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On May 5, 2012, about 1230 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177B, N34539, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground following the pilot's loss of airplane control during climb out from an aborted landing at Cherry Ridge Airport (N30), Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated at Sullivan County International Airport (MSV), Monticello, New York. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
Several witnesses stated that the airplane completed three traffic pattern approaches to the 2,986-foot-long, 50-foot-wide runway 18. Two of the witnesses, a student pilot and a flight instructor, had just finished traffic pattern work to runway 36, and all of the witnesses who observed the windsock about the time of the accident stated that it indicated winds from the north or northwest. The flight instructor estimated wind velocity to be about 10 knots, and another witness stated that the wind sock was mostly "straight out."
The witnesses also noted that the airplane completed the first two traffic pattern approaches to low approaches that resulted in go-arounds. During the second go-around, the flight instructor saw that when the airplane was about 200 feet above the runway, it was climbing at an "unusually high" angle of attack.
The flight instructor further stated that as the airplane approached the runway a third time, it appeared to be "unusually fast." It commenced a landing flare past the runway identification numbers, and "floated a long way" until it "forcefully" touched down nose-wheel-first, then porpoised several times. Just past the windsock, engine power was applied, and the airplane's nose pitched up in excess of 20 degrees. The airplane subsequently stalled and began a spin to the left, completing a 180-degree rotation before hitting the ground with no adjustments to engine power.
Another witness noted that during the accident sequence, the nose of the airplane pitched up about 45 degrees or greater until it reached an altitude of 200 to 300 feet above the runway. It then appeared that left wing stalled, and the airplane turned to the northeast, descending to the ground with power on.
The airport had one asphalt runway, 18/36. Runway 18 was 2,986 feet long and 50 feet wide, with a displaced threshold of 519 feet. A windsock was located about 1,200 feet from the departure end of runway 18. There was no control tower or recorded communications. Airport elevation was 1,357 feet.
The pilot, age 67, held a temporary private pilot certificate that stated, “Student privileges only. Passenger carrying prohibited.” The certificate was one in a series of temporary certificates that were issued to the pilot by the FAA Allentown Flight Standards District Office following a previous accident at N30 on October 10, 2011. The first temporary certificate was issued on January 18, 2012, and the latest certificate was due to expire on May 15, 2012. The certificates were issued so that the pilot could prepare for a 49 USC 44709 check ride.
The pilot’s previous accident, NTSB accident number ERA12CA020, involved a previous Cessna 177B that he had owned and was landing the opposite way, on runway 36. According to the accident report, the pilot reported that the airplane was a “little too fast” on final approach. After it touched down on the runway, the pilot realized that there was insufficient runway remaining to stop. He added power to go around, raised the flaps incrementally, and continued ahead, but the airplane collided with trees.
The pilot’s logbook was not recovered; however, according to the Pilot/Operator Report the pilot previously filled out and which resides in the Public Docket for the first accident, as of December 26, 2012, the pilot reported 300.7 total flight hours, with 100.7 hours in make and model.
FAA records indicated that the pilot’s latest third class medical certificate was issued on July 9, 2010.
The pilot’s previous airplane was a Cessna 177B, N34218. The accident airplane, also a Cessna 177B, was registered to the pilot on February 27, 2012. The logbooks were not located, but according to a work order, the airplane’s latest annual inspection occurred on February 21, 2012. No hours were listed on the work order.
Weather, reported at an airport 24 nautical miles to the south, at 1239, included calm wind, visibility 10 statute miles, a few clouds at 2,400 feet, a broken cloud layer at 3,100 feet, an overcast cloud layer at 6,500 feet, temperature 18 degrees C, dew point 13 degrees, C and an altimeter setting of 30.01 inches Hg. Airport elevation was 1,915 feet.
Weather, reported at MSV, 24 nautical miles to the northeast, at 1235, included wind from 120 degrees true at 7 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, a few clouds at 2,600 feet, a scattered cloud layer at 3,400 feet, a broken cloud layer at 4,100 feet, temperature 18 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.00 inches Hg. Airport elevation was 1,403 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located about 200 feet to the left of runway 18, abeam the runway 36 identification markings, in the vicinity of 41 degrees 30.8 minutes north latitude, 075 degrees, 15.0 minutes west longitude.
An examination of the accident site revealed ground scars that matched left wing and engine positions, and indicated an airplane heading at initial impact of about 020 degrees magnetic. The nose of the airplane subsequently came to rest displaced about 10 feet further to the right of the initial impact point, heading about 360 degrees magnetic.
All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident scene, and control continuity to those control surfaces was confirmed from the cockpit. The outboard 7 feet of the left wing were separated from the rest of the wing, and the outboard 4 feet of each wing were crushed aft, with increasingly greater crush toward the wingtips. Looking aft from in front of the airplane, the tail section was bent slightly to the right.
Both propeller blades exhibited S-bending, chordwise scratching, and blade tip curling; all of which were consistent with the presence of engine power at the time of impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at Forensic Associates of Northeast Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, with the cause of death noted as “multiple traumatic injuries secondary to [an] airplane accident.”
Toxicological testing was subsequently performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Anomalies noted included:
Diphenhydramine detected in liver.
0.353 (ug/ml, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in blood.
The FAA Civil Aeronautical Medical Institute web site reports that diphenhydramine “is a common over-the-counter antihistamine used in the treatment of the common cold and hay fever. Warning - may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery).”
The web site also noted that a therapeutic low dosage is 0.025 ug/mL while a therapeutic high dosage is 0.1120 ug/mL.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “diphenhydramine is used to relieve red, irritated, itchy, watery eyes; sneezing and runny nose caused by hay fever, allergies, or the common cold.
FAA publication, “Medications and Flying,” states that diphenhydramine potential side effects include palpitations, jitteriness, anxiety and drowsiness.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration “Drugs and Human Performance Facts Sheet,” laboratory studies indicate that diphenhydramine can “decrease alertness, decrease reaction time, induce somnolence, impair concentration, impair time estimation, impair tracking, decrease learning ability, and impair attention and memory within the first 2-3 hours post dose. Significant adverse effects on vigilance, divided attention, working memory, and psychomotor performance have been demonstrated. It is important to note that impairment has been shown to occur even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness or sedation.”
The FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners states that only non-sedating antihistamines may be used while flying, and only if, “after an adequate initial trial period, symptoms are controlled without adverse side effects.”
Federal Air Regulation (FAR) 61.53 prohibits a person from acting as pilot in command or as a required pilot flight crew member while that person (1) "knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation"; or, (2) "is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation."
FAR 91.17 also states that (a) “No person may act or attempt to act as a pilot crewmember of a civil aircraft… (3) while using any drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety.”