HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On April 7, 2009, at 1158 eastern daylight time, a Grumman American AA-1B, N8998L, registered to Good Shepherd Community Services, and operated by the certificated airline transport pilot (ATP), crashed into a field in Chesnee, South Carolina. The personal local flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The ATP pilot was killed and the airplane was substantially damaged. The flight departed Fairview Airport (33A) Landrum, South Carolina, about 1130.
According to a witness, he heard a small airplane coming over his house "that was low." He looked for it and watched it as it went over. "It sounded like the engine was running kind of slow, as I watched. As he went over his wings were going side to side. He turned around [and] I watched [as] he headed back toward the house again. His engine went dead [and] he started going down, I knew he was coming down too fast he went out of sight [and] I heard [something] like a car crash." I told [my] wife to call 911.
The pilot, age 64, held an FAA Airline Transport Pilot certificate for airplane single- and multiengine land, last updated on January 26, 1995, and a third-class airman medical certificate issued May 8, 2008, with no limitations. The pilot's logbook was not recovered for examination. On the pilot's most recent medical certificate he reported his total civilian flight hours as 11,420.
The two-seat, low-wing, fixed gear airplane, serial number (S/N) AA1B-0448, was manufactured in 1974. It was powered by a Lycoming O-235-C2C, 108-hp engine and equipped with a McCauley Model SCM7154, S/N G11421, aluminum, fixed pitch propeller. A review of the airplane’s logbook revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on August 1, 2008 at a tachometer time of 2,274.0 hours. The tachometer was observed at the accident site, and displayed a total time of 2,294.6 hours.
A review of recorded data from the Greenville Downtown Airport, Greenville, SC (GMU) automated weather observation station, elevation 964 feet, revealed at 1153 conditions were as follows: winds from 320 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 15 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, cloud condition, broken at 6,500 feet above ground level, and altimeter 29.82 inches of mercury.
Examination of the wreckage onscene showed that the airplane impacted the ground in about a 35-degree nose down attitude, on a heading of 270 degrees magnetic. One propeller blade and the lower third of the engine were imbedded into the ground about 1 foot. The engine firewall was displaced aft into the cockpit and pilot's occupied space. The rudder pedals were displaced aft and imbedded into the cabin floor. The pilot's yoke was separated from the control column and the control column was jammed in the full aft position. Cockpit instrumentation was dislodged from the instrument panel, and lying loose in the cockpit, attached only by electrical wires and tubing.
The ground impact scar was about 12 inches in length. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage and had leading edge accordion style damage the full length of both wings. The carry-through tubular wing spar had rotated within the cabin about 45 degrees relative to the airframe and 90 degrees relative to the wings. The empennage had folded forward, crushing and separating the cockpit ceiling. The pilot's right side seat belt attachment to the floor "D-ring" had failed. All flight controls remained attached and were undamaged. Flight control continuity was established from all of the control surfaces to the cockpit. The flaps were in the retracted position.
Examination of the 2 wing fuel tanks found that each fuel tank held a maximum of 12 gallons of fuel each. Of those 12 gallons, 11 gallons were usable. Examination of the fuel tanks found that they were not breached or damaged. The right fuel tank was drained into a 5-gallon fuel can. The amount of fuel recovered was approximately 3 gallons, of which 2 gallons was usable. The left fuel tank was also drained into a 5-gallon fuel can. The amount of fuel recovered was approximately 1.5 gallons, of which .5 gallon was usable. The fuel selector was observed in the off position.
Examination of the rudder found that the beacon light had separated during the impact sequence. Further examination of the rudder found that the rudder counter weight was missing. Examination revealed that at one time the airplane had been painted and that the rudder counter weight had not been reinstalled since it was painted. Examination of the left and right stabilizers found them to be intact with only minor surface damage noted.
Examination of the empennage found that the skin on both sides was concaved and distorted.
Examination of the landing gear found that it was fixed. The two main gear and the nose gear were observed folded aft. The main gear remained attached to the carry-through wing spar, and sustained minimal damage.
As first viewed, the engine was lying upright about 30 degrees nose down and partially buried in the soil. The engine remained attached to the tubular engine mount. Some of the mount tubes were bent and the engine was displaced aft and was indented into the firewall. The vacuum pump, engine driven fuel pump, carburetor, and starter were impact damaged and partially separated from the engine. The alternator was impact damaged. The exhaust muffler and the induction air box were crushed.
The propeller remained partially attached to the crankshaft flange. The spinner was crushed and twisted. The crankshaft flange was bent. As first viewed, one blade was visible above the surface of the terrain and appeared undamaged. The other blade was bent under the engine. That blade was bent, twisted and was missing about 2 inches of the blade tip. It also exhibited scratches at 45 degrees to the chord line.
