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On July 25, 2009, at 1525 central daylight time, a Luscombe 8C, N37080, owned and piloted by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage on impact with terrain about 1/2 mile south of Beckerman Field Airport (5LL0), Mount Carmel, Illinois. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot was fatally injured. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight last departed from Henderson City-County Airport, Henderson, Kentucky (EHR) and was en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot landed at EHR to wait for the weather to improve. The pilot then departed but later returned to EHR because rain showers/convective activity. A fuel invoice from a fixed base operator at EHR had a time stamp of 1254 and indicated that the airplane was fueled with 13.4 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel.
A witness stated she was driving along route 15 heading towards Mt. Carmel when she saw a white colored airplane off to her front right side. The airplane headed towards route 15 then circled towards Mount Carmel. The airplane headed south and was then turning towards the north. The airplane never crossed route 15. The airplane was “rocking and tipping” and the witness thought it was a remote control airplane. She said that it appeared as if it was “going down.” When she first saw the airplane its altitude was "a little” above the trees. The airplane circled above the trees and she thought the airplane was trying to make a U-turn. The airplane was turning with one wing in the air and the other one was down. When the wings leveled, they began “rocking” and then the airplane nose pitched down. She didn’t see any smoke from the airplane.
A second witness who was approximately ½ mile east of the accident site reported that he first heard an airplane engine “sputter” followed by an engine “rev”. The airplane then went into a “steep” dive.
The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating on October 25, 2001. He accumulated a total flight time of 628.0 hours as of July 18, 2009.
According to pilot logbook entries, the pilot received his last flight review on July 9, 2008, which was 1.0 hours in flight duration and at a total time flight time of 601.5 hours. The flight review was conducted in the accident airplane.
The pilot was issued a third class airman medical certificate without limitations on November 15, 2007.
The 1941 Luscombe 8C, serial number 1741 was powered by a Continental C-85-12F, serial number 22782-6-12, engine. The last annual inspections for the airframe and engine were both dated September 10, 2008, at an airplane total time of 2,249.0 hours. As of July 18, 2009, the airplane accumulated 22 hours since its last annual inspection.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was located in an agricultural field with a wreckage path oriented about a 100 degree heading and about 110 feet in length. A ground scar consistent with a left wing impact was about 25 feet in length, which was then followed by ground scarring consistent with a right wing impact for about 25 feet. The main wreckage was about 40 feet from the end of the right wing's ground scar. The right wing was inverted and was attached to a section of fuselage. The fuselage's forward section was embedded in the ground and displayed rearward deformation. The empennage was folded over onto the right wing. The left wing was separated from the airframe near the wing root. The engine was separated from the fuselage and was about 20 feet forward of the main wreckage. The propeller was separated from the engine and displayed rearward bending with twisting and leading edge gouges. Placards near the wing fuel caps for the use of automotive gasoline were noted on both wings.
During examination of the engine, the top spark plugs were removed and the engine was rotated through by hand. The number one cylinder head fins exhibited impact damage. Air was noted to be drawn and expelled from each spark plug hole with compression except from the number one cylinder. Movement of the number one cylinder piston was noted during engine rotation. Engine and accessory gear continuity was also noted during rotation. No anomalies with magneto to engine timing were noted. The magnetos were then removed for further examination.
The tachometer did not have an hour meter and a Hobbs meter was not located at the wreckage site.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy examination of the pilot was performed by the Wabash County Coroner on July 26, 2009.
The Federal Aviation Administration Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report of the pilot states: no carbon monoxide was detected in blood, no cyanide was detected in blood, no ethanol was detected in blood, atenolol was detected in liver and blood, citalopram was detected in liver, 0.085 (ug/ml, ug/g) citalopram was detected in blood, N-Desmethylcitalopram was detected in liver, and 0.017 (ug/ml, ug/g) N-Desmethylcitalopram was detected in blood.
Review of the pilot’s personal medical records dating back to August 2008 document evaluation for symptoms of anxiety, irritability, and restlessness in September 2008. The records document the regular use of escitalopram 20 mg/day beginning in October 2008. The records also note the use of atenolol and chlorthalidone for blood pressure control and the use of an albuterol inhaler as needed for shortness of breath associated with exercise. No medications were noted on the pilot’s most recent application for airman medical certificate dated November 15, 2007.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The right magneto was a Unison 6361 (serial number 04092803) and the left magneto was a Unison 6360 (serial number 04091724). Both magnetos sustained damage and could not be functionally tested. The right magneto was disassembled and its coil produced a spark using a coil tester. Testing of the left magneto coil confirmed continuity.
The Bendix-Stromberg carburetor did not have a data plate but had the following numbers on its casing: 40590 and 380167-2. Disassembly of the carburetor revealed that it contained a rubber tipped float needle valve that was to be replaced in 1964 under Bendix service bulletin (SB) ACSB-84. Brass safety wire was also present as part of the unit’s assembly. The idle screw was missing. The mixture control was in the full rich position and could not be moved with hand pressure (the airplane was not equipped with a mixture control). Disassembly of the carburetor revealed the presence of brown/white colored debris/sediment in the filter screen and throughout the unit consistent with long term water contamination.