WPR09LA263
WPR09LA263

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On May 22, 2009, about 2330 mountain standard time (MST), an experimental Lanham Lancair IV, N144L, collided with desert terrain near Seligman, Arizona. Both pilots operated the borrowed airplane under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. Both the private pilot and certified flight instructor were fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the night flight that departed Portland-Hillsboro Airport (HIO), Hillsboro, Oregon, at 1930, with a planned destination of Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.


According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident coordinator, the pilot had filed an IFR flight plan from HIO to SDL. Communications were normal and no emergency was declared by either of the pilots. The last contact with the flight was at 2330. An Albuquerque (ZAB) Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) controller had given the pilot a clearance to descend from flight level 21,000 (FL210) to 16,000 feet. The pilot read back the descent instructions. There were no further communications between ZAB and the accident pilot.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Department and Arizona Department of Public Safety located the accident site at 0500 on May 23.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Pilot

A review of FAA airman records revealed that the 39-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and power plant. The pilot held a second-class medical certificate issued on June 23, 2008, and it had no limitations or waivers identified. According to the FAA inspector, the pilot's last flight review was March 24, 2008.

No personal flight records were located for the pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (Safety Board IIC) obtained the aeronautical experience listed in this report from a review of the FAA airmen medical records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The pilot reported on his medical application dated June 23, 2008, that he had a total time of 1,200 hours, with 100 hours logged in the last 6 months.

CFI

A review of FAA airman records revealed that the 25-year-old pilot held a certified flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine land. He also held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and sea and instrument airplane. In addition, he also held a mechanic certificate with an airframe rating, and an advanced ground instructor certificate. The CFI held a first-class medical certificate issued on July 14, 2005, and it had no limitations or waivers identified.

No personal flight records were located for the CFI. The Safety Board IIC obtained the aeronautical experience listed in this report from a review of the FAA airmen medical records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City. The CFI reported on his medical application, dated September 7, 2007, that he had a total time of 450.2 hours, with 184 hours logged in the last 6 months.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane, N144L, was a 1997 experimental amateur-built Lanham Lancair IV, serial number 138. The special airworthiness certificate was issued on July 27, 1998. On August 20, 2008, a condition inspection was performed at an airframe total time of 654.3 hours. The airplane had a pre-buy inspection completed by the current owner of the airplane in October 2008; however, there were no aircraft total hours listed.

A Continental Motors TSIO-550-B (2), serial number 802037, powered the accident airplane. Total time recorded on the engine at the last inspection was 654.3 hours.

The airplane was equipped with a Hartzell propeller; model PHC-H3YF-1RF/f7490.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

A staff meteorologist for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) prepared a factual report for this accident and it is attached to the accident docket. The Radar Summary Chart for the time of the accident depicted rain showers across Arizona and the vicinity of the accident site. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite number 12 (GOES-12) infrared satellite imagery identified cumuliform clouds over the accident site with tops near 31,500 feet.

The closest weather observation station, Ernest A. Love Field Airport (PRC), Prescott, Arizona, was located about 38 miles southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 5,045 feet mean sea level (msl). Prescott has an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS), which reported the following weather conditions at 2253, as calm wind; 10 miles visibility; and ceilings broken at 6,000 feet and overcast at 8,000 feet. At 2353, reported wind was from 240 at 4 knots; 7 miles visibility; with light rain and ceilings broken at 5,500 feet and overcast at 7,000 feet. The temperature, dew point, and altimeter settings were the same at both recorded times; temperature 13 Celsius; dew point 12 Celsius; altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of Mercury. In the ASOS REMARKS section it reported that rain began at 2257; sea level pressure 1012.5-hPa; hourly precipitation 0.02 inches; temperature 13.3-degrees Celsius; dew point 12.2-degrees Celsius. The maximum 24-hour temperature was 17.2-degrees Celsius; 24-hour minimum temperature 12.8-degrees Celsius.

