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N47SM accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Mayhill, NM
32.889542°N, 105.478038°W
Tail number N47SM
Accident date 27 Jan 1997
Aircraft type Beech 95-B55
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On January 27, 19997, at 2010 mountain standard time, a Beech 95-B55 twin engine airplane, N47SM, was destroyed upon impact with trees and mountainous terrain while maneuvering near Mayhill, New Mexico. The airplane, owned and operated by the right front seat passenger, was being operated under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The instrument rated commercial pilot and his two passengers were fatally injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight for which a flight plan was not filed. The airplane departed from the Goodyear Municipal Airport, in Goodyear, Arizona, at approximately 1724 MST, with the Roswell Industrial Air Center, near Roswell, New Mexico as its intended destination.

The day's flying originated at 0910 CST from the Lakeway Airpark (3R9), located 17 miles west of Austin. The pilot and the owner traveled 377 nautical miles to Roswell (ROW), New Mexico, landing at 1030 MST. The airplane was topped off with 80.4 gallons of 100LL fuel and a passenger boarded. The flight departed ROW at 1055 MST on a 393 mile flight to Goodyear Municipal Airport (GYR), near Phoenix, Arizona, arriving GYR at 1322 MST to attend a business meeting. After topping off the airplane with 85.8 gallons of 100LL fuel, the airplane departed again at 1724 MST for the return flight to ROW to drop off the passenger in the back seat.

According to air traffic control, the pilot contacted the Roswell air traffic control tower at 1950:39 and reported VFR at 9,500 feet MSL, inbound for landing from the west. The pilot was provided the weather and the landing information for the airport and was told to report 15 miles out for runway 03. At 1958:06, the pilot reported that he was 49 DME miles out, and he was picking up ice and returning to El Paso. ATC granted the frequency change to El Paso Approach Control. El Paso Approach Control did not receive any radio calls from the airplane.

At approximately 2005, an off-duty law enforcement officer, who resided approximately 2 miles northwest of the accident site at an elevation of approximately 6,700 feet MSL, reported that he heard the "constant sound of an airplane engine flying at tree top level over his house" traveling on a northwest to southeast direction. He further stated at the time of the over fly, a low ceiling prevailed, the temperature was just above freezing, and the visibility was restricted by snow flurries. The officer stated that he drove in the direction of the airplane's flight and was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene of the accident.

Three members of a family, who were driving home in two separate vehicles on a gravel road (Miller Flats Road) running next to the accident site, reported observing the "lights of the airplane coming towards their vehicle at tree top level" on a southeasterly heading. They reported that the airplane flew about 10 feet over one of the two vehicles, impacted and severed a telephone pole, losing control, subsequently impacting trees and the ground about 40 feet from the road they were on. All of the eyewitnesses concurred that the event happened "so quickly that they could not collaborate on the position of the gear or flaps nor if the propellers were turning."


The instrument rated multiengine pilot was a friend of the airplane's owner. The owner of the airplane did not hold a multiengine rating, and reportedly asked his friend to fly the airplane until such time he became qualified to fly the twin engine airplane. According to the pilot's logbook, he started taking flying lessons at the Reno-Stead Airport, near Reno, Nevada, on October 28, 1968, receiving his commercial certificate on March 8, 1969. On July 6, 1970, he was issued an instrument rating. On March 1, 1973, the pilot completed a 15.4 hour multiengine qualification course of instruction on a Piper PA-23-250 twin engine airplane and was issued a multiengine rating.

According to his logbooks, the pilot first started flying with the owner of the airplane on November 1988, in a Mooney M20C. On February 1, 1995, the pilot received 2.0 hours of training on a Beech BE58. His last BFR was completed on September 11, 1995, in a single engine Piper PA-28. According to the pilot's logbooks, the pilot had accumulated a total of 3,843 hours of flight, of which 19.9 hours were in twin engine airplanes. The pilot logged 2.5 hours and 3 landings in the accident airplane on January 25, two days prior to the accident. The pilot had accumulated a total of 7.5 hours of flight the day of the accident.

