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On November 29, 2010, at 1845 central standard time, a Beech A36, N1860P, registered to B2 Air LLC, operating as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, collided with the ground while maneuvering in the vicinity of Theodore, Alabama. Marginal visual meteorological (MVFR) conditions prevailed. The private pilot was killed. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated from St Elmo Airport (2R5), St Elmo, Alabama, about 1837.
A co-owner of the airplane stated the accident pilot called him at about 1730 and informed that he was going to 2R5 to go fly since his night currency had expired. He further stated this was the first night flight that the pilot had conducted in the accident airplane.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Mobile Approach Control, the pilot contacted the facility at 1841:37. The pilot stated the weather was lower than anticipated and he requested an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance with an RNAV approach back to runway 6 at 2R5. The airplane was radar identified 3 miles north of 2R5. The pilot was instructed to maintain 2,000 feet, and upon reaching 2,000 feet to proceed direct to OTUWI intersection. The pilot acknowledged the clearance at 1844:04 and there were no further communications between the pilot and the controller.
A witness, who is an aircraft mechanic, stated he observed the airplane flying from south to north with the strobes lights on. The airplane was flying below a cloud layer estimated to be between 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground. It was very dark with no ambient light. The airplane flew over his house and the engine sounded like it was developing about 60 to 70 percent power. The airplane continued north towards Lee Roy Hill pasture, located at the end of Wyn Road. The witness heard an increase in engine power followed by an impact and an explosion.
Another witness stated he was standing in his back yard and observed the airplane traveling in straight and level flight, in and out of the clouds. The winds were out of the south; it was very dark, with little illumination. The ceiling was about 500 feet. The airplane passed over his location and continued north bound. The engine noise stopped and the sky illuminated as the airplane collided with the ground.
A review of Mobile Approach Control radar revealed the airplane was at 700 feet mean sea level at 1842:19, and started a right climbing turn. At 1843:29, the airplane was at 900 feet and had turned back to the left. The airplane was at 1,000 feet at 1843:56 and continued in a climbing right turn to 1,100 feet. The airplane was last observed by Mobile Approach radar at 1,000 feet in a descending right turn at 1844:20. The airplane was observed by Citronella radar site located 21 miles north of Mobile Approach Control radar at 700 feet in a descending right turn at 1844:32.
The pilot, age 37, held a private pilot certificate issued on September 14, 2010, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. The pilot's last instrument proficiency check and last flight review was conducted on September 14, 2010. The pilot had logged 164.2 total flight hours; of which, 27.7 hours were in the Beech A36. The pilot had logged 4.1 hours of night flight time. The last recorded night flight before the accident was on September 14, 2009. The pilot had not logged any previous night flights in the Beech A36. The pilot had logged a total of 4.5 hours of total actual instrument flight time; of which, 1 hour was as pilot in command (PIC). The pilot's last instrument flight was on October 24, 2010, in a Cessna 172. The pilot had logged .3 hours of instrument flight time in the Beech A36 as PIC.
The Beech A36 was a six-place airplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear, serial number E-1934, manufactured in 1981. A Continental IO-550, 300-horsepower, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine powered the airplane. Review of the airplane logbooks revealed the last annual and 100-hour inspection was conducted on November 11, 2010, at a recorded tachometer time of 3598.2 hours. The tachometer at the accident site was destroyed. A factory new IO-550-B (67) was installed on the airplane on September 25, 2008, at a tachometer time of 3558.5 hours. The airplane had flown 39.7 hours since the factory new engine was installed, to the time of the most recent annual inspection. The total airframe hours at the time of the annual inspection were 3598.2 hours. The altimeter, transponder, and transponder automatic altitude reporting system were tested on October 1, 2010.
The registered owner of the airplane stated the airplane was topped off with fuel on November 27, 2010, while at Tara Field, located near Atlanta, Georgia. He and his wife flew back to 2R5 and parked the airplane in the hanger. The airplane had 90 gallons of 100 low lead fuel on board when the accident pilot departed on the flight to obtain his night currency requirements.
