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N2160W accident description

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Tail numberN2160W
Accident dateMarch 21, 2006
Aircraft typeBeech C23
LocationMena, AR
Near 34.549444 N, -94.204722 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 21, 2006, at approximately 1000 central standard time, a single-engine Beech C23 airplane, N2160W, was substantially damaged when it collided with mountainous terrain shortly after departure from the Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport (KMEZ), near Mena, Arkansas. The commercial pilot was fatally injured and the airline transport pilot (ATP) rated passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight was originating from KMEZ at the time of the accident, and was destined for the Commerce Municipal Airport (K2F7), near Commerce, Texas.

A witness, who worked at the airport, reported that the pilot and the pilot rated passenger had flown into the airport in separate airplanes. The passenger left the airplane he flew into the airport to be painted, and the pilot was planning to fly him back to Texas. The witness also had a conversation with the pilot regarding the low cloud layer that surrounded the airport. He suggested to the pilot that he should delay his departure, and even offered to drive both men home. The witness sensed the pilot was in a "hurry" so he told the pilot that if he was going to depart, he would need to takeoff on the northwest runway, head east, and climb to an altitude of 4,000 feet to clear the rising terrain. During the discussion, the witness received a phone call and when he returned, he observed the airplane taxing out to the runway. About 10 minutes later, he received a phone call from the passenger saying that they "crashed the airplane on a mountainside."

According to the passenger, he asked the pilot if he had received a weather briefing before they departed. The pilot replied that he "was good." After take off, the pilot flew under the cloud layer and followed a road. The passenger said that he became "leery" of the situation so he turned on his handheld GPS and informed the pilot that they needed to climb to clear the mountainous terrain around them. The pilot stated "we're fine." The passenger then told the pilot that he wanted to return to the airport and wait until the weather cleared. The pilot responded that he had done this departure several times in similar weather conditions. The passenger again asked the pilot to either return to the airport or file an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The pilot then initiated a climbing left turn and entered the cloud layer. Shortly after, the airplane collided with terrain.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspector, who responded to the accident site, stated that the local Sheriff interviewed the passenger shortly after the accident. According to the inspector, the passenger stated that they departed Runway 35 and flew for approximately 8 miles before making a left turn toward the west, near Acorn, Arkansas. The pilot flew this heading for approximately 10 miles and tracked Arkansas Highway 270, which traveled through the valley created by Rich Mountain and Black Fork Mountain. As they entered the valley, the passenger (who was using his handheld GPS) informed the pilot that they needed to climb to a higher altitude. When the airplane reached a point between the villages of Eagleton and Rich Mountain, the airplane turned toward the south and tracked toward the Rich Mountain VOR station. The airplane proceeded toward a low point along the ridgeline of Rich Mountain known as "the Gap." The airplane collided with terrain about 200 feet below the ridgeline on Rich Mountain, at an elevation of approximately 2,480 feet msl.

A witness, who was walking along Highway 270 at the time of the accident, reported that he observed the airplane flying "very low" in a westerly direction between Rich Mountain and Black Fork Mountain. He then observed the airplane turn toward the south toward Rich Mountain when it disappeared into "heavy fog." Moments later, the witness heard a "loud bang."

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical was issued on March 31, 2004. According to the pilot's logbook he accumulated a total of 1,042 flight hours; of which 47 hours were in instrument conditions, and 25.3 hours were in the accident airplane.

The pilot rated passenger held an airline transport pilot rating for airplane multi-engine land, and rotorcraft-helicopter. He also held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single- engine land and was an airplane and powerplant mechanic. During an interview, the pilot stated that he had never flown with the pilot prior to the accident and described their relationship as "acquaintances." He had also performed an annual inspection on the accident airplane, which the pilot had just recently sold.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a four-place, dual-control airplane, powered by a four cylinder, air-cooled 180-horsepower engine. The airplane was certificated in the normal/standard airworthiness category. The pilot rated passenger performed the last annual inspection on the airplane on October 4, 2005, at total aircraft time of 2,068.1 hours. The airplane had flown approximately 15 hours since the last annual inspection.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 0927, the weather observation facility at Mena Airport reported winds from 280 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 17 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast cloud layer at 1,200 feet, temperature 45 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.94 inches of Mercury.

A review of Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) records revealed that the pilot did not obtain a weather briefing or file a flight plan prior to departure.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport was a non-tower, public airport with a field elevation of 1,079 feet msl. According to published airport information, there were remarks that warned pilots of mountains located north and south-southwest of the airport. In addition, a review of the Memphis Sectional Aeronautical Chart, revealed a warning to pilots that stated, "Rapidly Rising Terrain-Use Caution During Periods of Low Ceiling and Visibility" north of the airport.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspector performed an on-scene investigation of the airplane. According to the inspector, the airplane came to rest in heavily wooded terrain approximately 200 feet below the ridgeline of Rich Mountain. The airplane sustained substantial damage and there was no post-impact fire.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 34 degrees, 40 minutes, north latitude, and 94 degrees, 20 minutes west longitude.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Safety Board and FAA were not informed about the pilot's death until several days after he had passed away. An autopsy and toxicological testing were not conducted.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A handheld GPS receiver was located in the wreckage and was sent to the manufacturer to be downloaded. A review of the data revealed no record information pertinent to the accident flight. The GPS was returned to a representative of the pilot's family on May 8, 2006.

The Investigator-in-Charge (IIC) also asked the passenger to send his handheld Garmin GPS receiver to the Safety Board so it could be downloaded. The passenger agreed, but later reported that his wife had accidentally left the unit on the back of her car when she was taking it to be delivered, and the device was lost.

The airplane wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on April 21, 2006.

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