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N78KA accident description

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Tail numberN78KA
Accident dateJune 03, 1996
Aircraft typeCessna 320C
LocationWinslow, ME
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 3, 1996, at about 1641 eastern daylight time (EDT), a Cessna 320C, N78KA, was destroyed when it descended from 18,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) and impacted in the Sebasticook River near Winslow, Maine. The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the flight operated on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan. The flight operated under 14 CFR Part 91, and originated from Old Towne (OLD), Maine, at 1605 EDT. The intended destination was Syracuse (SYR), New York.

According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) records, at 1353 EDT the pilot called Bangor (BGR) AFSS by telephone, requested and obtained an abbreviated preflight pilot weather briefing for an IFR flight from BGR, ME to SYR, NY, between 1400 EDT and 2200 EDT. The pilot was advised by ATC that light occasional moderate rime icing in the clouds existed between 14,000 feet mean sea level (msl) and 24,000 feet msl along his route of flight. At 1528 the pilot called BGR by telephone, requested and obtained an updated preflight pilot weather briefing for an IFR flight from OLD, ME, to SYR, leaving in 30 minutes. The pilot filed an IFR flight plan from OLD to SYR.

At 1605 EDT the pilot radioed Bangor Approach in the vicinity of Old Towne and requested and received an IFR clearance for a flight to Syracuse. Records also indicated that at 1615 EDT, ATC cleared the pilot to climb to 18,000 feet mean sea level (msl), and the airplane was handed off to Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). At 1619 EDT Boston ARTCC cleared the accident airplane direct to Augusta, Maine, and the pilot acknowledged. At 1625 EDT Bangor Approach radioed Boston ARTCC and reported that ,"...Mode C on N78KA had not been seen for some time." At 1632 Boston ARTCC lost radar contact with the accident airplane. There were no further radio transmissions from the pilot.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Safety Inspector, a witness reported that he was in his backyard about 100 feet from the river when he saw an airplane spiraling through the clouds before it impacted the water and sank.

A second witness reported that he heard a high pitch engine sound, but he could not see the airplane. He stated that shortly thereafter he saw an airplane, "...circling in a tight path...the plane rolled...then spiraled (slow turns) straight down... ."

The airplane impacted in the Sebasticook river and sank in about 20 feet of water during the hours of daylight. The meteorological data study, radar data study, and excerpts from the FAA ATC package are appended.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with single and multiengine land ratings. According to FAA records, the pilot reported on his last application for a second class medical certificate over 7500 hours of flight time. The second class medical certificate was issued on March 11, 1996, with limitations to have available glasses for near vision.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The Cessna 320C airplane, serial number 320C0014, was equipped with two Lycoming TIO-540-J2BD engines, serial numbers L-8104-61A, RL-1325-68A, left and right respectively. At the time of the accident, according to the airplane's hobbs meter, the airplane had accumulated over 1904 hours of total flight time. According to the co-owner of the airplane, the airplane log books were kept in the airplane. There were no maintenance records available.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

At 1547 eastern daylight time, Augusta State Airport, Augusta, Maine, located about 15 miles southwest of the accident site issued the following observation:

Sky condition, 2000 feet scattered, estimated ceiling 12,000 feet overcast; visibility, 15 miles in light rain showers; temperature, 65 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point, 52 degrees F; winds out of 120 degrees at 8 knots; and altimeter, 30.21 inches Hg.

Witnesses reported that it was very cloudy at the time of the accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

An on-scene investigation was not conducted. The airplane wreckage was first examined along the shoreline of the Sebasticook river on June 5, 1996, and then moved to a hangar at Waterville Robert Lafleur Airport in Maine for further examination on June 6, 1996. The parties to the investigation listed in this report participated in the examination.

The airplane was retrieved from the Sebasticook River on June 5, 1996. The retriever said that the airplane was submerged in about 20 feet of water. All the airplane's major components and flight control systems were attached to their respective attach points except the right engine and right propeller which were detached from the firewall during the retrieval process. Flight control continuity was confirmed to the elevator, rudder and ailerons from the cockpit. The landing gear was found in the down and locked position and the flaps were in the retracted position. According to a Cessna representative, the rudder trim indicated 21 degrees to the right and the elevator trim indicated 15 degrees down.