AT the time of the accident, the National Weather Service (NWS) depicted a warm front extending over the southern Alabama with an extensive area of instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions over southern and central Alabama, extreme western Florida panhandle, central and northern Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, western Illinois, and portions of western and central Georgia. Surrounding that area was an area of marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions over portions of eastern Texas to northern Florida, into the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and into Illinois. The closest visual flight rules (VFR) conditions were over a small area of southern Louisiana. The accident site was depicted as being under a large area of IFR ceilings between 500 and 900 feet above ground level (agl).
The southeast section of the NWS hourly radar summary chart depicted two tornado watches immediately west of the accident site, extending to Louisiana into extreme southwest Texas, and the second watch area over Mississippi, into southeast Louisiana. A large area of echoes associated with thunderstorms and rain showers extending in a north to south line from Arkansas, into Louisiana, and into Texas and predominantly within the first watch area. Several small scattered echoes extended over southern Louisiana and Mississippi within the second watch area. However, although severe weather was occurring immediately west of the area, a review of the local regional mosiac indicated no echoes in the vicinity at the time of the accident.
The closest weather reporting facility to 2R5 was Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), Mobile, Alabama, located approximately 11 miles north at an elevation of 219 feet mean sea level (msl). No weather reporting capability other than a windsock was available at 2R5. Predominately MVFR to IFR conditions prevailed surrounding the period of the accident. At the time of departure, MOB reported winds were from 150 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 18 knots, visibility 10 miles, ceiling broken at 1,000 feet, overcast at 1,300 feet, temperature 23 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 21 degrees C, and altimeter 29.96 inches of mercury (Hg). Remarks: automated observation system, ceiling 800 feet variable 1,200 feet.
The next closest weather reporting location was from Mobile Downtown Airport (BFM), located 13 miles northeast of 2R5. At 1853 BFM reported a wind from 160 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 6 miles in mist, scattered clouds at 200 feet, ceiling broken at 1,100 feet, overcast at 8,000 feet, temperature and dew point 19 degrees C, and altimeter 29.96 inches of Hg. A special report was issued at 1913, reporting visibility of 5 miles in mist with a ceiling broken at 200 feet.
Trent Lott International Airport (PQL), Pascagoula, Mississippi, was located 13 miles west of 2R5. The 1853 weather observation was wind from 150 at 10 knots, visibility 9 miles, ceiling overcast at 900 feet, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 21 degrees C, and altimeter 29.94 inches of Hg. The ceiling was 800 feet variable to 1,300 feet.
Review of the Slidell, Louisiana 1900 sounding indicated light surface wind from the east with winds veering to the south-southwest through 5,000 feet with a rapid increase in wind speed immediately above the surface. At 1,000 feet the wind was identified from 095 degrees at 20 knots, and at 2,000 feet from 115 degrees at 26 knots. The resultant strong vertical wind shear supported a potential for moderate to severe turbulence, with between a 90 to 100 percent probability of occurrence.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13 infrared satellite image at 1845 depicted an area of low strati form type clouds extending over the Gulf coastal area and over the accident site, with an area of embedded cumulonimbus clouds extending over Tennessee, Mississippi, into northeast Louisiana.
The pilot reports over the region indicated overcast layer of clouds between 700 to 800 feet over the region near the time of the accident with tops near 1,500 feet msl.
The forecast for southern Alabama expected overcast clouds at 1,000 feet msl layered to 25,000 feet, with widely scattered rain showers and isolated thunderstorms and light rain showers. There were no convective significant meteorological information (SIGMETs) current over Alabama surrounding the period until after 1955. At the time of the accident, the NWS had AIRMETs Sierra update number 3 current over the area for localized IFR conditions due to ceilings below 1,000 feet agl and visibilities below 3 miles in precipitation. The conditions were expected to continue beyond 2100 through 0300 CST. In addition, airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET) Tango was in effect for occasional moderate turbulence below 14,000 feet.
The closest Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) to the accident site was from Mobile MOB. The forecast available prior to the flight's departure was issued at 1144.The forecast expected wind from 140 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 21 knots, visibility better than 6 miles with rain showers in the vicinity of the airport, scattered clouds at 1,000 feet agl, ceiling broken at 2,500 feet with temporary visibility 3 miles in thunderstorms and moderate rain with ceiling broken at 700 feet in cumulonimbus clouds.
Review of the U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon data revealed that official sunset was at 1651 and the end of civil twilight was at 1717. The sun and the moon were more than 15 degrees below the horizon and provided no illumination.
