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N971GA accident description

Hawaii map... Hawaii list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Hilo, HI
19.729722°N, 155.090000°W
Tail number N971GA
Accident date 04 Jul 1999
Aircraft type Beech 58
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On July 4, 1999, at 1246 hours Hawaii standard time, a Beech 58, N971GA, operated by General Aviation Services, Inc., of Lake Zurich, Illinois, was destroyed following a collision with the runway during takeoff and initial climb at the Hilo International Airport, Hilo, Hawaii. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. The airplane was on a ferry flight from Nagoya, Japan, to Rockford, Illinois. This flight leg was destined for Oakland, California, about 2,023 miles northeast. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure point for the flight operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 and an IFR flight plan was filed. The aircraft was issued a ferry permit by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the operation.

The pilot departed Japan May 24, 1999, and arrived at Saipan. He departed Saipan May 25, en route to Phonpei; and departed Phonpei May 26, en route to Majuro. He departed Majuro May 29, and diverted to Johnston Atoll. The airplane remained on Johnston Atoll for about 18 days during which time the original Special Flight Permit dated June 6, 1999, expired. The pilot received a reissuance, with an expiration date of July 9, 1999. While at Johnston Atoll, the airplane was refueled with 50 gallons of automobile gas into the right auxiliary fuel tank. Also added was 50 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel obtained from Honolulu by barge. The pilot departed Johnston Atoll June 18 for Honolulu. At Honolulu the pilot had 25 gallons of automotive gas removed from the right auxiliary fuel tank. The pilot departed Honolulu for Hilo on July 3, 1999.

According to the Hilo FAA Air Traffic Control Tower transcript, on July 4, 1999, at 1247, the pilot was cleared for takeoff from runway 08 at Hilo International Airport. He departed from the 9,800-foot-runway threshold and rotated at 3,000 feet. Subsequent measurements made during the investigation determined that the first scars associated with the airplane (at the impact location observed by witnesses) was 6,300 feet from the start of the takeoff roll. About 50 to 100 feet agl, the pilot announced on the local control frequency "coming, coming, come in for landing, I can't make it sir." According to tower personnel, the landing gear was observed to retract then extend.

The pilot filed an instrument flight plan for 13 hours 10 minutes, with 14 hours 6 minutes of fuel onboard.


The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate. His personal logbook was not recovered. According to his last documented first-class flight physical dated May 3, 1999, he reported a total of 14,000 flight hours. He also held an FAA ground instructor rating for advanced instrument, and a flight engineer rating for turbojet powered aircraft.

The pilot also held an FAA airframe and powerplant technician certificate with inspection authorization.


The aircraft had been owned and operated by Japan Airlines and the historical Japanese records were not found in the aircraft. The Japanese registration identification (JA5311) was observed on the bottom of the left wing.

During postaccident examination of the airplane there were three separate auxiliary/ferry fuel tanks observed inside the cabin area. There were two side-by-side 110-gallon tanks, and a 45-gallon tank behind, for a total of 438 gallons. The tanks were plumbed into the aircraft fuel system using Rayco-Eastman B708 1/2-inch inside diameter automotive type hose.

An FAA form 337 dated May 10, 1999, for the installation of two 200-gallon aluminum ferry tanks was reviewed. Aircraft ferry fuel system operations and management details were outlined in Attachment No. 1 to the form. Attachment No. 1 lists the tank quantities as 110 gallons each. The two tanks were shipped to Japan and installed by the pilot. The third 45-gallon tank was purchased from an operator at Honolulu, and installed by the pilot. No paperwork has been located for the last installation.

According to his employer, the pilot had called him for installation consultation, and subsequently to discuss problems he was experiencing while en route. The pilot told him that the ferry system would only drain about 2/3 of the fuel from the ferry tanks. The routing of unsecured hoses through the wheel wells and the landing gear retract mechanisms were discussed as a possible source of the problems.

