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On August 19, 2012, about 1155 eastern daylight time, a Daher Socata TB10, N5542Z, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees and a construction dumpster during a forced landing after takeoff from Brookhaven Calabro Airport (HWV), Shirley, New York. The certificated private pilot/owner and a passenger were fatally injured, and the pilot-rated passenger, a prospective buyer for the airplane, was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The purpose of the accident flight was a pre-purchase demonstration of the accident airplane; a Daher Socata TB10 "Tobago." The buyer said that he intended to examine and photograph the maintenance logbooks and the Airworthiness Directives log, then fly the airplane around the airport traffic pattern with the owner. If he was satisfied with the maintenance logs and the performance of the airplane, he was going to order a pre-purchase examination of the airplane from a maintenance facility that specialized in the Socata.
In a postaccident interview, the buyer said he and his wife arrived at Brookhaven Airport, and asked the owner for the maintenance logbooks to examine and photograph. The owner pointed to a table where the logbooks were sitting, but insisted that they fly the airplane first, and examine them afterward. The buyer then placed his camera tripod on the table next to the logbooks, and walked with his wife and the owner to the airplane.
The buyer explained to the owner that he was unfamiliar with the Socata TB10, and asked the owner to perform the engine start and preflight checks. Once the engine was started and the checks completed, the owner stated that the mechanic had just informed him that the tachometer was “unreliable.” The owner then proceeded to taxi the airplane to the runway for takeoff.
The buyer performed the takeoff roll and stated that the airplane’s acceleration was unusually slow, and that the airplane used significantly more runway than he anticipated. At 65 knots indicated airspeed, the buyer attempted to rotate the airplane for takeoff. The airplane lifted off, but immediately settled back onto to the runway. The buyer then relinquished the flight controls to the owner, who continued the takeoff.
The buyer stated that, after lifting off the runway, the airplane “didn’t leave ground effect.” He stated that the airplane would not climb, and was “skimming the treetops.” After reaching an altitude of about 150 feet, the airplane then “broke to the right and entered a classic stall/spin.”
The buyer believed that he was ejected from the airplane during the collision with the trees and the dumpster, and described how he found himself and his wife outside the airplane and on fire.
When asked if he thought to abort the takeoff, he said he started to, and at the same time, he gave the flight controls to the owner. When asked if he thought the owner would abort the takeoff at that point, he said he had no expectation of whether the owner would abort or continue, because he felt that the airplane’s lack of performance was due to his possibly “doing something incorrectly.” As the owner continued the takeoff, another pilot announced over the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency, “Tobago on takeoff, check your carb[uretor] heat.” The buyer said he looked and confirmed that the throttle, mixture, propeller, and carburetor heat controls were all in the “full forward” position.
According to witnesses, their attention was drawn to the airplane during its takeoff roll. The pace was described as "slow" and "anemic" as the airplane used almost the entire length of the 4,000-foot-long runway to become airborne. They described the airplane as it climbed slowly to tree-top height, in a nose-high pitch attitude, and disappeared from view. Moments later, a large smoke plume appeared out of the trees a short distance beyond the airport boundary.
A witness who was standing on his back porch facing northeast, about 1.5 miles from the airport, said the airplane appeared above the trees at the back border of his property, flying directly toward him, and that the sound of the engine was "really loud." The airplane descended over his backyard and below the height of his one-story house in a 30-degree left bank. The airplane then pitched up, climbed over the house, and struck a tree and a construction dumpster in front of the house, where it burst into flames. The witness then described his efforts to extinguish the fire and assist the occupants of the airplane.
The pilot/owner held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued on August 1, 2003. He reported 18 total hours of flight experience on that date. His pilot logbooks were not recovered.
The buyer held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on December 12, 2011. Examination of his logbook revealed the pilot had logged 189.8 total hours of flight experience, none of which was in the accident airplane make and model.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1991 and was issued a ferry permit on June 20, 2012, in order to relocate the airplane and perform an annual inspection and other maintenance at HWV. Although the maintenance records were not recovered, the investigation revealed a two-page handwritten list of discrepancies for the airplane, prepared by the mechanic who relocated the airplane to HWV and was performing the maintenance on it. He stated that there were no anomalies with the performance and handling of the airplane on the ferry flight to HWV, but that the tachometer was "intermittent" and appeared to work properly only at high rpm engine settings.
Item number 27 on the mechanic's list was "Carb[uretor] has sediment in bowl – disassemble & clean." The item was checked in the margin and 3 hours of labor was annotated and billed.
The buyer stated that the airplane had been posted on the internet for sale, but that the owner did not reply to several requests to see the airplane and its records. He and his wife flew to Mattituck, New York, where the airplane had been parked for several years, to examine the exterior of the airplane. Afterwards, they continued to try to contact the owner. After several months, the owner finally responded to the buyer and informed him that the airplane had been flown to HWV for an annual inspection and correction of maintenance discrepancies in preparation for its sale.
