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N44T accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Alpine, TX
30.358492°N, 103.661012°W

Tail number N44T
Accident date 08 Aug 1997
Aircraft type Beech G35
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 8, 1997, at 0945 central daylight time, a Beech G35 airplane, N44T, registered to and operated by the pilot, impacted terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering near the Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport, Alpine, Texas. The airplane was destroyed and the commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 local personal flight that originated from the airport about 10 minutes before the accident.

During a telephone interview, a mechanic, who operated a business at the airport, reported to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) that the purpose of the flight was to warm up the airplane's engine prior to performing a cylinder compression check as part of a scheduled 100 hour/annual inspection of the airplane. He observed the airplane "come down" runway 05, pick up speed, pitch up, and roll to the left. As the airplane reached the inverted position, he noted that its nose was pointed down. The mechanic stated that he had observed the pilot roll the airplane "many times before."

During a telephone interview, a line service technician, employed by the fixed base operator at the airport, reported to the IIC that the airplane had departed on runway 23 and was west of the airport when he heard the pilot announce on the local traffic advisory frequency that he was going to make a low pass down runway 05. He then asked the pilot what the ceiling was, to which the pilot replied, "300 to 400 feet." He observed the airplane do a "fly-by" down runway 05, pitch up, complete an "aileron roll," remain in the upright position for less than a second, and then begin a second roll. As the airplane reached the inverted position, its nose went down "just like a split S." The line service technician reported that he heard the airplane's engine running throughout the event. He estimated the ceiling at the airport was "slightly more than 600 feet," since he could see the top of Sul Ross Mountain, and reported that the winds were calm and the visibility beneath the overcast was "good." He stated that he had seen the pilot "do rolls before." When asked to estimate the number of times he had observed the pilot rolling the airplane, he replied "many times" and said the number was in the "double digits."

In a written statement provided to the IIC, another witness, a pilot who was standing in front of the mechanic's hangar at the airport, reported that he observed the airplane takeoff on runway 23 and "10 to 15 minutes later" fly down runway 05 "at approximately 50 ft. above runway and cruise speed." At the end of the runway, the airplane "pulled up at a 10 degree angle" to an altitude of "approximately 300 ft." and rolled to the left. "Upon completion of the roll the direction was approximately 150 degrees and approximately 70 degrees nose down at approximately 200 ft. AGL." According to the witness, "the engine appeared to be developing full power throughout the maneuver." The witness reported that "the weather at the time was cloudy, ceiling approximately 1000 ft., visibility 8-10 miles."

In a written statement provided to local authorities, a witness, who was "working outside at the old plant site across from the airport," reported that he "heard an airplane coming over, looked up and saw that the plane was upside down, then [it] rolled over upright." He further reported that the airplane "continued to roll and turned right back from the direction it came from and went nose first into the ground."

In written statements provided to the IIC, two witnesses, who were riding bicycles southbound on Highway 118, reported that they saw the airplane fly over the highway from west to east at a "low" altitude. (The Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport is located on the west side of Highway 118 about 2 miles northwest of the town of Alpine.) One of the bicyclists stated that "it appeared the pilot was trying to gain elevation - the plane climbed and banked to the right." He further stated that the airplane "seemed to continue to roll over to the right" and "seemed to hit nose and right wing tip almost at once." The other bicyclist reported that the airplane was "traveling straight up and then started turning hard to my right (still very low) [and] not having enough room to level out - the plane crashed nose and wing into the ground."


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single and multi-engine land and instrument ratings. Under the business name, Skies of Texas, the pilot operated an air charter service, which was issued a Title 14 CFR Part 135 single-pilot on-demand air taxi certificate, certificate number VXKA538U, on July 31, 1992. The pilot successfully completed a Part 135.293(b) competency check in the accident airplane on August 28, 1996.

A review of the pilot's logbook by the IIC revealed that he had logged a total of 2,719 hours flight time. In the 90 days prior to the accident, the pilot had logged 111 hours flight time of which 53 hours were in the accident airplane. In the 30 days prior to the accident, the pilot had logged 32 hours of flight time of which 22 hours were in the accident airplane. On the day prior to the accident, the pilot had logged one flight, a roundtrip of 2.7 hours duration from Alpine to El Paso and return, which was made in the accident airplane.


