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N31706 accident description

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Tail numberN31706
Accident dateJanuary 13, 1997
Aircraft typeBeech F33A
LocationMt San Jacinto, CA
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 13, 1997, about 1439 hours Pacific standard time, a Beech F33A, N31706, owned and operated by the pilot, cruised into rising mountainous terrain about 3.5 nautical miles west of Mt. San Jacinto, California. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The airplane was destroyed, and the private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The magnetic bearing and distance between the crash site and the pilot's intended Palm Springs Regional Airport destination was 080 degrees and 11.8 miles. The flight originated from Torrance, California, about 1408.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that after takeoff the pilot requested and received radar flight following service. A review of FAA recorded radar track data and extracted data from the pilot's handheld global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver indicated that after departure the airplane proceeded toward Palm Springs while climbing to about 7,500 feet.

Throughout the duration of the flight, the pilot remained in radar and radio contact with controllers from the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON). About 1427, a controller advised the pilot of the presence of traffic consisting of a Boeing 737 at 8,000 feet in the pilot's 10 o'clock position. The pilot did not immediately report observing the Boeing. The pilot indicated that there were clouds in the area.

Thereafter, at 1432, the controller inquired if the pilot planned to fly through the Banning Pass. At the time of the inquiry, the pilot's airplane was proceeding in an easterly direction at 7,600 feet (Mode C transponder altitude), and was located between 20 and 25 miles west of the crash site. The pilot informed the controller that he planned to fly through the Banning Pass.

At 1435:21, the pilot asked the controller "we on course through the Banning Pass?" The controller responded at 1435:26 and informed the pilot ". . . you're not through the Banning Pass but the Banning Pass is at eleven o'clock and eight miles." The pilot responded to the information by transmitting his airplane's registration number at 1435:31.

There were no further communications from the pilot. The airplane continued cruising about 7,600 feet over an east-northeasterly course until impacting the western side of Mt. San Jacinto, whose peak elevation is 10,804 feet mean sea level (msl). (See the FAA radar track and the GPS flight path charts for specific details of the route flown.)

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Information contained in the pilot's personal flight record logbook indicates that he commenced initial flight training in June 1995, and soloed the following month in a Cessna 172. In August, the pilot began flying Beech A36 airplanes, and he subsequently also flew several hours in Piper airplanes.

On September 27, 1995, the pilot experienced fuel starvation while performing a solo cross-country flight that his flight instructor had not approved. The pilot made a forced landing in a residential area destroying his Beech A36. In its determination of probable cause, the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that the accident was due, in part, to the pilot's fuel mismanagement and overconfidence. (See Safety Board report number LAX95FA341 for additional details.)

The pilot began flying the accident airplane in January 1996, and he passed the private pilot flight test in that airplane on March 18, 1996. Between March, 1996, and January, 1997, the pilot logged about 296 hours in the accident airplane during approximately 140 flights. These flights principally originated and/or terminated in the southern California area.

Family members reported that the purpose of the flight was to visit them in Palm Springs for recreation. The pilot's wife was the passenger in the airplane. She neither possessed a pilot certificate nor had received flying lessons.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest official aviation weather observation station to the accident site was located at the Palm Springs Airport, elevation 462 feet msl. Palm Springs is located about 12 miles east of the accident site. At 1447, Palm Springs reported a few clouds based at 2,000 feet above ground level (agl), and a broken layer of clouds based at 4,000 feet agl (or approximately 4,462 feet msl).

The Riverside Municipal Airport, elevation 816 feet msl, is located about 36 miles west of the accident site. At 1447, Riverside reported broken layers of clouds based at 4,000 and 7,000 feet agl.

The United States Forest Service operates the Keenwild Fire Station in the San Jacinto Mountains. The station is located about 5,000 feet msl, at 33.667 degrees north latitude by 116.767 degrees west longitude. On the accident date, between 1406 and 1506, the station reported an air temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity of 100 percent.

AIDS TO NAVIGATION

According to FAA records of facility operations, all electronic aids to navigation pertinent to the aircraft's route of flight were functional on the day of the accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The on-scene examination of the accident site revealed the airplane initially impacted and severed the trunk of an estimated 3- to 4 foot-diameter tree in the Black Mountain Scenic Area of the San Bernardino National Forest. Thereafter, the airplane collided into the adjacent upsloping snow covered terrain. The accident site was located about 33 degrees 50.4 minutes north latitude by 116 degrees 44.5 minutes west longitude. The estimated elevation of the impacted tree was 7,650 feet msl.

Tree limbs and fragmented airframe components were found below the initial point of tree impact (IPI). Additional fragmented components were located on the mountainside principally along an easterly magnetic track of 080 degrees.

The airplane's flight control surfaces and all major structural components were accounted for at the accident site. Portions of the airplane's crushed and fragmented instrument panel were found about 60 feet upslope from the IPI, and the main wreckage was located about 40 feet further upslope. Engine fragments and the propeller blades, still attached to the crankshaft, were found an additional 75 feet upslope. The blades exhibited torsional deformation and S-bending. The tip portion of one blade was found fragmented.

The main wreckage was found on its right side. The horizontal stabilizer and rudder were attached to the empennage. The continuity of the flight control system was confirmed from the rudder and elevator assemblies to the crushed aft cabin area. The forward cabin area was observed separated from the fuselage.

The left wing was found broken from the fuselage at its attachment point, and its leading edge was observed crushed in an aft direction. The wing was found adjacent to the main wreckage. The right wing was also observed broken from the fuselage. It was located at the base of a tree near the IPI. There was no evidence of fire.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

On January 16, 1996, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Riverside, California, coroner's office. Toxicology tests were performed by the FAA. According to the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory manager, Sertraline, Norsertraline, and Acetaminophen were found in the pilot's blood at the followings levels: 0.744, 2.400, and 13.600 ug/ml, respectively. No other drugs including ethanol and carboxyhemoglobin were detected.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A comparison of the track data recovered from the GPS receiver found in the wreckage was made with the FAA's radar track data. The respective recorded tracks were overlaid with each other. No anomalies were noted. The GPS receiver's last recorded position was approximately 33 degrees 50.319 minutes north latitude, by 116 degrees 45.072 minutes west longitude. This location is within approximately 1/2 mile of the crash site.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

During the on-scene wreckage examination several navigation charts were located. A torn (impact damaged) Jeppesen (instrument) area chart was found unfolded. The chart covered the area between Torrance and Palm Springs. A Los Angeles Sectional (visual) chart was also found. It was observed undamaged and folded up.

The airplane wreckage was released to the owner's assigned insurance adjuster on January 31, 1997. No parts were retained.

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