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On November 30, 2010, approximately 1350 central standard time (cst), a Maule M5-180C, N244RC, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed when control was lost on landing and the airplane impacted terrain at a private airstrip near Emory, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The local flight originated at Durant, Oklahoma, approximately 1230.
The pilot’s son told Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors that his father departed Emory at 0900 that morning, and flew to Bonham, Texas, to have lunch with a friend. His pilot called his son between 1100 and 1200 and told him he was going to fly to Durant, Oklahoma, to pick up several boxes of peanuts that he was going to give as Christmas presents. When the son called his father between 1230 and 1300, the pilot was still in Durant and he expressed concern about the high winds in Durant and Emory.
A witness who was sitting at his kitchen table saw the airplane land. He said the airplane bounced once, wobbled left and right, came back down and bounced again. The airplane then pulled up as power was applied to about 100 feet, wobbled left and right, then banked hard to the left and spun into the ground. It remained upright until it caught fire, then it fell onto its back. The witness's house was located approximately 1,500 to 2,000 feet from the airstrip centerline, at its midpoint, and due west of the runway. The witness said there was a strong crosswind from the south and south-southwest. Sheriff's deputies and fire personnel confirmed the winds were "very strong" as they extinguished the fire.
The accident occurred at 2998 Highway 19N, in Emory, at geographical coordinates 32 degrees, 54.77' north Latitude, and 095 degrees, 44.55' west Longitude.
PERSONNEL (CREW) INFORMATION
The pilot, age 80, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine, multiengine, and instrument ratings. He also held an FAA third class airman medical certificate, dated April 30, 2010, with a restriction for corrective lenses for near vision.
The pilot's logbook was destroyed in the post-impact fire. According to his medical certificate application, he estimated his total flight time to be 1,300 hours. The pilot's son said his father had not accumulated many hours in the Maule, and had limited experience flying the airplane from his airstrip. Prior to purchasing the airplane, the pilot had not flown for 25 years, and had only recently started flying again.
The pilot purchased N244RC (s.n. 8025C), on July 27, 2010. It was a model M5-180C, manufactured by the Maule Aircraft Corporation in 1984. It was powered by a Lycoming O-360-C1F engine (s.n. L-30734-36A), rated at 180 horsepower, and driving a Hartzell 2-blade, all-metal, constant speed propeller (m.n. HC-C24R-1BF). Although the maintenance records were destroyed in the post-impact fire, it was learned that an annual inspection had been accomplished the day before the accident, November 29, 2010, at a reported airframe total time of 786.6 hours.
During the annual inspection, an engine exhaust leak at a weld on a right exhaust retaining bracket was noted. The pilot removed the heat box, had it repaired by a welder, and reinstalled it on the airplane. The mechanic inspected the weld and found no defects with the weld. He completed the annual inspection and returned the airplane to service.
Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) SA00170SE and Major Alteration Records for the airplane were found in the pilot’s home. The records showed the airplane had vortex generators installed on the wing and tail surfaces. In addition, STC SA01015SE indicated the airplane was equipped with tundra tires.
Weather observations were taken from Sulphur Springs (SLR), Greenville (GVT), Wood County (JDD), and Terrell (TRL), Texas. These stations were located 22 miles northeast, 22 miles northwest, 18 miles miles southeast, and 31 miles southwest of Emory:
Sulphur Springs (SLR) 1425 cst: Wind, 320 degrees at 14 knots, gusts to 17 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, clear; temperature, 9 degrees Celsius (C.); dew point, -5 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.24 inches of Mercury.
Greenville (GVT) 1421 cst: Wind, 310 degrees at 4 knots, gusts to 21 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, clear; temperature, 10 degrees C.; dew point, -6 degrees C.; altimeter 30.24 inches of Mercury.
Wood County (JDD) 1425 cst: Wind, 310 degrees at 10 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, clear; temperature, 9 degrees C.; dew point, -5 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.24 inches of Mercury.
Terrell (TRL) 1453 cst: Wind, 280 degrees at 19 knots, gusts to 24 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, clear; temperature, 10 degrees C.; dew point, -9 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.26 inches of Mercury.
The pilot reportedly received a weather report on the Internet. While he was still in Durant, Oklahoma, he had telephoned his son and told him he was concerned about the high winds in Durant and Emory.
Witnesses to the accident and those present during firefighting operations --- between 1400 to 1430 --- said the winds were out of the south and south-southwest and were "very strong." FAA inspectors said this was corroborated by the drift path of the smoke.