The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate in the utility category on February 4, 1957. A review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks by the IIC revealed no evidence of any uncorrected mechanical discrepancies. The records indicated that the last annual inspection was performed on December 10, 1996, at an hour meter reading of 726.5 and an airframe total time of 2,658.5 hours. The last recorded maintenance was an engine oil change, performed on July 23, 1997, at an hour meter reading of 821.5. According to the pilot's logbook, the airplane had been flown 3.9 hours since the oil change on July 23. Based on the preceding information, the airplane's total airframe time at the beginning of the accident flight was calculated to be 2,662.4 hours.


The accident site was located approximately 1/4 mile from the departure end of runway 05 in level sparsely vegetated terrain. The first evidence of ground contact was a linear ground scar measuring approximately 2 feet wide and 20 feet long, oriented on a measured magnetic heading of 124 degrees. Fragments of green glass from the right navigation light lens were found in the northwest end of this ground scar. A slash mark, oriented perpendicular to the ground scar, extended northward from the southeast end of the ground scar for a distance of 2 feet 8 inches. A circular crater, measuring about 8 inches deep at its center and containing pieces of windshield Plexiglas, the propeller hub, and one propeller blade, was located at the southeast end of the ground scar.

The main wreckage, consisting of the fuselage, empennage, both wings, and the engine, was located approximately 20 feet southeast of the crater. The other propeller blade was located approximately 150 feet from the main wreckage on a measured magnetic heading of 170 degrees. Both propeller blades displayed chordwise scratches and leading edge gouges. Pieces of windshield Plexiglas, parts of instruments, and fragments of right wing leading edge skin were found scattered on the ground to the south of the main wreckage with the farthest pieces located approximately 200 feet from the main wreckage. An area of discolored vegetation was noted extending southward from the main wreckage.

The fuselage was resting upright on a measured magnetic heading of 176 degrees. The tail cone was partially separated from the cabin section of the fuselage, which was compressed upward and aft. The instrument panel was destroyed. The left wing was separated at the aft fuselage attach point and rotated forward about 90 degrees. The right wing was partially separated at the landing gear well with the outboard section retained by control cables and electrical wiring. The leading edge of the right wing was crushed aft along its entire span. Both stabilizers remained attached to the tail cone. The upper and lower skins of the right stabilizer were wrinkled, and a section of the right stabilizer's leading edge was crushed. No impact damage was noted to the left stabilizer.

The left flap remained attached to the left wing. The left aileron separated from the left wing at the inboard hinge point, but remained attached to the wing at the outboard hinge point. The right flap and the right aileron remained attached to the right wing. Both ruddervators remained attached to their respective stabilizers. Control continuity was confirmed from the ruddervators to the pulley cluster located behind the aft cabin bulkhead. Further control continuity could not be determined due to the extent of impact damage.

Examination of the flap actuator indicated the flaps were in the fully retracted (0 degrees) position. Examination of the landing gear drive mechanism indicated the landing gear was in the "up" position. The elevator trim tab actuator arm extension measured 1 1/8 inches, which, according to the airframe manufacturer's representative, corresponded to a 5 degree up trim tab position.

The engine, a Continental E-225-8, was separated from the engine mount and remained attached to the fuselage by an electrical wiring bundle. The crankshaft separated at the point where it exited the crankcase halves, and the fracture surface displayed 45 degree shear lips. All of the accessories were separated from the engine. The engine driven fuel pump was disassembled and fuel was found in the pump.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed by Vincent J.M. DiMaio, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner, Bexar County Forensic Science Center, San Antonio, Texas. Toxicological tests performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) found 18.000 mg/dL ethanol and 4.000 mg/dL acetaldehyde in kidney fluid. Additionally, 13.300 ug/ml salicylate and 3.100 ug/ml acetaminophen were detected in blood. CAMI's report stated that "the ethanol found in this case is from postmortem ethanol production." According to Leo P. Leonelli, M.D., FAA Deputy Regional Flight Surgeon, "the salicylate (aspirin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) detected in blood are insignificant."


The airplane wreckage was released to a representative of the owner on August 9, 1997.

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