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N102A accident description

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Tail numberN102A
Accident dateApril 29, 1996
Aircraft typeBeech V35
LocationPowelton, GA
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 29, 1996, about 1211 eastern daylight time, a Beech V35, N102A, registered to a private owner, operating as a Title 14 CFR Part 91, personal flight, had an in-flight separation and crashed near Powelton, Georgia. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a IFR flight plan was filed. The airplane was destroyed. The commercial pilot, and one passenger were fatally injured.

At 0911:29, the pilot of N102A called the Anniston, Alabama, Automated Flight Service Station (ANB AFSS), and obtained a standard pilot weather briefing for an IFR flight from Greenville, Alabama to Aiken, South Carolina.

The pilot indicated to the AFSS specialist that he planned to depart around 1000 local time and was given the following weather information: "...[Montgomery] forcecasted ceilings five hundred broken, four [visibility in miles], fog and haze, with occasionally five hundred scattered twenty-five thousand scattered visibilities six...out of Alabama...they're calling for...marginal conditions with ceilings fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred, scattered to broken and maybe three to five thousand overcast, with widely scattered thunderstorm rain showers. You're beginning to get quite a bit of thunderstorm and rain shower activity uh it's trying to form a line from Charlotte, North Carolina, over around Augusta, Georgia, down towards Macon and on down to Tallahassee...that's not solid it's V F R through there right now...that's widely scattered...but all of this has developed within the last...hour and a half...another couple of hours...it could be uh form a line from about...twenty [to] twenty-five miles south of Macon, Georgia."

In addition, the pilot was briefed that depending on how the line of storms developed, around 1200, the storms were forecasted to become "severe." The briefer advised the pilot that there were "no NOTAMS" (notice to airmen) for Aiken. The pilot filed his IFR flight plan and stated that he would call again to check for weather up dates. The phone conversation ended at 0919:52, and the pilot did not call the AFSS again.

The flight departed Greenville, Alabama, about 1100, the pilot reported in on the Atlanta, Sector 13, radio frequency, and requested IFR clearance. The Sector 13 Radar Specialist (R13) issued a beacon code, advised the pilot he was in radar contact, and issued the IFR clearance to Aiken, via direct Montgomery, to climb and maintain 7,000 feet. Between 1102:35, and 1144, the flight was handed off to several different sectors, until the pilot established radio communication with Macon Approach Control (MCN RAPCON), at 1144:18.

At 1147:17, Macon High Radar (MHI), issued a hazardous weather information alert (HIWAS), to all aircraft, as follows: "...for severe thunderstorms for Georgia, South Carolina, 75 statute miles...west of a line from 55 miles east of Macon to 30 east northeast of Spartanburg to 65 miles northwest-to 55 nautical miles east and west of a line, 47 east of Macon to 28 west southwest [of] Charlotte. Hail surface and aloft, two and a half inches, wind gusts, 70 knots maximum, tops 55,000 [feet], wind vector, two two zero [220 degrees] at three zero."

The pilot of N102A contacted the MHI controller, at 1201:14, and asked, "are you painting any weather at my twelve o'clock [position]...." The controller replied; "...that's the weather area the other controller read you on the um convective SIGMET [significant meteorological information] activity, it extends um at least from your twelve o'clock, going counter clockwise now over to your twelve o'clock-ones at your twelve o'clock position about 20 miles, that's the extent of my radar coverage. I can't see any further than the MISTY intersection...if you need to go around the north side, if you want to deviate around, that's approved."

The pilot answered that, "...we're not in the clouds right now, we got pretty good visibility, but uh it looks like we're right on the edge of it...." At 1203:08, the control gave the pilot the details pertaining to convective SIGMET No.9, the pilot thanked him, and asked, after receiving the information, the SIGMET's location as it applied to Macon. The pilot stated "that puts Augusta right in the middle of it then," and the controller told him that "would be my guess...you'll be talking to Augusta Approach here in uh about 15 miles." The pilot answered at 1203:58, "...so far I'm okay we'll just keep watching this stuff and make sure we don't stumble into anything." The pilot asked to go "direct Colliers rather then direct Aiken, just to sorta stay on the edge of this," and the controller approved the request. Macon Approach coordinated the deviation with Atlanta ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Center, ZTL Sector 17, R17), and communications with the pilot was transferred.