The underside of the airplane sustained upward compression. The nose section was crushed upward. The tail section was buckled downward at the forward edge of the horizontal stabilizer and the rudder separated from the top two hinges. The pitot heat switch was found in the off position. The airplane was not equipped with deicing equipment.

The three bladed, constant speed propeller for the left engine was found securely attached to the crankshaft flange. The spinner was attached to the propeller and exhibited crushing and compression. One of the propeller blades was bent aft about 5 to 10 degrees, about 10 inches from the tip, one was straight, while the other propeller blade was bent aft 90 degrees about midspan on the blade. The propeller was manually rotated which resulted in the operation of the cylinder valves, confirmation of compression in each cylinder. The single drive, dual magneto was found loose at its mounting. The magneto spark producing capability was confirmed.

The fuel injection servo and induction systems were examined and was free of obstruction. The throttle/mixture controls were found securely attached to the servo and continuity to the cockpit was established. The fuel pump was found attached to the engine and rotated freely when turned by hand.

The three bladed, constant speed propeller for the right engine was found securely attached to the crankshaft flange. The spinner was securely attached to the propeller and exhibited crushing and compression. One of the propeller blades was straight, one blade was bent aft 45 degrees about midspan of the blade while the other blade was bent aft about 5 to 7 inches from the tip. The propeller was manually rotated which resulted in the operation of the cylinder valves, confirmation of compression in each cylinder. The single drive, dual magneto was found secured; however, the bottom flange was broken. The magneto spark producing capability was confirmed.

The fuel injection servo and induction systems were examined and was free of obstruction. The throttle/mixture controls were found securely attached. The fuel inlet screen was clean, and the fuel pump rotated freely when turned by hand. The examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact failure of the airplane or engine.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A medical examination of the pilot was conducted by Dr. Kristin G. Sweeney, Medical Examiner of Augusta, Maine, on June 4, 1996. Toxicological examination of the pilot was conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on September 5, 1996. Toxicological tests were negative for all screened drugs and substances.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to the National Transportation Safety Board radar study specialist, examination of the National Tracking Analysis Program (NTAP) primary and secondary radar data from Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) revealed that at 1629 EDT, the accident airplane was flying with an approximate heading of 220 degrees, at an altitude of about 17,700 msl. At 1631 EDT, the radar data revealed that the airplane remained on an average of 18,000 feet msl, still on the same approximate heading of 220 degrees. There is no recorded radar data after 1631 EDT. According to the radar study specialist after 1631 EDT, there is a gap in the data, during which the airplane made an apparent 180 degree turn. A copy of the radar study specialist's report is appended.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board's meteorological study specialist, examination of satellite imagery revealed the existence of layered clouds throughout New England. The visible and infrared imagery and surface weather observations indicated that the weather in the Old Towne, Maine, area (departure airport of accident airplane) was good visual meteorological conditions. Scattered low level clouds and an overcast cirrostratus layer were present from the departure airport. Bases of the cirrostratus were around 22,000 feet and tops 23,000 feet. There were numerous pilot reports reporting light to moderate mixed and clear icing conditions in the region.

Examination of the meteorological data also indicated temperatures aloft of minus 9-10 degrees (c) at 18,000 feet msl. At 1145 EDT, Airmet Zulu Update 3 was issued for occasional light-moderate rime icing in cloud between the altitudes of 12,000 feet and 24,000 feet msl, freezing level...9,000-13,000 feet throughout Maine. The updated Airmet was valid until 1800 EDT. A copy of the meteorological study specialist's report is appended.

According to the Cessna Owner's Manual, it states in part:

DEICING SYSTEM

Operating Details

Since wing and horizontal stabilizer deicer boots alone do not provide adequate protection for the entire airplane, known icing conditions should be avoided whenever possible. If icing is encountered, close attention should be given to the pitot-static system, propellers, induction systems, and other components subject to icing.

The airplane was orally released to the co-owner on June 7, 1996.

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