The owner of the airplane, who was seated in the right front seat, was a pilot-rated passenger on the 393.1 nautical mile cross country flight. He received his private pilot certificate on July 7, 1989. He owned a Mooney M20C (N70GB) for about 8 years. The last entry in his pilot's logbook was made on March 11, 1996. At that time, he had accumulated a total of 975 hours, of which 962 hours were in single engine airplanes. The bulk of his flight time was accumulated in his Mooney. He did not hold an instrument rating.

The second passenger, an engineer that worked for the same company as the owner of the airplane, was seated in one of the aft cabin seats. He was reported not to have any flying experience. The investigation was unable to determine whether he was occupying the right or left cabin seat.


The 1965 model twin engine airplane, serial number TC-775, was purchased by the current owner from D-Bar Leasing, Inc., of Abilene, Texas, on January 23, 1997. A pre-purchase inspection was completed on January 16, 1997. Total time on the airframe as of January 24, 1997 was 4,473.9 hours. The right engine had accumulated a total of 43.4 hours since the last overhaul, while the left engine had accumulated a total of 1,139 hours. The airplane had accumulated a total of 41 hours since the last annual inspection which was completed on August 30, 1996, at 4,432.9 total airframe hours.

The airplane was not equipped with a propeller anti-icing system nor surface de-icing boots for the wing and tail surfaces. Additionally, the airplane was not equipped with an auto-pilot system.

During the morning stop at Roswell, the owner of the airplane was reported to have made two phone calls. One to his wife, and another one to the Director of Maintenance for the operator he purchased the airplane from. The owner of the airplane was reported to have asked for the whereabouts of the airplane logbooks, and was told that the logbooks were being shipped to his house that very same day. The airplane's owner also stated that one of the engines was down to 7 quarts and he wanted to know what brand and grade of oil to buy. He also stated that "some kind of red fluid was coming out" of the right propeller hub. The owner was told that a red dye is used in the propeller hub for crack detection, and he told the pilot that if the red dye start coming out, the airplane should not be flown. The owner's wife reported to the IIC that she recalled seeing a red fluid on the right propeller when she first saw the airplane the day before the accident.


The nearest weather facility from the accident site was the Alamogordo White Sands Regional Airport (ALM) which is located 26 miles to the west. At 2010, the Alamogordo Airport (ALM) reported a broken ceiling at 10,000 feet with a visibility of 10 miles. At 1955, Holloman AFB (HMN), which is located approximately 6 miles west of the Alamogordo Airport, reported scattered layers at 6,000 and 10,000 feet with a visibility of 40 miles. At 1952, the Roswell Industrial Airport (ROW), located approximately 55 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, reported an overcast ceiling at 3,700 feet and 10 miles visibility. At 1950, the Carlsbad Airport (CNM), located 72 nautical miles east-southeast of the accident site, reported an overcast ceiling at 6,500 feet with 11 miles visibility.

At 2010, the Sierra Blanca Regional Airport (SRR), near Ruidoso, New Mexico, which is located 28 nautical miles to the NNW of the accident site, reported an scattered layer at 3,200 feet, with an overcast ceiling at 6,000 feet, and 10 miles visibility. At the time of the accident, the Sierra Blanca Regional Airport which has an airfield elevation of 6,811 feet MSL, was reporting a temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The prevailing overcast ceiling restricted any moonlight illumination of the terrain in the area of the accident.


Examination of the accident site revealed that prior to colliding with the telephone pole adjacent to Miller's Flat Road, the outboard portion of the right wing, outboard of the fuel cap for the auxiliary fuel cell, separated from the airplane after the leading edge of the wing impacted a six-inch diameter trunk of a pine tree that was located 320 feet west of the telephone pole. The top 10 feet of the 60 foot tall tree was severed by the collision. After impacting the pine tree, the airplane continued on a southeasterly heading at approximately the same altitude, until impacting the telephone pole on the shoulder of a gravel road (Miller's Flat Road).

