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On May 18, 2009, about 1801 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N738NN, registered to and operated by Aero Aviation LLC, Long Beach, California as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 local instructional flight and a Cessna 310P, N777AL, registered to and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 CFR 91 local personal flight, collided in midair about five miles south of Long Beach, California. The flight instructor and student pilot receiving instruction in the Cessna 172N were killed. The airline transport licensed pilot, sole occupant of the Cessna 310P was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for either flight. The Cessna 172N departed from the Long Beach Airport (LGB), Long Beach, about 1751. The Cessna 310P departed from LGB about 1720.
A witness, who was flying within the immediate area of the collision, reported that after crossing the coastline near Long Beach on a southerly heading he noticed a silhouette of an airplane, which appeared to be a Cessna 172 at his 10 to 11 o'clock position. The airplane appeared to be performing maneuvers and making turns in a counter-clockwise direction, followed by a turn in a clockwise direction. The witness continued to track the airplane due to its close proximity to his location. The witness altered his course slightly to the right, while continuing to monitor the Cessna's location. The witness stated that as he looked to his right while turning, he noticed another airplane entering the area from the west, traveling at a high rate of speed on an easterly heading. He stated that he was unable to see what kind of airplane it was and only saw a "black object" due to the sun being almost on the horizon.
The witness continued to watch both airplanes and noted the fast moving airplane was continuing on an easterly heading, while the Cessna 172 was still performing maneuvers on a southerly heading around the same altitude. Shortly after, the witness observed both airplanes collide and "immediately disintegrated into small pieces." The witness stated that the debris from both airplanes descended into the ocean. The witness contacted local air traffic control to report the collision and continued to circle the area of floating debris until first responders arrived.
Review of recorded radar data obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the Cessna 310P was maneuvering within a common practice area about 5 miles south of the Long Beach Harbor at altitudes from 3,000 feet to 4,700 feet msl. The data depicted the Cessna 172P departing LGB and remaining on a southerly course at an altitude of 3,000 feet msl while conducting a series of shallow left and right turns. At 1759:53, the 172N performed a left 360-degree turn to a southerly heading. The radar data revealed that the Cessna 310P was on an easterly heading at an altitude of 3,000 feet msl from 1759:25 until the collision. At 1801:16, the radar data depicted the two airplanes converging nearly perpendicular to one another about five miles south of the Long Beach Harbor breakwater wall.
The flight instructor of the Cessna 172N, age 32, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. He also possessed a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. A first-class airman medical certificate was issued on June 12, 2008, with the limitation that stated "must wear corrective lenses." The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 1,760 total flight hours. As of the pilot's most recent logbook entry dated May 8, 2009, he had accumulated 1,880.9 hours of flight time.
The student pilot on the Cessna 172N, age 32, did not hold a student pilot certificate. Review of his logbook revealed that as May 7, 2009, he had accumulated 3.7 hours of flight time.
The pilot of the Cessna 310P, age 54, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multi-engine land rating. The pilot also possessed a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land ratings. A third-class airman medical certificate was issued July 22, 2008, with the limitation that stated "must have available glasses for near vision." The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 3,070 total flight hours. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that the pilot completed his most recent flight review on December 31, 2008. As of the pilot's last logbook entry dated December 31, 2007, he had accumulated 3,377.6 hours of flight time.
The Cessna 172N, a four-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 17270109, was manufactured in 1977. It was powered by a Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine that was equipped with a McCauley fixed-pitch propeller. The Cessna 172N was painted white with blue and gray trim, extending from the forward area of the airplane aft to the empennage. Review of copies of maintenance logbook records showed an annual inspection was completed on December 5, 2008, at a recorded tachometer reading of 2,800.0 hours, airframe total time of 8,528.2 hours, and engine time since major overhaul of 200 hours. The most recent 100-hour inspection was conducted on May 11, 2009, at a tachometer time of 2,898.2 hours. The tachometer hour reading was observed at 2899.1 hours and a hobbs time of 6,495.5 hours.
