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On June 9, 2012, at 1126 eastern daylight time, a Phillips Challenger II, N1279T, was substantially damaged during collision with terrain while maneuvering for landing at Blackwater Airpark (9FD2), Plant City, Florida. The pilot/owner was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that departed 9FD2 about 1110. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91.
According to the airport manager, the purpose of the flight was for the pilot/owner to get “one last flight” in the airplane before he sold it. The pilot had experienced health issues and undergone surgery in the years prior to the accident, and had not flown the airplane in approximately one year.
The manager watched the entire flight, and described the takeoff as “normal” with no problems noted. The first landing approach was “fast and long,” and the pilot performed a go-around and entered the traffic pattern for another approach.
The manager and other witnesses stated the airplane descended on the base leg of the traffic pattern to about 500 feet, and then the airplane turned and aligned with the runway. During the descent on final approach, the airplane pitched up, leveled off, descended, and pitched up multiple times with corresponding changes in engine power. They observed as the airplane “wandered” to the west,and was briefly flying parallel to the runway as it headed towards their location on the grass apron and the hangers on the west side of the field.
The airplane pitched up, the nose dropped, and the airplane imapcted the ground in a nose-down attitude of about 25-30 degrees. During the descent and at ground contact, the engine was running “at cruise power.” The engine continued to run after the accident, and first responders had to pull one of the carburetors from its mount in order to stop the engine.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot did not hold a pilot certificate. He most recently held a student pilot certificate, which expired April 30, 2009. A review of his logbooks revealed that he first logged an entry in 1952; he last logged an entry in 2006, and had accrued 122 total hours of flight experience as of that date. His most recent third-class FAA medical certificate was issued in November 2007. The pilot did possess a valid driver’s license.
According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was purchased in 1993 and certificated in 2007, and was registered to the pilot/owner. It was a two-place, high wing, single-engine airplane, with fixed landing gear. According to the airplane’s maintenance records, the most recent condition inspection was completed on June 5, 2012, at 19 total aircraft hours.
At 1115, the weather conditions reported at Plant City Municipal Airport (PCM), about 7 miles north of the accident site, included winds from 160 at 3 knots. There was a broken cloud ceiling at 5,000 feet and 8,500 feet. Visibility was 10 miles; the temperature was 30 degrees C, the dew point 24 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 30.02 inches of mercury.
The wreckage was examined at the site, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented 030 degrees magnetic, and was approximately 180 feet in length.
The initial impact point was on the west side of the north/south runway, and the ground scar crossed the runway on an approximate 30-degree angle. The airplane came to rest upright on the east side of the runway. Fragments associated with the nose landing gear and nose enclosure were scattered along the wreckage path.
The bottom of the fuselage was crushed upwards, and the fore and aft cabin structure was folded in on the cockpit area. The engine support structure was collapsed, and the engine rested on the bottom of the airframe.
Control continuity was established from the cockpit to the flight control surfaces.
Examination of the two-bladed wooden propeller revealed that both blades were fractured and splintered near the propeller hub. Splintered fragments of the propeller were scattered along the wreckage path.
The examination did not reveal any defects or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Department, Tampa, Florida, performed the autopsy on the pilot. The autopsy revealed the pilot died from blunt injuries to the head and neck.
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. No carbon monoxide, cyanide, or ethanol, were detected in the specimens tested.
The following Tested-for-Drugs were detected:
Atenolol detected in Blood (Cavity) - Atenolol (Tenormin®) is a prescription synthetic, beta1-selective (cardioselective) adrenoreceptor blocking agent used to treat high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Atenolol detected in Urine
Clonidine detected in Urine – Clonidine (Catapres®) is a prescription centrally-acting alpha-agonist hypotensive agent used to treat high blood pressure. This centrally-acting medication has side effects including dizziness and fatigue. According to the FAA, clonidine use was a disqualifying condition for the issuance of a medical certificate.
A review of the autopsy report as well as statements from the pilot’s wife and his acquaintances revealed the pilot’s medical history included:
Coronary artery disease (Blocked / narrowed coronary arteries)
Myocardial infarction (old heart attack) at apex of heart
Aortic valve replacement
Mitral valve repair
Stage III renal failure (moderate reduction in the filtering capability of the kidneys)
High blood pressure
The pilot’s pacemaker logbook did not record any arrhythmias on the day of the accident. It could not be determined to what degree the pilot’s general health, or use of medication, affected his performance during the accident flight.