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On February 28, 2007, sometime after 1623 Mountain Standard Time, a single-engine, Ingraham RV-6, experimental airplane, N320TX, collided with terrain near the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The pilot, sole occupant received fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal cross-country flight.
Reportedly, a buyer had recently purchased the airplane and the pilot was ferrying the airplane from California to the new owner’s residence in Virginia, when the airplane was reported as overdue/missing. An Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued for the missing airplane and the Civil Air Patrol was notified. Despite aerial and ground searches, the airplane and pilot was not originally located.
A review of radar information showed the last radar hit of the airplane at 2323 GMT, at an altitude of 7,400 feet and at the coordinates of 32 00.39 N, 104 55.04 W.
An additional search by the New Mexico State Police, the first week of July, 2007, located the missing airplane near the Texas, New Mexico border in a remote area about 40 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate for airplane multi-engine land. Additionally, he held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane, single-engine (land and sea); helicopter and glider. He also held instructor certificates for airplane (single and multi-engine); glider and instrument – airplane. His second class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical was issued April 18, 2006. On the medical application the pilot reported that he had a total of 24,000 flight hours with 370 hours in the last six months.
The accident airplane was a RV-6, single-engine kit airplane, serial number 20083. The airplane was equipped with a modified Lycoming O-360 engine, and a Hartzell constant speed propeller.
The initial special airworthiness certificate; experimental-amateur built, was issued in August, 1989.
A Surface Analysis chart prepared by the National Weather Service (NWS) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) for 1700 February 28 showed a northeast-southwest oriented cold front extending through southeastern News Mexico to near El Paso, Texas.
Additionally, several In-Flight Advisories (AIRMETs) were in effect for the accident airplane’s route of flight for low visibility conditions, moderated turbulence, and surface winds in excess of 30 knots.
At 1651 CDT, the automated weather observation system at Guadalupe Pass, Texas, reported winds from 250 degrees at 53 knots gusting to 65 knots, 6 miles visibility in haze, a clear sky, temperature 61 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.54 inches of Mercury.
At 1553 MST, the automated weather observation system at Carlsbad, New Mexico, reported winds from 240 degrees at 29 knots gusting to 41 knots, 10 miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.49 inches of Mercury.
There were no reported communications from the pilot.
Review of the airplane's radar track shows the accident airplane on an easterly heading. The radar plots also revealed only minor changes in the aircraft’s altitude along its flight, until the radar track stops. The wreckage was found about 2 miles pass the last radar return and on the same heading.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft was located on an uphill slope just pass the bottom of a canyon. The area is described as open, with rocky terrain and short brush. All four corners of the aircraft were accounted for. The fuselage, wings, engine, landing gear and, empennage structure were identified along with all of the control surface structures. The engine was partially buried into the ground, and the leading edge/ribs of the aircraft were crushed in an accordion fashion. Additionally, the wreckage was found to be centralized in one area.
An examination of the aircraft wreckage was conducted by the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge (IIC) at Air Salvage of Dallas (ASOD) on 30 August, 2007.
The examination revealed that most of the cabin area had disintegrated during the accident sequence. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers and respective control surfaces; elevator/rudder, were still attached to the empennage section. The fuselage section was extensively crushed and buckled. Each of the empennage’s flight control surfaces counter-weights, were accounted for. The aircraft’s wing spar was intact and ran the length of the wings. Along the entire wing span both in front of, and aft of the main wing spar the wings displayed an accordion style crush.
The pilot and co-pilot control sticks along with the airplanes “push-pull” control tubes were found damaged and broken in a manner consistent with the impact. Examination of the flight control components revealed breaks and fractures consistent with overload separation. Control continuity was established from the rudder to the cabin area.
The airplane’s engine, which had separated from the fuselage, was examined. The engine displayed significant impact damage and the crankshaft could not be rotated. The engine cylinders were borescoped and no pre impact anomalies where noted. The engine accessories; prop governor, carburetor, alternator, starter, and magnetos, all exhibited extreme impact damage. The propeller blades were found separated from the propeller hub. Both propeller blades were deeply gouged and bent. The propeller’s hub remained attached to the crankshaft flange. The examination of the engine did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical anomalies.
No evidence of an in-flight fire was noted with either the fuselage or engine areas.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, by the Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico on July 9th, 2007. The medical examiner lists the cause of death as, "multiple blunt force injuries”.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
During the wreckage examination, a damaged handheld GPS unit was found. Due to the amount of damage to the unit, data was not able to be extracted.