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On May 22, 2010, about 1330 Pacific daylight time, a Socata TB-20 Trinidad, N3041Y, impacted terrain while in cruise flight over Happy Camp, California. The owner operated the airplane as a personal cross-country flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), Palm Springs, California, at an undetermined time. The flight was destined for the Rogue Valley International - Medford Airport (MFR), Medford, Oregon. No flight plan had been filed.
Information received from Seattle Air Traffic Control Center, who was in radio contact with the pilot at the time, indicated that the pilot advised them that he was having trouble descending through clouds. At that point, the controller lost radar and radio contact with the airplane and pilot.
According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department, they began to receive 911 calls about 1341 regarding a possible airplane crash. The Watch Commander requested helicopter support from the California Highway Patrol, but they could not respond due to the foggy and rainy weather conditions. They located the wreckage about 1720.
The pilot’s spouse reported to the sheriff’s department that her husband flew this trip regularly, once a month, and flew by himself. A friend, who had dropped off the pilot at PSP the day of the accident, reported to the sheriff’s department that the pilot was flying by himself on the day of the accident.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector plotted recorded radar data. At 1723:07, a target on a northerly course was at a mode C reported altitude of 9,200 feet mean sea level (msl). The target veered slightly west, and was at 8,000 feet msl at 1724:55. The target veered back to the north and climbed; at 1726:07, it was at 8,600 feet, which was the last target with an altitude. The targets continued to track to the north. The last radio contact occurred about 1727, and the last radar target at 1727:43 was in the vicinity of the accident site.
A review of FAA airman records on file at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the 84-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating.
No personal flight records were located for the pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (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 pilot was issued a third-class medical on May 12, 2012; it had the limitation that he shall wear corrective lenses. He reported on his most recent airmen medical application a total flight time of 1,900 hours, with 50 hours flown in the past 6 months.
The aircraft logbooks were not located. The airplane was a Socata TB-20 Trinidad, serial number 1507. According to the airworthiness registration, the airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate in the normal category on November 9, 1992. At that time a Lycoming engine, model IO-540-C4-D5D, was installed on the airplane. The pilot purchased the airplane on June 7, 2004.
A staff meteorologist for the NTSB prepared a factual report, which included the following weather for the departure area, route of flight, and destination. The report is in the public docket.
The closest official weather observation station was Jack Mc Namara Field Airport, Crescent (CEC), California, which was immediately west of the accident site. An aviation routine weather report (METAR) for CEC issued at 1356 stated: wind from 220 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky few clouds at 3,800 feet; temperature 11 degrees Celsius; dew point 5 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.08 inches of mercury.
To the east, Siskiyou County Airport (SIY), Montague, California, reported at 1305: wind from 010 degrees at 12 knots; visibility 10 miles; a few clouds at 5,000 feet, ceiling overcast at 6,500 feet; temperature 7 degrees Celsius; dew point -2 degrees Celsius; altimeter 29.96 inches of mercury. In the notes section of the METAR, it also reported that rain had ended 6 minutes prior to the report.
The planned destination of MFR was approximately 44 miles northeast of the accident site. It reported rain ending within an hour of the accident, and visual flight rules conditions at the time of the accident.
The station models on Weather Depiction Charts surrounding the accident site at 1200 depicted light continuous rain and snow north of the accident site with ceilings overcast between 2,700 and 4,900 feet above ground level (agl). The 1500 chart depicted an area of visibility 3 miles in heavy rain with a ceiling overcast at 1,700 feet agl.
A Radar Summary Chart depicted a large area of echoes associated with rain showers extending over northern California, and snow showers over southern and northern Oregon, with maximum echo tops between 22,000 to 28,000 feet.
The closest Weather Surveillance Radar-1988, Doppler (WSR-88D), was located at the NWS Medford (MAX), Oregon, approximately 37 miles southwest of the accident site. The image depicted light to moderate intensity echoes scattered over northern California, and over the accident site, with several strong or heavy intensity echoes embedded in the area. The images show that N3041Y had entered into clouds and precipitation or was in instrument meteorology conditions (IMC) during the last 4 minutes of the flight. The area was intensifying with time, and thus more likely to produce moderate and greater turbulence.
The NWS also had AIRMETs current over the route of flight, and the accident site for mountain obscuration conditions, icing in clouds, and precipitation between the freezing level at 4,500 feet to 14,000 feet.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Siskiyou County Office of the Sheriff/Coroner completed an autopsy, and determined the cause of death to be multiple blunt force trauma. The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens for the pilot contained no findings for volatiles. They did not perform tests for carbon monoxide or cyanide. The report contained the following findings for tested drugs: 0.056 (ug/ml, ug/g) oxycodone detected in muscle.
According to the FAA CAMI toxicology drug information database, Oxycodone is an opiate that is used to treat pain, therapeutic levels range from 0.0130 to 0.0990 ug/mL. Warnings associated with oxycodone include “may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery).”
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to responding search and rescue personnel, the accident site location was near a timber mill in 15-foot-high brush that was not visible from the air, and not accessible without proper equipment. Ground search and rescue (SAR) personnel were able to access the accident site from a closed logging road, but found only airplane debris and clothing. Both wings had separated from the fuselage, and the leading edges of both wings were undamaged. The debris area was about 3/4 mile long and 200 yards wide. Debris was on a 70-degree slope in thick brush, at an elevation of about 3,200 feet at the top of the ridge. The engine was the farthest part and came to rest at an elevation of about 1,400 feet. SAR personnel reported that the engine had struck a large pine tree near where it came to rest. The empennage had separated and the top of the cockpit had separated from the fuselage.