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N5455D accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 39.448889°N, 119.781111°W
Nearest city Reno, NV
39.529633°N, 119.813803°W
5.8 miles away
Tail number N5455D
Accident date 07 Jun 2006
Aircraft type Beech H35
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On June 7, 2006, at 1505 Pacific daylight time, a Beech Bonanza H35 airplane, N5455D, erupted into flames when it impacted a residential home in Reno, Nevada. A loss of engine power preceded the event. The airplane was registered to the student pilot, who was operating it under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as an instructional flight. He and the certificated flight instructor (CFI) sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed. The flight departed the Reno International Airport (RNO) about 1500, and was destined for Corona, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan had not been filed for the cross-country flight.

A review of the air traffic control communications and the recorded radar data revealed the airplane departed runway 16L and climbed straight out to a maximum altitude of 6,200 feet mean sea level (msl) about 4 miles south of the airport. The CFI then reported to air traffic control that the engine's "rpm seems to be dropping down" and that they wanted to return to the airport. The air traffic controller cleared the airplane back to the runway on a right downwind. After a few moments, the CFI indicated that the airplane would not be able to make it back to the airport and they were trying to find a safe place to land. At that time, the air traffic controller acknowledged the CFI's statement and called for the emergency responders.

Witnesses located near the accident site indicated that they observed the aircraft flying low. One witness heard the engine making a light purring noise, while others reported hearing no engine noise at all. They all indicated that it was flying very low over the homes and the wings were observed rocking back and forth. The airplane then rolled to the left, nosed down, and impacted the house.


Student Pilot

According to the FAA's database, the student pilot obtained a second-class medical certificate/student pilot certificate on September 3, 2004. There were no limitations or waivers. The student purchased the accident airplane in December 2005. According to the student's wife, this was his first cross-country flight. Copies of the student pilot's logbook were obtained from his family. The student pilot had about 100 hours total time with about 45 hours in the accident airplane. The student pilot logged 9 hours of solo flight time.

Certified Flight Instructor

The CFI held an airline transport pilot certificate for multiengine land airplanes, and a commercial pilot certificate for single engine land and sea airplanes. In addition to being certificated to instruct in single engine airplanes, he also held a flight instructor certificate for multiengine and instrument airplanes. He reported in his last medical application (second-class dated March 2006) that he accumulated a total of 16,000 hours of flight time. The CFI's last medical was issued without any limitations or waivers. The student pilot's logbook showed that the CFI had instructed approximately 25 hours in the accident airplane.


The airplane was manufactured in 1957. The last annual inspection was completed on October 1, 2005, at a total time of 6,504.36 hours. The tachometer time was noted as 229.3 hours. The engine was overhauled in August of 1995, at a total time of 2,777 hours.

Prior to departure, the main fuel tanks were topped off with 4.5 gallons of fuel added to the left main fuel tank and 10.5 gallons added to the right main fuel tank.

Review of the fueling records and fuel samples obtained from the fuel supplier revealed the fuel was clean and clear and that 100LL fuel was added to the airplane.


The airplane impacted a house, located on Meadow Vista Drive, Reno (39 degrees 26 minutes 56.0 seconds north latitude and 119 degrees 46 minutes 52.2 seconds west longitude). The airplane impacted the southeast corner of the house (a bedroom) and erupted in flames. The right wing was in the patio area adjacent to the impacted bedroom and came to rest upside down. The airplane's v-tail was outside the house next to the bedroom wall that was impacted.

The right main landing gear and flap appeared to both be in the retracted position. The left wing was completely destroyed by the post-impact fire with the exception of the left main landing gear, a flap track, and the main and auxiliary fuel tank caps. The v-tail spars remained intact and portions of the rudder-elevators (ruddervators) were identifiable though severely fire damaged. The primary control cables remained with the wreckage and were identified by referencing Beechcraft maintenance manuals. All of the control cables were identified and all cable strands remained continuous. Some of the cables remained attached to the cockpit's control column, but some separated from their respective attach fittings, or their attach fittings were melted. No pre-existing anomalies with the identified airframe components were noted.

The engine mounts were fractured, but the engine remained attached to the cockpit area via the engine and propeller control cables. The propeller remained attached to the engine and both blades were attached to the hub. One blade was tight in the clamps and one was loose. Both blades were bent aft at the same span point and neither displayed any rotational damage. There was no leading edge damage noted on either blade.

The Continental IO-470-G-G engine was transported to Reno Flying Service where the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, a Teledyne Continental Motors representative, and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector performed a detailed examination. External examination of the engine did not reveal any crankcase damage. The engine's accessories remained intact and attached. The ignition leads sustained impact and fire damage, but they were all attached to their respective magneto and spark plugs. The top spark plugs were removed and examined. Most displayed a dark discoloration and lead deposits. The magnetos were removed and examined. The gears were rotated with no binding noted; however, internal examination of the magnetos revealed that the timing gear and magnets in both were melted (the right sustaining more heat damage than the left).