The measured heading from the initial point of impact (pine tree) to the resting place of the main wreckage was 120 degree magnetic. The wooded terrain from the initial point of impact (pine tree) sloped upwards. The wreckage of the airplane came to rest on a southerly orientation in the inverted position.

The main wreckage was located on the western slope of Miller Mountain within the Sacramento Mountains, approximately 150 yards short of the hill's crest, at an estimated elevation of 6,900 feet MSL. In reference to the flight's intended destination, the wreckage was located on the 225 degree radial from the Chisum VOR, near Roswell, at a distance of 51 nautical miles.

The portion of both the right and left wings, outboard of their respective engines, separated during the ground impact sequence. Both main landing gear remained attached to the airframe and were found in the retracted position. The nose landing gear was found separated from the fuselage. The landing gear actuator was consumed by fire. The wing flaps actuator was extended one and 3/4 inches, which according to the representative of the airframe manufacturer is consistent with the flaps in the retracted position.

Both elevators remained attached to their respective horizontal stabilizers. The trim tab actuators were found extended one and 1/4 inches which is consistent with a neutral trim tab setting. The rudder remained with the empennage, but was found separated from its hinges. The rudder trim tab actuator was found extended 4 inches, which is consistent with a neutral trim tab position.

The right propeller remained attached to its engine, with both blades exhibiting aft bending around the engine cowling; no twisting, scoring or striations. The propeller spinner, which remained attached to the hub, was crushed inward and did no show any signs of radial scoring. The left propeller separated from the number one engine. Both propeller blades exhibited twisting, striations and "S" bending. Both engines sustained impact damage and post-impact fire damage; however, neither engine exhibited any exterior damage consistent with mechanical failure prior to the impact.

The remains of the right fuel selector valve was frozen on the AUX fuel tank position. The remains of the left fuel selector valve was found free to rotate, and exhibited burn marks consistent with the valve being in the AUX fuel tank position during the post impact fire. The auxiliary fuel cell for the right wing was compromised during the initial impact with the pine tree as evidenced by portions of the rubber fuel cell found near the base of the tree. The remaining 3 fuel cells were destroyed by the post-impact fire.

The airplane was equipped with dual control columns. The majority of the cockpit, instrument panel and cabin was consumed by fire, and therefore no cockpit instrumentation readings could be obtained. Likewise, the position of the engine or flight controls could not be determined due to fire damage.


An autopsy and toxicological tests on the pilot were requested and performed. The autopsy was performed by the Office of the State Medical Examiner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 28, 1997. Toxicological tests were positive for Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and Phenylpropanolamine (antihistamine). According to Dr. Soper of the Civil Aero Medical Institute (CAMI), the Sudafed is insignificant; however, the antihistamine is "not generally approved by the FAA for use while flying" and "it is possible that the medical conditions for which these medications were taken may have caused discomfort or a distraction to the pilot."


A post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. No evidenced of any pre-impact fire was found during the investigation.


Both engines were examined by the NTSB investigator-in-charge at the engine manufacturer's facility in Mobile, Alabama, on March 24, 1997. Teardown examination of the engines revealed that both engines exhibited normal operational signatures throughout, and appeared operational prior to impact. The signatures of the interior of the right engine, which was shipped with the propeller hub and blades still attached, appeared to conclude that the engine had accumulated only a low number of operating hours. See the enclosed analytical reports for the engines.

The McCaulley propeller, installed on the right engine (serial number 713964), was also examined by the NTSB IIC with the assistance of manufacturer's representatives on March 24, 1997. The examination concluded that the propeller was being operated under conditions of low power at the time of the impact. Propeller blade angle at impact was found to be at or very near the low pitch stop (15 degrees). Additionally, no indications of any type of propeller failure was found prior to the impact. See the enclosed propeller teardown report.


The wreckage was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the investigation.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance with trees and terrain. Factors were the mountainous terrain, the snow obscuring the visibility, the dark night illumination, and the pilot's fatigue.

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