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N13368 accident description

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Crash location 26.181111°N, 98.247777°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 Mcallen, TX
26.203407°N, 98.230012°W
1.9 miles away

Tail number N13368
Accident date 09 Jul 2003
Aircraft type Cessna 172M
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 9, 2003, at approximately 0953 central daylight time, a Cessna 172M single-engine airplane, N13368, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed after impacting the terrain following a loss of control while landing on runway 13 at the McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE), near McAllen, Texas. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from MFE at approximately 0900.

According to information provided to the NTSB Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) by the MFE air traffic control tower (ATCT) personnel, the airplane departed MFE and flew to Edinburg, Texas, and returned to MFE. The ATCT manager and ATCT controller witnessed the accident. The ATCT manager reported that the accident aircraft was inbound and was instructed to follow a Piper Arrow. The pilot in N13368 reported the Arrow in sight. He was following the Arrow and without advising the tower, performed a 360-degree left turn. After the 360-degree turn, the aircraft proceeded inbound to the runway. Two eye-witnesses, who were in the airport control tower, observed the airplane touch down approximately 1,000 feet down Runway 13 on the right main landing gear, bounce once, and start a slow turn to the right. The witnesses also stated that the airplane climbed to about 50 feet AGL, descended slightly, and struck the top of a 40-foot high tree just outside of the airport perimeter fence before nose-diving into the ground. The airplane then burst into flames.

A witness, who is an airfield technician and was working on the approach end of Runway 13 at the time of the accident, observed the airplane approach the runway at a "good speed and it looked fine and sounded normal." He observed the airplane approximately five feet off the runway when "it suddenly started to tilt to the right." The witness heard the airplane's "engine power up and the airplane still kept turning to the right." He could see the airplane was "having trouble lifting." The airplane gained some altitude, but after awhile it was going up and down. The airplane was traveling at about 40 to 50 mph. The witness reported that he knew the speed was a lot slower then when it was getting ready to land. He observed the airplane climb to approximately 30 feet into the air from the time it was about to land. After the plane crossed the fence, it kept losing altitude and he could hear the engine being "revved up," as if the pilot was attempting to gain altitude. The witness reported that the nose of the airplane did rise up, but the plane kept falling. A few seconds later, the airplane lost some more altitude and fell to the ground at an angle with the propellers hitting the ground first. The plane did not explode on impact, but later caught fire from the front end. The plane did not hit any trees or homes, but fell in an open area.

A pilot who was number two for landing after the accident aircraft, observed the airplane turn final and approach the runway with a slightly nose high attitude and with little forward speed. The witness reported that the airplane's speed was "so slow that I had to execute 'S' turns to slow my forward speed and prevent my aircraft from overtaking his." He stated that the airplane crossed the threshold of Runway 13, and he observed the airplane pitch nose up and began a very steep turn to the right/south. As the airplane continued to pitch nose high and turn to the south, the witness's flight pattern took him directly over the accident aircraft. The witness reported that from this angle, the airplane continued to pitch nose high, stalling the airplane, which caused it to further roll wings right. The airplane then lost all momentum for flight, rolling further to the right; it's right wing striking the ground first and then the airplane rolled into a ball and caught on fire immediately after that.


According to FAA records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on March 24, 1993, for single-engine land airplanes. The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on August 20, 2002, with a restriction to wear corrective lenses. A review of the pilot's logbook that was found within the wreckage showed a total time of 393 hours, as of the last entry on June 21, 2003. The pilot's logbook also noted in the endorsements section that the pilot satisfactorily completed his most recent biennial flight review on October 9, 2002.


The 1974-model Cessna 172M, serial number 17262706, was a high-wing, fixed landing gear airplane. It was powered by a 150-horsepower Lycoming O-320-E2D (serial number L-36189-27A), with a 2-bladed, fixed pitch, McCauley DTM-7553 propeller. The airplane was configured for four occupants. The airplane was purchased by the owner/operator on November 1, 2002.

The last annual inspection of the airplane was completed on July 24, 2002, and had accumulated total flight time of 1,506.9 hours at the time of the inspection. The use of automotive fuel was authorized by Supplemental Type Certificates (STC's) SA1948CE and SE1931CE on January 30, 2003, at a total flight time of 1,557.6 hours. The last maintenance performed on the airplane was on July 2, 2003, in which both magnetos were replaced, a new wire harness installed, new spark plugs installed, and the #2 and #4 valve cover gaskets replaced. On this date, the total time for both airframe and originally installed engine was recorded at 1,569.2 hours.

