SEA08FA036
SEA08FA036

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 22, 2007, about 1130 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 177, N3459T, collided with trees and terrain approximately 1/2-mile northeast of Auburn Municipal Airport, Auburn, California. Sierra Vista Aviation Flying Club (SVAFC) was operating the rental airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and one passenger were killed; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local area flight. The pilot departed from Auburn about 0940.

An employee of Power Aviation observed the accident pilot the morning of the accident. He was having difficulty entering the secured ramp area and the employee assisted him. The pilot and one passenger then boarded the airplane and taxied for departure. A few moments later, the witness heard the airplane depart. The engine sounded even and there was no misfiring or engine roughness. He watched the airplane and noticed that the airplane had, "…a high angle of ascent and relative lack of forward airspeed." As the airplane continued to climb, the witness noted that the attitude of the airplane leveled out and it continued to climb while traveling in a westerly direction.

According to a witness who was working outside on her deck, she heard an airplane that seemed louder than normal coming over her house. She looked up and saw the accident airplane coming over her house very low and she indicated that "…it sounded like it was at full throttle and very low." Its wings were banked "sharply to the left" and its nose was pointed at the ground. The airplane then impacted the ground in a nose down attitude.

An additional witness, an aerobatic pilot, was playing golf at a nearby golf course. He saw the accident airplane in a nose-high attitude at a very low airspeed. It was flying a heading of about 360 degrees. He did not hear the engine power. The airplane then rolled first to the right, then to the left, and it sounded like full power was applied each time the airplane rolled. The third roll was to the right and the airplane "snapped on its back to the inverted position, nose down attitude." Before the airplane rolled to the right the third time, it sounded like power was applied with a short burst. The airplane then nosed down and the witness lost site of it behind some tall pine trees. The witness did not hear engine noise as the airplane descended.

According to personnel from SVAFC, the pilot had rented the airplane for a 2-hour segment the day of the accident. Personnel further indicated that the airplane was normally fueled to capacity following the last rental flight so it should have departed with full fuel.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 55, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land. He was issued a third class medical certificate on August 11, 2006. The pilot reported 85 hours total pilot time on the medical application. The pilot's logbook was not recovered for examination.

The pilot had joined SVAFC on October 2, 2007. Prior to that time, he had completed checkouts in the accident airplane (1.3 hours of dual instruction on October 1, 2007), and in a Cessna 172 (1.4 hours of dual instruction on September 22, 2007). The pilot had rented the accident airplane on October 11, 2007, for 1.7 hours. Excluding the accident flight, SVAFC did not have any additional rental records on file for the pilot.

The certified flight instructor (CFI) that flew with the pilot during the SVAFC check out flights provided a written statement. He reported that during the checkout, he reviewed the pilot's certificates and logbook, and discussed the pilot's flight experience. They spent about 1 hour on the ground discussing preflight and airplane differences compared to what the pilot had flown previously. The CFI believed that the pilot had been flying a Diamond airplane. He had previously been checked out in an older Cessna 172, but had less than 5 hours in that type of airplane. He had no previous time in the Cessna 177. The pilot was also new to the Auburn Airport.

The CFI further reported that the flight portion of the check out in each airplane included slow flight, minimum controllable airspeed, stalls (both power on and power off), steep turns, and simulated engine out requiring the establishment of best glide speed and going through the checklist to troubleshoot. Then, they returned to the airport, going over the preferred arrival and pattern entry procedures for Auburn. They also practiced takeoffs and landings in various airplane configurations. All of the pattern work was completed using runway 25.

