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N96DF accident description

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Tail numberN96DF
Accident dateAugust 24, 2007
Aircraft typeSOCATA TB-20 Trinidad
LocationCheboygan, MI
Near 45.852222 N, -84.639722 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 24, 2007, about 1330 eastern daylight time, N96DF, registered as a Socata TB-20 Trinidad airplane, piloted by a private pilot, was presumed to have sustained substantial damage on impact with Lake Huron near Cheboygan, Michigan. The personal flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No visual flight rules (VFR) or instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was on file. The pilot sustained fatal injuries and the passenger is presumed to have sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated from the Mackinac Island Airport (MCD), on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and was destined for the Huron County Memorial Airport (BAX), near Bad Axe, Michigan.

According to a co-owner of the airplane and pilot requested weather forecasts, the flight was a cross country flight from MCD to BAX.

A pilot who spoke with the accident pilot before the accident flight and who was departing MCD about the same time as the accident pilot, in part, reported:

On the ride to the airport [the pilot] and I discussed the weather, her plans, and the fact that the AWOS [Automated Weather Observing System] ceiling reports were incorrect. I was quite puzzled over [the pilot's] decision to depart VFR. They did not seem to be in any great hurry to depart - I believe they were going to her parents and I don't recall any discussion of any event that they needed to reach at a specific time. I stated I was getting a void time clearance off the field as I didn't think I could maintain VFR long enough to pick up my clearance. I asked her why she didn't file IFR and she said they wanted to fly down the coastline to show [the passenger] the scenery.

Another pilot inbound to MCD, in part, reported:

We were on a IFR flight plan and had cancelled since other aircraft were holding for the Approach into MCD. The ASOS [Automated Surface Observing Systems] was reporting clear below 12000 ft and 4 miles in haze. ... We reported our position on unicom and heard the trinidad call reporting departing the west runway and advising that she would be south bound. I asked the trinidad what the ceiling was and she replied it to be about 1000 ft overcast. To the southwest of the island we were in marginal VFR at 1300 ft msl [mean sea level]. The ceiling did look lower to the south/southwest of the island. We heard no other radio communications from the trinidad.

The Michigan State Police reported that their Underwater Recovery Unit searched for the occupants and airplane in an area where a witness heard what he believed was an airplane impacting the lake. The unit also searched areas identified by drift calculations and by side-scan sonar. The search did not find the airplane. Cushion parts of the airplane washed ashore near Cheboygan, Michigan. The parts were confirmed to have come from N96DF. Weather and the state of the waves in the area precluded continued searching.

The pilot's body was found in the Straits of Mackinac east of the Mackinac Bridge on October 8, 2007.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. The pilot was issued a third class medical certificate on February 21, 2007, with no limitations. A review of the application for that last medical certificate revealed the pilot listed a total flight time of 491.6 hours of which 12.6 hours were accumulated in the six months prior to that application. The pilot's logbook was not located.

The pilot's certified flight instructor was interviewed by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Senior Human Performance Investigator. The interview, in part, stated:

He stated that he believed most of the pilot's flying was instrument cross country flights. He said that the pilot definitely preferred flying on instruments and being in the system as compared to flying VFR.

According to FAA records, the passenger did not hold any pilot certificates.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

N96DF, a Socata TB-20 Trinidad, serial number 1059, was an all-metal, five-place, cantilever low-wing, single-engine airplane equipped with retractable tricycle landing gear, which was designed to be used in normal category. The fuselage was an all-metal aluminum alloy structure of semimonocoque construction. The wings contained integral fuel tanks. The wing flaps were of the large span, single-slot type. The airplane was equipped with a conventional three-axis control surface system, consisting of aileron, stabilator, and rudder surfaces. The vertical stabilizer consisted of a fin, a rudder, and a controlled tab. The horizontal stabilizer was of stabilator type with an automatic anti-tab control. Manual stabilator trimming was accomplished by actuating the stabilator anti-tab through a control wheel. The airplane was powered by a 250-horsepower, Lycoming IO-540-C4D5D, serial number L-16511-48A, engine, which drove a Hartzell HC-C3YR-1RF constant speed propeller.

The owner reported that the airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on August 4, 2006. The aircraft total time at that time was reported to be 2,705 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A Senior Meteorologist for the NTSB compiled a Meteorological Factual Report for the investigation. Heights listed in the Surface Weather Observations are above ground level (AGL). Excerpts from that report follow:

At 1257, the recorded weather at MCD was: Wind calm; visibility 4 statute miles with haze; sky condition clear; temperature 21 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 18 degrees C; altimeter 29.83 inches of mercury.

At 1317, the recorded weather at MCD was: Wind 320 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 5 statute miles; present weather haze; sky condition scattered 1,100 feet; temperature 21 degrees C; dew point 18 degrees C; altimeter 29.84 inches of mercury.

At 1337, the recorded weather at MCD was: Wind 360 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 7 statute miles; sky condition broken 700 feet, broken 1,100 feet; temperature 20 degrees C; dew point 17 degrees C; altimeter 29.84 inches of mercury.

The image of GOES-12 (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-12) visible digital data centered on the search area was consistent with an overcast cloud layer present about the time of the accident flight's departure.

The pilot who spoke with the accident pilot before the accident flight and who was departing MCD about the same time as the accident pilot, in part, reported:

There was a low fog layer over the channel between the mainland (Cheboygan) and Mackinaw for much of the morning (water to maybe 50') and then a higher overcast. The island sits high enough that I could see the top of the fog layer on the water from town ... . On my departure I entered IMC [instrument meteorological conditions] at roughly 700', emerged from that layer around 1200' and past through several broken layers before reaching 5000'. Conditions near Pelliston were broken clouds below, clear at 5000' and overcast above.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Mackinac County Coroner's Office arranged for an autopsy to be performed on the pilot. The autopsy was performed on October 9, 2007, at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The autopsy indicated that the cause of death was multiple blunt injuries.

The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report. The pilot's CAMI report indicated that the sample sustained putrefaction. The report, in part, stated:

29 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Muscle 66 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Liver 38 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-BUTANOL detected in Muscle 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-BUTANOL detected in Liver 4 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Muscle 2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Liver

...

QUININE detected in Liver

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

To date the passenger and no other items associated with the flight have been recovered.

The FAA was a party to the investigation. The French Bureau d' Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) provided an accredited representative to the investigation.

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