A review of available maintenance records noted no uncorrected maintenance discrepancies.


At 0953, the weather observation facility at MFE issued a special report with the following conditions: wind from 150 degrees at 15 knots gusting to 21 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 90 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.05 inches of Mercury. The IIC calculated the density altitude (DA) to be 1,792 feet MSL.

At 1011, MFE reported the following conditions: wind from 150 degrees at 14 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 2,400 feet, broken clouds at 3,400 feet, temperature 86 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.05 inches of Mercury.


McAllen Miller International Airport is located two miles south of McAllen, Texas, at an elevation of 107 feet. Runway 13/31 is 7,120 feet long and 150 feet wide, and Runway 18/36 is 2,638 feet long and 60 feet wide. Both runways have an asphalt surface.


The wreckage of the airplane came to rest 1,000 feet south of Runway 13, approximately six feet outside of the airport perimeter fence on a measured magnetic heading of 220 degrees at an elevation of 115 feet. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were 26 degrees, 10.867 minutes North, and 098 degrees, 14.861 minutes West. The energy path was noted to be 340 degrees magnetic. Examination of the wreckage site showed that the airplane impacted the top of a tree about 55 feet from the final resting point.

The altimeter setting was found at 30.00 inches of Mercury. All other cockpit instruments and gages were not reliable due to post-impact fire damage. The firewall was structurally damaged by the impact. The cabin section of the fuselage was destroyed by post-impact fire, but the empennage, which was separated from the cabin, was intact and had minimal fire damage. The pilot and passenger seat belts were located and observed latched; no shoulder harnesses were observed. The left front seat was partially dislodged from the rails. The forward and aft rail pins were observed in place. The forward left seat pin was latched. Both main landing gear were intact, however, the right wheel tire was fire damaged and deflated. The left wheel tire was inflated. The nose landing gear was separated from the fuselage.

Flight control continuity from the cockpit control columns aft to the empennage and laterally to the wing attach points on the fuselage could not be determined due to fire damage. However, control continuity was established from the separated section of the empennage aft to the elevators and rudder control surfaces. Also, control continuity was established from the left and right wing roots outboard to their respective ailerons. Elevators were intact, with no post-impact fire damage. However, there was minor damage to the elevator tip-sections from impact into terrain. The trim tab position was 20 degrees tab up. The rudders were intact, with no post-impact fire damage. The right flap was damaged by fire, and the left flap was intact with minimal fire damage. According to the measurement of the flap actuator jackscrew, the flaps were fully extended to 40 degrees.

The fuel selector handle and valve were found in the "both" position, and continuity to the valve was established. The left fuel tank was intact with approximately 15 gallons of fuel. No evidence of water was found in the fuel.

The engine was damaged by fire, however, there was continuity from the crankshaft flange to the accessory section. Thumb compression was confirmed on all cylinders, and all spark plugs appeared new, with normal wear and sooty residues. The right magneto (impulse) was found attached to the engine case, and did not appear to be damaged by fire. When removed and rotated by hand, the magneto produced spark on the 4 terminal leads. The left magneto was found attached to the engine, and its external case showed evidence of thermal distress. When removed and rotated by hand, the left magneto did not produce spark to the terminal leads. All fuel and oil screens were clear of debris.

The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. One blade was straight, with leading edge polishing. The other propeller blade was bent forward approximately 10 degrees, starting at mid-blade, and displayed leading edge polishing with a small nick at the tip.


On July 9, 2003, an autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Elizondo's Embalming Service, Mission, Texas. According to the FAA Southwestern Regional Flight Surgeon (Acting), the autopsy report revealed the pilot had severe coronary artery disease with fresh intraluminal clot and stent of left anterior descending, moderate atherosclerotic disease of circumflex, right coronary, areas of acute ischemic changes and areas of scarring and fibrosis. In addition, the autopsy included a toxicology report that was positive for opiates and benzodiazepines.

The toxicological testing by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic Toxicology and Accident Research Center at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was positive for codeine and morphine that was detected in the urine. Bupropion, Diphenhydramine, and Pseudoephedrine were detected in blood, liver, and urine. Toxicological tests for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol were negative.

According to the acting flight surgeon, Bupropion (an antidepressant or used as an aid to stop smoking) is a disqualifying medication and requires a restriction from flying. Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) would have a 24-hour warning. Pseudoepherine is a decongestant found in cold medications. "Had the pilot contacted the FAA, he would have been given a 48-72 hour warning with codeine and morphine before flying."


The airplane was released to the owner's representative on July 11, 2003.

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