The airstrip was on the pilot's private property. It was unnamed and does not appear on sectional charts or in the FAA's database. It had one runway, 2,000 ft. x 75 ft, and aligned on a magnetic heading of 015-195 degrees. The airstrip was at an eklevation approximately 500 feet above mean sea level (msl). FAA inspectors said it was rough grass and dirt, not level, and with the appearance of contour disc plowing parallel to the longitudinal axis of the runway and variably parallel to the contour of the terrain.
There was a 20 ft. x 30 ft. x 15 ft. hangar approximately 200 feet to the left of the south end of the airstrip. A windsock was attached to the top of a metal pole, approximately 15 feet high, which was mounted on the hangar. A grove of trees was on the south side of the building.
While at the accident scene the day after the accident, FAA inspectors said the wind was out of the west-southwest at 11 mph. The windsock was moderately inflated and indicates a southerly wind.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was observed to be upside down, burned, with no fabric remaining on the fuselage, wings, or horizontal stabilizer. Red fabric remained on the vertical stabilizer. Most of the aluminum parts on the aircraft had melted. The steel tubular frame remained intact. The airplane was approximately 500 feet from the runway, and was aligned on a magnetic head of 320 degrees, approximately 45 degrees from the longitudinal axis of the airstrip.
The left wing had struck a small tree before the airplane impacted terrain in a near vertical attitude. The tree was at the top of a small hill with a 20-degrees terrain gradient. The tree was approximately 15 feet tall, with broken and severed branches at the top. A 3-foot section of the tree top was found approximately 20 feet away from the tree and approximately 10 feet to the right of the airplane. Small pieces of the left wing landing light Plexiglas, a small metal bracket, and pieces of red and white fabric were found next to the tree approximately 150 feet from the tail, and scattered along the wreckage path path.
Flight control continuity was established. The left aileron control arms and pulleys near the aileron and wing tip were bent. The flap control lever was in the second detent. There was no “bird nesting”, chafing or fracture segmenting of the flight control cables. Several turnbuckle barrels were missing from the fuselage flight control cables although safety wires were still present in some of the turnbuckle assemblies. A dirt dauber nest was noted on the left wing aileron cable, directly next to the aft wing strut attach point and fitting on the aft wing spar. The nest measured 3" x 2" x 2". It was intact but was baked by the ensuing fire and had a hard texture. The dirt dauber nest was not in contact with the wing and did not interfere with control movement.
There was a ground scar approximately 8 feet to the right and forward of the left wing, approximately the same width as the left wing tip. There was a second ground scar approximately 3 feet to the right of the engine. The propeller and propeller hub assembly were inside this ground scar and were separated from the engine at the crankshaft. The engine was pushed back approximately 12 inches into the firewall. The engine mounts were all bent towards the cabin. All major components of the engine were identifiable, but were burned and damaged. The cockpit mixture and throttle controls were in the full forward position. The engine crankshaft had sheared at the propeller flywheel attach plate. The end of the crankshaft showed evidence of rotational torsional failure. The propeller spinner was crushed inwards. The center section of the crankshaft’s propeller flywheel attach plate was still bolted to the propeller with evidence of rotational torsional failure along the attach plate weld line. Shear fractured pieces of the flywheel were found near the propeller and hub assembly within the ground scar.
The cabin heater box was intact. A radial crack was noted in a weld on the lower side of the exhaust pipe that bolts to the aft end of the cabin heater box. A 1-inch crack was noted on the curved interior surface of the heater box assembly at the center section of the outboard flange, propagating parallel to the curved surface. There was a white powdery residue on the interior side of the cabin heater box cover plate, the interior curved section of the heater box assembly, and on the orange heater hoses. There was a gray discoloration under the white powdery residue on the interior curved shape of the cabin heater box assembly. The gray discoloration propagated from a small gap on the forward flange of the engine exhaust intake. The pattern resembled a tear drop or flame-shaped, and propagated aft. The same pattern and gray discoloration were on the upper flange area, propagating aft. The same pattern and gray discoloration were on the aft flange and propagated forward. The gray discoloration was noted on the inside of the cabin heater cover plate. No bluing was observed on the heater box or cover after they were wiped clean.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot's son said that on the day of the accident, his father seemed normal and didn't appear to be ill.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On January 12, 2011, the exhaust and muffler were further examined by the FAA inspector and a Textron Lycoming representative at the facilities of Air Salvage of Dallas, Lancaster, Texas. No anomalies were noted.