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N732PB accident description

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Tail numberN732PB
Accident dateJuly 30, 1998
Aircraft typeCessna 210M
LocationLeesville, LA
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 30, 1998, at 2145 central daylight time, a Cessna 210M airplane, N732PB, was destroyed by impact forces and fire when it collided with terrain while performing a go-around near Leesville, Louisiana. The non-instrument rated private pilot and his two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 flight. No flight plan was filed for the 305-nautical mile cross country flight which originated from the Boone County Airport, near Harrison, Arkansas, at approximately 1920.

The airport manager observed the airplane entering the traffic pattern for runway 36. He added that he noticed that the windsock indicated the winds were from the south at about 8 to 10 knots. The airport manager advised the pilot via the Unicom radio of the prevailing wind conditions while the airplane was on final approach for runway 36. The pilot acknowledged the transmission and replied that he would perform a go-around and re-enter the pattern to land on runway 18.

The airport manager further stated that he observed the airplane execute a low approach over the runway on a northerly heading at approximately 150 to 175 feet AGL, with the engine operating normally. The witness added that he observed the airplane descending slowly until it disappeared out of his sight beyond the terrain at the north end of the field. The witness stated that he observed a "fire ball flash" a few seconds later. He further stated that no distress calls were received from the pilot prior to the accident.


The 45-year-old private pilot obtained his private pilot certificate on July 10, 1997. The pilot's flight instructor reported that the pilot first soloed on September 13, 1996, in a Piper PA-28-180 airplane that he purchased for his own flight training. The flight instructor stated that "the pilot demonstrated to possess above average flying aptitude."

The pilot's logbook was not located during the investigation, and it was assumed to have burned in the airplane. Based on the flight time the pilot logged in the previous airplane that he owned, it was estimated that he had accumulated a total of 225 hours of flight time, of which approximately 25 hours were in the accident airplane. The investigation was unable to determine the number of hours of night flying accumulated by the pilot.

The passengers were the pilot's wife, seated in the right front seat, and the pilot's youngest daughter (9 years old), seated in the left center seat.


The 1977 model "Centurion" was purchased by the pilot in May 1998, from Double Eagle Aviation, an aircraft broker in Haskel, Oklahoma. At the time of its last annual inspection on July 18, 1998, the airplane had accumulated a total of 2,581.2 hours. The 300-horsepower Continental IO-520-L engine, serial number 554789, had accumulated a total of 2,581.2 hours at the time of the last annual inspection. According to the engine records, the engine had accumulated a total of 946.5 hours since the last major overhaul.

The airplane was serviced with fuel on July 27, 1998, at Leesville, Louisiana, when the fuel system was topped off with 38.0 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. According to fueling records from Crown Aviation Inc., in Harrison, Arkansas, the pilot did not purchase any fuel during his stop at Harrison, on the morning of the accident. Based on data provided by the engine and airframe manufacturers, the IIC estimated that there were 26 gallons of fuel aboard the airplane at the time of the accident.

A review of the maintenance records for the airframe and engine was conducted at the accident site by the NTSB investigator-in-charge, in conjunction with the FAA inspector. No records of any overdue inspections or anomalies were found.


At 2155, the weather at Polk Army Airfield, located 12 miles southeast of the accident site, was reported as clear skies with 7 miles visibility and winds from 180 degrees at 6 knots. The temperature was reported as 86 degrees, with a dew point of 72 degrees. The IIC estimated the density altitude at 2,027 feet.

According to data provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory for the Leesville/Vernon Parish area, sunset occurred at 2010, and the end of civil twilight was at 2036. The moon was at waxing crescent with 42% of the moon's visible disk illuminated. Moonrise occurred at 1252 central daylight time.


Airport advisory service was provided via the Unicom receiver-transmitter on 122.8 Mhz. The airport manager reported that the "radio was operating normally," and all communications between the aircraft and the ground station were "loud and clear." No recording capability was available at the airport.

Prior to landing, the pilot contacted Polk Approach Control and requested the wind conditions at Fort Polk. The controller on duty issued the winds from 190 degrees at 5 knots. A copy of the original tape recording (cassette) is enclosed with this report.


