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N1524R accident description

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Tail numberN1524R
Accident dateMarch 17, 1997
Aircraft typeAir Tractor AT-402
LocationPine Bluff, AR
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On March 17, 1997, approximately 1430 central standard time, an Air Tractor AT-402 agricultural airplane, N1524R, registered to and operated by Jerry's Flying Service, Inc., of Wabbaseka, Arkansas, was destroyed following a collision with an antenna tower while maneuvering near Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 CFR Part 137 local aerial application flight that departed from the operator's private airstrip near Wabbaseka, Arkansas, about 1425.

During a telephone interview conducted by the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the operator reported that the pilot was probably aligning the airplane for his first pass to apply fertilizer to a field of winter wheat when the airplane's right wing impacted approximately 10 feet below the top of a 204 foot tall antenna tower. The tower was located approximately 1/4 mile north of the wheat field. The outboard section of the right wing was severed by the impact, and the airplane then collided with the ground. According to the operator, this was the pilot's first load of the day, and he was familiar with the area and had worked this field previously.

A representative of the airframe manufacturer conducted an on scene examination of the accident site and reported that "about 1/2 of the right wing was found at the base of the antenna tower. The remainder of the airplane was found about 200 yards from the tower." The manufacturer representative interviewed a witness who observed the airplane hit the tower and subsequently impact the ground. The witness told the manufacturer representative that the airplane "never made any passes applying fertilizer and appeared headed to the field that he was to fertilize" when the accident occurred.

The airplane was equipped with a Satloc GPS (global positioning satellite) receiver which was capable of recording the airplane's flight path on a removable data card. (Such a recording is made only when the flight logging function is activated by the pilot.) The data card was removed from the unit by the operator and forwarded to the NTSB. At the request of the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the card was examined by Satloc personnel, and it was determined that the card held no flight log data.

An autopsy of the pilot was performed by Stephen A. Erickson, MD, at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock, Arkansas, on March 18, 1997. Postmortem toxicological tests performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute were positive for marihuana, fluoxetine (Prozac), salicylate (aspirin), ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine (decongestants). Tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (metabolite of marihuana) was detected in blood (unquantified) and in urine at 0.020 mcg/ml. Fluoxetine was detected in blood at 0.642 mcg/ml, in liver fluid at 1.639 mcg/ml, and in urine (unquantified). Norfluoxetine (metabolite of fluoxetine) was detected in blood at 0.676 mcg/ml, in liver fluid at 1.601 mcg/ml, and in urine (unquantified). Ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine were detected in blood, liver fluid, and urine (unquantified). Salicylate was detected in urine at 215.50 mcg/ml.

The FAA Southwest Regional Deputy Flight Surgeon reviewed the toxicology report and stated that the fluoxetine and norfluoxetine "detected in blood, liver fluid, and urine are at six times therapeutic level. The drugs found in this case are capable of impairing the ability of the pilot to perform safety related duties." The flight surgeon further stated that these drugs are not approved by the FAA for use by pilots.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.