Communication with the Direct Users Access Terminal personnel and Lockheed Martin revealed the pilot did not file a flight plan or obtain a weather briefing prior to departing on the accident flight.
The crash site was located in Lee Roy Hill pasture at the end of Wyn Road in the vicinity of Theodore, Alabama, about 2 miles north of 2R5. Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane collided with the ground in a nose down attitude, on a heading of 246 degrees magnetic. There was no crash debris line present. Browning of vegetation was present at the crash site forward and aft of the main wreckage.
The nose section and cabin area extending aft to the cabin step was located 4 feet below the surface of the ground. A post crash fire partially consumed the wreckage.
The propeller hub was fragmented and remnants of the propeller hub remained attached to the crankshaft propeller mounting flange. The spinner was fragmented and partially separated from the propeller face plate.
The left and right engine cowlings were separated and fragmented. The lower nose cowling remained partially attached to the nose structure. The engine was separated from all engine mounts and was pushed aft against the firewall. The engine remained attached to the firewall by the throttle cable attachment to the throttle body. Both exhaust mufflers were separated. All intake pipes separated from their respective cylinders and the oil sump was intact.
The forward cabin area was partially consumed by fire from the instrument panel extending aft to the aft utility door hinge. The headliner and upper cabin fuselage structure exhibited forward to aft compression buckling and remained partially attached to the cabin fuselage structure. The instrument panel was fragmented. The face of the airspeed indicator displayed 152 knots indicated airspeed. The vertical speed indicator face was separated from the vertical speed indicator and indicated a 4,000 feet-per-minute rate of climb.
Continuity of the flight controls was confirmed from the control yokes aft to all flight control surfaces. The fuel selector valve was found in the left main fuel tank position. The fuel selector valve shaft was bent at the handle, seized internally and could not be moved. The left hand fuel port was clear of debris and unobstructed. The airframe fuel filter element was twisted and exhibited sooting. The fuel filter element was unobstructed and clear of debris. The left and right main landing gear were in the retracted position.
The right wing was fire damaged, and was separated from the wing attach points. The leading edge of the wing exhibited accordion crushing from the wing root, extending outboard to and including the wing tip fuel tank. The wing tip fuel tank was buried 8 inches below the surface of the ground. The leading edge was separated from the forward spar and skin tearing was present at forward spar rivet lines. The right main fuel tank was ruptured and the fuel cap was closed with a tight seal. The Osborne wing tip fuel tank was ruptured and the fuel cap was consumed by fire. The right flap was partially consumed by fire. The outboard 2 feet of the flap remained attached to the outboard flap track. The outboard section of the flap appeared to be partially extended.
The aft fuselage was partially consumed by fire and came to rest inverted over the top of the nose section. The tail cone, the left and right horizontal stabilizers, and vertical stabilizer remained attached to the aft fuselage. The left and right horizontal stabilizers were partially consumed by fire and exhibited compression buckling at the leading edges. The left and right elevator control surfaces and counter balance weights remained attached to the left and right horizontal stabilizers. The left and right elevator trim tabs remained attached to the left and right elevator control surfaces and visually appeared symmetrical to one another. The autopilot pitch trim servo was separated from its mount and exhibited thermal damage and the trim cables were not attached. The left and right elevator trim actuators and control rods remained attached to the elevator trim control surfaces.
The left wing was fire damaged, and was separated from the wing attach points. The leading edge of the wing exhibited accordion crushing from the wing root extending outboard to and including the wing tip fuel tank. The wing tip fuel tank was buried 12-inches below the surface of the ground. The leading edge was separated from the forward spar and skin tearing was present at forward spar rivet lines. The left main fuel tank was ruptured. The fuel cap was closed with a tight seal. The Osborne wing tip fuel tank was ruptured and the fuel cap had a tight seal. The left flap exhibited sooting and compression buckling throughout its length. The left flap remained attached to the inboard and outboard flap tracks. The left flap track actuator remained attached to the flap attach fitting. The left flap track actuator was extended 4.5-inches, which correspond to an extension of about 16 degrees. The left aileron was fire damaged and separated from the left wing.
