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N738YG accident description

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Tail numberN738YG
Accident dateJune 15, 1997
Aircraft typeCessna 172N
LocationGreenbrier, AR
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT:

On June 15, 1997, at 0934 central daylight time a Cessna 172N, N738YG, registered to Sky View Ventures, of Wausau, Wisconsin, and operated by Sky Portraits, Inc., with a trade name of American Images, of Marshfield, Wisconsin, as a Title CFR Part 91 flight, impacted power lines and trees during an uncontrolled descent near Greenbrier, Arkansas. The commercial pilot and the passenger (photographer) received fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the aerial photography business flight. The flight originated from Fort Smith, Arkansas, at 0721.

The flight was dispatched from the Fort Smith Regional Airport, Fort Smith, Arkansas, for the aerial photography flights in the areas of Greenbrier and Conway, Arkansas, on the day of the accident. Six work orders (copies enclosed) for aerial photography flights in Faulkner County were found in the airplane. Pictures of a residential farm, located approximately 100 miles east of Fort Smith and approximately 1/4 mile southwest of the accident site, were developed from a roll of film found in a camera recovered from the accident scene. The occupants of the Faulkner County, residential property, stated to the IIC that they were not at home at the time of the aerial photography flights; however, they had been notified that their home would be photographed around the middle of the month. A resident on the adjoining property heard the aircraft engine and looked out his kitchen window. He observed the airplane flying south and then circling to the northeast. He did not recall any discrepancies with the aircraft.

Residents at the remaining 5 work order locations reported to the local sheriff department that they had not observed the airplane and to their knowledge the photographs of their residence or business had not been taken on the morning of the accident.

Witnesses, located approximately 1/2 mile north of the accident site, observed the airplane maneuvering in the area of telephone poles (estimated at 35 feet high) and trees (approximately 40 feet high). One of the witnesses stated that the airplane was traveling toward the Greenbrier water tower prior to the impact. The Faulkner County Sheriff Department reported that the Greenbrier water tower is 92 feet in height. Witnesses observed the airplane circle at a height of approximately 70 feet AGL and described the engine as "sound[ing] fine, smooth, a high revving sound, a hard chopping sound" as the airplane descended into the trees. One of these witnesses stated that the airplane was "at a [nose] down angle" and the "right wing was at the tree line and the left wing was pointing straight up" prior to the impact. One witness, across the street from where the airplane came to rest, stated that the airplane at 50 feet off the ground "flipped to the right and was [turned] upside down [then] pulled back to the left [toward level], and straight down, nose first into the ground." This witness stated that the engine was running when the airplane was inverted. Another witness reported that the engine was running until impact. Witnesses called 911 and local authorities secured the site.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION:

North American Institute of Aviation at Conway, South Carolina, sponsored the pilot, who was a Swedish citizen, for employment authorized as practical training in the field of Aviation for the period from October 9, 1995 to October 9, 1997. The pilot enrolled in the commercial pilot training course in October 1995. During the training, several stage checks were failed due to uncoordinated flight maneuvers, uncoordinated approaches, and emergency procedures.

A review of the FAA pilot certification records by the IIC revealed that the pilot obtained his original Commercial Pilot Certificate on March 29, 1996. On April 5, 1996, the pilot added the multiengine rating. The pilot was certified as a flight instructor on December 12, 1996, with the airplane single engine land rating. The instrument flight instructor rating was obtained on December 29, 1996. The records indicated that all the FAA pilot certification practical examinations (oral questions and flights) were conducted by FAA Designated Pilot Examiners.

The pilot obtained theoretical and practical training in Sweden for the conversion of his United States certificates to the Swedish certificates. This training was completed on August 28, 1996. The pilot had accumulated 263 hours of total flight time when the Swedish certificate was issued on October 16, 1996.

According to the general manager for American Images, the pilot received a pre-employment flight check given by a flight instructor in Palm Beach, Florida, where the pilot was flight instructing. During the telephone interview, conducted by the IIC, the general manager further stated that the flight check was coordinated with the local flight instructor in Wisconsin. Numerous attempts to interview or obtain statements from either flight instructor were unsuccessful.

In the pilot's logbook, an entry on May 22, 1997, indicated that the pilot received a 1.2 hour pre-employment flight check for American Images. Stalls, steep turns, and slow flight were included on the flight check. The pilot was hired by American Images.