At 1206, the pilot of N102A reported on frequency at an altitude of 7,000 feet, and was told when he was able to, proceed direct to Augusta. The pilot said to the R17 controller, at 1206:43, "...I'd like a little help here, if you can help me, it looks like I got it pretty clear at Colliers, but uh I don't want to run into anything...." The controller asked him what altitude he would like, and the pilot answered, "I'm okay at seven (7,000) right now." The controller told him if he would like a lower altitude to just let him know.

At 1207:02, the pilot said, "...I'm more concerned about...any weather you're painting up that way. I don't see anything from here it looks relatively clear...."

The R17 controller answered, "...all we're able...to uh display is precipitation, and in that area it looks like there are possibly some heavy precipitation beginning at about 10 miles extending uh at least 20 miles, beyond that I'm not able to give you accurate description due to uh limited coverage in that area on our radar. Augusta approach will have a better...description of that here in a moment."

There was a controller change at 1209:20, and N102A was pointed out in the controller briefing to the next controller.

At 1210:07, the pilot of N102A said to the R17 controller, "...I'm into a cell here I think I need to get down, over...Atlanta Center, Bonanza one zero two alpha I need to go down."

The controller attempted to coordinate the clearance with other sectors, and at 1210:33 the pilot asked the controller "do you read me." The pilot was cleared to descend to 5,000 feet, and he acknowledge by saying "thank you very much."

The last recorded radar return at 1211:04, showed the airplane at an altitude of 6,700 feet, heading in a northeasterly direction.

At 1211:09, the pilot of N102A said to the R17 controller, "I'm in a pretty bad cell I need help, over." The R17 controller said "say again...calling center say again." At 1211:25, an unknown transmission was heard on the frequency saying, "yeah it's that Bonanza, sounds like he's in trouble." Radar and radio communication with the flight was never reestablished.

Several attempts were made to reestablish communications with the pilot of N102A before a search was started. At 1600, a helicopter located the wreckage in a heavily wooded area.

A witness standing on his back porch about 2 miles from the crash site said he heard what in his opinion sounded like an airplane "in a steep descent, straight down dive." The witness heard the engine running until he heard a "loud boom," which he felt was the airplane impacting the ground. The witness said that the weather at the time was "lightning, thunder, and strong winds."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 33 degrees, 24 minutes north, and 82 degrees, 51 minutes west.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Information on the pilot is contained in this report on page 3, under First Pilot Information. The pilot's personal logbook containing his flight hours was not found.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A weather study was performed by the NTSB Weather Group, dated October 11, 1996. The NTSB Weather Group Chairman's Factual Report revealed that visible and infrared satellite imagery around the accident time showed widespread thunderstorm activity and associated cirrostratus cloudiness over eastern Georgia.

Radar plots of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) data for N102A during the period from 1208:56 to 1211:04, overlaid on visual and infrared imagery indicated that the airplane progressed into an area of strong thunderstorm activity. Infrared radiative temperature data in the accident area indicated that the cloud-top temperature in the accident area was around minus 65 degrees, Celsius (-85 F). Upper air temperature data, suggested that the height of equivalent cloud tops in the accident area were around 42,000 to 43,000 feet.

Radar imagery around the accident time, from the lowest antenna elevation (0.48 degree) encompassed N102A's flight envelope. The beam height calculations at the antenna tilt revealed the beam swath extended from 5,000 feet to about 14,600 feet.

The closest degree radar scan to the accident time occurred in the 1209:41 to 1215:23, data. The 0.48 degree tilt radar scan occurred in the accident area at about 1209:56, which makes the radar data coincident with the location of N102A around that time.

