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On September 7, 2010, about 1320 Central Daylight Time, a Cessna T210N, single-engine airplane, N2081U, sustained substantial damage following an in-flight break up and subsequent impact with trees and terrain near Mountain Home, Arkansas. The private pilot and pilot-rated passenger on board the airplane were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Monterey Bay Aviation, Incorporated, Watsonville, California. No flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91 personal flight; however, the pilot was receiving radar flight following from the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The cross-country flight originated at Vermilion Regional airport, Danville, Illinois, about 0930 and was en route to Georgetown, Texas.
The pilot contacted Memphis ARTCC at 1245. The controller queried if the pilot could see the precipitation around the Flippin (FLP) VOR (very high frequency omnidirectional radio range) . The pilot replied “Roger.” The airplane was flying on about a 235 degree heading at an altitude of 6,700 feet mean sea level (msl).
At 1305, Memphis ARTCC told the pilot that there was a “very large area” of precipitation 30 miles ahead of him that extended south of Fort Smith Arkansas. The controlled added that it was “a very, very large area [of] moderate to heavy precipitation.” At 1307, the pilot was directed to another frequency.
The pilot checked in with Memphis ARTCC on the new assigned frequency. The pilot was given the current Mountain Home, Arkansas altimeter setting and was informed that weather radar was depicting an area of heavy to extreme precipitation 15 miles ahead of the pilot along his route of flight for the next 180 miles. The pilot responded with, “Thank you.”
At 1317, the pilot requested a descent to 4,500 feet “for VFR” (Visual Flight Rules flight). The control cleared the pilot to “maintain VFR” and would let the pilot know when he lost him on the controller’s radar.
At 1318:51, the airplane initiated a left turn to a heading of about 160 degrees. Two minutes later the airplane made a right turn back to toward the southwest. The turn continued until radar contact was lost at 1320:40. The airplane was at 7 nautical miles south of FLP at 6,600 feet msl when radar contact was lost.
At 1322, the controller broadcast to the pilot that he’d lost the airplane on radar. The pilot did not respond. Memphis made several attempts to contact the pilot. The pilot did not respond to any of them.
According to witnesses in the area, the airplane’s engine could be heard “revving up and down” but the airplane could not be seen because of an overcast layer of clouds. Moments later the airplane appeared from the clouds and was observed descending in a nose down spiral. The witnesses added that before the airplane descended out of sight, one of the wings “appeared to fold.”
The 62-year old pilot in the left seat held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land airplane rating. The pilot’s total flight time could not be determined from his logbook; however, the pilot’s logbook did show that he flew in the accident airplane with an instructor for 2.0 hours on July 18, 2010, and the logbook also indicated that he successfully completed a flight review on July 7, 2010.
The left seat pilot held a Third Class medical certificate dated June 15, 2010. The certificate had limitations that read “Holder shall possess glasses which correct near.” At the date of his medical examination, the pilot reported having 2,000 total flying hours and 20 hours in the previous six months. The pilot also reported that his previous medical certificate had been applied for on August 31, 1998.
The 32-year old pilot in the right seat held a private pilot certificate with single engine land airplane rating. No logbooks were found on the left seat pilot. The left seat pilot did not hold a current medical certificate. The last medical certificate the left seat pilot did apply for was November 23, 2005. At that time, the right seat pilot reported he had 120 total flying hours with no hours flown in the previous six months to the medical examination.
The airplane was a 1982 Cessna Aircraft Model T210N, serial number 21064764. The airplane was powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-520-R engine rated at 285 horsepower.
According to the airplane logbook, the airplane underwent an annual inspection on November 20, 2009. The recorded tachometer reading at the time of the annual inspection was 87.2 hours. A logbook entry on October 18, 2009, where the airplane had been repainted, showed the airplane had an airframe time of 426.4 hours.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 1300 on September 7, 2010 depicted a stationary front extending across southeastern Missouri into northern Arkansas, Oklahoma, and into the Texas Panhandle. Tropical Storm Hermine was located to the southeast over southern Texas with a general moist-unstable air mass over the region. A general weak pressure gradient existed over Arkansas and a deformation zone was indicated by the wind flow over southern Missouri and Arkansas. The station models in the vicinity of the accident depicted an extensive area of rain along and south of the frontal boundary, with overcast clouds.
The NWS Radar Summary Chart depicted a large area of intense to extreme echoes extended over Oklahoma and northern Arkansas along and south of the frontal boundary, and an extensive area of precipitation associated with T.S. Hermine.
The NWS Severe Storm Center’s Convective Outlook (AC) had a general risk of thunderstorms over the region with a slight risk of severe thunderstorms over southern Texas associated with the tropical storms landfall.
At 1253, the aviation routine weather report (METAR) for Baxter County Airport (BPK), Mountain Home, Arkansas, about 7 miles north of the accident site reported a wind from 170° at 5 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, ceiling broken at 2,900 agl, overcast at 3,800 feet, temperature 78° Fahrenheit (F), dew point 71° F, altimeter 30.12 inches of mercury (Hg).
BPK Special weather observation at 1315, wind 200° at 8 knots, gust to 14 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, ceiling broken at 3,300 feet, overcast at 4,700 feet, temperature 75° F, dew point 71° F, altimeter 30.13 inches of Hg.