Pilot reports (PIREPS) recorded around the time of the accident indicated that several pilots encountered rain showers with several reports of light rime to mixed icing conditions between 15,000 and 19,000 feet. AIRMET Sierra and AIRMET Zulu encompassed the accident area and reported mountain obscuration in clouds and precipitation, and moderate icing conditions between 12,000 to 13,000 feet (the freezing level) and 25,000 feet.

The area forecast (FA) for Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC), identified an upper level low pressure system, with an extensive area of mid-to-high level moisture over the accident area, as well as weak upper level winds. The en route forecast for northern Arizona, indicated a ceiling broken between 12,000 to 14,000 feet with cloud tops around 31,000 feet that was expected until midnight, with widely scattered light rain showers and thunderstorms. The outlook from 0800 through 1400 MST was for visual flight rules (VFR) conditions to prevail with thunderstorms and rain.

The Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) issued for PRC, indicated that prior to departure at 1639, rain showers were in the vicinity of the station with temporary marginal VFR (MVFR) conditions expected until 2300. At the time of the accident the TAF called for variable wind at 4 knots; visibility better than 6 miles; with a broken ceiling at 8,000 feet above ground level (agl) (13,000 feet msl). At 2239, the issued TAF expected rain showers in the vicinity of the station through the period with a broken ceiling at 7,000 feet agl with temporary MVFR conditions in light rain showers with a broken ceiling at 3,000 feet agl until 0100. After the accident an amended TAF was issued at 0017 on May 23; expected rain showers and mist with a broken ceiling at 5,000 feet agl, and overcast at 7,000 feet.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Current Icing Potential chart for the time of the accident depicted the probability of encountering icing below 21,000 feet, and reached more than an 80-percent probability of icing conditions at 16,000 feet.

COMMUNICATIONS

At 2303, the accident pilot checked in with ZLA sector R8 controller, reported the flight was level at FL210, and he had just picked up an IFR clearance with Nellis Air Traffic Control Facility (NATCF). Two minutes later the sector controller advised of traffic, which the accident pilot acknowledged. At 2315, the sector controller instructed the accident pilot to contact Albuquerque center (ABQ) on 128.45. The pilot acknowledged the frequency change.

About 15 minutes later, ABQ sector 43 controller contacted the sector controller (R8). R43 advised the R8 sector controller that the accident airplane had dropped off his radar scope and he had issued the pilot a discretion descent to 16,000 feet; he further stated that he was no longer talking to the pilot. The R43 controller asked the R8 controller to check if the pilot had gone back to R8's frequency. At 2327, the accident airplane disappeared from the radar display. At 2333, the R8 controller radioed the accident airplane several times with no response; NATCF and the R43 controller also made several attempts to radio contact the accident pilot with no response.

Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) controllers were in contact with the pilot at 2232:25, when the pilot checked in reporting his altitude as FL210. The last contact Nellis had with the pilot was a few seconds later. The pilot was handed off to the R8 controller about 2301:25. The flight was about 8 miles southeast of Mormon mesa. At 2301:56, the R8 reported that the flight was under radar contact. From 2240:31 until 2305:17, there was no further contact between the Nellis controller and the accident pilot.

Flight Plan

The Safety Board IIC queried DUATS pertaining to a weather brief. DUATS reported that the pilot did obtain a weather brief from their company on May 22, 2009, at 0643, but did not file a flight plan with DUATS.

Radar

Initial information provided to law enforcement was that the airplane was identified on radar at a cruise altitude of 20,200 feet, with a descent to 13,700 feet; a rate of descent of 9,750 feet per minute at a time of 2326 hours.