During additional telephone interviews, conducted by the IIC, the general manager stated that once the pilot was hired by American Images he flew 10 hours of initial aerial photography experience with a photographer. The pilot's logbook indicated that the pilot conducted his first pilot-in-command aerial photography flight on May 28, 1997, for American Images. The duration of the flight was 5 hours with a photographer who had formerly flown as a pilot for American Images. On May 29, 1997, the pilot and this photographer flew a second 5 hour aerial photography flight. These two flights comprised the 10 hours of initial aerial photography experience. The photographer stated that during the 10 hours of aerial photography flights, he found "no problems" with the pilot's flying. In June 1997, the pilot accumulated 30.5 hours of aerial photography flying.

During a telephone conversation, conducted by the IIC, the daughter of the passenger (photographer) stated that the photographer "did not like this pilot, it didn't seem like he knew what he was doing. When there were more difficult pictures like in mountainous terrain, the photography would call an older pilot."

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION:

The Cessna 172N, single engine land, airplane's production date was January 17, 1978, and the aircraft (registration N738YG, serial number 17270337) was issued a standard FAA Airworthiness Certificate (FAA Form 81001.1) on February 16, 1978. Sky View Ventures, LLC, a Wisconsin Limited Liability Company was organized in August 1996, with the aircraft registered to that company on October 15, 1996.

A daily sheet, found in the aircraft and dated June 15, 1997, recorded the tachometer reading as 4,971.3 hours.

The maintenance records were reviewed by the IIC. The tachometer reading recorded at the last annual inspection (December 20, 1996) was 4,940.1 hours. Examination of the aircraft airframe, propeller, or engine logbooks did not reveal evidence of any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION:

At 0723:46, the pilot called the Jonesboro, Arkansas, FAA Flight Service Station by telephone and obtained a preflight weather briefing for a flight from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, via Jonesboro. These locations are more than 100 miles from the accident site.

At 0852, the surface weather (METAR) at Little Rock, Arkansas, (approximately 30 miles south of the accident site) reported winds from 170 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 7, ceiling 8,000 broken, temperature 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit), dew point 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit), altimeter 29.97.

Local authorities and witnesses reported the weather at the accident site was clear skies with 10 miles visibility, an estimated 90% humidity, and a temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

COMMUNICATIONS:

At 0817, the Fort Smith Regional Airport, Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) controller issued a taxi clearance to runway 7 for N738YG. At 0821, the pilot was issued a heading 090 and cleared for takeoff. At 0831, radar service was terminated and the pilot was approved for a frequency change. There were no additional communications with the pilot.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:

The aircraft came to rest at a terrain elevation of 450 feet, on a measured magnetic heading of 310 degrees (North 35 degrees 12.22 minutes; West 92 degrees 21.98 minutes) in a nose low attitude, 69 feet west of Hickory Road, Greenbrier, Arkansas. The site was approximately 1,300 feet southwest of the Greenbrier water tower in a rural subdivision of 5 acre wooded lots. Trees in the area were estimated from 25 to 40 feet in height, and telephone poles, 35 feet high, paralleled Hickory Road. Following the accident, a section of a transmission line and a television cable were repaired by Energy Power Company of Conway, Arkansas.

The wreckage distribution path extended 91 feet west of Hickory Road. Portions of the wings were distributed along the path and broken tree branches were found among the airframe components. An outboard section of the left wing came to rest 25 feet AGL in a tree. The right wing tip, separated from the airframe, came to rest along the distribution path. The outboard section of the right wing was crushed upward and aft. The inboard section of the left wing separated from the airframe and was found resting on top of the right wing that remained attached to the airframe. The outboard section of the left aileron, separated from the left wing, came to rest 55 feet west of Hickory Road. The left flap was bent in several places having separated at the inboard attachment point. Both wings exhibited semicircular compressed areas consistent with the diameter measurements of the trees and tree branches along the distribution path. See the enclosed diagram and photographs for additional details.

The cabin roof was crushed aft and inward and the occupiable space of the cockpit was destroyed. The cockpit seat frames exhibited downward and right compression damage, and the seat legs were separated from their respective seat rails. The left front seat lapbelt was found buckled and the webbing separated from the buckle. The right front seat lapbelt was buckled and had been cut by local authorities on scene. Both shoulder harnesses were intact and disconnected from their respective lapbelt buckle. The vertical and horizontal stabilizers remained intact and exhibited crushing and buckling. The empennage came to rest against the ground with the horizontal stabilizer resting against a tree.

