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On October 26, 2010 about 0954 central daylight time, a Hawker Beechcraft Corporation Model 36TC, N8045Y, was destroyed following an inflight break-up and collision with terrain while in cruise flight near Rienzi, Mississippi. The certificated private pilot and passenger were killed. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Olive Branch Airport (OLV), Olive Branch, Mississippi, about 0925, and was destined for Dekalb-Peachtree (PDK), Atlanta, Georgia. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
A review of air traffic control (ATC) and flight service station voice data revealed the pilot contacted flight service about 0900 to file an IFR flight plan from OLV to PDK. During the conversation, the briefer asked the pilot, "Do you require the latest adverse [weather] conditions?" The pilot replied, "No, that's why we are getting out of here." Before ending the phone call, the briefer confirmed, "…you did say you had the adverse conditions?" The pilot replied, "Yes, I do."
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar data showed a radar target identified as the accident airplane departed OLV on an easterly track, and climbed to 14,800 feet. The last three radar targets (each 10 seconds apart) displayed altitudes of 14,800, 14,700, and 13,900, where radar contact was lost. Interpolation of the last two radar targets suggested a 4,800 feet-per-minute rate of descent. At the time the radar target was lost, the airplane was in an area of depicted extreme intensity precipitation.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued March 2009, and he declared 613 total hours of flight experience at that time. Copies of the pilot's logbook were forwarded by email, and examination revealed that the most recent logbook entry was dated October 3, 2010. The pilot had logged 790 total hours of flight experience, of which 59 hours were in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot flew about 110 hours over the past year, and 40 hours in the 90 days prior to the accident.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1992. The airplane's maintenance logbooks were not recovered, and therefore the airplane's total maintenance and inspection history could not be determined. An FAA inspector located maintenance receipts that revealed the most recent annual inspection was performed on August 3, 2010, at 2,275 total aircraft hours.
According to a maintenance/repair receipt dated July 14, 2007, airframe repairs "due to stress" were completed on the accident airplane. Some of the parts replaced included left and right-hand stabilizer assemblies, left and right-hand wing skins, as well as belly skin. According to the owner/operator of the repair facility, this was the second airplane that the pilot/owner had brought to him for repair after flying through "heavy" weather. The second airplane was brought to the facility within 30 days of the first .
The first airplane the pilot/ owner brought to the maintenance facility for repair was another Hawker Beechcraft Corporation A36 (N3214G),but the damage was too extensive, and the airplane was declared un-repairable. When the pilot arrived with N8045Y for repair, he announced, "I did it again." According to the owner/operator of the repair facility, "I ended up with both overstressed airplanes parked next to each other in front of my shop." He added, "In my 33 years of aviation I learned when these things happen (the accident), we knew it would happen in advance. I worried about [the pilot] for two years. He was doing better and I started to quit worrying."
An NTSB Senior Meteorologist prepared a Meteorological Factual Report that revealed the meteorological information available to the pilot prior to departure, and weather conditions encountered by the accident airplane after departure.
The pilot contacted the FAA contract Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 0905 to file an instrument flight plan for a planned departure at 0920. The filed cruising level was planned for 17,000 feet with an estimated time en route of one hour and 35 minutes. When asked if the pilot had the adverse weather conditions for the route, the pilot acknowledged that he did and that was the reason for his departure. The pilot then asked if the AFSS Briefer could cancel a DUATS (Direct Users Access Terminal System) flight plan that he had previously filed, and the briefer indicated that she could not as it was a different system. The AFSS Briefer again asked if the pilot had the latest adverse weather conditions, and the pilot acknowledged he did. It is not known what information the pilot had obtained prior to the telephone call, or his subsequent departure.
At 0959, the weather conditions reported at Roscoe Turner Airport (CRX), Corinth, Mississippi, at 425 feet elevation, and 13 miles northeast of the accident site, included scattered clouds at 600 feet, a broken ceiling at 2,600 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 3,900 feet, with 2 miles visibility. The temperature was 26 degrees C, dewpoint 23 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.66 inches of mercury. The winds were from 210 degrees at 14 knots.
