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N4920M accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Pellston, MI
45.552789°N, 84.783936°W
Tail number N4920M
Accident date 21 Jan 1999
Aircraft type Beech 95-C55
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 21, 1999 at 2216 eastern standard time (est), a Beech 95-C55, N4920M, operated by a commercial pilot, during the ILS approach to runway 32 at the Pellston Regional Airport of Emmet County, Pellston, Michigan, impacted into the side of a heavily- wooded hill, 3.4 nautical miles east-southeast of the airport. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The business flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. An IFR flight plan was on file. The airplane was destroyed, and the pilot and two passengers on board were fatally injured. The cross-country flight originated at Detroit City, Michigan, at 2106 est.

At 2027 est, the pilot contacted the Flight Service Station (FSS) at Lansing, Michigan, obtained a weather briefing, and filed an IFR flight plan from Detroit City to Pellston. At 2105 est, the Detroit City Air Traffic Control Tower (ACTC) cleared the airplane for takeoff. At 2109 est, the pilot established radio contact with Detroit Approach Control and informed them that he was airborne off of the Detroit City Airport. Detroit Approach Control issued N4920M a climb to 6,000 feet mean seal level (msl).

At 2144:01 est, the pilot contacted the Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) Sector 2 controller and reported being at 6,000 feet msl. Shortly after the call, the Minneapolis ARTCC radar picked up the airplane's transponder code of 7477. The airplane was located 36 nautical miles north of the Bay City/Clements Airport on a 350 degree heading, and at an altitude of 5,900 feet msl.

At 2151:55 est, the pilot requested the weather report at Pellston. The Minneapolis ARTCC Sector 2 controller told the pilot that the weather at Pellston, at 2120 est, was wind 080 degrees magnetic at 11 knots, visibility 5 miles, light freezing drizzle and freezing fog, a ceiling of 600 feet above ground level (agl), temperature -1 degree celsius, dew point -3 degrees celsius, and an altimeter of 30.13 inches of mercury (HG). The pilot responded by repeating the last three numbers of the altimeter setting and "thanks."

At 2152:26 est, the pilot requested the ILS approach to runway 32 at Pellston. Minneapolis ARTCC confirmed the request and told the pilot that he could plan on the approach via the Rondo transition.

At 2159:12 est, the pilot of a Saab 340, Messaba flight 2942, reported to Minneapolis ARTCC of picking up moderate ice into Pellston, beginning at 3,000 feet msl. The message was relayed by Minneapolis ARTCC to the pilot of N4920M.

At 2200:21 est, Minneapolis ARTCC observed the airplane turn to a magnetic heading of 355 degrees. The airplane was located 13 nautical miles east-southeast of Gaylord, Michigan, at 6,000 feet msl.

At 2201:30 est, the pilot requested a descent. The Minneapolis ARTCC Sector 2 controller responded, "descend pilot's discretion, maintain 4,000 [feet msl]." The pilot acknowledged. At 2202:21 est, the airplane was observed at 5,800 feet msl and descending.

At 2203:58 est, the Minneapolis ARTCC Sector 2 controller cleared N4920M for the ILS approach to runway 32 at Pellston, and to maintain at or above 3,200 feet msl until on a published portion of the approach. The pilot acknowledged being cleared for the approach and the altitude restriction.

At 2205:21 est, the airplane turned to a magnetic heading of 342 degrees. The airplane was located 26 miles south-southeast of the Pellston Regional Airport, at 4,100 feet msl.

The last radar position that Minneapolis ARTCC plotted on the airplane was at 2208:56 est. The airplane was 15 nautical miles southeast of the Pellston Regional Airport, at 3,600 feet msl.

A witness, driving westbound on Riggsville Road just east of Pellston (2.5 miles southeast of the airport), at the time of the accident, said she observed an "orange-ish flash of light" to her left-rear, as she neared the bottom of the hill. The witness thought this to be strange and noted the time was 2216 est.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single and multi-engine instrument airplane ratings.

According to FAA Medical Records, the pilot reported on January 5, 1998, to have accumulated 5,600 total flying hours. No personal logbooks showing a breakout of the pilot's flight time, or citing his last biennial flight review were retrieved.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was co-owned by the pilot and a business associate, and registered under the title, "Top O Michigan Airmen, incorporated," of Petosky, Michigan. The airplane was used for business and pleasure.

