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On January 14, 2014, about 1352 Pacific standard time, a Morrisey 2150, N5102V, impacted the Pacific Ocean following the in-flight separation of a wing in cruise flight near Pismo Beach, California. The airplane was destroyed, and the airline transport pilot and his pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight, which had originated from the Santa Maria Public Airport, Santa Maria, California, about 18 minutes before the accident. A flight plan had not been filed.
A witness, an FAA-certified mechanic who had recently performed an annual inspection of the airplane, reported that he was at the departure airport and observed the pilot and passenger perform a preflight inspection and fuel the airplane. The pilot then boarded the airplane and occupied the front seat. The mechanic drove away as the passenger was walking toward the airplane.
Radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tracked the airplane's flight path from takeoff to the accident site. The data showed that the airplane performed a closed traffic pattern for a touch-and-go landing on runway 30 before it departed westbound towards the Pacific Ocean. After crossing the shoreline, the airplane turned right about 90 degrees and flew northbound over the waters of San Luis Obispo Bay. The airplane climbed to a Mode C altitude of about 4,300 feet and then descended to 3,700 feet. Between 1351:22 and 1351:31, the airplane descended from 3,700 to 2,500 feet Mode C altitude, equivalent to a descent rate of about 8,000 feet per minute (fpm). Between 1351:31 and the last recorded data point at 1351:36, the airplane descended from 2,500 to 1,200 feet Mode C altitude, equivalent to a descent rate of about 15,600 fpm.
Witnesses reported to local law enforcement personnel that they saw a "white streak" descending towards the ocean, which was followed by a "loud boom" noise. One witness provided a written statement that said he observed the airplane falling toward the ocean, and an object that "appeared to be a wing" was trailing behind it. He estimated that the airplane and the separated wing fell for about 10 seconds before they hit the water, and about 3 seconds later, he heard a crashing sound. Local law enforcement personnel found small pieces of wood, paint chips, part of a headset, and human remains floating on the surface of the bay.
The pilot, age 63, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating and type ratings in the DC-9, B-757, B-767, and B-777. He had commercial privileges in single engine land airplanes, and he held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He held a first-class medical certificate, which was issued on December 11, 2013, with the limitation "must wear corrective lenses." On the application form for this medical certificate, he reported having 25,000 hours of flight experience, of which 300 hours were during the last 6 months.
The pilot-rated passenger, age 52, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating and a type rating in the CL-65. He had commercial privileges in single engine land airplanes, and he held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. He did not hold a current medical certificate. On his most recent medical certificate application dated February 2, 2012, he reported having 9,000 hours of flight experience, of which 400 hours were during the last 6 months.
The airplane was a single-engine, propeller driven, tandem seat airplane, with dual flight controls, which was manufactured by Morrisey Aviation, Inc., in 1958. The airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-320-A2C reciprocating, direct drive, air-cooled, normally aspirated engine, which had a maximum takeoff rating of 150 horsepower at sea level. It was certificated in the normal category at a maximum weight of 1,817 pounds and in the utility category at a maximum weight of 1,570 pounds. An engineer who had worked for the manufacturer of the airplane estimated that the airplane's empty weight was likely about 1,175 pounds. The airplane was equipped with a 17.5-gallon fuel tank in each wing, for a total fuel capacity of 35 gallons.
According to the maintenance records for the airplane, the most recent annual inspection was completed on January 5, 2014, at an airplane total time of 3,367.4 hours. As of that date, the engine had accumulated 1,635.4 hours since major overhaul. According to the mechanic who performed the annual inspection, he and the pilot/owner performed the inspection together, and they ran the engine for about 20 to 30 minutes as part of the inspection. The mechanic reported that the accident flight was the airplane's first flight since completion of the inspection. He stated that the airplane was in "great condition." The mechanic said that the pilot normally topped off the fuel tanks when he refueled the airplane.
A fuel receipt obtained from Central Coast Jet Center at the Santa Maria Public Airport indicated that the pilot purchased 18.8 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel at 1319 on the day of the accident.
At 1351, the weather conditions at Santa Maria Public Airport, located 145 degrees for 15 nautical miles from the accident site, were as follows: wind 330 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clear of clouds; temperature 83 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 15 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter setting 30.26 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
With the exception of a few small floating items, the wreckage of the airplane was not recovered.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Coroner's Unit of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office positively identified the pilot and the passenger based on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on a muscle specimen from the pilot. According to CAMI's report, no ethanol or drugs were detected.