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On May 23, 2008, about 1020 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Beech V35B, N1886L, impacted trees and flat terrain near Fall River Mills, California. The private pilot/owner operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The pilot and three passengers were killed; there were no ground injuries. The airplane was destroyed in the post crash fire. The cross-country flight departed Little River Airport (LLR), Little River, California, about 0820 the morning of the accident, with a planned destination of Fall River Mills Airport (O89), Fall River Mills. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed; no flight plan had been filed.
According to the pilot's daughter, after departing LLR, an intermediate stop was made to pickup additional family members at the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport (STS), Santa Rosa, California, before continuing on to O89. The flight departed STS about 0900.
The pilot's daughter was interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC). She reported that the flight departed about 0820 from LLR. The plan was to fly to the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport, and pickup her husband and a family friend for the flight to O89. The airplane landed at 0845, and departed at 0900 for the flight to Fall River Mills. The pilot's daughter stated that they did not discuss weather. She also stated that her husband normally flew in the front right seat for weight and balance considerations, but he was not a pilot and did not pilot the airplane.
Witnesses reported that the airplane flew low over the Fall River Golf Course, and then banked to the right for landing at the airport. The landing gear and flaps were down. As the airplane was banking to the right it suddenly "dropped out of the air."
A review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman and medical records on file in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the 61-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane.
The pilot had been issued a third-class medical on January 26, 2007, with the restriction that he must wear corrective lenses. At the time of his medical examination, the pilot reported a total time of 3,150 hours, with 60 hours in the past 6 months. No personal flight records were recovered for the pilot; however, flight hours recorded in the aircraft logbook indicated that from January 1, 2006, to May 8, 2008, about 205 hours had been flown.
The airplane was a 1976 Beech V35B, serial number D-9895. A review of the airframe logbook revealed an entry for May 8, 2008, in which an annual inspection had been performed. The airframe logbook showed a recorded airframe total time as 3,979.7 hours and a tachometer time of 538.2 hours. Total airframe time on January 1, 2006, was recorded as 3,774.3 hours, with a tachometer time of 332.8 hours. Approximately 205 hours were flown since January 2006.
The airplane was installed with a single yoke, commonly referred to as a "throw-over yoke." The single control throw over arm was positioned to the left side, the pilot's side. According to the pilot's daughter, he flew from the left seat, and did not let others fly the airplane.
According to the FAA airworthiness records on file in Oklahoma City, in 1976, a Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) IO-520-BA engine had been installed on the airplane. A review of the engine logbook showed that on February 23, 1995, a TCM, IO-520-BB, serial number 285909-R specification number 12, a TCM zero time factory remanufactured engine, was installed on the airplane. A 100-hour inspection was also performed on May 8, 2008. At that time the recorded engine time was 1,224.1 hours since overhaul.
A fuel receipt obtained from LLR showed that the pilot had fueled his airplane on May 22, 2008, with 37.43 gallons of fuel.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT
The accident site was located about 1 mile south-southwest of the airport. It came to rest in a small sparse copse of trees, adjacent to a residential area. Investigators identified three trees that were assembled in a triangular pattern. The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a 75-foot tree; the northern tree. The FIPC's treetop had been broken off and came to rest near the main wreckage. Adjacent to the FIPC, about 50 feet to the south, was a 50-foot tree. About halfway up the southern tree was a piece of the right wing tip. Forward of the two trees was a third tree, oriented in between the northern and southern trees and located toward the east. The top of the third tree had been broken and splintered on the east facing side of the tree trunk. The top of the third tree also came to rest within the area of the main wreckage. The airplane came to rest northeast of the third tree oriented on a 045-degree magnetic heading. The empennage of the tree was located at the base of the third tree.
Investigators examined the airframe and engine on site. All flight control components were located at the accident site. The majority of the airplane had been destroyed in the post crash fire. All flight control cables remained attached to their respective fittings. The landing gear was in the down position, and the flaps were in an intermediate position.
The engine was manually rotated via the crankshaft flange, and cylinder compression, valve train and mechanical continuity was established. The right magneto had separated from its respective mounting pad, and manually rotated, with spark noted at all posts. The left magneto remained secured at its mounting pad, and when rotated produced spark as well. The upper spark plugs were removed, according to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug chart AV-27; they exhibited coloration consistent with normal operation and wear.
The propeller assembly separated from the engine. The hub was found behind the outboard portion of the right wing. Two of the three propeller blades remained attached to the propeller assembly. The third blade was located behind the left wing. One of the attached propeller blades had S-bending throughout the length of the blade. The other attached propeller blade had S-bending at the tip and chord wise scratching the length of the blade. The propeller blade that separated at the hub showed S-bending, with the separation point angular and granular with a 45-degree shear lip noted at the separation points.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Shasta County Sheriff's Department - Coroner Division, Redding, California, completed an autopsy on May 27, 2008. The manner of death was listed as accidental due to massive blunt force injuries.
The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot. Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for volatiles, and tested drugs. Carbon monoxide and cyanide testing were not performed.
Local sheriff's deputies reported that the weather at the time of the accident was overcast with light intermittent rain.
Alturas Airport (AAT), Alturas, California, the nearest weather reporting facility, was located 48 miles northeast of the accident site, at an elevation of 4,378 feet. A special meteorological terminal aviation routine weather (METAR) report issued at 1005 for AAT reported winds as variable at 4 knots; visibility 10 statute miles (sm); light rain; an overcast cloud layer at 1,700 feet; temperature 04 degrees Celsius; dew point 02 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 29.48 inches of Mercury.
At 1055, AAT reported winds from 340 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 sm; light rain; an overcast cloud layer at 1,500 feet; temperature 05 degrees Celsius; dew point 02 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 29.58 inches of Mercury.
The Fall River Mills Airport elevation is 3,323 feet. The airport is unattended and utilizes the common traffic advisory frequency of 122.8.