The airplane underwent an annual inspection on June 22, 1998. The total airframe time recorded at the annual inspection was 5,263.9 hours. The Hobbs meter time recorded from the right engine at the time of the annual inspection was 1,147.9 hours. The Hobbs meter reading recorded at the accident site was 1,253.4 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

At 2151 est, the FAA Flight Service Station at Lansing, Michigan, reported the surface observation at the Pellston Regional Airport, as an overcast ceiling varying between 400 and 600 feet above ground level, 4 statute miles visibility, with freezing drizzle and freezing fog. The temperature was reported as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the dew point was reported as 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

The captain of a Saab 340 commuter airline, operating as Northwest Airlink flight 2942, which landed at the Pellston Regional Airport at 2155 est, said that the tops of the clouds in the Pellston area were around 3,000 to 4,000 feet msl. He said that Minneapolis ARTCC cleared flight 2942 for the ILS approach to runway 32, and to descend at the pilot's discretion. The crew intercepted the localizer approximately 22 miles out from the airport and descended on the glide slope at 20 miles out. The captain said that when the airplane reached the outer marker, they began to pick up some ice. They delayed activating their deicing boots until there was appropriate accumulation. The captain estimates that the airplane was between 1,500 feet and 2,000 feet msl when they activated the boots. He estimated that they had accumulated approximately 1/4 inch of ice. Once inside the marker, the ice accumulated quickly. The captain said they encountered ice throughout their descent on the glide slope.

After landing and just clearing the runway at Pellston, the pilot reported moderate-mixed icing to Minneapolis ARTCC. The captain said that Minneapolis ARTCC did not get the whole report, so they relayed it through a "Baron" flying in the area. During his post-flight walk-around of the airplane, the captain said he observed that ice had accumulated on the bottom leading edge of the wings.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The NTSB on scene investigation began on January 23, 1998, at 1300 est.

The accident site was located mid-way up the side of a snow- covered hill, in a heavily wooded area, 3/4 of a mile south of Riggsville Road, an east-west running paved road which ran east out of the village of Pellston. The average depth of the snow in the area was approximately 3 feet. The accident site was also located 3.4 nautical miles east-southeast of the Pellston Regional Airport on a 118 degree magnetic heading.

The accident site began at a stand of five poplar trees, approximately 110 feet in height, and averaging 30 inches in diameter. Severed and broken branches, 1 to 3 inches in diameter, were scattered east-northeastwardly along the ground on a 060 degree heading, beginning at the bases of the trees.

A second stand of four 100 foot tall poplar trees, located 30 feet from the stand of five trees on a 055-degree magnetic heading, were severed through the trunks approximately 90 feet up from their bases. Severed and broken branches, approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, were scattered east-northeastwardly along the ground on a 060 degree heading, beginning approximately 10 feet from the bases of the trees.

A 30 inch long section of the left outboard wing was located resting on the ground next to several large broken branches, approximately 75 feet from the stand of five trees on a 059 degree magnetic heading. The inboard fractured end of the wing section, showed a 6 inch diameter "C" shaped dent, beginning at the leading edge and was pushed inward approximately 5 inches. Wing skin around the dent was crushed aft and buckled. The outboard end of the wing section was broken longitudinally.

A field of debris consisting of several small metal pieces from the left outboard wing, several small broken branches, and numerous pieces of severed and splintered wood, began approximately 111 feet from the stand of five trees on a magnetic heading of 060, and fanned outward along the ground, through the trees and brush for approximately 20 feet.

A four foot long section of the left outboard wing was located on the ground, 133 feet from the stand of five trees on a 058 degree magnetic heading. The wing section was crushed inward and broken longitudinally along the inboard edge, and was broken longitudinally along a rivet line on the outboard edge. Several dents and skin tears were observed in the wing section's leading edge. Heavy brush and broken branches rested on top of and near the wing section.

A 12 inch long piece of the left wing tip was located on the ground, 169 feet from the stand of five trees on a 058-degree heading. The piece was broken laterally along a row of rivets. Three 9-inch diameter poplar trees, severed through the trunks, 18 feet up from the bases of the trees, were located in this area.

A second field of debris consisting of several small pieces of twisted and broken metal, part of the left wing aileron, several broken branches, and severed sapling tree trunks, began 169 feet from the stand of five trees and ran outward along a magnetic heading of 060 degrees, for 60 feet.

Within the 60 foot long, and approximately 25 foot wide area, several poplar, maple, and water birch tree saplings were severed through the trunks at progressively lower heights, along the 060 heading, to the end of the area. The severed trees aligned along a common descending angle of approximately 22 degrees.