The FAA transcript of communications indicated that the pilot of N102A radioed that he was in a "cell" and needed to "get down." The radar data revealed that at the time of the transmission, the airplane was at the edge of a very strong thunderstorm, VIP level four (Video Integrator Processor. Thunderstorm intensity levels are on a scale of one to six). Interrogation of the radar data showed that a VIP level three-four thunderstorm was within 0.25 nautical mile, and a VIP level four thunderstorm was within 0.5 nautical mile at the time of the transmission. Vertical cross sections of the radar data, indicated that the tops of the thunderstorms were 42,000 to 43,000 feet. There was intense to extreme precipitation, with severe to extreme turbulence, and hail.

The NTSB Weather Study concluded, that the National Weather Service (NWS), aviation weather products were "accurate" within the state of the art, and that ATC had disseminated appropriate weather advisories in a "timely manner."

Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Additional meteorological information is contained in this report on page 3, under Weather Information, and in the NTSB Weather Group Chairman's Factual Report.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on April 30, 1996, at the Medical Examiner's Office, Sparta, Georgia, by Dr. Carol A. Terry.

Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration, Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and revealed, "10.000 (mg/dl) Ethanol detected in Muscle fluid...64.000 (mg/dl) Ethanol detected in Kidney fluid...1.000 (mg/dl) Acetaldehyde detected in Kidney fluid...no drugs were found."

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The main wreckage had come to rest in a heavily wooded area. The wreckage path was about 7/8 of a mile long, and oriented on a westerly heading. Several sections of the airframe to include the left wing, and both tail stabilizers had departed the fuselage, and were not with the main wreckage. Two sections of the left ruddervator were found about 4,400 feet northwest of the main wreckage. In addition to the parts already mentioned, the sections of the airframe found outside the main wreckage area included the cabin door, the right stabilizer, two pieces of the right aileron, both ruddevator counterweights, the tailcone, pieces of glass, and books from the cabin. Several trees east of where the wreckage came to rest were damaged.

The left wing was found about 1/2 mile east of the main wreckage. The wing's main spar bolts displayed downward direction fractures (see Beech Photo No. 98). The lower forward wing spar attach fitting displayed downward bending (see Beech Photo No. 95). The left rear spar, upper and lower wing spar fittings remained with the fuselage center section, and were found with the main wreckage. The rear spar separated outboard of the wing attach fittings. The main landing gear retract rod remained attached to the wing, and was bent down. The left aileron and wing flap were found attached to their respective hinges and roller brackets. The left wing flap was separated from the flap actuator and was free to travel on the roller bracket. The wing flap was found in the up position. The left wing tip, and outboard 18 inches of the wing were crushed up at an angle of about 40 degrees from the lateral axis. The leading edge of the wing was crushed up along the center span of the wing. The left landing gear was attached to the trunnion fittings, but was free to move up or down, because the retraction rod had separated from the control arm. When the wing was turned over an undetermined amount of fuel came from the fuel tank.

The right wing was found with the main wreckage, but had separated from the fuselage, and displayed crushing and bending. The right wing main spar upper attach bolt was missing. Sections of the right aileron were found about 2700 feet northeast of the main wreckage.

The right stabilizer was found separated at the stabilizer to fuselage junction, in a down and aft direction. The forward spars of the stabilizer were twisted down on both sides of the fuselage (see Beech Photo No. 125).

Flight control continuity could not be confirmed due to damage caused by the in-flight separation and subsequent impact with the terrain. The elevator trim actuator measured 0.98 inches, which equated to a trim setting of 5 degrees tab "UP."

The engine was removed from the crash site and transported to the Hancock County Sheriff's office, where it was cleaned and examined. The spark plugs were removed and checked for wear and color. No discrepancies were found. The engine could not be rotated, because of impact damage. The fuel pump was rotated freely by hand. The pump was disassembled and no discrepancies were found. Both magnetos had separated from the engine and were destroyed. No determination was made on their condition prior to impact. The fuel manifold valve was inspected and found clean.

The propeller had separated from the engine, and the blades had separated from the hub. Both blades had leading edge damage, and cordwise scratches. Trees and tree branches found at the crash had 45 degree cuts. The vacuum pump was disassembled, and no discrepancies were found.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Jimmie M. Rickerson, insurance adjuster for the owner's insurance company, on April 30, 1996.

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