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On April 15, 2011, about 0830 central daylight time, a Hawker-Beechcraft E-55 airplane, N3959W, impacted terrain shortly after departure from the J Lynn Helms Sevier County Airport (DEQ), De Queen, Arkansas. The private pilot, sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged during the accident. The aircraft was registered to Rose Resources Oil & Gas, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma, and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan.
Reportedly, the flight originated the day before from the pilot’s home airport near Lafayette, Louisiana, and was destined for Tulsa, Oklahoma. En route to his destination, the pilot spent the night at DEQ to allow thunderstorms to move east of his route of flight. The pilot was continuing his flight after the storms and rain passed when the accident occurred.
The airplane departed DEQ, runway 26. A witness reported when the airplane was an estimated 300 to 500 feet in the air, the engines sounded like they were cutting out. The witness added that it appeared the airplane was trying to make a 180-degree turn back to the runway, that the airplane was at a high pitch angle and looked like it stalled and spun into the ground. Another witness, who saw the airplane through trees, reported the airplane climbing at a high pitch angle from the runway and it “sounded like the engines weren’t getting enough gas.”
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land and instrument ratings. His last third-class Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA) medical was issued on March 26, 2010. A logbook was located and the last entry was dated June 6, 2008, at which time the pilot had approximately 322 total flight hours with about 162 in multiengine airplanes. A more current logbook was not located.
The 1973 model Beech E55 Baron, serial number TE-959, was a low wing, semi-monocoque airplane, with a retractable landing gear, configured for a maximum of six occupants. The airplane was powered by two, direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, normally aspirated, six-cylinder, Continental IO-520-C engines, each rated at 285 horsepower. Each engine drove a 3-bladed constant speed Hartzell propeller.
According to the airframe logbook, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on May 6, 2010, with a total time of 1,946.3 hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated a total of 1,999.8 hours, 53.5 hours since the last inspection.
The engine logbooks revealed that both engines had been inspected in accordance with a 100-hour inspection on May 6, 2010. At the time of the inspection the right engine had accumulated a total of 1,946.3 hours and 831.0 hours since major overhaul. The left engine had accumulated a total of 1,946.3 hours.
There was no record of the airplane having received fuel at DEQ.
At 0853, the automated weather observation facility located at DEQ reported winds from 230 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 56 Fahrenheit (F), dew point 46 F, and a barometric pressure of 29.65 inches of Mercury.
J Lynn Helms Sevier County Airport (DEQ), is a public use airport, located about 3 miles west of De Queen, Arkansas. The airport is non-towered and pilots are to use the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). The airport features a single asphalt runway. Runway 26-08 is 5,001-foot long and 75-foot wide.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board Investigator-In-Charge (IIC), inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and a technical representative from the airframe manufacturer examined the airplane wreckage on site. The airplane came to rest in an open area, east of the approach end of runway 08. Additionally, the initial impact point and main wreckage, was located over a small drainage ditch. Several pieces of the airplane were located forward of the main wreckage and all major components of the airplane were accounted for on scene. There was no postimpact fire.
The airplane wreckage was resting on its belly, with extensive damage to the front cabin/instrument panel area. The cabin roof pillars were cut by rescue personnel. The left and right engine fuel selectors were each found in the “ON” position. The gear handle was in the up (retracted) position.
The right wing remained attached to the fuselage with damage along the leading edge and bottom of the wing. The right aileron and right flap remained attached to the wing. The aileron control cables remained attached to the aileron bell crank in the outboard section of the wing. The cables extended inboard to the cabin area below the front seat floorboard. The right flap was found in the up position. The right side fuel tank was breached and absent of fuel.
The right propeller assembly separated from the engine crankshaft and was found forward of the wreckage. One blade was bent, starting near the base of the blade, towards the non-cambered side. Additionally, the blade had two gouges located on the leading edge, along with lengthwise scratching, starting near the base. Blade two contained a slight bend, starting at mid-span, towards the non-cambered side. There was some leading edge polishing near the tip of the blade. The third blade was absent any leading edge gouges or chordwise scratches.
The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. The wing and engine nacelle area had extensive damage. The left aileron and left flap remained attached to the wing. The aileron control cables remained attached to the aileron bell crank in the outboard section of the wing. The left flap was found in the up position. The left side fuel tank was breached and absent of fuel. Both the left and right wing top skin panels displayed hydraulic deformation, consistent with a quantity of fuel being present in the fuel tanks, at the time of the ground impact.
The left propeller assembly was also broken from the crankshaft just behind the propeller flange. The propeller remained in front of the left engine. One propeller blade was bent, starting near the hub, towards the non-chambered side. The blade contained two leading edge gouges near the tip. There were no leading edge gouges or chordwise scratches. Blade 2 exhibited a slight bend to the non-cambered side. Propeller blades number 2 and 3 appeared absent edge gouges or chordwise scratches.
The empennage did not exhibit damage to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The rudder remained undamaged and attached by all hinge points with the trim tab located about five degrees to the right. The elevator remained attached via their respective hinges with both trim tabs found in the five degrees tab down (nose up) position. The flight control cables were connected to each control surface; however, the cables appeared “pinched” by the damage to the fuselage floor.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Medical Examiner Division, Little Rock, Arkansas conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was determined to be "multiple blunt force injuries.”
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. The results of analysis of the specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
TEST AND RESEARCH
Examinations of the left and right engines were conducted at a salvage facility under the supervision of the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC).
The left engine sustained impact damage including damage to the oil sump, intake pipes, and all four mounting legs. The cylinders were examined using a lighted borescope. The cylinders had normal combustion deposits on the piston heads and the cylinder domes. All of the valves were in place. The crankshaft was rotated by hand; continuity was confirmed to each cylinder and to the accessory drive section of the engine. A thumb compression and suction test was confirmed to each cylinder. The top set of sparkplugs were removed and had normal wear when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug comparison chart.
The oil filter was opened and the filter element was absent any metal particles. The magnetos were in place on the engine. The left magneto was timed at 25 degrees before top dead center; the right magneto was timed at 20 degrees before top dead center. A spark at each terminal was observed when the crankshaft was rotated. The fuel pump was in place and not damaged. The drive coupling was intact. The fuel metering unit was in place and had sustained impact damaged. The throttle and mixture controls were attached and were free to move. The throttle interconnect was also attached. The fuel screen was clean and clear of any debris or contaminates.
The right engine sustained similar damage, as the left engine. The cylinders were examined using a lighted borescope. The cylinders had normal combustion deposits on the piston heads and the cylinder domes. All of the valves were in place. The crankshaft was rotated by hand; continuity was confirmed to each cylinder and to the accessory drive section of the engine. A thumb compression and suction test was confirmed to each cylinder. The top set of sparkplugs were removed and had normal wear when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug comparison chart.
The fuel pump was in place and had impact damage. The low pressure set screw was pushed into the back of the pump. The drive coupling was not damaged. The fuel metering unit was in place and had heavy impact damage. The mixture control arm had separated by the impact. The mixture and throttle controls were free to move, from stop to stop. The fuel screen was clean and clear. The oil filter was opened and the filter element was absent any metal particles.
The left magneto was found to be timed at 22 degrees before top dead center, and the right magneto was timed at 21 degrees before top dead center. Both magnetos sparked at each terminal when the crankshaft was rotated.
The examination of the left and right engines did not reveal any abnormalities that would have prevented normal operation.
The examination of the airframe confirmed that the flight control lock, was not installed in the pilot’s control column. Additionally, damage and marks found on the front baggage door and cabin nose area were consistent with the door being closed at the time of the accident.