HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On December 16, 2006, about 1803 central standard time, a single-engine Bellanca 17-30A airplane, N39858, was substantially damaged during a forced night landing to Grand Lake O' The Cherokees following a loss of engine power near Jay, Oklahoma. The non-certificated pilot sustained minor injuries and the three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from the Mid-America Industrial Airport (H71) near Pryor, Oklahoma, approximately 1715.
According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), the pilot reported that he was taking his workers for a "joy ride around the lake" when the airplane's engine stopped producing power. The pilot stated that before the airplane touched down in the water, he asked a passenger to open the door to facilitate their exit once the airplane was in the water. The airplane impacted the water with the landing gear extended and the airplane nosed-over during the night water landing. The pilot was able to exit the airplane unassisted and swam to the shore while the three passengers remained in the airplane and subsequently drowned. The pilot reported to the OHP that he did not hold a pilot certificate and that he had not logged a flight in the past five months. The pilot further reported drinking two margaritas around 1400 or 1500.
A witness located near the lake reported observing the airplane flying in a southerly direction at an approximate altitude of 2,000 feet above the ground. According to the witness, the airplane then turned in an easterly direction and descended out of his view.
Another witness was fishing when he observed the accident airplane flying "low" over the lake. The witness stated "I thought I heard the motor quit. We could hear the wind off of the wings...We never heard the plane power backup." The witness further reported the he did not observe or hear the airplane impact the water.
A third witness reported that as she observed the airplane descending toward the lake, the engine "was not making any noise."
Before the pilot was transported to the hospital, a local law enforcement officer detected a "strong" smell of alcohol on the pilot's breath and that his speech was slurred. It was also reported that the pilot refused to allow hospital staff to draw blood samples in order to test for drugs and alcohol. The pilot was later forced to submit to a blood draw at 2340 and was arrested at 0000 for anticipated charges of three counts of first degree manslaughter.
A review of the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) records revealed that the pilot did not hold, nor had ever held a pilot or medical/student pilot certificate.
The NTSB Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) visited the pilot at the county jail in an attempt to conduct an interview. The pilot refused to discuss the accident.
Despite repeated attempts by the IIC, the pilot declined to submit a completed Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident Report Form (NTSB Form 6120.1). The pilot also declined to submit his pilot logbook for examination.
FAA records revealed that the pilot had purchased the airplane on March 21, 2006. The IIC contacted the airplane's previous owner. The previous owner, a certificated flight instructor (CFI), reported that he had instructed the new owner in the airplane for approximately 10-hours. However, he did not allow the new owner to solo the airplane because the new owner had not received a medical/student pilot certificate.
The 1972-model Bellanca 17-30A, serial number 73-30488, was a low wing, semi-monocoque airplane, with a retractable landing gear, and was configured for four occupants. The airplane was powered by a direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air-cooled, normally aspirated, six-cylinder engine. The engine was a Continental IO-520-K, serial number 209231-72K, rated at 300 horsepower at 2,850 rpm, and was driving a three-bladed constant speed Hartzell propeller.
The airplane's logbooks were not recovered during the course of the investigation.
According to airport personnel at H71, there were no records of fuel being purchased for N39858 during the 30 days preceding the accident. No other fueling records were located.
At 1756, the weather observation facility at Grove Municipal Airport (GMJ), near Grove, Oklahoma, located 12 nautical miles northeast from the site of the accident, was reporting the wind from 190 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear of clouds, temperature 68 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure setting of 29.84 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest partially submerged and inverted in Grand Lake O' The Cherokees approximately 200-feet south of the shoreline, in about 12-feet of water. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were approximately 36 degrees 29.42 minutes North latitude and 094 degrees 54.14 minutes West longitude, at an elevation of approximately 750 feet mean sea level (msl).
Once recovered, documentation of the wreckage was conducted at the Hi-Lift Marina by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.
A visual inspection of the airplane revealed damage to both wing flaps and the main landing gear. The lower fuselage aft of the firewall and the left wing inboard leading edge revealed structural damage. Five Bacardi alcohol bottles were found in the airplane. Four of the five bottles were found open.
Investigators manually rotated the engine via the propeller. The engine rotated freely and continuity was established to all cylinders and to the accessory case gears. Compression was established in each cylinder. Both magnetos produced spark to all post when rotated by hand. The vacuum pump drive shaft was found intact, and the vacuum pump turned freely when manually rotated.
The fuel pump was removed and the pump to gear coupler was found to be complete and undamaged. The fuel pump was tested by placing the inlet fuel line into water and turning the pump via an electric drill motor. When rotated, the fuel pump displaced water at a consistent rate.
The airplane's fuel system consisted of four separate fuel tanks for a combined total of 72 gallons of fuel. Each wing contained two fuel tanks; one main tank and one auxiliary tank. The fuel was directed to the airplane's engine via a main and auxiliary fuel selector.
The main fuel selector valve was found in the auxiliary position and the auxiliary fuel selector valve was found in the left auxiliary position. The landing gear and flaps were found in their extended positions. Control continuity was established to all of the airplane's flight controls.
Investigators siphoned all four of the airplanes fuel tanks. The right wing auxiliary fuel tank contained approximately one gallon of water. The right wing main fuel tank contained approximately three gallons of water and three gallons of a blue liquid consistent with 100 LL aviation fuel. The left auxiliary fuel tank contained approximately six and a half gallons of water and five and three-fourths gallons of a blue liquid consistent with 100 LL aviation fuel. The left main fuel tank contained approximately four and a half gallons of water.
The fuel tanks were visually examined and did not appear to be compromised.
According to the Fire Chief of the Lake Mont Shores fire department who was a first responder, he did not smell fuel or observe fuel in the water when he arrived at the accident site.
The examination of the airplane revealed no pre impact anomalies. The reason for the loss of engine power could not be determined.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation conducted toxicological testing on blood samples which were drawn from the pilot. The samples tested negative for blood alcohol.
The wreckage was released on December 19, 2006, to a representative of Hi-Lift Marina.