The fuel pump was removed and examined. The fuel pump coupling and drive gear remained intact and attached. Manual rotation of the gear revealed no binding or internal anomalies. The fuel manifold sustained heat damage and its internal components were exposed. No anomalies were noted with the components, with the exception of the fire damage.

The propeller was rotated, which resulted in crankshaft rotation back to the accessory gearbox. Crankshaft and camshaft continuity was confirmed on all cylinder valves and pistons. Thumb compression was obtained on all but the #1, #2, and #3 cylinders. Though the rocker arms were moving and depressing their respective valves, the valve springs had been compressed during the post accident fire and were incapable of securely seating the valves. Removal of the rocker arms and manual manipulation of the valves resulted in compression on all six cylinders. Removal and measurement of all of the valve springs revealed that all of the springs from the rear cylinders were compressed when compared to those removed from the front cylinders. These springs/cylinders also sustained the majority of the heat damage.


At 1456, the weather reporting facility at the RNO airport (about 3 miles north of the accident site), reported the weather as: wind from 250 degrees at 16 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; a few clouds at 9,000 feet and broken cloud layers at 15,000 and 20,000 feet. The temperature was recorded as 31 degrees Celsius with a dew point of -03 degrees Celsius; and the altimeter setting was recorded as 29.93 inches of mercury.

With the aforementioned information and the airport elevation of 4,415 feet, the density altitude at the time of the accident was computed to be approximately 7,271 feet.


The Washoe County Sheriff's Office- Coroner completed autopsies on the student and CFI. The FAA Forensic Toxicology Laboratory completed toxicological testing on specimens from the student and CFI.

The results for the student were negative for ethanol. The results were positive for the following tested drugs:

0.058 (ug/ml, ug/g) Cocaine detected in Urine

Cocaine detected in Heart

10.502 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine detected in Urine

0.164 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine detected in Heart

0.164 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine detected in Lung

0.398 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine detected in Kidney

Ecgonine Methyl Ester present in Urine

Ecgonine Methyl Ester detected in Heart

Ecgonine Methyl Ester detected in Lung

Anhydroecgonine Methylester detected in Lung

The NTSB Medical Officer reviewed the student pilot's medical records obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration Aerospace Medical Certification Division. On December 8, 1992, a letter from a counselor noted that the student pilot had been seeing the counselor since January of 1992, due to his use of stimulants to suppress pain and anxiety due to personal problems. On May 15, 1995, the student pilot was issued an honorable discharge from probation, of which he was placed for a term not to exceed 5 years on May 5, 1992. On February 29, 1996, an "Order Restoring Civil Rights" noted, in part, that the student pilot, "...was honorably discharged from probation on May 15, 1995, and that he has not been convicted of any crime greater than a traffic violation since that time." On September 16, 2002, the student pilot's application for a third class medical and student pilot indicated, "No" for "Do you currently use any medication," for "Substance dependence or failed a drug test ever" or "Substance abuse or use of illegal substance within the last 2 years" and for all other items under "Medical History" except for "Yes" to "History of nontraffic conviction(s)." Under "Explanations" it was noted, "Possession of a controlled substance 5/92- Nevada. Received probation- honorary discharge and restoration of civil rights." Under "Total Pilot Time", 0 hours was noted. On November 12, 2002, a letter to the student pilot from the Manager of Aerospace Medical Certification Division noted, in part, "Our review of your medical records has established that you are eligible for a third-class medical certificate. You are cautioned that any further history of legal difficulties involving mood-altering substances may require re-evaluation of your eligibility to hold an airman medical certificate."

In addition, on September 3, 2004, the student pilot's most recent application for a second-class airman medical and student pilot certificate indicated "No" for "Do you currently use any medication," for "Substance dependence or failed a drug test ever" or "Substance abuse or use of illegal substance within the last 2 years" and for all other items under "Medical History" except for "Yes" to "History of nontraffic conviction(s)." Under "Explanations" it was noted, "Possession of a controlled substance 5/92- FAA previously reviewed and approved medical, 09/16/2002." Under "Total Pilot Time", 55 hours was noted and under "Past 6 Months", 55 hours was also noted.

The FAA medical records contained no documentation of the circumstances of the student pilot's arrest and conviction, no notations of or requests for any additional psychological or psychiatric evaluations, no documentation of the type or amount of drug(s) abused, and no specific assessment for any psychological or psychiatric diagnosis.

The CFI's toxicology contained the following positive results:

108 (mg/dL, ug/hg) Ethanol detected in Muscle

No Ethanol detected in Brain

5 (mg/dL, ug/hg) N-Propanol detected in Muscle

The report noted that the ethanol found was from sources other than ingestion.

It was also positive for the following:

0.026 (ug/ml, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in Blood

Diphenhydramine detected in Liver


The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on June 28, 2007.

NTSB Probable Cause

Loss of engine power during takeoff initial climb for undetermined reasons, which resulted in a loss of control and impact with a house. A contributing factor was the lack of suitable terrain for a forced landing.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.