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N3853N accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 34.636666°N, 106.845000°W
Nearest city Belen, NM
34.662837°N, 106.776416°W
4.3 miles away
Tail number N3853N
Accident date 29 Sep 2003
Aircraft type Beech 35
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 29, 2003, at approximately 0530 mountain daylight time, a Beech 35, N3853N, was destroyed when it impacted the ground after departure, 1.5 miles southwest of Alexander Municipal Airport (E80), Belen, New Mexico. The non-instrumented rated commercial pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan had been filed for the night, cross-country flight being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) radar data indicates that the airplane departed and climbed to approximately 300 feet above the ground. According to data recovered from the airplane's Global Positioning System, the pilot initiated his departure roll from runway 21 at 5:28:53. At 5:30:03, the pilot initiated a right turn. According to the data, the airplane's airspeed increased from 93 miles per hour (mph) at the start of the turn to 151 mph at the time of impact. The pilot turned 113 degrees in 22 seconds with a rate of turn calculated to be 5 degrees per second. Standard rate turn is 3 degrees per second.

The airplane was found approximately 11 hours 30 minutes later, by an individual driving by on a nearby road.


The pilot held a commercial certificate with a single engine land rating. He took his last Federal Aviation Administration required flight medical on July 1, 2002; he was issued a third class medical certificate. According to the pilot's flight logbook, he did not log any flight time between November 9, 2001 and July 8, 2003. He had a flight review, in the accident airplane, on July 18, 2003. From July 8, 2003 to the time of the accident, he had accumulated approximately 13 hours of flight experience. The pilot had logged approximately 67 hours of night flight, 2 hours of which were within 30 days of the accident.

The pilot was not instrument rated.


The airplane was a single engine, propeller-driven, four seat airplane, which was manufactured by Beech Aircraft Company, in 1947. It was powered by a Teledyne Continental E185-11, six cylinder, reciprocating, horizontally opposed, direct drive, air cooled, carbureted engine, which had a maximum takeoff rating of 185 horsepower at sea level. Maintenance records indicate an annual inspection was performed on June 2, 2003. The airplane had approximately 3,350 flight hours.

The airplane was grounded for maintenance/modification work from November 2001 to June 2003. See attached maintenance records for details.


At 0456, the weather conditions at the Albuquerque International Airport, Albuquerque, New Mexico (elevation 5,355 feet), 020 degrees 26 nautical miles (nm) from the accident site, were as follows: wind 130 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; scattered clouds at 10,000 feet agl; temperature 61 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point 43 degrees F; altimeter setting 30.16 inches. The moon was at 18 percent visible disk, and had set the day before the accident at 2126. The sunrise on the day of the accident was at 0700, approximately 90 minutes after the mishap.


Alexander Municipal Airport is a non-towered field [no Air Traffic Control services]. It has one runway 6,601 x 60 feet, oriented 03-21 degrees, which is equipped with Medium Intensity Runway Lights (MIRL). The runway edge lights are pilot operated via the Unicom frequency and have two intensities, high and medium. There are no approach lights. The airport is located three miles west of the city of Belen. To the south, west and north of the airport, it is minimally populated and there are very few lights at night.


The airplane was found on sandy, flat, nearly barren terrain (N34 degrees, 38', 8"; W106 degrees, 51', 25"; elevation 5,195 feet). The impact site was approximately 4,822 feet west of the departure end of runway 21. The initial ground scar contained part of the right wing tip fuel tank; an elliptical fuel spray area (dead and discolored grass) extended for 40 feet. The wreckage debris field extended for 537 feet and was on a 330 degree orientation. The engine was separated from the fuselage, and the cockpit had been ripped open. The pilot was found approximately 60 feet from the fuselage.

All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The flight control surfaces were all identified and their control cables were intact. The fuselage was found upright, and oriented approximately 090 degrees. The cabin entry door had separated from the fuselage. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage, but its outer 60 percent was bent up approximately 40 degrees and bent aft. The leading edge of this segment of wing was dramatically crushed aft in an accordion fashion. The right wing was broken from the fuselage at its root, and remained connected only by its control cables. The wing's inboard 40 percent was bent up approximately 75 degrees, and the remaining outboard section was separated and oriented downward approximately 75 degrees. The empennage was structurally separated from the fuselage, but remained connected by its flight control cables.

All of the airplane's fuel tanks had been compromised; there was no postimpact fire. The landing gear (actuator bell crank) was in the up position; the nose wheel landing gear and the right main landing gear were found separated from the aircraft. The left main landing gear was not observed, but the nearly intact left wing was flat on the ground. The flaps were in the up position. The cockpit and instrument panel were severely damaged with few readable components.

The engine was found approximately 229 feet further down the energy/debris field from the fuselage. All the accessories, except for the generator and left magneto, were broken off. The engine case nose section was cracked around its circumference. The crankshaft was rotated and "thumb compression" was obtained on all cylinders. Both propeller blades were separated from their hubs. The first blades outboard approximate 18 inches had broken off, and was "S" bent. The second blade, found approximately 300 feet down the debris field and 170 feet to the west, was also "S" bent. Both blades exhibited cord wise striations, and were mechanically polished.

No pre-impact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified.


The autopsy was performed by the University of New Mexico, Health Science Center, Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 30, 2003. No evidence of physical incapacitation or impairment that would have been causal to the accident was found. A toxicologic analysis of the blood was performed for alcohol and general drugs. Ibuprofen, commonly referred to as Motrin, was present in the blood.

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology test on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#200300287001), the blood was tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and drugs with negative results. His vitreous tested negative for volatiles (ethanol).


The airplane, including all components and logbooks, was released to the pilot's family on October 2, 2003. The families representative chose not to return a signed copy of the NTSB's wreckage release form.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control immediately after takeoff due to spatial disorientation. A factor was the dark night light conditions.

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