At 0953, the weather conditions reported at Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP), Tupelo, Mississippi, at 346 feet elevation, 35 miles south of the accident site, included few clouds at 3,700, visibility 10 miles, temperature 27 degrees C, dewpoint 20 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.66 inches of mercury. The winds were from 230 degrees at 15 knots, gusting to 26 knots.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Severe Weather Forecast Alert (AWW) 721, which was in effect between 0405 and 1200 on the day of the accident, warned of severe thunderstorms with hail to 1.5-inches, wind gusts to 70 knots, and extreme turbulence, with maximum cumulonimbus cloud tops to 45,000 feet, with movement from 240 degrees at 50 knots. The Severe Weather Forecast Alert (AWW) and Weather Watch (WW) bulletins associated with a tornado watch included alerts for hail to 1.5-inches, wind gusts to 60 knots, maximum cumulonimbus cloud tops to 50,000 feet, with movement from 240 degrees at 50 knots.
The forecast for northern Mississippi after 0700 included broken clouds at 2,500 feet, with scattered thunderstorms and moderate rain with possible severe thunderstorms. Cumulonimbus cloud tops to 45,000 feet were expected, with winds from the south at 20 knots gusting to 30 knots. The forecast for northern Alabama after 1000 expected broken clouds at 5,000 feet with southerly wind at 20 knots gusting to 30 knots, with possible severe thunderstorms after 1400.
AWW numbers 721 and 723 were current over the route of flight for potential severe thunderstorms. The full text of the advisories included a statement that severe to extreme turbulence was possible with the storms. In addition, Convective SIGMET numbers 23C and 24C were issued for a line of embedded thunderstorms moving eastward at 35 knots.
A review of subscription information revealed the pilot had subscribed to a satellite weather service, which could be displayed on either of the two Garmin 430W control heads installed in the airplane. The screens were about 2 inches by 3 inches in dimension. Some of the products available to the pilot included “near real-time” NEXRAD radar, Terminal Area Forecasts, AIRMETs and SIGMETs. It is unknown if the system was enabled, or what features the pilot may have had displayed at the time of the accident.
At the time of the accident, radar data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that a line of thunderstorms crossed the airplane's route of flight in the vicinity of the crash site. Weather radar echo intensities of Video Integrator and Processor (VIP) level 5 and 6 were recorded in the area of the accident site at the time of the accident. Levels 5 and 6 are described as “intense” and “extreme,” respectively.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL (ATC)
An NTSB ATC investigator convened the air traffic control group at Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZME), Memphis, Tennessee, on November 1, 2010. While there, the group reviewed the radar and weather data available to the controllers on their control screens at the time of the accident, and conducted interviews with the controllers and their supervisors.
A review of recorded radar track information and radar precipitation information provided to the controller by the Weather and Radar Processor (WARP) subsystem showed that the aircraft’s flight path approached and entered an area depicted as heavy to extreme precipitation.
The controller did obtain a pilot report (PIREP) from a preceding aircraft and relayed the PIREP to the accident pilot. The preceding pilot reported light turbulence and a period of heavy rain for about a minute. That pilot went on to say that the airplane flew through a gap in the precipitation "that was yellow to green on our onboard radar, versus red on either side of it. It was fairly good.” While the PIREP was provided from the same general area, it was provided 20 minutes earlier, 5,000 feet lower and several miles north of the point where the accident airplane entered the area of heavy precipitation and radar contact was lost. No other information was provided to the pilot about the precipitation depicted on the controller’s display.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on October 28, 2010, after 3 days of ground and air searches. A survey of the wreckage and surrounding terrain revealed that the wreckage path was oriented about 046 degrees, and the wreckage was scattered over an area approximately 15 miles in length.
