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the University of New Mexico Medical Examiner's Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on November 8, 2006. Specimens for toxicological tests were taken from the pilot by the medical examiner. According to the autopsy, the cause of death for the pilot was blunt force trauma.
The Federal Aviation Administration's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Lab, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, examined the specimens taken by the medical examiner. Toxicological tests performed on the pilot were negative for all screened substances.
A post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. No evidence of pre-impact fire was noted.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on November 7, 2006.