The engine was removed from the airframe, suspended from a lift and partially disassembled to facilitate the examination.
The carburetor was fractured across the throttle bore and partially separated from the engine. The mixture control at the carburetor was in the full rich position and the cockpit control was fully forward. The throttle control was in a mid-travel position at the carburetor and fully forward in the cockpit. The carburetor heat control remained attached to the airbox. The airbox was crushed. The foam air filter was in place. A liquid with an odor consistent with that of aviation gasoline (hereafter referred to as “fuel”) drained from the carburetor fuel inlet fitting when it was tilted to remove it from the engine. The carburetor bowl screw safety washers were in place, the screws were secure and there was no evidence of fuel stains on the bowl. The bowl halves were separated and about .5 inch of fuel was found in the bowl. Water indicating paste did not indicate the presence of water. The brass floats moved freely and the metering needle was in place. The floats exhibited indentations on the sides consistent with hydraulic crushing from impact forces. No indication of burnished spots on the sides of the floats was noted. No obstruction was noted in the main metering nozzle and no contaminants were observed on the fuel inlet screen.
The engine driven fuel pump was separated from the engine and fractured between the pumping assembly and the mounting flange. Fuel drained from the pump when it was tilted on its side. The electric auxiliary fuel pump was removed from the firewall and partially disassembled. Fuel was found in the pump and no contaminants were observed in the filter.
The magnetos were removed from the engine and turned by hand. Both magnetos produced spark from all four electrode towers. The spark plugs were removed and exhibited gray coloration and normal wear. The ignition harness was impact damaged. The starter was impact damaged and separated from the engine.
The alternator was impact damaged and remained attached to the engine. The alternator belt was present but broken. The vacuum pump was fractured and partially separated from the engine. When the pump was partially disassembled, the carbon vanes were observed to be unbroken. The carbon rotor was fractured.
The oil dipstick and dipstick tube were separated from the engine and found about 6 feet forward of the engine. Oil drained from the engine when the oil suction screen was removed. Oil was pumped from the engine-to-oil cooler fitting as the engine was turned by hand. The oil pressure and suction screens were observed to be free of metallic contaminants. No damage was noted to the oil cooler and the oil cooler hoses were intact and secure.
The engine was turned by means of a tool inserted into the vacuum pump accessory drive pad. Suction and compression were observed at all 4 cylinders. Continuity of the crankshaft to the rear gears and to the valve train was confirmed. The interiors of all 4 cylinders were examined using a lighted borescope. Moderate rust pitting was observed on the cylinder walls but no other anomalies were noted.
No indications of pre-impact malfunction of or damage to the engine were observed.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on April 8, 2009, by the Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office, Spartanburg, South Carolina. The autopsy findings included, "Closed head and multiple body trauma secondary to an airplane crash.” Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report indicated that there was no carbon monoxide or cyanide in the blood, and no ethanol detected in vitreous. However, cetirizine was detected in the liver and blood, diphenhydramine detected in liver, 0.015 (ug/ml, ug/g) diphenhydramine detected in blood; 0.523 (ug/ml, ug/g) phenobarbital detect in blood, 0.477 (ug/ml, ug/g) phenobarbital detected in liver, zolpidem detected in liver, and 0.028 (ug/ml, ug/g) zolpidem detected in blood.
According to the pilot’s wife, the pilot was seeing a Doctor for either a bladder or kidney infection. The Doctor had prescribed were: 500 mg Ciprofloxacin 20 tabs, there were 10 tabs left in the bottle. Ambien 12.5 mg, 7 pills were prescribed, 3 were left, 500 mg Levequin 5 tabs, 1 was left. She also stated that he was taking Zertec OTC, for allergies.
The pilot’s personal medical records documented constant urinary symptoms in the month prior to the accident. Urgent care facility notes dated March 10, 2009, indicate that the pilot had urinary symptoms “for 10 days” and that he was prescribed ciprofloxacin and tamsulosin. An urgent care facility prescription list dated March 17, 2009, indicates the prescription of levofloxacin, zolpidem, and a combination medication containing phenazopyridine, butabarbital, and hyoscyamine. Urologist’s notes dated March 18, 2009 indicated that the pilot had to “get up about every hour to two hours” at night and noted the dispensing of a combination medication containing methenamine, phenyl salicylate, methylene blue, benzoic acid, and hyoscyamine sulfate. There were no indications in the records of any prescriptions for medications containing phenobarbital.
The autopsy report indicated that there was “very little blood” in the vascular system. The source of the blood submitted for testing at the FAA toxicology laboratory was not noted.