The runway lights, rotating beacon, the lights around the segmented circle, and the windsock were all found to be operational at the time of the accident.

A flight instructor and a pilot who operate airplanes from the Leesville Airport were interviewed by the IIC at the airport's office. Both pilots concurred that a dark night takeoff to the north is "a risky maneuver due to the lack of visual cues or lights." The area to the north of the airport is "very sparsely populated and it becomes a big dark hole." A restricted area (R3803A), which is uninhabited, is located 10 statute miles north of the airport. A large lake (Vernon Lake) is located to the west of the takeoff course, and that area is also unlit at night.

The pilots added that on takeoff to the north, "a pilot is forced to quickly transition into flying the airplane by reference to his instruments, almost as soon as the airplane breaks ground." The two closest towns are Many, which is located 28 statute miles to the north-northwest, and Natchitoches, located 43 statute miles to the north-northeast.


The wreckage of the airplane was located within a heavily wooded area by law enforcement personnel at GPS coordinates North 31 degrees, 10.723 minutes; and West 93 degrees, 20.579 minutes. The airplane impacted two pine trees and a hickory tree, approximately 0.41 statute miles north of the departure end of runway 36, and approximately 60 feet west of the extended runway centerline. The linear wreckage path extended for a distance of approximately 145 feet on a measured magnetic heading of 351 degrees from the first evidence of tree strikes to the resting place of the main wreckage.

Evidence of three trees that were freshly topped at an estimated height of approximately 30 feet marked the beginning of the wreckage path. Numerous fragments of Plexiglas, small pieces of white painted airplane skin, white paint chips, and cabin insulation material were found near the base of the first three trees.

The main wreckage consisted of the burned remains of the cockpit/cabin, portions of the left elevator and horizontal stabilizer, and the vertical stabilizer with the rudder still attached. The left wing, with portions of the flap and aileron still attached, was found separated from the airframe, resting approximately 45 feet short of the main wreckage. The right elevator was found atop a tree approximately 35 feet above the ground.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the landing gear and flaps were in the retracted position. The elevator trim was found in the 15 degree tab up position (nose down).

The instrument panel, to include all engine and flight instruments, was consumed by fire. The position of the engine controls could not be determined due to fire and impact damage.

The engine, which remained attached to the airframe by the engine control cables, sustained extensive fire and impact damage. The 2-blade propeller hub remained attached to engine crankshaft. Both propeller blades were found bent aft at about the mid-span point.

Both wet wing fuel cells were compromised during the accident sequence. The mixture control cable was still attached to the throttle body/fuel metering assembly. The throttle control arm was found fractured. The fuel selector was found in the right tank position.

An inventory of the wreckage revealed that all airframe components were located at the accident site. See the enclosed wreckage diagram for details of the wreckage distribution.


An autopsy and toxicological tests were ordered and performed on the pilot. The autopsy was performed by Terry Welke, M.D., of the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office and Forensic Facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on July 31, 1998. Toxicological tests were negative.


A post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. No evidence of pre-impact fire was found by members of the investigative team during the field portion of the investigation. The vertical stabilizer, both horizontal stabilizers, and other portions of the airframe that separated from the aircraft during the impact sequence were the only parts of the aircraft that were not consumed by the fire.

The post-impact fire ignited approximately 2 acres of forest land. Local fire units were not able to reach the accident site to extinguish the fire, and grass fires lingered for approximately 30 hours after the accident.


The engine was examined at the engine manufacturer's facilities in Mobile, Alabama, on October 29, 1998, under the supervision of the NTSB IIC. A detailed teardown examination revealed that "the engine exhibited normal operational signatures throughout. All internal components appeared well lubricated. The engine did not exhibit any conditions that would have caused an operational problem prior to the accident." See enclosed report for details of the examination.

The propeller was examined at the propeller manufacturer's facility in Dayton, Ohio, on July 28, 1999, under the supervision of an NTSB investigator. The propeller examination concluded that the "overall propeller damage including blade bending and twisting is indicative of rotational impact with some power." According to the manufacturer's report, the propeller blade angle at the time of the impact could not be determined. See enclosed report for details of the examination.


The wreckage of the airplane was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the investigation.

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