The engine assembly was transported to the engine manufacture and examined. Examination of the engine revealed the exhaust pipes remained attached to all cylinders. The starter was partially separated from the starter adapter and damaged. The starter drive shaft was rotated by hand. The starter adapter was damaged and the starter shaft rotated freely. The ignition harness leads were damaged and frayed. The left magneto was damaged and separated from its mounting flange, and the drive shaft was rotated by hand freely. The right magneto separated from its mounting flange and was crushed. The oil pump was removed and was intact. The oil pump cavity contained light scratches and exhibited no anomalies. The oil pump gear teeth were not damaged. The oil pressure relief valve and seat were not obstructed. The tachometer drive was separated from the oil pump drive shaft. The oil filter was damaged and separated from the mounting pad. The filter was cut open and the filter element was clean and coated with oil.
The fuel metering unit was separated from the engine and remained attached to the mixture and throttle control rods. The mixture and throttle controls were free to move. The throttle interconnect was intact. The positions of the throttle and mixture controls were unreliable due to damage. The fuel screen was clean and dry. No fuel was present in the fuel metering unit. The fuel pump was damaged and intact. The drive shaft was hard to rotate. The pump was disassembled and no internal damage was observed. The fuel manifold valve was removed, examined, and disassembled. The manifold valve plunger assembly was intact, secure and not damaged. Fuel injector line Nos. 3 and 5 were separated from their respective cylinders. The remaining fuel injector lines were in place. The fuel nozzles were damaged and no obstructions were noted.
The top and bottom spark plugs were removed. The Nos. 1, 5, and 6 top spark plugs were broken and the Nos. 1 and 6 bottom spark plugs were broken. The spark plugs exhibited normal wear when compared to the Champion Aviation Check -A-Plug card. The spark plugs exhibited light gray deposits in the electrode areas. The alternator was separated from the engine and the outer case was crushed. The drive coupling was intact and the drive shaft would not rotate. The standby alternator was damaged and separated from the mounting pad. The oil sump was impact damage in the rear section and contained no oil. The oil pick up tube was in place and not damaged. The induction system was not located. The engine driven vacuum pump remained attached to the engine. The drive shaft would not rotate. The vacuum pump was disassembled. The rotor block was shattered and the vanes were in place. The drive shaft rotated freely by hand after the removal of the rotor block. The standby vacuum pump was separated from the drive motor and located in the airplane wreckage. The drive shaft was separated from the pump. The pump was fire damaged. The standby vacuum pump was disassembled. The rotor block was shattered and the vanes were in place.
The engine was disassembled and all engine cylinders were removed. All cylinders exhibited cooling fin damage. All cylinder domes exhibited light combustion deposits. Rocker cover Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 6 were crushed and cylinder Nos. 5 and 6 were damaged on the front of the cylinder. The cylinder bores exhibited rust and corrosion. All valves were in place. Oil residue was present in the rocker box areas. Cylinder No. 5 and No. 6 exhaust push rods were damaged. The No. 6 intake push rod was damaged. All remaining exhaust and intake push rods were not damaged. All pistons were intact and not damaged. The pistons exhibited light gray combustion deposits. All connecting rods were intact and not damaged. The connecting rods would not rotate on the rod journals. The crankshaft was damaged and compressed rearward, separating the slinger ring from the crankshaft. The camshaft was intact and not damaged. Main bearing Nos. 3, 4, and 5 were displaced rearward and all main bearings and were coated with lubricating oil. The rod cap bearings were intact and coated with oil.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Alabama Department of Forensic Science Chief Medical Examiner, Mobile, Alabama, conducted an autopsy on the pilot on December 1, 2010. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. The Bioaeronautical Research Science Laboratory, FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The specimens were negative for ethanol, carbon monoxide, and basic, acidic, and neutral drugs.
Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 60-4A states the attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface, If neither horizon or surface references exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. However, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen, when this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of disorientation may vary considerably with individual pilots, Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is up.
Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above visual flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or surface reference is common on overwater flights, at night, and especially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas or in low visibility conditions. Therefore, the use of flight instruments is essential to maintain proper attitude when encountering any of the elements which may result in spatial disorientation.
Review of Section X Beechcraft Safety Information Page 10-34, VERTIGO-DISORIENTATION states, flying in fog, dense haze or dust, cloud banks or very low visibility, with strobe lights on or rotating beacons turned on can contribute to vertigo. They should be turned off in these conditions, particularly at night.