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N5958C accident description

Arkansas map... Arkansas list
Crash location 33.453611°N, 92.758056°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Camden, AR
33.584558°N, 92.834329°W
10.1 miles away
Tail number N5958C
Accident date 24 Sep 2017
Aircraft type Beech C35
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 24, 2017, about 1829 central daylight time, a Beech C35 airplane, N5958C, collided with terrain during an uncontrolled descent after takeoff from the Harrell Field Airport (CDH), Camden, Arkansas. The commercial pilot and the pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to the pilot and another private individual and operated by the pilot as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for Saline County Regional Airport (SUZ), Benton, Arkansas.

According to the pilot's wife, the pilot called the pilot-rated passenger and invited him to go flying in the airplane. The pilot told the passenger to meet him at SUZ where he kept the airplane. About 1300, the pilot went to SUZ, and, later that afternoon, the pilot texted his wife that they had flown to Gastons Airport (3M0), Lakeview, Arkansas, and that it had been a great flight.

The pilot and passenger then flew to CDH. A fuel receipt from CDH showed that the pilot fueled the airplane at 1759 with 27.35 gallons of fuel. The pilot's wife said that the pilot texted her about 1815 telling her he was on his way home. This was the last contact from him.

Data recovered from a handheld GPS device found in the wreckage showed the airplane taxi from the fuel pumps at CDH to runway 01, take off, and accelerate during the climb to a maximum groundspeed of 67 knots at 1828:36. The subsequent recorded data showed the airplane maintaining runway heading and slowing. The airplane reached a maximum GPS altitude of 298 ft (about 170 ft above ground level) at 1828:52. The last GPS point, recorded at 1829:08, showed the airplane over the runway on a northerly heading at 253 ft GPS altitude (about 120 ft above ground level) and 57 knots groundspeed.

One witness, who was standing outside his home, saw the airplane flying just above the treetops. He said that the airplane started a left turn and then descended and crashed. Another witness, who was driving on a nearby highway, saw the airplane and questioned why it was not gaining any altitude. He lost sight of the airplane and did not see it again until he drove by the open field where it had crashed.

A security camera video from a convenience store located about 1 mile from the airport recorded the airplane in a steep left turning dive just before it impacted the ground and caught fire. No evidence of an inflight fire was observed in the video.


The pilot, age 42, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, instrument airplane, and instrument helicopter. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate. The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class airman medical certificate was issued on August 19, 2009, with no limitations. The medical certificate expired for all classes on August 31, 2014.

The pilot was actively serving as a UH-60 helicopter pilot for the Arkansas Air National Guard at the time of the accident. According to his Army Individual Flight Record and Flight Certificate, the pilot completed a military flight physical examination on October 22, 2016. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 61.23(b)(9) states that when a military pilot of the U.S. Armed Forces can show evidence of an up-to-date medical examination authorizing pilot flight status issued by the U.S. Armed Forces and (i) the flight does not require higher than a third-class medical certificate; and (ii) the flight conducted is a domestic flight operation within U.S. airspace, that person is not required to hold a medical certificate.

Army flight records indicated that the pilot had 2,175.7 total hours of flight experience of which 1,844.3 hours were in military helicopters and 331.4 hours were in civilian airplanes. The pilot completed a military standardization evaluation check flight on October 27, 2016, in a UH-60L helicopter. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 61.56(d)(1) states that a person who has passed a U.S. Armed Forces proficiency check within a 24-month period need not accomplish a flight review. Insurance records indicated the pilot had 440 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model as of January 27, 2017.

The pilot-rated passenger, age 31, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, instrument airplane, and instrument helicopter, and an FAA first-class airman medical certificate issued July 27, 2017, with no restrictions. The pilot-rated passenger reported no flight hours on the application for this medical certificate; however, during his prior medical exam on October 28, 2010, he reported 20 total hours of civilian flight experience.


The four-seat, low-wing, retractable-landing-gear airplane, serial number D-3319, was manufactured in 1952 and was equipped with dual control yokes, two 20-gallon main fuel tanks, and two 15-gallon tip fuel tanks. It was powered by a 225-horsepower Continental E-225-8 engine and equipped with a Beech 215-107 propeller. According to the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH), the airplane's stall speed in the wheels-up, flaps-up configuration was 48 knots.

Review of copies of maintenance logbook records showed that an annual inspection was completed on September 5, 2017, at a recorded tachometer time of 5,719.40 hours, an airframe total time of 5,719.40 hours, and an engine time since major overhaul of 955.40 hours. The tachometer and the recording hour meter were observed at the accident site; however, fire damage precluded determining their current readings.

According to the pilot's wife, she had flown in the airplane with the pilot the day before the accident. She recalled that the airplane "started right up." During the flight, the pilot pointed out to her how smoothly the engine and propeller were running.


A review of recorded data from the CDH automated weather observation station revealed that, at 1815, conditions were calm wind, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 28°C, dew point 23°C, and altimeter setting 29.89 inches of mercury.


The accident site was in a field on airport property about 172 ft east and 1,000 ft south of the departure end of runway 01. The airplane was upright and oriented on a 200° heading. With the exception of the left wing fuel tank cap, all the wreckage was contained in an area that was 33-ft long, extending from the initial impact point to the empennage, and 35-ft wide, encompassing the right wing and left outboard wing sections. Grass and bushes immediately surrounding the wreckage were burned.