The CFI indicated that he did not see anything that indicated the pilot would be unsafe or incapable of safely operating the checkout airplane. The CFI did note that during the flights, he advised the pilot that his stall recoveries should be more aggressive and that he should keep higher airspeeds during his approaches. The pilot corrected these deficiencies during the flights, and the CFI was satisfied with his performance.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The four seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (SN) 17700759 was manufactured in 1967. It was powered by a Textron Lycoming O-320-E2D 150-hp engine (SN L-20899-27A) and equipped with a McCauley model 1C172/TM7653 (SN 735430) fixed-pitch propeller. Review of copies of the maintenance records showed an annual inspection was completed January 17, 2007, at a total tachometer time of 2,782.04 hours. The last inspection, a 50-hour, was completed on October 4, 2007, at a tachometer time of 2,831.27. The time since major overhaul of the engine at this inspection was 848 hours. The tachometer read 2,855.26 hours during the wreckage examination. The Hobbs hour-meter was destroyed. The propeller logbook (logbook number 3) had incorrectly identified the propeller as model 1C172/TM2653.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest official aviation weather observation was taken at 1150 at Auburn. The following conditions were reported: winds from 290 degrees at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, sky conditions clear, temperature 57 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 42 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.09 inches of Mercury.

According to DOT/FAA/CT-82/44 Carburetor Icing Probability Chart, the pilot was operating in an ambient environment where serious carburetor icing could exist at glide power.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT

The airplane impacted trees and rocks approximately 1/2-mile northeast of runway 25, and 500 feet north of the final approach leg of the traffic pattern for runway 25 at Auburn. The airplane impacted in a nose-down attitude and the wreckage was confined to the impact area. The cockpit area was deformed, and the engine had been pushed aft into the cockpit area during the impact. All control surfaces remained attached to the structure. The outboard 3-foot portion was ripped from the left wing during the impact sequence and was suspended in the tree branches.

The airplane and engine were examined following their recovery from the accident site. The firewall and instrument panel were compressed aft. The roof structure and forward doorposts were separated. The fuselage remained intact and exhibited twisting and buckling throughout. The floorboard was crushed upwards and twisted. Both leading edges of the wings were crushed aft, and the left wing contained crush marks, similar in size and shape to trees at the accident site. The stall warning horn was tested and functioned normally. The pitot tube exhibited wood debris jammed into the inlet. The pitot tube was disassembled and exhibited no anomalies. The flap actuator was measured and according to the Cessna representative, was consistent with 0 degrees of flaps (fully retracted). The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses. Examination of the recovered airframe and flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.

The engine remained attached to the airframe and all of the mounts were intact. The two blades of the propeller were numbered 1 & 2 by the investigators for ease of identification. Propeller blade 1 was bent aft approximately 90 degrees about 8 inches outboard from the blade root. Slight S-bending and slight blade twisting was observed. Leading edge polishing was observed on the blade leading edge and there was a gouge on the leading edge about 4 inches from the blade tip. Propeller blade 2 was bent aft about 15 degrees five inches from the blade tip and exhibited leading edge polishing. Examination of the engine and system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Placer County Coroner completed autopsies on the pilot and passenger. The cause of death was attributed to blunt force trauma (immediate) to both occupants due to an airplane accident. FAA Forensic Toxicology testing showed that the results were negative for ethanol, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. The report stated 0.193 ug/ml brompheniramine, 0.022 ug/ml diphenydramine, and 2.872 ug/ml pseudoephedrine were detected in the blood, and brompheniramine, diphenydramine, and pseudoephedrine were present in the urine.

The Safety Board Medical Officer reviewed medical records from the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division. The pilot's most recent medical application indicated "No" for "Do you currently use any medication?" and for all items under "Medical History" including specifically "Hay fever or allergy." The laboratory results from the coroner's investigation indicated 1700 ng/mL pseudoephedrine, 28 ng/mL brompheniramine, and less than 25 ng/L diphenhydramine. Additionally, the Medical Officer reported that communication from the FAA Laboratory indicated that chest blood was used in the toxicological analysis.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A Safety Board investigator and a representative from Precision Airmotive examined and flow tested the carburetor at the manufacturer's facility. No mechanical anomalies were identified during the testing.

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