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On July 5, 2010, about 1415 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N52614, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground in Chesapeake, Virginia. The airplane had departed the Chesapeake Regional Airport (CPK), Chesapeake, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The certificated airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The CPK airport access records indicated that the pilot's access card was last utilized at 1256:32. About 1414, a radio transmission was recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Norfolk Air Traffic Control (ATC) Radar Approach Control facility. The transmission was "mayday mayday mayday Cessna five two six one four about five south of Chesapeake airport over the big fields have a flight control malfunctions looks like I'm going down;" this was the only transmission received from the accident flight. A radar target that was subsequently identified by the FAA Norfolk Approach Control facility as the subject airplane depicted the airplane at an altitude of 1,400 feet above mean sea level in the vicinity of the accident location. According to the radar data, the airplane orbited in that vicinity from about 1345 until the time of the accident. The airplane began returning a transponder beacon code of 7700 at 1414:49, and at 1415:48, the final radar return was received from the airplane.
A representative of Lockheed Martin Flight Services (LMFS) reported that "no services were provided to N52614" by LMFS or DUATS (direct user access terminal service) on the day of the accident. The investigation was unable to determine a specific purpose or intended destination for the flight.
The pilot, age 51, held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land, and type ratings for the Airbus A320 and Douglas DC 9. He also held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued on May 13, 2010, and at that time he reported 7,200 total hours of flight experience. At the time of the accident, the pilot was employed by an air carrier.
According to FAA records, the pilot was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in May 2009. The FAA records included a letter from the pilot’s primary care physician, which described the pilot's affliction as "mild." That letter was the only other reference to the affliction. No specialty evaluation was noted in the FAA records, and the FAA did not request any further information. The pilot was started on an anti-inflammatory medication for the ankylosing spondylitis, and another medication to help prevent ulcers. No further updates were requested by the FAA or provided by the pilot.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1980 and was issued an FAA airworthiness certificate on January 12, 1981. It was registered to the pilot as a co-owner on April 4, 1988, and registered to the pilot as the sole owner on January 10, 2006.
The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-320-D2J engine. The maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual/100-hour inspection was dated July 9, 2009 and at that time, the recorded tachometer reading was 1,650.0 hours. The tachometer in the wreckage indicated 1,655.4 hours. The final entry in an aircraft flight log that was found in the cockpit was dated the date of the accident, and listed a tachometer reading of 1,655.9 hours.
The 1440 recorded weather observation at CPK, located approximately 6 miles north of the accident site, included winds from 210 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 35 degrees C, dew point 17 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted the ground in a corn field that measured approximately 3 miles by 5 miles. The airplane came to rest inverted on a heading of 104 degrees, about 40 feet from the initial ground impact point. The initial impact crater was 13 inches deep and adjacent to a dirt road that was approximately 3 miles in length and was oriented on an east-west heading. The debris path was oriented on a 244 degree heading, was approximately 83 feet long and 48 feet wide, and extended onto the dirt road. The airplane struck three corn stalks about 90 inches above the ground and 97 inches from the impact crater.
The leading edges of both wings were compressed, and both fuel tanks were ruptured and devoid of fuel. The surrounding vegetation exhibited blight that extended from the main wreckage approximately 57 feet along the wreckage path. The ailerons and flaps remained attached to the trailing edges of the wings. The aileron control cables were continuous from each aileron to the control column drum assembly in the cockpit. Continuity was confirmed for the aileron cross-link cable. The right aileron cable was fracture- separated at the left door post; the fracture was consistent with tensile overload. According to design drawings provided by the airplane manufacturer, all flight control cables were properly routed over their respective pulleys. The aileron control column interconnect cable had fractured chain links near the left control column sprocket, and was retained for further examination.
The flap actuator extension was consistent with the flaps in the fully retracted position. The elevator trim actuator extension was consistent with the tab in the 5 degree tab up position.
The instrument panel and cockpit area exhibited impact damage. The fuel selector valve handle was in the "BOTH" position. The fuel selector valve was disassembled; the internal mechanism was not in any detent position. The as-found position of the valve provided a partial fuel passage to the right tank, and the left tank passage was closed. The floor structure was buckled and the elevator bell-crank to the control tee-tube was fractured at the base of the control column; it was retained for further examination. Both cabin doors were fracture-separated from their door posts and both door locks were found in the "LOCK" position.