The Cessna 310P, a low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 310P0141, was manufactured in 1969. It was powered by two Continental IO-470-VO engines that were equipped with two variable-pitch McCauley propellers. The Cessna 310P was painted white with orange and brown trim. Review of copies of maintenance logbook records showed an annual inspection was completed on May 11, 2009, at a recorded tachometer reading of 1,086.2 hours, airframe total time of 3,864.2 hours, left engine total time since major overhaul of 469.4 hours, and a right engine total time since major overhaul of 974.1 hours
A logbook entry for the left engine dated May 11, 2009, stated in part "Note: #6 Cyl replaced due to stripped exhaust studs during exhaust manifold removal."
A review of recorded data from the Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) at LGB revealed 1753 weather conditions were wind from 290 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 21 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.90 inches of Mercury.
Review of Sun and Moon Data from the US Naval Observatory revealed sunset was at 1949 and end of civil twilight at 2017. Using NTSB software, the sun was calculated to be on a 12.5328 degree angle above the horizon. The Azimuth to sun was calculated to be 280.4 degrees with an elevation of 20.5 degrees.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) initiated search and rescue operations and was assisted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The USCG suspended search and rescue operations on the afternoon of May 19, 2009. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department continued search operations using divers and sonar equipment. On the afternoon of May 20, 2009, Los Angeles County Sheriff divers located the Cessna 172N and the remains of the Cessna 310P about 5 miles off shore, submerged within about 80 feet of water. The Los Angeles County Sheriff continued their search efforts using sonar equipment on May 21, 2009 and May 22, 2009.
The wreckage of the Cessna 172N and portions of the Cessna 310P were located on the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean about five miles south of Long Beach Harbor breakwater wall within about 80 feet of water.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office conducted an autopsy on the flight instructor of the Cessna 172N on May 25, 2009.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the flight instructor of the Cessna 172N. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested, and had negative results.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office conducted an autopsy on the student pilot of the Cessna 172N on May 25, 2009.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the student pilot of the Cessna 172N. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested. The tests revealed that 38 (mg/dl, mg/hg) Ethanol was detected in the lung and 14 (mg/dl, mg/hg) Ethanol was detected in the muscle. An unspecified amount of Quinine was detected in the liver and kidney.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office conducted an autopsy on the pilot of the Cessna 310P on May 25, 2009.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot of the Cessna 310P. According to CAMI's report, the test was positive for "52 (mg/dL, mg/hg) of Ethanol detected in Muscle" and negative for drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Examination of the recovered wreckage of the Cessna 172N revealed that the outboard portion of the left main landing gear strut was fractured just inboard of the axle attach point. The left wheel assembly was separated from the landing gear strut and was recovered. An orange color material was observed on the bottom forward side of the left main landing gear strut about 6 inches outboard of the foot step. Lateral striations were observed throughout the bottom side of the left main landing gear strut leg from the inner bend outboard to the area of separation. The brown substance was similar in color to the brown paint observed on the recovered portions of the Cessna 310P. The left main landing gear wheel assembly was damaged with a portion of the inboard wheel hub separated.
Examination of the recovered portions of the Cessna 310P revealed that the left and right horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the empennage structure. The left horizontal stabilizer was buckled throughout. The left and right elevators remained attached to their mounts. The vertical stabilizer remained attached to the empennage and was displaced aft and to the right. The lower portion of the leading edge was separated from the lower forward mount upwards about 22 inches and was not located. About 30 inches of the vertical stabilizer leading edge remained attached to the forward spar and was crushed aft and to the right. Blue paint transfer was observed at the bottom of the remaining leading edge structure. The upper portion of the vertical stabilizer leading edge was separated and not located.
Blue paint transfer was observed on the left side of the vertical stabilizer, just aft of the forward spar, about 13 inches from the forward attach point upwards to about 28 inches. Blue paint transfer marks were observed on the left side of the vertical stabilizer about 9 inches upward from the rear attach point and from 13 to about 20 inches upward from the rear attach point, and extended forward about 4 to 5 inches. Blue paint transfer was observed about 7 inches forward of the rear vertical stabilizer spar and 17 to 22 inches upwards from the rear attach point.
The left side of the vertical stabilizer skin, about 20 inches to 36 inches was displaced and torn outwards. The inside of the vertical stabilizer skin exhibited impressions consistent with the left main landing gear tire grooves from the Cessna 172N about 36 inches upward from the forward attach point. The imprint was about 6 inches in length and 1/4 inch wide. The inboard groove on the separated left main landing gear tire from the Cessna 172N was measured to be about 1/4 inches wide.