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On April 25, 2007, approximately 1217 central daylight time, a Cessna 182R, N6277E, was destroyed after impacting terrain while maneuvering near Rachal, Texas. The airplane was registered to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), of Washington, D.C. The certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the routine air patrol mission, which was conducted as a Public Use flight. No flight plan was filed. The local flight departed the McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE), McAllen, Texas, about 0623.
The aircraft departed the CBP McAllen Air Unit at MFE. The intended mission was to provide air support for ground units along the Texas-Mexico border. At approximately 1116 U.S. Border Protection agents called the aircraft to provide air support; the aircraft arrived on scene at approximately 1130. The pilot circled the area and relayed observed positions to units on the ground.
According to a border patrol officer who witnessed the accident, the airplane was orbiting the area in a counterclockwise direction prior to observing it bank steeply to the left, followed by a bank to the right before nosing into the ground. The witness further reported that he felt "lots of wind gusts," and that the steep bank he observed was when the airplane was flying downwind. The witness stated that the engine "sounded good," was approximately 600 feet to 800 feet above the ground during its orbits, and was descending while orbiting. The witness further stated that the post-crash flames were from the south, and that the last [radio] transmission was just prior to the airplane's steep left bank. The witness reported that he observed the airplane's flaps were in the UP position.
A second witness to the accident, also a border patrol officer, reported that the airplane had orbited the area for 30 to 40 minutes when the pilot radioed, "They're at the bottom of my left wing." The witness further reported that the "buzzing" of the engine was constant at all times, and that the engine had a "constant purring." The witness stated that he observed the airplane orbit the area in a counterclockwise direction, but that he didn't see the bank angle of the airplane increase since he was not looking at the airplane. The witness further stated that the airplane was at a constant altitude and that he didn't hear any popping, backfiring, or missing of the airplane's engine.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane multiengine land. He also possessed commercial privileges with ratings for airplane single-engine land and rotorcraft-helicopter. Additionally, the pilot was type rated for A/BE-400, A/CE-500, A/DHC-8 and A/MU-300 aircraft.
The pilot was issued a second class medical certificate without limitations on September 5, 2006. The pilot had accumulated 4,041.3 total flight hours with approximately 276 hours in make/model and 35 hours in the last 30 days. The pilot's last annual proficiency evaluation was conducted on September 20, 2006.
The 1981-model Cessna 182R, serial number 18268356, was a single-engine, high wing, fixed tricycle landing gear, semi-monocoupe design airplane. The airplane was powered by a normally aspirated, direct drive, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, carburetor equipped, six-cylinder Teledyne Continental Motors O-470-U engine (serial number 820154-R), rated at 245 horsepower, and equipped with a two-blade constant speed propeller. The airplane was configured to carry a maximum of four occupants.
The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on July 5, 1983, and was certificated for normal category operation. A review of maintenance records revealed that the most recent annual inspection was performed on April 2, 2007, at a total airframe time of 12,117.3 hours. The engine was installed on the airframe on June 21, 2004, at a tach time of 0 hours. The most recent 100-hour inspection performed on the engine was conducted on April 3, 2007, at a tach time of 785.7 hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated a total time of 12,136.8 hours.
At 1225, the weather reporting facility for Edinburg International Airport (KEBG), Edinburg, Texas, located approximately 25 nautical miles south of the accident site, indicated wind 010 degrees at 17 knots with gusts to 25 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 32 degrees C, dew point 18 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.82 inches of Mercury.
At 1225, the weather reporting facility for Brooks County Airport (KBKS), Falfurrias, Texas, located approximately 28 nautical miles north of the accident site, indicated wind 360 degrees at 16 knots with gusts to 24 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 31 degrees C, dew point, 12 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.83 inches of Mercury.
At 1253, the weather reporting facility for McAllen Miller International Airport (KMFE), McAllen, Texas, located approximately 43 nautical miles south of the accident site, indicated wind 360 degrees at 19 knots with gusts to 26 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 33 degrees C, dew point 15 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.83 inches of Mercury. Additional remarks indicated the peak wind was from 350 degrees at 27 knots, and occurred at 1241.
The U. S. Customs and Border Protection agents that were in the vicinity of the accident site reported the weather as hot with gusty winds from the north.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site revealed the wreckage was located at an elevation of 266 mean sea level. The aircraft impacted sandy, flat, brush-covered terrain in a near vertical attitude. The impact created an engine ground impact signature located 18 feet 9 inches north of the main wreckage. The engine impact crater measured 13 inches in depth by 27 inches in diameter. The left and right wing impact marks measured 18 feet 3 inches and 17 feet 10 inches respectively when measured from the engine impact crater. Both wing impact marks were aligned in a perpendicular orientation relative to a straight line from the main wreckage to the engine impact crater.
The fuselage came to rest on a magnetic heading of 345 degrees. The tail cone separated from the fuselage and was observed inverted on top of the left wing root area. The left and right wing leading edge skins were compressed aft to the main spar. The engine was displaced aft and the center wing assembly main spar was observed on top of the #5 and #6 cylinders. The wings remained attached to the center wing assembly main spar at the forward attachment points; the aft attachment points were consumed by fire.
The left wing stall fence remained attached to the left wing, while the right wing stall fence was partially separated for the right wing and sustained impact and fire damage. The airframe was equipped with an aileron trim tab on the left aileron. The aileron trim tab push-pull rod remained attached to the trim tab but separated from the lower wing surface.