The baggage/cargo, tools, auxiliary tank empty weights, and various items recovered were weighed, or estimated, to obtain an approximate empty weight. That weight, the fuel load of 2,628 pounds, and the airplane's normal empty weight combined for a total gross weight of approximately 6,676 pounds.

According to the FAA approved Airplane Flight Manual, the designed maximum takeoff weight is 5,500 pounds. The published aft center of gravity (CG) limit is 86 inches aft of the datum at all weights. Based on the available evidence, at the time of the accident, the CG was about 88.46 inches aft of the datum.

On May 7, 1999, the pilot obtained authorization from the FAA Wichita Aircraft Certification Office, Small Airplane Directorate, to operate the airplane at an increased gross weight while on a Special Flight Permit. The permit was to expire on June 6, 1999. Excerpts from this authorization stated that the airplane was structurally satisfactory for ferry flight operation at takeoff gross weight of 6,875 pounds and aft CG limit of F.S. +86 inches, provided structural loads of +2.5 and -1.0 are not exceeded.

It further stated, "The excess weight authorized is limited to the additional fuel, fuel-carrying tanks, and navigational equipment necessary for this particular flight . . . The flight characteristics and performance at this weight/CG configuration have not been determined . . . Increased stall speeds and reduced climb performance will result for this increased gross weight."


At 1253, the Hilo aviation surface weather observation system was reporting winds at 350 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 statue miles; few clouds at 3,100 feet agl; temperature 79 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 66 degrees Fahrenheit; and the altimeter was 30.04 inHg.


The first ground scars associated with the airplane were found on the runway 08 left shoulder area about 80 feet from the runway centerline. Scrap markings paralleled the runway along the asphalt shoulder for a distance of 273 feet. The wreckage came to rest about 84 feet from the runway centerline.

Burn marks and soot patterns were found near the initial point of ground contact and continued along the scrap marks to the final resting spot of the airplane. The wreckage was oriented facing the departure point. The empennage, the fuselage aft of the rear baggage compartment, and the right wing and engine nacelle were consumed in the fire. The cabin section was extensively fire damaged. There was fire damage to the left wing root and flap.

The right propeller blades were curled, bent, and twisted with chordwise striations and leading edge damage.

The left propeller blades were examined. One blade appeared to be undamaged with freedom inside the propeller hub. One blade was curled at the tip with leading edge damage and chordwise striations. The last blade exhibited leading and trailing edge damage with a mildly twisted propeller tip. This propeller was shipped to McCauley Propeller Company for examination.

Examination of the nose section revealed three propeller blade strikes to the left side of the nose section. The right side of the nose section revealed asphalt-scraping signatures across the nose baggage latching area.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed rubber hoses routed and draped from the ferry fuel tanks to the main gear wheel wells and through the airplane center section. Manual fuel shutoff valves were found lying free on the cockpit floor and connected into the wing fuel tank plumbing. An auxiliary fuel tank hose was found draped through the left landing gear retract brace. The hose exhibited transverse compression signatures in the area of the retract brace. No vapor return line was found from the left engine to the left tank.


On July 6, 1999, the Hawaii County Police Department Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot. During the course of the autopsy the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, obtained samples for toxicological analysis. The results of the analysis were negative for drugs, ethanol, cyanide, and carbon monoxide.


After the accident the left engine was removed and shipped to Continental Motors at Mobile, Alabama. The engine was installed into a factory test cell for an operational test run. The engine met all Continental test parameters.

The left propeller was removed and shipped to McCauley Propeller Company in Piqua, Ohio. The propeller was disassembled and examined for operational signatures and position at the time of the accident. The examination revealed that the propeller blades were at, or very near, the low pitch stop at ground impact. According to McCauley engineers, the damage was consistent with the propeller operating with some power at the time of impact.


On May 17, 2000 the wreckage was released to the insurance company representative at the direction of the owner.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper fuel system modifications resulting in inadequate fuel flow to the left engine during a critical phase of flight. Factors in the accident were the operation at an over gross weight condition with a CG more than 2 inches aft of the rear limit.

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