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N353 accident description

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Tail numberN353
Accident dateAugust 07, 1996
Aircraft typeCulbertson Thorp T-18
LocationAlbuquerque, NM
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 7, 1996, at 1215 mountain daylight time, a Culbertson Thorp T-18 experimental airplane, N353, was destroyed following a loss of control while maneuvering near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The airplane, registered and operated by a private owner was operating under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross country flight for which a flight plan was not filed. The personal flight originated from Bullhead City, Arizona, at approximately 0840 MDT.

According to a world aeronautical chart (WAC CG-19) and other flight planning data found in the wreckage, the pilot planned a flight from his home base airport in Camarillo, California, to Cameron, Missouri, to attend a family reunion. The pilot planned for 3 intermediate refueling stops. His first stop was made in Bullhead City, Arizona, where after spending the night, he topped off the fuel tank with 15.9 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. His next 2 refueling stops were scheduled to be Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Pratt, Kansas. According to the route the pilot had highlighted on the chart, his intended route of flight included the over flight of the Double Eagle Airport; however, a landing was not scheduled at that location.

Two heavy equipment operators working about a 1/4 mile east of the access road to the Double Eagle Airport, reported that they were eating lunch when they observed the airplane fly overhead at what they estimated to be 300 feet AGL. They reported that the airplane was under continuous power, without any engine interruptions or unusual noises. They stated that the winds were "very strong from the east, making for very dusty working conditions." They estimated that the wind was in excess of 30 mph. They reported that the airplane's altitude was pretty much constant; however, they noticed that the "airplane's bank was erratic and continually changing, at times appearing as if the airplane was turning without banking." They added that the airplane came over their location twice, but the two circles were not concentric, which the witness attributed to the prevailing high winds. Neither of the two workers observed the accident.

The Unicom at the airport was reported operational at the time of the accident; however, no radio calls were received from the airplane.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot received his private pilot certificate on January 6, 1972. He completed the construction of the airplane on April 28, 1972. He was a retired fireman.

The passenger, seated on the right seat of the two place airplane, was the pilot's wife. According to family members, she was not a pilot; however, she would normally fly the airplane during cruise flight anytime her husband needed some relief.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The all-metal tail wheel equipped airplane had accumulated a total of 2,114 flight hours since constructed by the pilot from plans. An estimate of the weight of the airplane at the time of the accident places the airplane within normal limits for weight and balance. The wheel pants were not installed at the time of the accident.

A review of the airplane and engine records by the FAA inspector at the site did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects prior to the flight.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

There was no recorded weather for the Double Eagle Airport. The recorded weather used in this report was obtained from the Albuquerque International Airport, located 11 nautical miles to the east. Based on a field elevation of 5,834 feet and a temperature of 87 degrees, the investigator-in-charge calculated that the density altitude at the time of the accident was 8,800 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage of the airplane was discovered by airport personnel at 1245. The wreckage was located approximately 1,100 feet short of the landing threshold for runway 22, slightly left of the extended centerline. Physical evidence and ground scars indicate that the airplane impacted the ground in a slight left turn, in a nose low attitude.

The initial ground scar was a gouge adjacent to a concrete marker that protruded approximately 3 inches above the ground. Ground scars were found for 150 feet from the point of initial impact to the resting place of the main wreckage on a measured heading of 205 degrees. The main wreckage came to rest on a measured heading of 060 degrees. The right wing remained attached to the airframe and the left wing, which separated from the airframe at its root, was severed in two.

The engine remained attached to the airframe. The engine was examined at the accident site. Engine continuity was established and the right magneto produced spark at the posts (left magneto was destroyed). See enclosed report on the examination of the engine.

The propeller spinner exhibited rotational scoring. Both blades of the Sensenich wooden propeller were splintered off. The propeller hub remained attached to the propeller flange on the crankshaft. The propeller assembly appeared to be recently installed.

The 29 gallon metal fuel tank was not compromised and was about 1/3 full of 100LL aviation fuel. Fuel was found in the gascollator, strainer and fuel line.

Measuring of the crush angle of area aft of the engine compartment by the investigator-in-charge, indicated an approximately 25 degree nose down attitude at impact.

Flight control continuity was established to all flight controls. The flaps were found in the retracted position. Examination of the airframe and powerplant at the accident site did not disclose any mechanical problems that could have prevented normal operations.

The VHF receiver/transmitter was tuned to 122.8 (Unicom) and the navigational radio was tuned to 113.2 (Albuquerque VOR).

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy and toxicological tests were ordered and performed on the pilot; however, the State also provided copies of an autopsy and toxicological tests performed on the passenger. The autopsies were performed by the Office of the Medical Investigator for the State of New Mexico on August 8, 1996. Toxicological tests were negative.

The pilot was not restrained in the aircraft prior to impact. The autopsy report found incidental findings of Cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart), mild; Arteriosclerosis, mild to moderate in the coronary arteries and severe in the aorta; Centrilobular emphysema, mild; and Nephropathy, arteriosclerosis of the kidney, moderate, and cortical infarction of the left kidney, remote. The pathologist stated that no obviously contributory natural disease was present.

The passenger was under physician's care for diabetes. Her toxicology tests revealed that "her blood sugar was not elevated in vitreous and there was no evidence of dehydration or significant complications of diabetes."

TEST AND RESEARCH

No recorded radar data was available from Albuquerque Center or Albuquerque Approach Control for the flight. Additionally, the investigation learned that the pilot did not contact either Flight Watch for weather services nor Albuquerque Center for traffic advisories while en route.

ADDITIONAL DATA

The wreckage was released to the owner's representative following completion of the field portion of the investigation.

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