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On November 26, 2011, at 0912 mountain standard time, a Cessna 182R, N9408X, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Mescalero, New Mexico. The pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by JD & KAT, Ltd., Snyder, Texas, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight originated from Snyder (KSNK), Texas, at an undetermined time, and was en route to Ruidoso (KSRR), New Mexico.
According to the transcript of radio communications, the pilot contacted the Roswell (KROW), New Mexico, approach controller at 0821. He reported he was about 20 miles east of ROW at 8,500 feet en route to SRR, and would be transiting through the ROW control zone. The controller issued the pilot a discrete transponder code of 0165, identified him on radar as being 25 miles east of the Chisum Vortac (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range), and gave him the KROW altimeter setting.
At 0834, the controller advised the pilot that there was an area of light precipitation 15 miles ahead at his 12 o’clock position, about 10 miles in diameter, and extending about 10 miles along his flight path. One minute later, the pilot advised the controller that he was going to descend 1,000 feet to stay out of the clouds. At 0841, the controller asked the pilot if he was familiar with the high terrain around KSRR. The pilot did not answer but one minute later, he advised the controller that he was turning around and proceeding to KROW due to poor visibility.
At 0854, the pilot said he was going to attempt to proceed to KSRR again. He was told to proceed at his discretion and to maintain VFR. A few minutes later, he was given a traffic advisory, advised that radar services were terminated, to change his transponder code, and a frequency change was approved. The pilot acknowledged the transmission at 0905. There were no further radio communications with N9408X.
According to the KSRR airport manager, the pilot’s father was at the airport waiting for his son to arrive. The pilot called on the airport’s Unicom frequency and said he was unable to continue due to poor weather. The airport manager said he assumed the pilot had diverted to another airport.
When the airplane was reported missing, authorities were notified and an aerial search was conducted. The wreckage was located on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, near Ruidoso, on November 30.
PERSONNEL (CREW) INFORMATION
The 49-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, dated June 27, 2010. He was not instrument rated. He also held a third class airman medical certificate, dated November 11, 2011, with no restrictions or limitations.
The pilot’s logbook contained entries from February 15, 2010, to October 16, 2011, inclusive, and all of his flight time (in hours) had been accrued in N9408X, to wit:
Total time, 209.7
N9418X (serial number 18268514), a model 182R, was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Corporation in 1985. It was an all-metal (aluminum alloy), four-seat, single-engine airplane with a gross weight of 3,100 pounds. Powered by a Continental O-470-U(11) engine (serial number 470598), rated at 230 horsepower, it drove a McCauley C2A34C204/90DCB-B 2-blade, all-metal, constant speed propeller (serial number 850159).
According to the maintenance records, the engine was remanufactured and installed on the airplane on April 19, 2005, at a tachometer time of 681.4 hours and an engine total time of 1,603.9 hours. The last pitot-static system, altimeter, and encoder checks were made on December 21, 2005. The last transponder check was made on December 7, 2009. The last annual inspection was performed on December 15, 2010, at a total time of 1,861.0 hours.
The following METARs (Aviation Routine Meteorological Report) were recorded at 0935 by the AWOS-3 (Automated Weather Observation System) at the Sierra Blanca Regional Airport (KSRR), Ruidoso, New Mexico, located about 7 miles northwest of the accident site:
Wind, 020 degrees at 7 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; ceiling, 3,000 feet broken, 3,700 feet broken, 4,300 feet overcast; temperature, 1 degree C.; dew point, -7 degrees C.; altimeter setting, 30.35 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site revealed a 1,650-foot debris path on the downward slope of a hill. The airplane was completely fragmented. Both wings and the empennage were identified. Both propeller blades were recovered. The engine was located at the far end of the debris path. The airspeed indicator faceplate bore a “slap mark” at 150 knots.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. According to their report (#2011-05880), the pilot’s death was attributed to “multiple blunt force injuries.” Toxicology protocol was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI). According to CAMI’s report, no ethanol or drugs were detected the tissue samples. Carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
During the accident site examination, a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) unit was found. The unit was sent to NTSB for examination and readout. Graphic and tabular charts were developed that showed the airplane to be in a right spiral (see docket item: MAPS AND CHARTS OF ACCIDENT AREA). The last recorded groundspeed was 207 knots (see docket item: TABULAR GPS DATA OF ACCIDENT FLIGHT).
FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) AC (Advisory Circular) 60-4A, entitled “Pilot’s Spatial Disorientation,” states that disorientation is caused by a lack of visual reference to the natural horizon, and can be brought about by low visibility, night conditions, and reflected light from the anticollision rotating beacon. Disorientation can cause the pilot to inadvertently place the airplane in a dangerous attitude. To avoid becoming disoriented, the Advisory recommends that pilots obtain training and maintain proficiency in aircraft control by reference to instruments, to rely solely on those instrument indications, and to avoid flying in poor or deteriorating weather conditions.