A search for the wreckage was conducted by air and ground utilizing local law enforcement, news and air ambulance helicopters, the Mississippi Air National Guard and local volunteers. As parts were located, their positions and condition were documented, and then moved to a commercial farm for reconstruction. Over 3 days, about 70 percent of the airplane was recovered, and parts associated with the nose, tail, and both wingtips of the airplane were identified. Parts not located were the right aileron, vertical stabilizer, rudder, horizontal stabilizers, left elevator, and the outboard portion of the right elevator. However, both elevator counterweights, the right elevator trim tab, the inboard portion of the right elevator, and the tailcone were recovered.
The airplane wreckage was fragmented into large and small pieces. All fractures and failures were consistent with overload failure induced by air-load or impact. All control cable, chain, bellcrank, and pulley failures were consistent with overload. Both the left and right wing upper and lower attach bolts remained attached to the wings and wing fittings. The forward spar carry through upper cap was fractured and separated approximately 20 inches from the left wing. The spar web contained diagonal compression buckles and was twisted and bent forward at the right wing carry through. The right wing leading edge contained diagonal compression buckling in the upward direction. The aft cabin floor was recovered. The floor was approximately 10 feet in length from the forward utility door, lower doorframe side, to approximately three feet aft of the aft cargo area. The aft cabin floor contained clockwise torsional buckling. The fuselage structure was not attached to the aft cabin floor and skin tearing signatures were visible on both lower longitudinal skin lap joints (left and right side) throughout its length.
Examination of the instrument panel revealed extensive impact damage, and no immediately useful information. The panel contained a stormscope with "strike -finder" capability. The digital engine temperature indicator was retained for potential data retrieval.
The engine was examined at the site on October 27, 2010. The engine was a Continental TSIO-520-UB4 and was intact with all accessories attached except for the magnetos. The top cowling was crushed around the fuel manifold and the oil filler neck. The air reference lines were crushed along with the top spark plugs. The pressure relief valve was separated, and the intake tube was separated from the turbocharger. Both aft crankcase halves were crushed, and the idler gear was partially separated. The right crankcase half was crushed in above the number 1 cylinder attachment point. The top of the cylinders all displayed impact damage.
The top spark plugs were removed, and an attempt to rotate the crankshaft by hand at the propeller was unsuccessful due to damage at the aft crankcase halves. The cylinders were examined using a lighted borescope, and the pistons and cylinder domes displayed normal combustion deposits, and all valves were in place.
The spark plugs displayed normal wear and light gray deposits in the electrode areas. The fuel pump displayed impact damage and was displaced from its mount. The drive coupling was separated, and displayed evidence of tensile overload. The driveshaft rotated freely, and disassembly of the unit revealed no internal damage. The magnetos were separated from the engine and destroyed by impact. The vacuum pump was in place and displayed impact damage. The driveshaft would not rotate. The vacuum pump was disassembled and the interior rotor and vanes were shattered.
The manifold valve was disassembled and the diaphragm and spring were undamaged. Fuel was found in the interior, and the fuel screen was clear and absent of debris. The oil filter was impact-damaged and clear oil poured from its base.
The turbocharger was damaged by impact, and the driveshaft rotated freely by hand. The propeller was attached to the crankshaft, and the spinner was crushed on one side. Blade one displayed S-bending, and blade two was loose in the hub, and bent slightly towards the non-cambered side. Blade three was slightly bent to the non-cambered side.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Office of the State Medical Examiner for the State of Mississippi performed the autopsy on the pilot and the passenger. The cause of death was attributed to multiple traumatic injuries.
Toxicological testing for the pilot was performed by the FAA’s Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) was detected in the pilot's liver and kidney.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On November 5, 2010, an NTSB recorders specialist downloaded the data from the digital engine monitor recovered from the wreckage. Examination of the data revealed steady-state cylinder head, exhaust gas, and engine oil temperatures up to the approximate time of airframe break-up.