All seat belts and shoulder harnesses were examined; no belt web stretching was observed. Neither of the two front seat lap belt latches were latched, and neither revealed any signatures consistent with a failure of the mechanical latch. The front seat lap belt latches were functionally tested, and no anomalies were noted.
The engine remained attached to the firewall by one engine mount; the remaining engine mount brackets were impact-separated from the firewall. The oil sump was impact fractured. The oil filter was impact-separated from the engine accessory case, and was located approximately 6 feet from the engine. The left magneto was impact-separated from the engine, but hand rotation of the magneto produced sparks at three of the four towers. The right magneto remained attached to the accessory case, but was fractured. Hand rotation did not result in any spark production. The bottom spark plugs on cylinders No. 1 and 2 were impact-separated flush with the cylinder, and some of the threaded portion of each plug remained in the spark plug boss. All other spark plugs were removed, and their electrodes appeared light gray in color, consistent with normal wear. The carburetor and fuel strainer bowl were fractured and devoid of fuel. The fuel strainer screen was clear of debris. The engine was retained for further examination.
The propeller was found in the initial impact crater, buried approximately 2 feet into the ground, with about 9 inches of one blade exposed above the ground. The propeller was impact-separated from the crankshaft flange. Both propeller blades had slight S-bending and spanwise scratches.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on July 7, 2010, by the Office of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Norfolk, Virginia. The cause of death was reported as "multiple impact injuries." Additionally, toxicological testing of vitreous fluid indicated no ethanol was present.
The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on biological specimens from the pilot. Cyanide and carbon monoxide testing was not performed. The volatile concentrations revealed 41 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the heart, 39 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the spleen, 28 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the Lung, and 24 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in brain. 4 (mg/dL, mg/hg) isoproanol detected in the Spleen. 20 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in the Spleen, 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in the Lung, 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in the Brain, and 1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in the Heart. 26 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-Propanol detected in the Spleen, 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-propanol detected in Brain, 1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-propanol detected in the Lung, and 1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-propanol detected in the Heart. None of the tested drugs were detected in the kidney. This report indicated that samples were putrefied when received.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The elevator tee-tube and pilot's control column sprocket chain were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's Material Laboratory for examination. Examination of the tee-tube revealed that one of the prongs was deformed over the tube end in a manner consistent with loading in bending and compression. The prong was sectioned and compared to an intact prong on the other end of the tube. The deformed prong was fractured in an arc shape and in similar dimensions to the diameter of the prong end. The fracture surface features were consistent with shear overstress. After sectioning, a second fracture was revealed at the base of the clevis where a second prong was attached to the tee-tube. The shear lip and morphology of the fracture were consistent with overstress in bending.
The sprocket chain was measured to be 5.6 inches in length. According to the airplane manufacturer's design information, the length of the chain should have been 7.12 inches. The difference in the length of the chain could not be accounted for or explained. Links were deformed in a manner consistent with an overstress in bending and torsion.
A follow-on examination of the airframe and engine was conducted by the NTSB on August 3, 2010 at a facility near Clayton, Delaware. During that exam both rudder cables were confirmed to be connected to the rudder torque tubes.
Gouge marks similar to cable marks were located on the left control column. Review of accident scene photographs revealed that the gouge marks were present prior to transport of the airplane to the facility.
The engine drive train was unable to be rotated by hand via the rear accessory drive, and the engine was then disassembled. The No. 1 and 2 cylinder heads were compressed in an aft and positive direction on the bottom forward portion of the air cooling fins. All four connecting rods were free to rotate on their crankshaft journals. The engine case was fractured near the No. 2 cylinder. The oil pump gears were devoid of damage. The oil pump housing contained oil that appeared normal in color and was devoid of any particulate matter. Several spiral fracture cracks were located on the crankshaft between 7/16 and 1 1/2 inches aft of the propeller flange. The crankshaft had a slight bend in the area of the cracks. The crankshaft had no signs of corrosion. The camshaft was removed and no damage was observed.
The vacuum pump was disassembled; the rotors were fractured and the vanes were intact.