A SMC Pentax-A 645 Camera (1:2:8 75mm, maximum F stop 2.8, 58mm haze filter) was found 5 feet forward of the main wreckage. Film was recovered from the camera by the Faulkner County Sheriff Department and 10 pictures were produced from the negatives. Local fire department personnel reported turning the master switch, magnetos, and emergency locator transmitter (ELT) to the "OFF" position, respectively.

The integrity of the fuel system fittings and lines were compromised. The fuel caps remained on each wing fuel tank. Witnesses, who responded to the site, reported observing fuel draining from the aircraft. A sample of fuel, blue in color, was drained from the right fuel tank.

The engine (Lycoming model O-320-H2AD, serial number L-5104-76T), remained attached at the engine mounts, and was pushed aft into the instrument panel. The cooling fins on the #1 cylinder received impact damage. The intake pipes for the #1, #3, and #4 cylinders, the exhaust pipes for all cylinders, and the muffler were crushed. The #1 cylinder exhaust push rod was bent, the #3 cylinder intake push rod was bent, and the # 4 cylinder intake pipe was crushed. All 4 cylinders had the rocker arm covers bent. The ignition harness was destroyed.

The engine was removed from the engine mounts for examination. The engine oil sump contained 5 1/2 quarts of oil. The rocker arm covers, the dual magneto, and the top spark plugs were removed from the engine. The propeller was turned through several revolutions and rotation of the crankshaft confirmed valve action, engine continuity to the accessory gears, and compression to all 4 cylinders. The bottom spark plugs were removed and the #2 and #4 spark plugs had oil deposits at the electrodes. The dual magneto, when rotated by hand, produced spark at all 8 posts, and the impulse coupling operated. The throttle and mixture controls were attached at the carburetor that was found separated from the engine at the carburetor throat. The carburetor contained the one piece venturi. The fuel line to the carburetor was broken loose at the carburetor, the fuel screen was clean, and no fuel was found in the carburetor. The vacuum pump was separated from the engine and the vacuum pump rotor was separated into 3 pieces. The vacuum pump drive shaft and vanes were intact. No pre-impact mechanical discrepancies were noted with the engine and accessories.

The propeller remained attached to the engine. The crankshaft propeller flange was bent. The propeller blades exhibited twisting, bending, and chordwise striations. Several angular cut tree branches were found along the distribution path and an angular cut was found on one of the standing tree trunks.

Flight control continuity was confirmed to the flight control surfaces. The left aileron control cable was separated and displayed deformation and elongation consistent with tension overload. The control columns were attached at the cockpit; however, the control yokes were separated from the control columns. The right control yoke press to talk switch was attached to the left hand grip and the electrical wires were attached at the yoke and the control column. The hand grips of the left control yoke were found separated from the yoke. The left main gear and nose gear were separated from the airframe.

Portions of the cockpit instruments were destroyed. The tachometer reading was 4,972.6 hours. The flap indicator was in the retracted position and the flap actuator extension measurement placed the flaps in the retracted position. The mixture control was approximately 1/2 inch out and the throttle was full forward.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION:

The autopsy was performed by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory at Little Rock, Arkansas. According to the pathologists, there was "no evidence of disease." Aviation toxicological testing for the pilot was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicological findings were negative.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The information in this paragraph was reported during personal interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge (IIC), with witnesses and the general manager of Sky Portraits, Inc., a Wisconsin corporation. Sky Portraits, Inc., is owned by Mount View Ventures, LLC, a Wisconsin Limited Liability Company. Sky Portraits, Inc., dba American Images, retains Sky View Ventures, LLC, to take aerial photographs. There are no written agreements between Sky Portraits, Inc., and Sky View Ventures, LLC, for this arrangement. The Cessna 172N, N738YG, involved in the accident on June 15, 1997, was owned by Sky View Ventures, LLC. Some of the aircraft utilized by American Images are leased by Sky View Ventures, LLC through Duffy's Aircraft Sales & Leasing, Inc., Neilsville, Wisconsin. The general manger confirmed that the company had a previous accident (2 serious injuries) on October 4, 1996, involving a Cessna 172, N5154E, leased and operated by American Images. The general manager agreed that the company should consider initiating proactive safety procedures.

Sky View Ventures, LLC, provided the guidelines (copy enclosed) for the pilots. The guidelines stated, in part, that the pilot is required to follow the directions given by the photographer

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