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On November 17, 2010, about 1635 Pacific standard time, an American Champion airplane, N273MA, sustained substantial damage following an in-flight collision with mountainous terrain approximately 4 miles north of Bremerton, Washington. The air transport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Silverado Management, LLC, of Missoula, Montana, and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from Bremerton National Airport (PWT), Port Orchard, Washington, about 4 minutes prior to the collision. The pilot’s planned destination was unknown. The airplane was based in Silverdale, Washington, approximately 10 miles north of the departure airport.
On November 25, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) after the pilot was reported missing by family members. The wreckage was discovered by Kitsap County Search and Rescue on the morning of November 28 in a heavily wooded remote area about 6 miles west-southwest of Bremerton, Washington.
FAA radar data showed the airplane about one mile southwest of PWT. The airplane initiated a right turn to the north and continued flight, at an unknown altitude, in a northerly direction until radar data stopped about 4 miles northwest of PWT.
The pilot, age 74, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an instrument rating. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued in September 2010 with three limitations: must wear corrective lenses, not valid for night flying and not valid to fly by color signal. On the pilot’s most recent FAA medical certificate application (form 8500-8) no flight times were listed; on his previous application, dated July 2000, the pilot indicated 15,000 hours total flight experience and zero flight hours in the 6 month period prior to the application.
According to the pilot’s certified flight instructor (CFI), the pilot purchased the airplane in Tulsa, Oklahoma, approximately one month prior to the accident. The CFI flew the airplane with the pilot from Tulsa to Silverdale, Washington; the total flight time was approximate 26 hours. The CFI stated that after the flight across the country, he flew with the pilot around his local area to familiarize him (the pilot) with the area. During the local flight they practiced air work along with touch-and-goes. The CFI reported that he did not endorse the pilot’s logbook and recommended that he find a local instructor for further training.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A toxicology screen was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the CAMI report, no carbon monoxide, cyanide or ethanol was detected in the pilot’s blood or urine. The following substances were detected:
Acetaminophen (24.12 ug/ml, ug/g) in urine,
Metoprolol in urine and blood,
oxycodone (0.483 ug/mL, ug/g) in urine, and
oxycodone (0.036 ug/mL, ug/g) in blood.
According to the FAA CAMI toxicology drug information database, Acetaminophen is a common over the counter drug with a therapeutic level range of 5.0000 to 50.0000 ug/mL. Warnings associated with Acetaminophen include: Large doses of acetaminophen can produce hepatotoxicity; and people who use moderate amounts of ethanol on a regular basis have a great risk of acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity. Metoprolol is used for hypertension and certain forms of arthritis, therapeutic levels range between 0.0200 and 0.6000 ug/mL. 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).”
The airplane was an American Champion Scout model 8GCBC, serial number 460-2004 that was recently purchased by the pilot. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-360 series, 180 horsepower engine. The most recent annual inspection was completed in April 2010; at that time, the airframe and engine had a total time of 98.7 hours.
At 1635 the weather conditions at PWT, which was located about 4 miles southeast of the accident site, reported wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots, 10 statute miles of visibility, scattered clouds at 700 feet and 1,400 feet above ground level (agl), and overcast clouds at 10,000 feet agl, temperature 4 degrees Celsius (C), dewpoint 2 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.74 inches of Mercury.
There was no known communication from the pilot during the accident flight.
PWT is located about 4 miles southeast of the accident site and the field elevation is 444 feet. The airport has two runways, one asphalt runway identified as 1/19, which is 6,000 feet long and 150 feet wide; and one turf runway, that is currently not in use and considered to be abandoned.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in mountainous terrain about 1300 feet msl. The area was heavily wooded and the terrain angle varied between 15-25 degrees. The first identified point of contact was a series of trees; the tree tops were broken off and fresh scarring was noted to multiple tree branches and limbs. The debris path continued down-slope and over a shallow ravine. The main wreckage was located on the up-slope side of the ravine approximately 150 yards from the first identified point of contact with trees.
The airplane’s left wing followed the initial impact point; the wing was separated from the fuselage and was located about 50 yards from the first identified point of contact. Aft crushing type damage was noted to the leading edge of the wing. The associated aileron, flap and lift struts remained attached to the wing assembly. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, cockpit controls, right wing, empennage and engine assembly. All aerodynamic surfaces were located at the crash site and no anomalies were noted.
The engine was separated from the airframe with the firewall still attached. Minimal impact damage was noted to the lower and accessory area of the engine. Impact related damage, which consisted of aft crushing and deformation, was noted to the frontal areas of the forward cylinders. All four piston cylinders were in place and the engine case was intact. The accessory gear case and associated accessories were intact and there was no evidence of oil leakage or anomalies.
The three bladed propeller hub assembly was attached to the engine and impact related damage was noted. One of the propeller blades was sheared off at the propeller hub. The second propeller blade was bent fully aft and the third blade was mostly intact with a slight forward bend.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Post accident examination of the airframe revealed that the fuel selector valve assembly was in the “open” position, air was blown through the assembly and it was clear of debris. The gascolator was removed, the screen was clear of debris and no fuel was found within the gascolator bowl. The emergency locator transmitter was still secured in the airplane and found in the “OFF” position.
The four top spark plugs were removed and contained normal operating wear signatures as compared to the Champion check-a-plug comparison chart. All four cylinders were borescoped; no anomalies were noted. The engine crankshaft was manually rotated by hand and cylinder compression and valve continuity was obtained from all cylinders.
The carburetor was removed and examined; both the throttle and mixture arms remained attached to the carburetor and moved freely by hand from stop to stop. The carburetor inlet screen was removed and found to be clear of debris. The venturi was intact and undamaged. The float assembly was in place and intact. The float bowl housing was empty.