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N7152S accident description

Missouri map... Missouri list
Crash location 38.190000°N, 90.384444°W
Nearest city Festus, MO
38.220610°N, 90.395954°W
2.2 miles away
Tail number N7152S
Accident date 20 Sep 2018
Aircraft type Cessna 150
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 20, 2018, about 2230 central daylight time (CDT), a Cessna 150H airplane, N7152S, impacted a tree-covered swamp after executing a go-around in dark, night conditions near the Festus Memorial Airport (FES), Festus, Missouri. The left seat air transport pilot and right seat passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to a private individual and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a visual flight rules personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the Greensburg Municipal Airport (I34), Greensburg, Indiana, about 2015 eastern daylight time (EDT).

Family members of the pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was for the pilot to travel to Collins, New York, to retrieve the airplane and bring it to FES. The airplane was going to be used for flight instruction for the pilot's son, who was also traveling with the pilot at the time of the accident. The pilot worked professionally as a commercial airline pilot and previously as a helicopter air ambulance pilot. The airplane was owned by the pilot's father and was stationed at a private residence, with a private airstrip. The pilot's father and the pilot had an "open-ended" agreement that the pilot would eventually travel to Collins, New York, to retrieve the airplane. On September 20, 2018, the pilot traveled from St. Louis, Missouri, to Buffalo, New York, via commercial airline. The pilot and his son were picked up from the airport by a family member and transported to the private airstrip. The pilot departed from the private airstrip about 1400 EDT.

The cross-country flight consisted of travel through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Receipts provided by a family member and found in the wreckage showed that the pilot had refueled the airplane three times during the trip. The first refueling stop was at the Chautauqua County/Dunkirk Airport (DKK), Dunkirk, New York, at 1434 EDT for 13.4 gallons of 100LL fuel (commonly referred to as "avgas"). The distance between the private airstrip in Collins, New York, and DKK is about 19 miles. The second refueling stop was at the Knox County Airport (4I3), Mount Vernon, Ohio, at 1753 EDT for 16.56 gallons of 100LL fuel. The distance between DKK and 4I3 is about 226 miles. The third refueling stop was at I34, for 13.62 gallons of 100LL fuel at 2006 EDT. The distance between 4I3 and I34 is about 174 miles. The distance from I34 to FES is about 275 miles.

During the trip, the pilot was communicating with his fiancé via text message from his cellular phone. The pilot communicated to the fiancé that the airplane was experiencing a "small electrical problem" and he reported that his estimated time of arrival (ETA) would be determined "at the next fuel stop… just before dark." The pilot reported to her that the ETA for FES would be about 2215 CDT. He asked the fiancé to be stationed on the north end of runway 10 with a flashlight to help vector the airplane in for landing. The pilot directed the fiancé, "lights on the north end pointing north."

FES has one asphalt runway, 10 and 19, that is 2,202 feet long and 46 feet wide. The airport lighting system at FES consisted of runway edge lights (medium intensity runway lights) along with runway end identifier lights. These types of lighting systems are considered pilot controlled lighting where a pilot can activate the lighting system while airborne by keying the aircraft's microphone a set number of times on the airport's common traffic advisory frequency. The lighting system can also be manually activated by a switch on the outside of the main hangar/office building at FES. A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Notices to Airmen (commonly referred to as "NOTAMS") data for the day of the accident found no malfunctions or failures of the airport lighting system listed for FES.

The pilot reported to the fiancé that he would attempt to activate the airport lighting system with a handheld very high frequency (VHF) radio, but he was unsure if the radio had enough battery power to perform the task. The fiancé traveled to the requested area at the airport. She reported that the airplane was landing from the north to runway 10. In addition to the lighting provide by the fiancé, the main hangar/office building had one outside light on at the time of the accident. The pilot attempted to land, but she was unsure if the airplane touched down on the runway due to the dark, night conditions present that hampered her visual acquisition of the airplane. She reported that the airplane was "blacked out" and did not have any exterior lights on when it tried to land. The pilot executed a go-around procedure. The last text message from the pilot stated, "keep light on." After several minutes of not seeing or hearing the airplane, the fiancé tried contacting the pilot multiple times with no response. The fiancé contacted law enforcement about 30 minutes after the last text message was received.

The Jefferson County (Missouri) Sheriff's Office initiated a search for the missing airplane working with multiple ground and air assets. Data acquired from the cellular phones in the wreckage were used to help determine the search area. The wreckage was located by air assets in a tree-covered swamp, near the Plattin Creek, on September 21 about 0740 CDT. The wreckage was situated about one quarter of a mile south east of the departure end of runway 19 and about 440 feet above mean sea level. The airplane was equipped with a Pointer 3000 emergency locator transmitter (ELT), Technical Standard Order 91 (operating on 121.5/243.0 megahertz). The U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, reported no ELT signals were received by their monitoring systems from the accident airplane.

On September 22, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation-in-charge, two aviation safety inspectors from the FAA St. Louis Flight Standards District Office, and air safety investigators from Continental Motors and Textron Aviation traveled to the accident site. The investigative team hiked to the accident site and an examination was conducted on the airframe and engine. During the examination, no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane were noted. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the fuselage, and the empennage. All structural components of the airplane were located at the accident site.

No evidence of breaching was observed with the wings that held the fuel tanks. A total of about 2.25 gallons of fuel were extracted from both fuel tanks. The Cessna 150H pilot's operating handbook (POH) states that the maximum capacity for both fuel tanks is 26 gallons total (13 gallons in each tank). The POH further states that the usable fuel amount for all flight conditions is 22.5 gallons total and the unusable fuel amount is 3.5 gallons total.

The alternator and voltage regulator were removed from the wreckage and were retained for future examination and testing. An examination of the maintenance records revealed no evidence of uncorrected mechanical discrepancies with the airplane. Two working handheld flashlights were found in the cockpit. The handheld VHF radio, two cellular phones, and an electronic tablet were recovered from the wreckage and secured.

The U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington, District of Columbia, provided various sun and moon data for the day of the accident for FES. Sunset was 1902, and the end of civil twilight was 1928. Moonrise was 1656, and the moon transit was 2206. The phase of the moon was listed as, "Waxing Gibbous with 83% of the moon's civil disk illuminated."

The two-seat capacity airplane, serial number 15067852, was manufactured in 1967. The airplane was equipped with a 100 horsepower Continental Motors O-200-A carbureted engine, serial number 67630-7-A.

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