A 21 foot long, 18 foot wide, ground scar was located 229 feet from the stand of five trees on a 060 degree magnetic heading. The ground scar was 28 inches at its deepest point near the west- southwest edge, The length of the ground scar ran along a 060 degree magnetic heading. The airplane's nose gear and left main landing gear were found near the center of the ground scar. The airplane's right propeller was located at the northwest edge of the ground scar at the base of a large poplar tree. The propeller was broken off at the flange. One of the three propeller blades was bent rearward approximately 14 inches outboard of the hub. All three propeller blades showed chordwise scratching, torsional bending, and numerous leading edge nicks. The spinner was crushed aft and showed counter-clockwise twisting. The airplane's left propeller was found embedded in the ground on the south edge of the ground scar. The propeller was broken off at the flange. Two of the three propeller blades were bent forward and aft in several locations. All three propeller blades showed chordwise scratching, torsional bending, and numerous leading edge nicks.

The airplane's main wreckage was located 10 feet from the east- northeast edge of the ground scar on a 060 degree magnetic heading. The main wreckage consisted of the right wing and right engine nacelle, two pieces which made up the inboard section of the left wing and left engine nacelle, the center and aft cabin, aft baggage compartment, aft fuselage, and the empennage. The right wing section, consisting of the right wing, right engine nacelle, main carry-through spar and floor of the forward and center cabin, rested on top of a severed poplar tree stump. The remainder of the poplar tree rested perpendicularly on top of the right wing just inboard of the right engine nacelle. The tree was 100 feet long and approximately 30 inches in diameter.

The right wing section was broken out at the cabin floor and carry-through spar area. It was oriented on a 060 degree heading. The front of the right wing tip and outboard 15 inches of the right wing were broken aft. The fracture ran outward diagonally to the aft portion of the wing tip. The leading edge of the right wing and right wing deicing boot, beginning 19 inches outboard of the right engine nacelle and running outboard to the tip, were crushed aft and downward. The right engine nacelle was broken open and bent outboard approximately 30 degrees. The engine mounts were broken outward and the inside of the upper and lower engine cowling, and the firewall were charred. The right aileron was intact and showed a downward bend 18 inches outboard of the inboard edge. Another downward bend was located 8 inches inboard of the ailerons outboard edge. Control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed. The right flap was partially extended and buckled upward at mid-span. The inboard section of the right wing, beginning near the wing root, and including the carry-through spar, the cabin floor, and the right center cabin seat were charred and melted.

The airplane's center and aft cabin, aft baggage compartment, aft fuselage and empennage rested above the carry through spar and cabin floor area of the right wing section. The fuselage section was turned 90 degrees from the right wing section and oriented on a magnetic heading of approximately 150 degrees. The left side of the aft cabin and fuselage, just aft of the aft cabin bulkhead were bent around the base of a large poplar tree. The forward part of the center cabin section was broken just aft of the forward cabin door frame. The bottom of the cabin, forward of the aft cabin bulkhead, was broken outward. The left side of the aft cabin was bent inward. The left aft cabin window was broken out. The top of the fuselage, over the cabin, was buckled outward and showed several tears along longitudinal rivet lines. The left side of the aft fuselage was charred.

The empennage consisted of the vertical stabilizer, rudder, and inboard two-thirds of the right horizontal stabilizer and right elevator. The vertical stabilizer was intact and showed several inward dents along the leading edge. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer. The top of the rudder and top rudder counterweight were bent right and broken. The rotating beacon was broken off. Control continuity to the rudder was confirmed. The rudder trim tab showed a right deflection of 2 degrees. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were bent aft and downward. The top forward leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer was bent downward and broken aft at the root. The upper stabilizer skin was broken open aft and laterally along the mid-chord rivet line, and torn open longitudinally. The right elevator was broken open longitudinally at mid-span and just inboard of the elevator trim tab. The trim tab was deflected up 5 degrees. The outboard edge of the right elevator was broken aft.

The left horizontal stabilizer and rudder were located 10 feet north of the main wreckage. The stabilizer was broken aft and downward at the root. The left elevator was broken off from the stabilizer at the hinges. The left elevator was broken into two pieces just outboard of the left elevator trim tab. The outboard section of the left elevator was torn longitudinally and diagonally rearward. The trim tab showed no deflection. Control continuity to the elevator was confirmed.

Two pieces which made up the inboard section of the left wing, included the left engine nacelle, left flap, left main landing gear wheel well and doors, part of the aft bottom fuselage and aft cabin floor. The section which contained the left engine nacelle, wheel well, and left flap was located behind the aft fuselage. The section was turned 180 degrees and faced west- southwest. The wing section was crushed inward, bent downward, and twisted. The second piece containing the aft carry-through spar, aft cabin floor, and botto

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain proper altitude/clearance on the approach and his flight into known icing conditions. Factors relating to this accident were the pilot flying with known equipment deficiencies, the pilot's physical impairment (alcohol), the icing conditions, and the trees.

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