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N807MA accident description

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Tail numberN807MA
Accident dateAugust 20, 2009
Aircraft typeAir Tractor AT-802A
LocationAustin, NV
Near 39.813889 N, -117.578889 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On August 20, 2009, about 1545 Pacific daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N807MA, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designation T-857, collided with rising terrain during an attempted fire retardant drop at the Hoyt fire, near Austin, Nevada. Minuteman Aerial Application, Inc., owned the airplane. The BLM, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 with a restricted category Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness certificate as a public-use fire suppression flight. The pilot, the sole occupant, was killed. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The flight departed Battle Mountain Airport, Battle Mountain, Nevada, at 1513. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a BLM flight plan had been filed.

The accident pilot was assigned the task of dropping fire retardant onto a saddle area located along the intersection of two perpendicular ridgelines.

Multiple witnesses located both on the ground, and in the air, observed the accident airplane approach the designated drop area from the south. Their accounts describe the airplane approaching the drop area, but not releasing its load of retardant. Shortly thereafter, the airplane made contact with rising terrain within the saddle area. The airplane continued uphill, while still in contact with the ground, towards a crest where the terrain dropped away. The airplane then departed the end of the crest, descended, and collided with terrain in the valley area below.

A witness, located on a ridge overlooking the saddle area from the east, observed an airplane make a drop along the ridgeline. He estimated the airplane to be flying about 200 feet above ground level (agl) when it made its drop. A few seconds later he observed the accident airplane fly along a similar heading, but at a lower altitude. He stated that he was immediately concerned because the airplane was approaching rising terrain. The airplane then disappeared behind the ridgeline, and out of his view. A few seconds later he observed the airplane, "launch" from the end of the ridgeline, "tumble" and collide with terrain below.

The low-wing, tailwheel equipped, fixed-gear airplane, was manufactured in 2003. It was powered by a Pratt and Whitney PT6A turboprop engine, and equipped with a 5 blade constant-speed propeller. It was additionally equipped with an 800-gallon hopper, and a Turbine Conversions Ltd., hydraulic controlled fire gate.

The closest aviation weather observation station was Derby Field Airport, Lovelock, Nevada (KLOL), which was 54 miles northwest of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 3,904 feet mean sea level (msl). An aviation routine weather report (METAR) was issued at 1553 PDT. It stated: winds calm; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 104 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point 21 degrees F; altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.

The accident site was located at the northern edge of the Clan Alpine Mountain Range, 34 miles northwest of Austin. The site was characterized by dirt and rocky terrain dispersed with brush and trees ranging in height from 3 to 5 feet.

The first identified point of contact (FIPC) consisted of two, 225-feet-long ground scars located at an elevation of about 6,450 feet msl. The scars continued to travel up rising terrain, on a heading of 330 degrees magnetic. The spacing between the scars corresponded to the dimension of the airplaneā€™s two main landing gear. Trees located within the immediate vicinity of the scars were severed at the 4-foot level. Seven, 2-feet-long diagonal slash marks were observed between the main scars, 100 feet from the FIPC. The spacing of the slashes ranged between 14 and 48 inches. A twisted fragment of propeller blade tip was located 20 feet west of the markings.

The two main ground scars continued until the terrain crested at an elevation of about 6,570 feet, and dropped away. The main wreckage was located about 760 feet beyond the crest at an elevation of about 6,460 feet. The debris path from the crest to the main wreckage consisted of the left main landing gear and wing rib fragments.

The main wreckage site was characterized by a 30-foot-long ground disruption on a heading of 350 degrees, followed by a 100-foot debris path to the fuselage, wings, and engine. The aft elevator push-pull tube and fragments of the belly mounted hopper gate doors were located within the initial disruption. Fire retardant enveloped the entire wreckage area, and the odor of jet fuel was present throughout the site.

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