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N38998 accident description

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Crash location 35.236111°N, 83.016389°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 Tuckasegee, NC
35.270378°N, 83.122642°W
6.4 miles away

Tail number N38998
Accident date 17 Aug 2003
Aircraft type Boeing PT-17 Stearman
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 17, 2003, at 1448 eastern daylight time, a Boeing PT-17 Stearman, N38998, registered to and operated by a private owner, as a 14 CFR Part 91, personal flight, collided with trees while maneuvering east of the Franklin Macon County Airport in the vicinity of Tuckasegee, North Carolina. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. A post-crash fire ensued and the airplane was destroyed. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries, and the pilot-rated passenger expired two-weeks later. The flight originated from the Franklin, Macon County Airport, Macon County, North Carolina on August 17, 2003, at 1400.

According to the Jackson County Sheriff police report, a local resident who witnessed the accident stated that he heard a low flying aircraft around his residence. He went out on his balcony and saw what he described as a bi-plane flying extremely low. He heard the plane sputtering and thought it was trying to land. The aircraft went over the ridge and he heard what he described as a crash and then an explosion. He saw smoke and contacted 911 emergency services.


A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate on November 13, 1970, with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot held a Flight Instructor certificate. A review of records on file with the FAA Aeromedical Records Division revealed the pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on April 10, 2002, with restrictions that he must wear corrective lenses. The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 2,000 total flight hours. The pilot's flight logs were not recovered for examination.


A review of maintenance records revealed that the engine was overhauled on March 1, 2001, at a total time of 2,000 hours. The last 100-hour inspection was done on March 24, 2003, at 165.0 hours since major overhaul. The airframe's total time at the last inspection was 6,292.4 hours.


The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Ashville, North Carolina. The 1841 surface weather observation was: clear, visibility 7 miles, temperature 88-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 73-degrees Fahrenheit, wind 230- degrees at 8 knots, and altimeter 30.01.


The wreckage of the airplane was located in a heavily wooded area 11 nautical miles east of the Franklin, Macon County Airport, just short of an open field on a heading of 289-degrees magnetic. The on-scene examination of the airplane found it inverted at the base of a large tree. Tree branches along the crash debris line exhibited 45-degree "V" cuts. All of the fabric-covering on the fuselage was consumed by fire. The cockpit, instrument panel was consumed by fire. The wood floor, and the cameras and recording equipment were fire damaged.

The flight control system from the control tube at the control column aft to the push-pull tubes and rod end bearing in the center of the fuselage were fire damaged. The control tubes and rod end bearings extending outboard to the left and right wings, ailerons, and bell cranks were consumed by the post-crash fire. The control tubes and rod end bearings extending aft to the rudder and left and right elevators were fire damaged.

The upper wings remained partially attached to the airframe however; the lower wings were fire damaged and had collapsed onto the underside of the upper wings. Both the left and right main landing gear remained attached to the airframe. The welded steel tubular airframe remained intact.

Examination of the engine found it partially attached to the engine mounts and firewall. The engine assembly sustained fire damage on all sides. During the post-crash examination of the engine assembly, the crankshaft would rotate when the propeller was turned by hand. Continuity was established to the accessory section. Compression and valve train action was established on all seven cylinders. Both magnetos were destroyed.

The Hamilton Standard two bladed variable pitch propeller, was found at the low pitch stops. One blade exhibited slight outward bending with wood fibers in the leading edge about twelve inches from the tip. The second blade was found bent aft 90-degrees near the hub.


The Chapel Hill, North Carolina State Medical Examiners Office, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on August 18, 2003. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, FAA Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed a postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. Carbon Monoxide was detected in the blood. There was no Cyanide detected in the blood, nor was there ethanol detected in the urine. However, Amphetamine, a stimulant, often known as "speed," was detected in the blood 0.804 (ug/ml, ug/g), urine 26.359 (ug/ml, ug/g) and liver 4.3 (ug/ml, ug/g). Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Marihuana) was detected in the blood, Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (THC-COOH) (Marihuana) was detected in the blood 0.0057 (ug/mo, ug/g) and urine 0.0045 (ug/ml, ug./g), and Phenylpropanolamine an over-the-counter decongestant and weight loss product was detected in the urine but not detected in the blood.


The airplane wreckage was released to International Loss Management, Atlanta, Georgia, representing the insurance underwriter on February 19, 2004.

This narrative was modified on April 10, 2007.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.