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On December 19, 2006, at 0818 central standard time, a single-engine Cessna T210N airplane, N5343C, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while executing an instrument approach to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), near Austin, Texas. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Farmer Barnstormer Limited, of Wilmington, Delaware, and was operated by the pilot. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at the Hillsboro Municipal Airport, near Hillsboro, Texas, at 0733. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
Prior to departure, the pilot obtained a weather briefing and filed a flight plan with the Fort Worth Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), Fort Worth, Texas.
A review of air traffic control (ATC) communications revealed that as the pilot approached the Austin Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) area from the north, he received radar vectors for the instrument landing system (ILS)/DME RWY 17 approach to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
At 0802, an approach controller informed the pilot to expect the ILS/DME RWY 17L approach into Austin. The pilot acknowledged.
At 0807, the approach controller instructed the pilot to descend from an altitude of 6,000 feet mean sea level (msl) to 3,000 feet msl, turn to a heading of 210 degrees, and "join the localizer." The pilot responded, "Two one zero uh intercept uh localizer one seven..."
At 0810, the approach controller instructed the pilot to turn to a heading of 220 degrees and "join" the localizer. The pilot acknowledged.
At 0814, the approach controller instructed the pilot to descend to 2,500 feet msl, and the pilot acknowledged. About 3 minutes later, the approach controller stated, "N34C..I show you west of the localizer but it looks like you are correcting back." The pilot responded, "..34C, we're making adjustments." This was the last transmission received from the pilot.
A review of radar data revealed an instrument flight rules (IFR) target approaching the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport from the north. Examination of the last 14 minutes of radar data revealed the target was north of the airport about 30 miles from the end of runway 17L. At that time the target was at an altitude of 5,900 feet msl and at a ground speed of 146 knots.
The airplane continued to proceed toward the airport at an altitude of 5,900 feet. During the last 3 minutes of available radar data, the target began a series of left and right hand climbing and descending turns along the localizer course before initiating a descending right hand turn to the west before the data ended at 0818:58. At that time, the target's altitude was 1,900 feet msl, and at a ground speed of 173 knots.
A witness, who was a commercial pilot in hot-air balloons, was in his backyard located approximately .25-mile north of the accident site. He stated that he heard the sound of an airplane engine "revving up," so he looked toward the sky in the direction of the noise. The witness then observed the airplane as it exited the 500-600 foot overcast layer. He said the airplane was in a descending (45-degree nose down) turn (witness thought it may have been a left hand turn but was not certain). The witness added that "the aircraft continued an increasing arc of nose down as it went out of sight due to trees between my location and the crash site. The sound of the engine continued to rev. during the descent. The engine had a smooth consistent exhaust sound until it went silent from what I assumed was contact with the ground. Within seconds of the aircraft going out of my sight the engine noise went silent followed by the noise of impact." The witness responded to the accident site, where he met with two Travis County Sheriff's Department officers. The officers told him that there was a strong odor of fuel at the site, and that the witness needed to stay a clear distance away from the accident site. In addition, the witness stated that the horizontal visibility was obscured about 1 to 2 miles.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight. The location of the accident site was approximately 30 degrees, 25 minutes north latitude, and 97 degrees, 40 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical was issued in January 2005. At that time he reported a total of 3,805 hours. The pilot's personal logbook were not located during the course of the investigation. According to the pilot's flight instructor, his last flight review was completed during December 2004, and his last instrument competency check was completed in September 2006.
According to the pilot's son, his father owned a company and flew the accident airplane often for business purposes. He said that he had flown with his dad several times, including trips that were conducted in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). He described his father as a disciplined pilot, who maintained his currency level, and spared no cost in maintaining his airplane. The pilot had flown from Hillsboro to Austin on numerous occasions.
The Cessna T210N was a single-engine, 6-seat, high-performance airplane. Examination of maintenance records revealed that the airplane and the 6-cylinder reciprocating engine underwent an annual inspection on June 14, 2006, at a total aircraft time of 4,536.1 hours.
Weather reported at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, at 0833, included wind from 060 degrees at 5 knots, temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.21 inches of Mercury. The visibility was reported as 4 statute miles with mist, and a ceiling of 600 feet broken, with an overcast at 1,200 feet.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport runway 17L was a 9,000-foot-long and 150-foot-wide asphalt runway, which was equipped with a 4-light precision approach path indicator (PAPI) system, and standard 2,400 foot-high intensity approach lighting system with centerline sequenced flashers (ALSF2), but no runway end identifier lights (REIL).
