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N88MQ accident description

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Crash location 39.436389°N, 79.115833°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 Swanton, MD
39.458983°N, 79.230870°W
6.3 miles away

Tail number N88MQ
Accident date 19 May 2002
Aircraft type Ayres S-2R
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On May 19, 2002, at 1235 eastern daylight time, an Ayres Corporation S-2R, N88MQ, was destroyed after it collided with power lines while maneuvering near Swanton, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Cumberland Airport (CBE), Cumberland, Maryland, about 1215. No flight plan was filed for the local aerial application flight, conducted under 14 CFR Part 137.

A park ranger, who was in the area at the time of the accident, stated that she observed a yellow airplane make several low passes. As the airplane flew along a tree line, it clipped the top of the trees directly above where she was standing. Several minutes later, she heard a "zing-type noise," followed by the sound of two impacts.

The head park ranger stated that shortly before the accident, a caller reported an airplane flying "erratically" in the area. The head ranger and another ranger departed their office, and proceeded to the top of the Jennings Randolph Dam, where they observed a yellow airplane doing an aerial application in the valley. The airplane made two passes up one side of the river, then down the other side of the river. As the airplane began it's third pass, it was headed south. The head ranger commented to the other ranger that the airplane was too low, and that he would not make it over the ridgeline. At the time, the airplane was in a descent, the wings were level, it was spraying, and the engine sounded "strong."

The head ranger could not see the power lines from where he was standing on the dam because the ridgeline blocked his view. The airplane crossed the ridgeline and disappeared from view, and about 3-5 seconds later, he observed plumes of gray smoke.

According to the operator, the airplane was spraying for gypsy moths. A chase airplane flew above the airplane as it sprayed the designated areas.

In a written statement, the chase airplane pilot wrote that he was circling at about 4,000 feet msl while the block was being treated. He noticed power lines running along the south side of the block, and reported them to the pilot. After the pilot finished his first load of chemicals, he returned to Cumberland Airport to reload. The pilot then flew back to the area he was spraying and radioed the chase plane and said that he had finished the main area and was going to work the fingers of the block.

The chase plane pilot further stated that he did not see the impact, only smoke and flames. In addition, the accident pilot did not report any mechanical problems with the airplane.

In a written statement, an observer, who sat in the right seat of the chase airplane, provided an account of the accident similar to that of the chase plane pilot. He also noted that he had seen a square-shaped section of airplane in the river, north of the power lines.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine land and sea, multi-engine land, rotorcraft, glider, and instrument airplane. He was also an airframe and power plant mechanic. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical was issued on October 31, 2001.

Examination of pilot records submitted by the operator revealed that, as of March 8, 2002, the pilot had a total of 12,400 hours, of which, 3,400 were in make and model. Additionally, he had a total of 1,600 hours of aerial application in "terrain typical of contract." He completed a biennial flight review on September 15, 2001, in a Cessna 182S.


Weather at Morgantown-Hart Airport (MGW), Morgantown, West Virginia, about 38 miles to the northwest, at 1236, included calm wind, visibility 10 statute miles, light rain, overcast ceiling 2,900 feet, temperature 44 degrees F, dewpoint 34 degrees F, and barometric pressure 30.24 inches Hg.


An on-scene examination of the airplane was conducted on May 20, 2002. All major components of the airframe were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest inverted, on a steep slope comprised of large boulders. The nose of the airplane pointed down, towards the base of the slope. The airplane was consumed by fire.

The main wreckage was located approximately 100 yards southwest of the Potomac River, which flowed north to south, and a set of unmarked power lines which were oriented east and west. The power lines consisted of two rows of wires. The top two static wires were about 200 feet above the ground, and the lower set of wires were about 150 feet above the ground.

Prior to the Safety Board's arrival, local people conducted a ground search, and located yellow pieces of airplane at the base of the river, underneath the power lines. The pieces of airplane were later identified as part of the left aileron. Also found at the base of the power lines were the left aileron balance weight and a spray nozzle.

On May 20, 2002, a representative of Allegheny Power performed an aerial examination of the static wires. According to the representative, both static wires exhibited contact marks at the point where the wires crossed over the river. The marks were in a direct line to where the main wreckage was located. The wires were not frayed.

A 3-foot section of the left wing was found in the river downstream of the power lines. Examination of the wing section revealed spiraled striations at the leading edge.

Between the powerlines and where the main wreckage came to rest was a 25-foot-tall tree. Broken tree limbs were found at the base of the tree.

Ground impact scars began about 100 feet from where the main wreckage came to rest. Embedded in these ground scars were chips of yellow paint. Brush and tall grass were located along this path. Located near the brush were several vortex generators that were installed on the top of each wing. The grass was flattened, with the blades pointed toward the main wreckage.

The engine, an Allied Signal TPE 331 turbine, was separated from the airframe.

The four-bladed propeller assembly was separated from the engine. One blade was separated from the hub, and exhibited aft bending and chordwise scratching. The other three blades fit tight in the hub and exhibited aft bending, chordwise scratching, and leading edge nicks. The end of the propeller shaft exhibited rotational scoring.

The fuselage, cockpit, and hopper were consumed by fire.

Both wings remained attached to their respective carry-through spars, and exhibited extensive fire and impact damage. The horizontal stabilizer, elevator, and both elevator trim control surfaces remained attached to the airframe, but exhibited extensive fire and impact damage. Control cable continuity was established to all flight control surfaces.

The vertical stabilizer was separated from its attachment mount, and located with the main wreckage. The rudder remained partially attached to the airframe, and exhibited extensive fire and impact damage.

Part of the left aileron was located with the main wreckage. The leading edge exhibited spiral striations.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot on May 20, 2002, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland.

A toxicological examination was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


The airplane wreckage was released on May 20, 2002, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

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