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N55MB accident description

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Tail numberN55MB
Accident dateDecember 26, 2006
Aircraft typeRockwell International 114
LocationJasper, TN
Near 35.076389 N, -85.555556 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 26, 2006, at 1100 central standard time, a Rockwell International Model 114, N55MB, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with trees and terrain near Jasper, Tennessee. The flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91 on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan at the time of the accident. The pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries. Two additional passengers sustained serious injuries. The personal flight departed Ottawa Executive Airport (Z98), Zeeland, Michigan, at 0742. The intended destination was Winchester Municipal Airport (BGF), Winchester, Tennessee. However, the flight had executed a missed approach at BGF and was in the process of diverting to Marion County Airport (APT), Jasper, Tennessee, at the time of the accident.

The pilot obtained preflight weather briefings at 0506 and 0638, the morning of the accident. The briefer informed the pilot of forecast icing and instrument conditions along the proposed route of flight and in the vicinity of the intended destination.

The flight departed Z98 and proceeded southbound, climbing to a cruise altitude of 12,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The pilot informed Grand Rapids Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) Radar Approach Control (Grand Rapids, Michigan) that the airplane picked up a "little bit of icing" in the climb. The flight leveled at 12,000 feet and proceeded on course.

At 1011, the flight established contact with Nashville ATCT Radar Approach Control (Nashville, Tennessee) and reported level at 12,000 feet. At 1020, the controller instructed the pilot to descend and maintain 4,000 feet. However, the pilot advised the controller that he might have to stay higher than 4,000 feet due to icing concerns. The controller subsequently amended the clearance to maintain 7,000 feet. Air traffic control (ATC) radar track data indicated that the flight was approximately 29 miles east of Nashville at that time and that the pilot began the descent to 7,000 feet promptly.

At 1027, control of the flight was transferred to Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). Upon establishing contact, the pilot reported descending through 9,600 feet with 7,000 feet assigned. The controller subsequently advised the pilot to expect the Global Positioning System (GPS) Runway 18 approach into BGF. At 1032:30 (HHMM:SS), the pilot was instructed to descend and maintain 4,000 feet. Radar track data indicated that the flight was approximately 31 miles north of BGF and was descending through 8,300 feet at that time.

At 1038:19, the flight was cleared for the GPS Runway 18 approach into BGF. The pilot was instructed to maintain 3,900 feet until crossing the initial approach fix (IAF), Boiling Fork Non-Directional Beacon (NDB). The flight was approximately 15 miles north of the airport, descending through 4,700 feet. The pilot inquired about descending lower, but the controller informed him that 3,900 feet was the minimum IFR altitude for the flight's current location. The controller noted that the minimum IFR altitude decreased to 3,600 feet about 5 miles ahead. The pilot replied that he would hold at 3,900 feet. Radar track data indicated that the flight leveled at 3,900 feet about that time. The track data indicated that radar contact was lost about 1042:17 as the airplane descended into BGF. The altitude associated with that data point was 3,800 feet.

A Memphis Center controller stated that radar coverage in the vicinity of Jasper was normally intermittent below 5,000 feet.

At 1042:22, the pilot inquired about descending lower. The controller cleared the flight to descend and maintain 3,600 feet until reaching Boiling Fork IAF. The pilot replied: "Okay, we're just picking up some ice here, so we're trying to be ... real careful."

GPS coordinate data indicated that the flight proceeded toward the airport, descending to approximately 3,200 feet at 1043:52. At 1044:06, the pilot informed the controller: "We're gonna go ahead and go missed now, we're picking up too much ice here." The flight was about 2.25 miles north of the airport. The controller instructed the pilot to execute the missed approach procedure and subsequently cleared the flight to Lovell Field Airport (CHA), Chattanooga, Tennessee, at 5,000 feet as requested by the pilot.

GPS coordinate track data indicated that the airplane over flew the airport and started a left turn toward CHA about 1045:20. The GPS altitude at that time was 3,933 feet. ATC radar track data suggested that radar contact was re-established about 0.75 miles east-southeast of BGF at 4,300 feet. The flight proceeded on an approximate magnetic course of 113 degrees toward CHA.

At 1047:39, the pilot informed the controller that the airplane was "still picking up ice" at 4,500 feet and inquired about cloud top reports. The controller replied that he did not have any top reports, but offered the pilot the option of climbing to 7,000 feet. At 1047:55, the pilot stated: "I'm trying to climb and I'm . . . actually not being able to. It looks now I'm gonna stay right where I'm at here . . . I'm not able to climb any longer . . . so I'm gonna have to just hold here I suppose."

