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N23ZH accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Nashville, TN
36.165890°N, 86.784443°W
Tail number N23ZH
Accident date 25 Sep 1999
Aircraft type North American T-6-SNJ-5
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 25, 1999, at 1100 central daylight time, a North American T-6-SNJ-5, N23ZH, collided with a tree and the ground, and burst into flames in a residential area of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The personal flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed. The private pilot and the passenger/pilot were fatally injured. The flight departed Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee, at 1050.

At 1045, the pilot of N23ZH radioed Nashville Ground Control and requested to over-fly the Nashville downtown area at 2,000 feet. The pilot was issued taxi instruction to runway 20C for an intersection takeoff. After takeoff, the pilot was instructed to stay south of air traffic using runway 13. The pilot acknowledged that he would be flying below 2,000 feet over the city. Approximately eight miles northwest of Nashville International Airport, Local Control One reported that radar and radio contact was lost.

After radar contact was lost, the airplane was next seen by several eyewitnesses in the immediate vicinity of the accident site reported observing the airplane flying over the city between 1000 and 800 feet above the ground prior to the accident. One witness reported that the airplane entered a nose low attitude, rolled inverted, and disappeared behind buildings. A witness near the accident site observed the airplane as it collided with a tree in the immediate vicinity of the accident site.

A friend of the pilot confirmed that the purpose of the flight was for the pilot and the passenger/pilot to fly around the local area. Witness reports of the engine operation throughout the maneuvering until impact ranged from sputtering to smooth power applications.


The North American T-6-SNJ-5, N23ZH, was owned and operated by the pilot, Mr. Charles R. Loudermilk of Hermitage, Tennessee. According a bill of sale recovered after the accident, the airplane was purchased by the owner on June 18, 1999. The T-6-SNJ-5 is a low-wing, single-engine airplane powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340, a 9-cylinder radial engine and a two-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. The airplane was equipped with standard navigation lights. A review of recovered aircraft maintenance logbooks showed that the airplane had undergone an annual inspection on November 14, 1998, and flown 72 hours since that inspection.


The North American T-6-SNJ-5 pilot, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single and multiengine land instrument ratings. His total flying time was 1,300 hours, approximately 50 hours of which were in the North American T-6-SNJ-5 airplane. The pilot also held a current third class medical certificate with the limitation that he wear corrective lens while flying. Official training records for the pilot were not recovered but according to a certified flight instructor, the pilot was given three hours of basic flight instruction in the T-6-SNJ-5 airplane. The flight instructor stated that the pilot refused additional instructions, and did not return to finish the flight training program.

The second pilot onboard the airplane, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single and multi-engine land instrument ratings. His total flying time was 2,050 hours. The flight time in the T-6-SNJ-5 airplane was not determined. The second pilot's last medical examination was on August 23, 1994.


Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. At the time of the accident, the surface weather observation taken at the Nashville International Airport reported winds 210 degrees at six knots, visibility one zero miles, sky conditions clear, temperature 70 degrees, dew point 52 degrees, altimeter 30.04 inches of mercury.


Examination of the accident site revealed that wreckage debris was scattered over an area about 200 feet long by 75 feet wide, along a 065 degrees magnetic heading. The wreckage path was confined to an open area between several single-family homes. Examination of the wreckage path disclosed that the right wing assembly was on the left side of the wreckage path, and the left wing assembly was on the right side of the wreckage path. Both wings were lodged in the top of the tree about 25 feet above the ground. The main wreckage rested against the outer wall of a single level office building.

Examination of the wing assemblies showed that the flight control surfaces were attached to the respective positions, and that the controls cables and attach fittings were functional. Control cables were traced to the flight control system in the cockpit. Flight control cables and attached fittings were also examined for the elevator and the rudder assemblies. All flight control surfaces were located at the accident site.

The main fuselage rested on the left side and had sustained extensive fire damage to the nose section of the airframe. The forward instrument panel was displaced aft into the pilot's station. The engine assembly was also displace rearward. The propeller assembly remained attached to the engine nose case. Examination of the propeller assembly revealed that one blade sustained slight chord wise twisting and the second propeller blade remained relatively straight.

Examination of the engine disclosed that numbers 5 & 6 cylinder heads had separated from their respective cylinders. Number 3 cylinder, with the piston assembly still lodged in the barrel, was also torn from the normally installed position. The accessory section of the engine assembly sustained extensive fire damage. The magnetos were heat stressed. Despite the extensive damage to the engine assembly limited rotation was accomplished.

Examination of the airframe and engine assemblies failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or a component failure.


On September 26, 1999, the postmortem examinations on both pilots were conducted by Dr. Janet Pillow at the office of the Medical Examiner in Nashville, Tennessee. The toxicological examinations were negative for alcohol. The toxicological examinations for drugs disclosed that Benzoylecgonine was detected in both the blood and liver specimens. There were 0.073 ug/ml, ug/g and 0.327 ug/ml of Chlorpheniramine detected in the blood and liver specimens respectively. Benzoylecgonine is an inactive metabolite of cocaine. Chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine, commonly used in over-the-counter cold/allergy preparations. The Federal Aviation Administration does not regulate the use of any specific prescription or over-the-counter medications by pilots, though the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) do state that (Sec. 91.17): "No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft ... While using any drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety."


Radar data recovered from Nashville Approach Control showed the airplane tracking northwest after takeoff and making one circle around downtown Nashville. Throughout the maneuver around the downtown area, radar data showed the pilot maintaining altitudes between 1300 and 900 feet above the ground. At 1057:01, the last radar altitude hit of the airplane was observed 700 feet above the ground.

According to Federal Aviation Regulations 14 CFR Part 91.119 (b), the minimum safe altitude over congested areas is 1000 feet mean sea level.

The wreckage was released to Mr. Mike Wilhelms, an insurance adjuster, POB 2200 St.Peters, Mo.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain flying speed which resulted in a stall and the loss of control. A factor was pilot impairment due to the use of drugs.

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