BKP special weather observation at 1349, wind 200° at 5 knots, visibility 9 statute miles with light rain, a few clouds at 600 feet, ceiling overcast at 5,000 feet, temperature 73° F, dew point 72° F, altimeter 30.13 inches of Hg. Remarks: rain began at 1333, hourly precipitation less than 0.01 inch.
Harrison, Boone County Airport (HRO) located approximately 35 miles west of the accident site reported the following conditions surrounding the time of the accident:
Harrison special weather observation at 1328, automated observation, wind from 170 at 4 knots, visibility 2 ½ miles in moderate rain and mist, a few clouds at 1,300 feet, scattered at 2,700 feet, ceiling overcast at 3,400 feet, temperature 74 F, dew point 72 F, altimeter 30.15 inches of Hg. Remarks: automated observation system, hourly precipitation 0.13 inches.
The Springfield, Missouri (KSGF) WSR-88D weather radar located 78 mile northeast of the accident site base reflectivity image for 0.5° image at 1319 CDT showed a large east-to-west band of echoes extended over northern Arkansas with echoes between 35 and 40 dBZ or moderate to strong echoes over the accident site with maximum echoes of 50 dBZ located 12 miles east, and other echoes of 50 dBZ extending approximately 20 miles south through southwest and west of the accident site. Baxter County Airport (BPK) was located on the northern edge of the precipitation area with Harrison (HRO) located in echoes similar to those over the accident site.
FAA Advisory Circular AC00-24B identifies echoes between 35 and 40 dBZ as having possible moderate to severe turbulence with lightning. Air traffic control weather displays would have identified the precipitation areas as moderate over the accident site with heavy echoes embedded in the area surrounding the accident site.
NWS Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) were issued for BPK for the surrounding time period. The forecast available for a preflight briefing was issued at 0623 and expected winds from 210 degrees at 9 knots, visibility better than 6 miles with showers in the vicinity of the airport, scattered clouds at 5,000 feet and a ceiling broken at 9,000 feet. There were temporary conditions between 1500 and 1900 CDT of visibility 4 miles in thunderstorms and light rain, ceiling overcast at 3,500 feet in cumulonimbus clouds.
The NWS Area Forecast (FA) for the route expected a cold front over the area with scattered clouds at 6,000 feet, broken ceiling at 10,000 feet with widely scattered rain showers and isolated thunderstorms over Arkansas, with tops between 38,000 to 40,000 feet during the period.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was located in a heavily wooded area 5 miles south of Mountain Home, Arkansas.
The accident site consisted of the airplane main wreckage and a debris field that covered approximately 3,850 feet along a line beginning at the main wreckage and extending north on about a 001 degree magnetic heading.
The airplane main wreckage consisted of the airplane’s cabin area and fuselage, the right wing, landing gear and engine. Also in the immediate vicinity of the main wreckage was the propeller hub with one of the three propeller blades. The other two propeller blades were also nearby. The main wreckage was lodged within several trees.
The airplane’s fuselage was oriented on a 262 degree heading. The cowling and cabin area, to include the instrument panel, glareshield and seats were broken open, charred and consumed by fire. The inboard portion of the right wing was charred and consumed by fire. The right aileron was bent forward and charred. An examination of the flight control system showed continuity from the control yokes to the control surfaces.
The engine was broken out, but intact and found resting on its left side. Most of the components were broken out. The propeller hub was broken at the flange mounting bolts. The hub and spinner were crushed and broken aft and inward. One propeller blade remained with the hub. It was curled forward and showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and leading edge nicks and gouges. The other two propeller blades were located just forward of the engine. They were broken out from the hub. Both blades also showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and leading edge nicks and gouges.
Airplane components extended to the north from the main wreckage. About 300 feet north of the main wreckage was the center section of the horizontal stabilizers and elevator. The section had been broken out with the most aft part of the fuselage. Both outboard sections of the horizontal stabilizers and elevators were bent downward and broken aft.
About 1,350 feet north of the main wreckage was the outboard portion of the right horizontal stabilizer. About 1,900 feet north of the main wreckage was the outboard portion of the left elevator.
About 2,300 feet north of the main wreckage and resting within tree branches was the vertical stabilizer. It was broken aft at the base. The rudder was broken out. About 2,350 feet north of the main wreckage was the top third of the rudder.
About 2,850 feet north of the main wreckage was the left wing. It was bent upward, twisted and broken aft at the root. The spars were broken upward and twisted aft. The left elevator was broken out. Aileron control cables showed unraveling and cup-cone breakages of the individual strands indicative of an overload failure.
At the farthest extent of the debris, 3,850 feet north of the main wreckage was the outboard half of the left aileron.
The airplane main wreckage and the separated parts were collected and retained for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on both pilots by the Arkansas State Associate Medical Examiner in Little rock, Arkansas, on September 9, 2010.
Results of toxicology testing of samples taken from the 32-year old pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
Results of toxicology testing of samples taken from the 62-year old pilot showed volatile concentrations of Ethanol in muscle tissue at the level of 21 mg/dl, mg/hg. The Ethanol reported was from postmortem formation and not from ingestion.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane was examined at Clinton, Arkansas on September 9, 2010. The examination of the engine did not reveal any abnormalities that would have prevented normal operation and production of rated horsepower. The examination of the other airplane systems did not reveal any preimpact anomalies.