The published inbound course for the ILS/DME RWY 17 approach was 173 degrees magnetic, and the decision altitude was 752 feet above mean sea level (msl). The airport elevation was 542 feet msl.
The published weather minimums for the LOC RWY 17 approach were a 400-foot ceiling and 1-mile visibility.
The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on December 19-20, 2006. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. The airplane came to rest in partially wooded terrain, on a magnetic heading of approximately 080 degrees, at a ground elevation of approximately 700 feet msl, about 13.5 miles north of the landing threshold for Runway 17L.
The initial impact point was an approximately 9-foot-wide impact crater. Imbedded in this crater were pieces of the propeller hub and several broken tree limbs/branches that exhibited 45-degree angular cuts with black paint transfer marks. An approximately 22 foot-long ground scar extended to the right of the impact crater, and was consistent with the length and shape of the airplane's wing. Embedded in the dirt near the end of this scar were pieces of green navigational lenses.
Approximately 100 feet forward of the initial impact crater was the main wreckage, which included the engine; the cockpit area, the fuselage, and the tail section. Approximately 60 feet forward of the main wreckage was the left, right and main wing spars. Found scattered along the wreckage path were all three propeller blades, portions of both wings, both doors, the cargo door, sections of seat frames, and sections of airframe.
Flight control continuity was established for all flight control surfaces from the control to the forward cockpit area. However, the aileron and flap cables were separated, but exhibited broom straw fractures, indicative to tension overload. The flap actuator was in the 0-degree position. The elevator trim tab was measured at 1.8-inches, which indicated a 10 degree tab up position and the landing gear were in the down and locked position.
The engine and its accessories sustained significant impact damage. As a result, the engine could not be rotated and continuity and compression were not established. The oil sump was crushed and pushed up into the engine. Both magnetos were damaged and could not be tested. The spark plugs and fuel nozzles were also damaged. The vacuum pump partially separated from the engine at the mating surface. The vanes had disintegrated from impact forces.
All three-propeller blades had sheared from the hub, which had separated from the engine. The crankshaft fractured two and half inches aft of the prop flange and exhibited rotational cracking around the circumference of the fractured surface. The fracture surface revealed 45-degree shear lips, indicative of overload. All three blades exhibited chordwise scratches on the cambered surfaces, leading edge gouging, torsional twisting, and s-bending.
The fuel manifold was disassembled, and a small amount of light blue colored fuel was present inside the cavity. The screen was absent of debris and water. The fuel pump was intact and rotated freely by hand. When disassembled, a small amount of fuel was present inside the pump chamber. The fuel selector was found set to the right fuel tank.
The airplane was also equipped with a panel-mounted Garmin 530 global positioning system (GPS), two Garmin transponders, and an Apollo MX 20 Real Time weather display. Due to damage sustained in the accident, these items could not be tested.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. The results were negative for alcohol, carbon monoxide, and illegal drugs. However, the testing did detect the drugs doxazosin (which had been prescribed for an enlarged prostate) in the kidney and liver, doxylamine (an over-the-counter antihistamine with sedative effects) in the kidney and liver, and trimethoprim (a prescription antibiotic) in the liver. No blood was available for testing.
According to a family member, the pilot had been complaining of headaches prior to the accident that the pilot thought may have been due to a sinus infection, and had been taking Nasonex (a prescription nasally inhaled steroid) regularly at the time of the accident. The family member also noted that the pilot had taken Alka-Seltzer Plus approximately 12 hours prior to the accident flight. The pilot's last application for Airman Medical Certificate in January 2005 had indicated the use of medications, but had not detailed the medications used.
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted on December 19, 2006, by the Office of the Medical Examiner of Travis County, Forensic Center, near Austin, Texas. According to the report, "...The cause of death could not be determined. This is, at least, in part due to the severe traumatic injury of the body with destruction of vital organs precluding their examination. In addition, from the investigative information, it is not clear whether [the pilot] was alive or dead as the plane descended to the ground."
The wreckage of the airplane was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on June 8, 2007.