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On January 12, 2008, about 1538 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172L, N7100Q, registered to Pinellas Pilots Association, operated by a private individual, experienced an in-flight loss of control and crashed into Tampa Bay, Clearwater, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 91 personal flight from Venice Municipal Airport (VNC), Venice, Florida, to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE), Clearwater, Florida. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private-certificated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The time of departure from VNC was not determined.
Earlier that day, the flight departed PIE and proceeded to VNC where the airplane was secured. The flight departed VNC to return to PIE, and at 1532:43, the pilot contacted PIE air traffic control tower (ATCT) and advised the controller that the flight was 8 miles southwest, inbound to PIE. A discrete transponder code was assigned (0111), and the flight was radar identified. The controller instructed the pilot to fly heading 050 degrees, and to expect a left downwind for runway 22, which he acknowledged. At 1535:26, the controller instructed the pilot to resume his own navigation, enter left downwind for runway 22, provided the wind, and advised of a departing airplane. The pilot again acknowledged that the intended runway was 22. At 1536:57, the controller instructed the pilot that the flight was cleared to land on runway 22, to hold short of runway 17L, and the wind was from 220 degrees at 11 knots. The pilot acknowledged that he was cleared to land on runway 22. Review of recorded radar data replay revealed the airplane flew a heading that was consistent with a downwind leg for runway 22, but turned to the left before the approach end of it and flew towards runway 27. At 1538:04, the controller questioned, "eh zero zero quebec verify ah you’re lined up for runway 22", to which the pilot replied, "zero zero quebec sorry about that." There was no further transmission from the pilot.
A witness who was located on a ramp at PIE reported first seeing the airplane in a nose-low attitude, then saw it bank to the right an estimated 90 degrees of bank. The airplane then rolled to the left and entered a 45 degree left bank, and then rolled to a wings level attitude. The airplane pitched up 10-15 degrees, then stalled, and descended in a nose-low attitude. He noticed the airplane began the start of a right turn, but he then lost sight due to obstructions.
The controller who was in contact with the accident pilot and asked if he was lined up for runway 22, reported seeing the airplane make a, "…sharp right turn towards runway 22. I saw [the airplane] stall and go into the bay east of the approach end of runway 22." One controller who was undergoing training at the ground control position reported seeing the airplane "stall then nose dive into the bay." Another controller who was also being trained at the ground control position reported seeing, "the aircraft had stalled and was going down into the bay."
The pilot, age 31, was the holder of a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating, issued on August 9, 2004, and a third class medical certificate with no medical restrictions, issued on September 12, 2005.
NTSB review of the pilot’s logbook, which began with an entry dated September 23, 2002, and ends with an entry dated October 6, 2007, revealed he logged a total time of 171.7 hours, of which 107.4 hours were as pilot-in-command. His first logged flight in the accident airplane was on July 12, 2005. Including that flight he logged 55 flights in the accident airplane over a total of 80.4 hours. The aircraft’s flight log sheet did not reflect any flights by the pilot between the last flight logged in his pilot logbook, and the accident date. His last flight review in accordance with 14 CFR Part 61.56 was performed on August 14, 2006.
The airplane was manufactured in 1972, by Cessna Aircraft Company, as model 172L, and was designated serial number 17260400. It was certificated in the normal and utility categories, and was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2D 160 horsepower engine, and a fixed pitch McCauley 1C160/DTM7553 propeller.
Review of the airplane maintenance records revealed the airplane was inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on April 25, 2007. The airplane total time at that time was 3,800 hours. An overhauled engine was installed in the airframe during the annual inspection, and as a result, a 0 time tachometer was installed. The maintenance records further indicate that the airplane was last inspected in accordance with a 50-hour inspection on January 4, 2008. The airplane total time at that time was 4,020 hours and the engine time since major overhaul was 220.0 hours.
According to several co-owners of the accident airplane whom flew it 2 days before the accident date, no discrepancies were noted. One pilot reported that "’00Q performed with the same high level of dependability, responsiveness and stability that it had routinely for me over the past seven years." Another pilot who flew the airplane on a 1.0 hour flight the day before the accident date reported the "airplane performed perfectly."
A surface observation weather report (METAR) taken at PIE at 1535, or approximately 3 minutes before the accident, indicates the wind was from 210 degrees at 11 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, few clouds existed at 2,600 feet. The temperature and dewpoint were 26 and 20 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 29.91 inches of mercury (Hg).
The pilot was last in contact with PIE ATCT; there were no reported communication difficulties.
The St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is equipped with runways 17L/35R, 04/22, 09/27, and 17R/35L.