At 1050:39, the pilot reported that he was not able to maintain 4,500 feet because of "more ice." He requested radar vectors to "some place warm or out of this ice." The controller asked, "You're not able to hold altitude?" and the pilot replied, "Affirmative we're losing [altitude] very slightly here at 4,400 [feet]." The controller informed the pilot that he was not aware of any area being better with regard to icing. The pilot replied, "Looking for . . . some place that has decent visibility so I can come down and get below it . . . cause I'm in the soup right now . . . and I'm losing altitude now pretty good."

At 1054:46, the controller inquired if the flight was out of the clouds and icing conditions. The pilot replied "Negative." The pilot elected to divert to APT, which was approximately 7 miles east of the airplane's position at that time. The controller subsequently cleared the flight for an approach to APT. The controller instructed the pilot to maintain 4,000 feet to the "radio beacon." The pilot replied, "All I can do is ... 4,000." The altitude clearance was amended to cruise at or below 4,000 feet. The controller informed the pilot that APT was at his eleven-thirty position and 4.1 miles.

At 1057:28, the controller released the pilot to the airport common traffic advisory frequency. At 1058:23, the pilot contacted the controller, but when the controller acknowledged, "go ahead," the pilot replied, "Nothin." No further communications were received from the accident airplane.

Radar track data indicated that after the missed approach at BGF, the airplane became established on a course toward CHA and climbed to 4,500 feet. However, altitude data suggested that about 1049:31, the airplane began a gradual descent until reaching 4,000 feet at 1055:32. This was the final data point associated with ATC radar. The flight was approximately 5.7 miles west of APT at that time.

GPS track data indicated that the airplane continued on an east-southeast course in a gradual descent. At 1055:33 the GPS recorded an altitude of 3,840 feet. At 1058:10, the flight was located about 0.6 miles south-southwest of APT at 2,866 feet (GPS altitude). About that time, the airplane entered a left turn toward the northeast. The final GPS data point was recorded at 1059:41, and indicated an altitude of 751 feet.

Review of the radar and GPS track data provided average descent rates as the pilot attempted to divert. Between 1049:31 and 1055:32, radar data suggested that the airplane descended 500 feet; an average rate of 83 feet-per-minute (fpm). Between 1055:33 and 1058:10, GPS data indicated that the airplane descended 974 feet; an average descent rate of 372 fpm. Between 1058:10 and 1059:34, GPS data recorded a descent of 1,703 feet; an average descent rate of 1,216 fpm. At 1059:34, the GPS recorded an altitude of 1,163 feet. From this data point until the final GPS data point at 1059:41, the airplane lost 412 feet; an average descent rate of 3,531 fpm.

A witness, who lived in the residence adjacent to the accident site, reported that he had gone out to get the newspaper when he first heard, and then saw, the airplane. He stated that the airplane came through the treetops, "nose dived into the ground" and spun around, before coming to rest.

The airplane impacted trees and terrain about 250 feet north of the final GPS data point. It came to rest in the front yard of the witness' residence located in a rural area approximately 1.75 miles northeast of APT.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He held a second-class airman medical certificate issued on May 26, 2005, with a limitation for corrective lenses.

A reliable record of the pilot's flight time was not obtained by the NTSB. FAA records indicated that the pilot added an instrument rating to his private pilot certificate on June 17, 2006, approximately 7 months prior to the accident. On the rating application, he reported a total flight time of 1,718 hours, with 48 hours of instrument flight time. The pilot was initially issued his private pilot certificate on July 4, 2001.


The accident airplane was a 1978 Rockwell International Model 114, serial number 14395. It was a four-place, low wing, single-engine airplane, configured with retractable tricycle landing gear. A 260-horsepower IO-540-T4B5D Lycoming engine, serial number L-17793-48A, powered the airplane. The airplane was not equipped with airframe in-flight icing protection or deicing capability.

Airplane maintenance logs indicated that an annual inspection was completed on January 27, 2006. The recording tachometer at that time was 1,267.01 hours. Altimeter, altitude reporting, transponder and static system checks were also accomplished on that date, according to the logs.

The Pilot's Operating Handbook stated that the airplane was not certified for flight into known icing conditions. The handbook advised that in the case of an inadvertent icing encounter, "evasive action should be initiated immediately when icing conditions are first encountered."


The Lovell Field Airport (CHA) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), located approximately 20 miles east of APT, at 1053, recorded conditions as: Few clouds at 1,900 feet above ground level (agl), broken clouds at 2,900 feet agl, overcast clouds at 5,500 feet agl; wind from 280 degrees at 9 knots; visibility 10; temperature and dew point 6 degrees and 1 degree Celsius, respectively; and altimeter 29.94 inches of mercury.

