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On February 5, 2012, about 1606 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172N, N7582D, struck powerlines and impacted a canal bank about 5 miles northwest of Fresno, California. The non certificated pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damaged. The airplane was registered to a private party in Walnut Creek, California, and was reportedly stolen and operated by the deceased pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was stolen from Buchanan Field Airport (CCR), Concord, California at an unknown date and time. The airplane was seen at Byron Airport (C83), Byron, California the day prior to the accident. The airplane departed Byron at an unknown time for unknown destination(s).
A witness reported to local law enforcement that he observed the airplane flying at the height of the powerlines (about 40 feet above the ground); he mentioned that he could not see the pilot and that the engine was sputtering. The airplane banked right just before it impacted the powerlines and subsequently fell to the ground.
A second witness reported to law enforcement that he did not witness the accident, however, he heard something loud outside of his home. He mentioned that it sounded like an engine that was cutting in and out. The witness further mentioned that he did not hear the airplane impact the ground.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT
An on scene examination conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and empennage. A powerline cable was wrapped around the right wing and scorch marks were noted on the right wing lift strut, as well as the left wing leading edge. Fuel was observed in the gascolator bowl, carburetor bowl, and dripping from the right fuel tank. The fuel selector was observed in the “both” position. Control continuity was established throughout. Both propeller blades sustained damage; one was bent aft about midspan with span wise gouges, and the other was bent aft at the propeller hub; 45 degree striations were noted. A key was not present within the ignition switch, however, the magnetos were in the “Both” position.
According to the FAA and investigating law enforcement agencies, the airplane was stolen from the owner’s tie down parking location at CCR. The airplane was then reportedly observed at C83 the day prior to the accident. During the on scene examination, methamphetamine and various prescription drug bottles were found within the airplane’s cabin area.
The nearest weather reporting station located about 12 miles southeast of the accident site recorded at 2353, calm wind, 10 statute miles of visibility, few clouds at 20,000 feet above ground level (agl), scattered clouds at 25,000 feet agl, temperature 19 degrees Celsius (C), dew point -3 degrees C, and an altimeter reading of 30.03 inches of mercury.
According to the FAA medical database, the pilot was 52 years old; He was issued a student pilot certificate and third class medical in November 1987. At that time, the pilot indicated he had about 25 total hours of flight time, all of which had occurred within six months preceding the medical examination. The number of hours flown in the same make and model as the stolen airplane is unknown. The pilot’s student pilot certificate was revoked by the FAA in March 1988.
MEDICAL AND PATHALOGICAL INFORMATION
Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI). The testing revealed that the pilot had 2.085 ug/ml of methamphetamine, and 0.113 ug/ml of amphetamine detected in the blood. According to CAMI, toxic to lethal levels of methamphetamine is between 0.600 ug/ml (toxic) and 10.000 ug/ml (lethal); Therapeutic levels of Amphetamine is between 0.0020 ug/ml (low) – 0.1000 ug/ml (high).
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Post-accident examination was conducted on the airframe and engine. The examination revealed throttle and mixture continuity from the firewall to the carburetor linkages; and all linkages moved freely. The upper spark plugs were removed and no visual mechanical damage was noted; all upper spark plugs had light gray deposits with the exception of the number one cylinder plug, which displayed signs of corrosion. The oil filter was removed; no debris was noted within the filter. All four cylinders were removed from the crankcase, the number one cylinder and piston sustained corrosion and rust on the barrel and piston. The number two and four cylinder barrels contained light colored dirt consistent with dirt from on scene; each piston contained normal operating deposits. The inside of the crankcase was examined, no thermal discoloration was noted.
During the examination of the single drive dual magneto, the magneto cap and condensers were affixed to a test bench. The magneto points were connected to a multimeter and no voltage was detected. The points were cleaned and spark was obtained at multiple speed intervals.