No airport security video was located depicting the accident sequence.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed in Old Tampa Bay; however, it was moved towards shore during rescue efforts. When first viewed by NTSB, the wreckage was located in approximately 6 feet of water approximately 87 degrees and 822 feet from the approach end of runway 22.
Examination of the airplane following recovery revealed all components necessary to sustain flight remained secured to the airplane. The engine remained attached to the airframe and the propeller remained attached to the engine. The firewall was displaced aft approximately 14 inches, and also displaced to the left approximately 9 inches. The bottom of the fuselage at the firewall was crushed aft 14 inches and also crushed up approximately 14 inches. The pilot’s door was separated but recovered. The windscreen was broken into numerous pieces, but there was no evidence of a bird strike on any portion of the recovered windscreen pieces, or to any portion of the airplane. Flight control cable and/or push pull rod continuity was confirmed for roll, pitch, and yaw. The flaps were extended approximately 15 degrees, and the elevator trim tab was positioned approximately 10 degrees tab trailing edge up, or airplane nose down.
Examination of the cockpit revealed the throttle was approximately 1 inch from full open, the mixture control was full rich, and the carburetor heat was in. The primer was in and locked, and the ignition switch was in the both position. The elevator trim indicated approximately ¼ inch above the takeoff arrow. A portable global positioning system (GPS) receiver was mounted to the pilot’s control yoke; it was retained for further examination. The airspeed indicator was indicating 60 knots. The floor boards forward of the pilot and co-pilot’s seats were displaced up.
The cabin structure was not compromised. The rear bench seat was separated at all attach points, and the seat bottom was deflected down. The seatback of the rear bench seat remained attached. All lapbelts except the left rear seat were found unclasped; all lapbelts unclasped easily when tested by hand.
The engine was removed from the airframe, placed on a test stand, and the left magneto and ignition harness were replaced due to salt water immersion. The carburetor and propeller remained attached to the engine for the engine run. The engine was started and operated to approximately 2,300 rpm; normal oil pressure was noted. Following the engine run, both magnetos were placed on a test bench and found to operate normally.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examinations of the pilot and passengers were performed by the District Six Medical Examiner’s Office. The cause of death for all was listed as drowning, with a contributory condition of blunt trauma listed for all.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (Bioaeronautical Laboratory), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and also by Pinellas County Forensic Laboratory (Pinellas Laboratory), Largo, Florida. The Bioaeronautical Laboratory toxicology report indicated the results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs. An unquantified amount of Ibuprofen was detected in the submitted urine specimen. The Pinellas Laboratory toxicology report indicated the results were negative in vitreous fluid for volatiles, negative for carbon monoxide, and also negative for the drug screen.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the right front seat passenger by the Pinellas Laboratory. The results were negative for all tests. Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the rear seat passenger by the Bioaeronautical Laboratory and also by the Pinellas Laboratory. The results by the Bioaeronautical Laboratory were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles. The results by the Pinellas Laboratory were negative for carbon monoxide, and volatiles.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane was fueled prior to the start of a flight on January 10th, and then operated on 2 separate flights totaling 1.6 hours. After the second flight, 15.5 gallons of fuel were added reportedly bringing the fuel level to within 1/4 inch of the top of the filler neck. The airplane was not operated between the fueling in which 15.5 gallons were added and the accident pilot’s operation of the aircraft. The average fuel consumption for the 2 previous flights was calculated to be approximately 9.7 gallons-per-hour (gph).
The airplane was equipped with a recording hour meter, and a "Hobbs Sheet" for each month which documented date, pilot name, hour meter readings at start and end of each flight, and total flight duration. The hour meter reading at the start of the pilot’s flight was 3,677.1, and the hour meter reading at the time of the accident was 3,678.9, or an elapsed time of 1.8 hours.
Weight and balance calculations were performed to determine the airplane weight and center of gravity at the time of the accident. The calculations used the airplane’s empty weight (1,434.4 pounds), empty weight center of gravity (CG) 38.2, and the weights of the pilot (269 pounds), right front seat passenger (218 pounds), and rear seat passenger (304 pounds) from the autopsy reports. The occupant location was based on information provided by Pinellas County Sheriff Department. The calculations also included fuel consumption for 1.8 hours flight duration (approximately 105 pounds) subtracted from a total usable fuel load of 204 pounds. The calculations did not include the undetermined weight of items found in the wreckage consisting of headsets, a step stool, and pilot bag. The calculations indicate that at the time of the accident, the weight and CG were approximately 2,324 pounds and 42.92 inches aft of datum, respectively.
According to airplane type certificate data sheet, the design gross weight in the normal category is 2,300 pounds and the gross weight CG limits are 38.5 to 47.3 inches aft of datum.