The BGF airport manager recalled conditions about 1100 on the day of the accident as overcast clouds at 900 feet agl, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 260 degrees at about 8 knots.

The area forecast for Tennessee, valid from 0445 to 1700, predicted marginal visual flight rules (VFR) conditions. For the middle one-third of the state, the forecast predicted overcast ceilings at 1,500 feet agl, with cloud tops to 10,000 feet. After 0900, the possibility of light rain and snow showers was forecast. Between 1400 and 1600, conditions were expected to improve to 2,500 feet scattered.

For the eastern one-third of the state, the forecast predicted overcast ceilings at 1,500 feet, with tops to 12,000 feet. The forecast noted the possibility of visibilities restricted to 5 miles in light rain and mist.

The terminal forecast for CHA, valid beginning at 0600, called for winds from 300 degrees at 8 knots, gusting to 15 knots, broken clouds at 2,000 feet agl, and overcast clouds at 6,000 feet agl. Visibility was expected to be at or above 6 miles, with showers in the vicinity. At 1400, conditions were forecast to improve to scattered clouds at 2,000 feet agl, broken clouds at 3,500 feet agl, and overcast clouds at 7,000 feet agl.

There were no Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET) advisories applicable to the route in effect during the accident flight. The pilot was, however, advised of a SIGMET for severe icing during the pre-flight briefing. SIGMET Oscar 3 was in effect from 0220 until 0535, and warned of occasional severe mixed or rime icing between 4,000 feet and 12,000 feet. The coverage area included southern Michigan, and northeast and east-central Indiana.

Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) Zulu was issued at 0245 and was in effect until 0900. The AIRMET warned of moderate icing conditions below 16,000 feet along the route of flight.

AIRMET Zulu was updated at 0845 and was in effect until 1500. Approximately the last two-thirds of the accident flight was within the coverage area of this AIRMET. The accident site was located near the southeastern boundary of the coverage area. The AIRMET warned of moderate icing conditions below 10,000 feet. These conditions were expected to continue beyond 1500, ending about 1800.

AIRMET Zulu was revised at 1030 and covered the same geographical area as the previous update. However, the maximum altitude of the advisory area was increased to 12,000 feet. The conditions were still expected to continue beyond 1500 and to end about 1800.

Several pilot reports (PIREP) related to icing encounters were on file at the time of the accident. However, none were in the immediate proximity of APT. About 0916, an Embraer 145 in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, reported light to moderate icing between 3,000 feet and 4,000 feet. Nashville was located approximately 85 miles northwest of APT.

At 0937, a Cessna 421 reported light rime icing between 5,000 feet and 6,000 feet, about 43 miles east of Nashville.

About 0940, a Bombardier/Canadair Regional Jet encountered moderate rime icing between 3,000 feet and 11,000 feet, during descent into McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), Knoxville, Tennessee. The encounter began 40 miles west of TYS, and continued until the flight was 5 miles west of TYS. TYS was located approximately 90 miles northeast of APT.


Winchester Municipal Airport (BGF), the intended destination, consisted of a single asphalt runway. Runway 18-36 was 5,003 feet long by 75 feet wide. The airport elevation was 979 feet.

The airport was served by a Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) / GPS instrument approach to runway 18. The minimum descent altitude (MDA) for the NDB / GPS runway 18 approach was 1,680 feet msl for category A and B aircraft. This was approximately 700 feet above the airport elevation. One statute mile visibility was required to descend from the MDA and land.

An Automated Weather Observing System was installed on the airport. Conditions were available via aircraft radio or telephone. However, weather conditions at BGF were not provided to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for dissemination. In addition, conditions were not archived by the airport management.

Marion County Airport (APT), the alternate destination, also consisted of a single asphalt runway. Runway 4-22 was 3,500 feet long by 75 feet wide. The airport elevation was 641 feet msl.

The airport was served by a NDB / GPS instrument approach to runway 4. The MDA for the approach was 2,220 feet msl. This was approximately 1,600 feet above the airport elevation. One and one-quarter statute mile visibility was required to descend from the MDA and land.

APT was not equipped with any weather observing system.


The accident site was located about 1.75 miles northeast of APT in a rural residential area. The site was located in the front yard of a residence. Tree strikes were observed in a wooded area approximately 330 feet south of the main wreckage. Several tree limbs were down and exhibited fresh breaks. A second tree located approximately 180 feet south of the main wreckage also exhibited fresh breaks.

A ground impact scar was located approximately 137 feet south of the main wreckage. The ground scar measured about 8 feet wide by 18 feet long. A tree limb about 4 feet in l

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