The right flap was consumed by fire. A section of the outboard left flap remained attached and appeared retracted. The flap actuator measured 0.15 inch, which equates to fully retracted flaps. Flap continuity was established from the flap actuator to the right flap bellcrank, and from the bellcrank to the left flap control surface through cable separations that displayed damage consistent with tension overload. Rudder, elevator,and elevator trim tab control cable continuity was established from the control surfaces to the forward cabin. The elevator trim tab actuator measured 1.0 inch, which equates to an approximate 10 degree tab-down position. Aileron control cable continuity was established from the control surfaces to the wing root areas where the cable ends displayed damage consistent with tension overload.
Fire consumed the cockpit/cabin environment. Two latched seat belt buckles were found in the wreckage. The seats and seat belt webbing were consumed by fire. The airspeed indicator and attitude indicator were found in the wreckage. The airspeed indicator was damaged by fire, with no reading available. The attitude indicator was damaged by fire and indicated an undecipherable degree of right bank.
The left and right fuel tanks were compromised. Fire consumed the fuel tanks, inboard wing areas, fuel selector valve, and fuel strainer. The carburetor was separated from the engine and sustained fire damage. The throttle and mixture levers operated normally when moved by hand.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed at the Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office, Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 26, 2007. The cause of death was reported as "Multiple blunt force injuries."
Toxicological samples were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for analysis. The results were reported as negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The engine remained partially attached to the engine firewall via various cables. The engine exhibited thermal discoloration and damage with the most severe damage at the rear of the engine. All four mount legs were fractured and all of the accessories were separated from the engine with the exception of the vacuum pump, oil pump, and propeller governor; the propeller was separated from the crankshaft propeller flange. The top spark plugs, oil sump, rocker box covers and oil pump were removed. The crankshaft was rotated by hand using a hand tool connected to the crankshaft propeller flange. Continuity was established to the rear of the engine. Thumb compression was obtained on the number two, three, four, and six cylinders. Cylinder number one was removed prior to rotating the crankshaft.
Both left and right magnetos were separated from the crankcase and exhibited severe thermal damage.
Both the exhaust system and induction system exhibited thermal discoloration and impact damage.
The ignition harness exhibited thermal damage with some fraying.
The top spark plugs were removed and examined. When compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug comparison card, the top spark plugs exhibited signatures consistent with normal wear.
The carburetor was separated from the engine and exhibited thermal and fire damage. The throttle and mixture levers actuated freely by hand from stop to stop. The carburetor was disassembled and the floats were found melted in the float bowl. The fuel screen was thermally damaged and free of debris.
The oil pump, which remained attached to the engine, was removed and examined. The oil pump would not rotate freely by hand and its cover would not separate from the pump.
The oil sump, damaged and crushed upwards, was breeched near the rear area of the component. The oil pick-up screen was crushed upwards and was clear of debris.
The oil filter was separated from the oil filter adapter and exhibited thermal damage.
The #1 and #5 cylinders were removed and visually examined. The cylinders exhibited thermal discoloration and a normal amount of combustion deposits was observed within their cylinder domes. Cylinders #2, #3, #4 and #6 remained attached to the crankcase and exhibited thermal discoloration. The cylinders were examined internally using a lighted borescope. A normal amount of combustion deposits was observed within each cylinder dome.
The intake and exhaust valve faces on all six cylinders exhibited normal operational signatures. The intake and rocker arms were intact and oil coated. The number two intake and exhaust rocker arms exhibited thermal discoloration. The number five intake and exhaust pushrods were bent.
The #1 and #5 pistons were intact and damaged. A normal amount of combustion deposits was observed on both piston heads. The rings were intact and free in their grooves, and both piston pins were intact. The #2, #3, #4 and #6 piston heads were examined using a lighted borescope. The piston heads exhibited a normal amount of combustion deposits.
The crankcase was intact and exhibited thermal damage focusing at the aft side of the crankcase.
The crankshaft propeller flange was intact and bent aft.
The camshaft was examined from the bottom side of the engine. The camshaft visually appeared to be intact and exhibited thermal discoloration.
The accessory gears were intact and undamaged. Portions of melted metal and debris were found within the accessory gear area.
The propeller governor remained attached to the engine and was intact. The control arm was separated from the governor. The propeller governor screen was intact and free of debris.
The propeller was separated from the crankshaft propeller flange and the propeller hub was fractured. Propeller blade #1 exhibited leading edge and blade face polishing. The blade was also slightly twisted. Propeller blade #2 was partially separated from the propeller hub and exhibited leading edge and blade face polishing. The propeller blade was curled forward near the blade tip. Trailing edge gouging was observed near the blade tip. Chordwise scratching was observed on the outboard area of the blade face. The blade also exhibited slight "S" bending.
The inspection of the engine failed to reveal any anomalies that would have prevented normal operation and production of power.
The US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine (CBP A&M) agency, reported that the pilot joined the agency in November 2003, at the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch as a pilot on the C-12 and DH-8 aircraft. The predominant type of flying at that time was in a "high altitude" environment. In August 2006, the pilot was transferred to the McAllen, Texas Air Unit, which operates "low-level" flights in support of local Border Patrol operations along the United States, Mexico border. After being assigned to the McAllen unit, the pilot began [flight] training on September 6, 2006, which consisted of two flights totaling 3.4 hours. On September 15, 2006, the pilot successfully passed a 1.2 hour evaluation flight. It was revealed that not all maneuvers listed on the pilot training grade sheets were accomplished during either training flight, or on the subsequent evaluation flight.