The left wing fuel tank cap was located about 4,500 ft south of the main wreckage on the left side of the runway at the 1,000-ft marker. The locking lever was engaged, and the cap showed no fire or impact damage.

A 10-ft-long, 4-ft-wide, and 1-ft-deep ground scar preceded the main wreckage, which was located 2 ft farther to the northeast. Pieces of broken clear plastic, the main cabin door and part of the door post, and one propeller blade were in the ground scar. The main cabin door was broken out at the door hinges, intact, and charred by fire.

Fire consumed the forward fuselage aft of the engine, most of the cabin section, the inboard portions of the left and right wings, the landing gear, the baggage compartment, and the fuselage immediately aft of the baggage compartment.

The forward windscreen was broken out and fragmented. The instrument panel, glare shield, and control yokes were broken aft, melted, and consumed by fire. The cabin floor, seats, cabin interior, and baggage compartment were charred, melted, and consumed by fire.

A 10-ft-long outboard section of the right wing, two 4- to 5-ft-long sections of the outboard left wing, an 8-ft-long section of the aft fuselage, and the V-tail empennage survived the fire.

The right outboard wing was broken upward along the leading edge at the root. The lower wing skin was charred by fire, and the upper skin was bent aft and buckled. The right main bladder fuel tank was consumed and melted. The right main fuel tank cap was located 10 ft south of the main wreckage. The right main landing gear door and strut were charred and melted. The right main tire was charred and consumed by fire. The forward portion of the right tip fuel tank was consumed by fire. The right flap was charred, melted, and consumed, and the right aileron was bent downward 14 inches inboard of the outboard end.

The left wing was broken upward and aft at the wing root and fractured into two pieces at midspan. The inboard section of the left wing was crushed aft, charred, and melted. The left flap was broken out, bent aft, and melted. The left main landing gear and door were charred and melted, and the left main tire was charred and consumed by fire. The left main bladder fuel tank was charred and consumed by fire.

The outboard section of the left wing was twisted upward and broken aft. The left aileron was bent upward at the inboard edge and buckled downward about 10° at midspan. The end of the wing where the left tip fuel tank was located was charred and melted. The left tip fuel tank was broken aft and separated from the wing. It was located on the ground immediately aft of the wreckage and was charred and consumed by fire.

The airplane's engine, engine cowling, and the propeller hub with one blade attached were located at the front of the wreckage. The cowling was broken open. The nose landing gear and doors were charred by fire. The nose wheel tire was consumed by fire. The engine was intact and broken downward at the mounts. Several of the engine accessories sustained fire damage. The propeller spinner was crushed over the front of the hub aft to the counterweights. One blade remained with the hub and was bent aft about 60° about 8 inches outboard of the hub. The blade showed no signs of S-bending or chordwise scratches. The other propeller blade was broken out at the hub mounting clamps and was bent aft about 10° about 12 inches outboard of the hub. The blade showed chordwise scratches and leading edge rubbing from midspan to the blade tip.

The aft fuselage section was upright on the ground and rested on its left side supported by the airplane's left stabilator. It was fractured circumferentially aft of the baggage compartment. There was charring from fire at and aft of the fracture. The empennage was relatively undamaged. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the forward cabin area to all the control surfaces.

On November 20, 2017, an examination of the airplane was conducted at Clinton, Arkansas. The examination showed that the landing gear was down and the flaps were up at ground impact

The propeller and accessories were removed from the engine. The left and right magnetos, starter, alternator, and the electric propeller control were charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The crankshaft turned partially. The top spark plugs were removed, and a borescope examination of the cylinders showed that the No. 3 cylinder exhaust valve was worn but functional. The cylinders and the camshaft gear were removed, and the crankshaft rotated normally. All the spark plugs showed normal operational signatures.

Two fuel selectors were recovered from the cabin floor wreckage. The first was factory-installed and had four positions labeled "OFF," "LEFT," "RIGHT," and "AUX." The second fuel selector valve was installed in accordance with a supplemental type certificate and fed fuel from the wing tip fuel tanks to the main fuel selector valve at the "AUX" port. Both selectors were charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The factory-installed fuel selector valve was disassembled and found to be in the right main fuel tank ("RIGHT") feed position.

According to the POH, the fuel selector should be on the left main fuel tank for takeoff. For landing, the selector should be on the fuel tank with the greatest amount of fuel.


The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Medical Examiner Division, Little Rock, Arkansas, performed autopsies on the pilot and the pilot-rated passenger. For both pilots, the cause of death was blunt force injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot and the pilot-rated passenger.

The pilot's test results showed 26 (mg/dl, mg/hg) ethanol detected in urine with no ethanol detected in blood. These results are consistent with postmortem ethanol production. The pilot-rated passenger's test results were negative for drugs and alcohol.


Review of aerial photographs of the airport revealed that a relatively flat, open, grass-covered area extended for about 2,323 ft in the takeoff direction from the accident site to the airport perimeter.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to return to the runway instead of landing straight ahead when the engine lost power and his failure to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering for an emergency landing, which resulted in an exceedance of the airplane's critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to properly secure the left main fuel tank cap after refueling, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation during the takeoff climb.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.