Friday, October 07, 2005

Accident of the Week

(Ulcer update: The IFR Pilot has been given a clean bill of health by his Gastro doc. Too bad the FAA says you gotta by asymptomatic for 6 months, and provide evidence that your formerly-bleeding ulcer has healed. So, the IFR Pilot will be undergoing another endoscope in late November to get that there evidence. Yum, love having tubes shoved down my throat.)

As winter approaches, pilots start having to deal with night flight more often. This week's Accident of the Week serves as a reminder that night flight inherently carries with it a greater degree of risk, even for operations that, during the day, would not be difficult or life-threatening. Witnesseth:

NTSB Identification: DFW05FA251
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 30, 2005 in Crystal Springs, MS
Aircraft: Cessna 150M, registration: N45339
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On September 30, 2005, about 2015 central daylight time, a single-engine Cessna 150M airplane, N45339, was destroyed during impact with terrain during a go-around at the Copiah County Airport (M11), near Crystal Springs, Mississippi. The private pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from M11 at an unknown time.

A witness, who was a commercial pilot, was standing on the airport ramp when he observed the runway lights illuminate. He then heard an airplane approach from the south and watched as it flew a "normal" downwind and base leg in the airport traffic pattern. On final approach to Runway 17 (a 3,000 foot by 75 foot asphalt runway), the airplane "appeared to be too high and fast for landing." The airplane continued to descend, aligned with the runway centerline, with the engine power reduced. When about halfway along the length of the runway, the airplane was at an altitude approximately twice the height of the adjacent trees. With trees then blocking his view, the witness heard the engine power increase and the sound of the engine continue in a southerly direction. Shortly thereafter he heard the sound of an impact and then silence. The witness returned to his airplane and tuned his radio to 121.5 MHz and listened for a transmission from the accident airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT). No transmission was received.

The wreckage was located in a pasture about 381 feet southwest of the departure end of Runway 17. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were 31 degrees 54.102 minutes north latitude and 090 degrees 22.121 minutes west longitude, at a field elevation of approximately 414 feet mean sea level (msl). The airplane impacted terrain about 90 degrees nose down, and came to rest on a magnetic heading of 270 degrees. The entire airplane was accounted for at the accident site.

An examination of the ELT revealed that the arm/off/on switch was found in the "arm" position and that a signal was not being transmitted. Investigators attempted to trip the g-switch to no avail. The ELT would transmit when the switch was placed in the "on" position.

At 1953, the weather observation facility at Hawkins Field Airport (HKS), near Jackson, Mississippi, located 27 nautical miles north from the site of the accident, was reporting the wind variable at 3 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear of clouds, temperature 75 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.99 inches of Mercury.
Normally, a go-around wouldn't be that big of a deal. But, at night, in a wooded area, I guess it can prove deadly. What's intriguing about this report is the total lack of information concerning the aircraft wreckage. Most reports go into great detail about continuity of controls, chordwise scratching of the prop, etc., etc. Not so here.

Also, I'm puzzled by why they detail the ELT switch anamoly. OK, bad that it didn't trip. But, there was a witness to the accident, and it doesn't sound like there was any difficulty in locating the wreckage. Isn't that why you've got an ELT? To locate you when something goes awry and you either can't report your position, or you don't know where it is. Not so here.

Without information about the wreckage, it's tough to opine what might have caused this accident. Perhaps a collision with a tree. Perhaps excessive pitch, causing a stall/spin. We'll just have to wait and see.

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