Prior to the buyer’s examination and test flight of the airplane at HWV, the owner represented to him in emails, text messages, and over the telephone that the annual inspection was completed, that there were no outstanding discrepancies, that the airplane was airworthy, and that it was ready for sale.
FAA inspectors, who responded immediately to the accident site, visited the mechanic at his facility the same day. The inspectors requested the maintenance records of the accident airplane, but the mechanic insisted that he did not possess them, and that he had surrendered them to the owner to "make copies." In a series of interviews with the FAA, as well as a statement submitted through his attorney, the mechanic stated that he did not complete the annual inspection because of the faulty tachometer, and because the pilot had complained about a lack of engine power following a flight in the accident airplane on August 16, 2012, 3 days prior to the accident. He stated that he made no effort to troubleshoot the engine power issue, because the airplane’s tachometer was not operational.
The owner had a friend accompany him on the flight 3 days before the accident. In an interview, the friend explained that the airplane "would not climb properly" and never reached an altitude above 300-400 feet. The friend heard the owner complain to the mechanic that the tachometer was inoperative and that there was "something wrong with the power" that prevented the airplane from climbing normally. A witness to that flight reported to the FAA that he saw the airplane "struggling to get into the air." He described the airplane as "extremely" nose-high and tail-low, "barely" clearing the trees, "struggling" around the traffic pattern, and finally completing a "hard landing." The same witness observed the accident flight, and said that the airplane used the full length of the runway and again had "trouble" taking off.
According to his lawyer, the mechanic brought the airplane into the hangar on the day of the accident for the buyer's inspection, and then subsequently moved the airplane back outside for the owner, and told the owner the airplane "should not be flown." He also briefed the buyer about the features of the "new tach[ometer]" at the request of the owner because the tachometer was inoperative. The owner, the buyer, and his wife then left the hanger, and the airplane was heard to start and taxi away. The mechanic told his lawyer he "never thought" the owner would fly the airplane.
After the accident, the FAA inspectors who responded to the maintenance facility recovered the buyer’s camera tripod from the bed of the pilot/owner's pickup truck. The buyer stated that he placed the tripod next to the maintenance logbooks on a work table in the hangar just prior to the accident flight.
The 1156 weather conditions reported at HWV, at 81 feet elevation, included clear skies, visibility 10 miles, temperature 23 degrees C, dewpoint 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.97 inches of mercury. The wind was from 140 degrees at 7 knots.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 20, 2012. The airplane was largely consumed by post-crash fire. The airplane struck a tree and a commercial construction dumpster that was parked on a residential street. Several pieces of angularly cut wood were found along the wreckage path.
A review of video footage revealed that, immediately after the crash, the airplane rested inverted on top of the dumpster. As the fire progressed, the remains of the wings, fuselage, empennage, and tail section fell into the dumpster. The cockpit and engine, with propeller attached, fell to the street, inverted, outside the dumpster.
Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to components identifiable with the flight control surfaces. The cockpit was severely damaged by fire, and no usable evidence was gathered from it. The engine compartment forward of the firewall sustained minor fire damage. The engine cowlings were removed, and the engine displayed soot coatings on external components. Closer inspection revealed that the mixture control cable was disconnected from the carburetor mixture control arm. The cable displayed a light coating of soot, with no damage or fraying of the cable. The cable grip hardware on the mixture control arm was also undamaged, and the cable grip hole was completely open and unobstructed by the cable grip hardware.
The engine was recovered from the scene and examined at HWV. The engine was rotated by hand and continuity was established through the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all but the number 1 cylinder, due to impact damage to the exhaust pushrod and the valve rocker. The single-drive, dual magneto was removed; rotated by hand, and produced spark at all terminal leads. The engine-driven fuel pump was removed, actuated by hand, and pumped fluid. The carburetor was removed, disassembled, and revealed heat damage to the carburetor floats. Further examination revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical deficiency.
The carburetor mixture control cable was sectioned several inches from the carburetor end. The sectioned cable and the carburetor mixture control arm were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC, for examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed the toxicological testing for the pilot. The following Tested-for-Drugs were detected:
Nicotine detected in blood and urine. Nicotine is an alkaloid found in tobacco products and is used as an insecticide.
Cotanine detected in blood and urine. Cotanine is a metabolite of nicotine.
A 12 percent concentration of carbon monoxide was detected in the pilot's blood. Up to 13 percent concentration can be detected in the blood of heavy smokers. The pilot was also exposed to significant post-crash fire.
The Office of the Medical Examiner, Suffolk County, New York, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was the result of multiple blunt force and thermal injuries.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On April 12, 2013, an NTSB Senior Materials Engineer examined the carburetor mixture control arm and cable section. According to his report, examination of the cable revealed that the cable had experienced clamping and sliding forces in the clamping area of the cable at some time during its service life, and that the associated contact areas of the attachment hardware similarly displayed signatures consistent with sliding forces. When measured, the minimum diameter of the cable was 0.001 inch less than the clamping space between the washer and the bolt shoulder on the control arm as found at the crash site.