The FAA provided recorded radar data; it identified a target near St. George, Utah, as the accident airplane. About 2300, the target was at a mode C reported altitude of 20,900 feet. The airplane's altitude varied plus and minus 100 feet for the next 25 minutes. At 2325:57, the target descended to 20,400 feet; 10 seconds later it gained 200 feet. At 2326:48, the target descended to 20,400 feet; 32 seconds later the target indicated 17,200 feet. Eight seconds later the last target occurred at a mode C altitude of 13,700 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was approximately 33 miles northwest of Prescott near Haystack Peak in the Prescott National Forest, at an elevation of about 5,800 feet. The accident site was in flat desert terrain surrounded by pinion pines and other native vegetation indicative of northern Arizona. The surrounding area trees were 50 to 100 feet tall. According to responding FAA inspectors, the airplane impacted the hard desert ground. The largest pieces of the airplane were about 1 foot in size. The airplane was mostly contained in a crater, and the largest identifiable pieces being the propeller assembly (about 20 feet away from the main wreckage), some engine components, landing gear, and seats. The FAA inspectors also reported that pieces of the airplane were in the surrounding trees.

Yavapai County Search and Rescue personnel identified a larger crater that was 6 feet long and about 4 feet deep. It appeared that the airplane impacted the ground in a right wing low attitude, and exited on a 45-degree angle coming to rest in the crate about 75 yards away; the debris path was about 100 yards in length from the first identified point of impact to the main wreckage.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Pilot

The Yavapai County Office of the Medical Examiner completed an autopsy on May 26, 2009. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries due to an aircraft crash.

The Forensic Toxicology Research Team CAMI, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot. Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for volatiles, and tested drugs in the muscle. Tests for carbon monoxide and cyanide were not performed.

CFI

The Yavapai County Office of the Medical Examiner completed an autopsy on May 26, 2009. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries due to an aircraft crash.

The Forensic Toxicology Research Team CAMI, Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the CFI. Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for volatiles, and tested drugs in the muscle. Tests for carbon monoxide and cyanide were not performed.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

An airframe and engine inspection took place at Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona, under the auspices of the NTSB. Continental Motors, a party to the investigation, was present at the inspection. According to an NTSB investigator, the limited airframe inspection was conducted as there were not enough identifiable airplane parts. The parts of structure he was able to identify were tubing, connecting rods, and push-pull tubes. These components were crushed, bent and fractured.

A visual inspection of the engine revealed varying degrees of impact damage. The engine was in several separated sections. The cylinders, crankcase, internal engine components, and accessories exhibited impact damage. Cylinder numbers 4, 5, and 6, separated from the engine. The cylinder heads for numbers 3, 4, 5, and 6 had separated from the cylinder barrels. The cylinder heads for numbers 1 and 2 had impact damage. The intact combustion chambers and piston heads exhibited a light layer of dark gray combustion deposits. Both magnetos had separated from their positions on the engine. The magnetos were not encased in the magneto housing; the components found were both of the magneto gear drives, a drive shaft and portions of ignition leads. The oil pump remained attached to a portion of the crankcase and camshaft. The cover plate was removed and the gears were undamaged with oil residue present. The oil scavenge pump housing sustained impact damage but remained attached to the starter adapter drive shaft. Both gears were visible and undamaged.

Two portions of the crankcase remained intact; one portion contained the aft section of the crankshaft with the number 5 cheek to the aft gear, also the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 connecting rods remained attached to the crankshaft. The other portion of the crankshaft contained the aft section of the camshaft; both of the lifters for the number 2 cylinder remained in the crankcase. There were no signs of abnormal wear or thermal distress on components. Four bearing halves located with the engine parts showed impact damage, but exhibited no signs of lubrication distress.

The starter separated from the engine and sustained impact damage to the housing, the starter adapter, starter mounting flange, drive shaft, and worm gear remained attached to the starter. The alternator separated from the engine and had impact damage. The accessory gears identified during the inspection exhibited impact damage, with the magneto drive gears showing corrosion deposits. The turbocharger sustained impact damage and separated into two pieces. Impact marks were identified inside the exhaust and compressor scrolls. According to the engine manufacturer representative these marks are consistent with an operating turbocharger at the time of impact. The vacuum pump was not located.

Investigators examined, the 3-bladed Hartzell propeller; two of the propeller blades separated from the hub. One of the detached blades exhibited leading edge gouges along with s-bending. The outboard third of the other detached blade had fractured and separated into several pieces. The third blade, which remained attached at the propeller hub, was bent forward with leading edge and tip gouges.

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