NTSB Releases Report on Plane Crash

| November 20, 2015

plane crash news

WASHINGTON — The National Traffic Safety Board released their report on the private plane that crashed on November 9th near Cairo.  The plane was lost for some time before it was found in Decatur County.

The report (detailed below) notes the probability that the pilot switched from instrumentation flying, due to low visibility, to visual flying at some point as he neared Cairo.  However, further evidence seems to point he later became disoriented due to changes in conditions and couldn’t resume instrumentation-based flying, which led to the crash.

The report also notes that there was fuel and twisted props, which could point to evidence that his engines were operational at the time of the crash.

Here is the complete report:

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On November 9, 2015, at 1016 eastern standard time, a Cessna 441, N164GP, was destroyed by collision with trees, terrain and a post-crash fire following a loss of control while maneuvering near Climax, Georgia. The commercial pilot/owner and the commercial pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), Lakeland, Florida, at 0906, and was destined for the Cairo-Grady County Airport (70J), in Cairo, Georgia. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The purpose of the flight was to pick up two passengers employed by the pilot/owner’s firm, and return to LAL. Preliminary radar and voice information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed the flight contacted Tallahassee Approach Control at 0948:42 while descending from 5,200 feet msl to 4,000 feet msl. The flight was 62 miles from and flying “direct to” 70J. The pilot informed the controller he was trying to “get to” visual meteorological conditions (VFR) and if he couldn’t, he would request the RNAV RWY 31 approach at 70J.

The controller advised the pilot that weather was not available for the destination airport, but that two airports in the vicinity were each reporting IFR conditions. The pilot acknowledged and requested the RNAV RWY 31 approach at 70J, and was then instructed to maintain 3,200 feet. The controller asked if the pilot was able to proceed direct to the Greenville VOR, which was the initial approach fix (IAF) for the RNAV RWY 31 approach, and the pilot responded that he was “loading it.”

At 0953:43, while the airplane was at 3,300 feet and 36 miles from 70J, the pilot reported the destination airport in sight, and canceled his IFR flight plan. The controller then issued a frequency change to the UNICOM frequency at 70J, but offered the pilot the option to stay on the approach frequency until the airplane got closer to its destination. Instead, the pilot reported he was “VFR” and switched to UNICOM.

During the 13 minutes that transpired after cancellation of the IFR clearance and the frequency change, the radar track for the accident airplane displayed an erratic sequence of left, right, and overlapping 360-degree turns that moved the airplane away from the destination airport in a westerly direction. The altitudes varied between about 4,000 feet and 900 feet.

At 1006:16, the pilot contacted ATC on the approach control frequency, reported that he had lost visual contact with the airport, and requested the RNAV RWY 13 approach at 70J. The controller then provided a sequence of heading and altitude assignments in order to vector the airplane to the OCAPE waypoint, which was the IAF for the requested approach. The airplane did not maintain its heading and altitude assignments and several corrections were provided to the accident pilot by the controller.

At 1012:31, the pilot was instructed to proceed directly to OCAPE and join the approach. Over the next three minutes, the pilot expressed his inability to identify OCAPE and asked the controller for the correct spelling so he could “load it.” At 1015:37, the pilot acknowledged the approach clearance. There were no further transmissions from the pilot.

The radar target then climbed and descended in the vicinity of OCAPE, and at 1016:40, the airplane was in a descending right turn at 2,500 feet and 180 knots groundspeed when radar contact was lost.

The pilot/owner held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA Class 3 medical certificate was issued on May 30, 2013. The pilot reported 1,150 total hours of flight experience on that date.

The pilot-rated passenger held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. His most recent FAA Class 2 medical certificate was issued on December 4, 2014. The passenger reported 9,500 total hours of flight experience on that date.

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1980, and was equipped with two Garrett Research TPE331-10, 715-hp turboprop engines. The airplane’s most recent Phase II and III inspections were completed April 25, 2014, at 18,422.8 total aircraft hours. While review of the logbooks revealed no subsequent phase inspections, an airframe log entry dated September 22, 2015 reflected the airplane had accrued 18,513.7 total aircraft hours.

The 1035 weather observation at Decatur County Industrial Airpark, 8 miles west of the accident site, included an overcast ceiling at 400 feet and 2 miles visibility in fog. The wind was from 050 degrees at 8 knots. The temperature was 15 degrees C, the dew point was 15 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 30.04 inches of mercury.

A center weather advisory for IFR conditions was in effect for the area surrounding the destination airport at the time of the accident. Upper air balloon imagery displayed a solid cloud layer over the southeastern United States around the time of the accident.

The wreckage was examined at the accident site on November 10, 2015. There was a strong odor of fuel, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented on a heading of 175 degrees magnetic and was approximately 150 feet in length, and 45 feet wide.
The initial impact point was in a tree approximately 60 feet high, and the airplane impacted several other trees before impacting the ground about 24 feet beyond the first tree strike. Several pieces of angularly-cut wood were found the length of the debris field.

The cockpit, cabin area, empennage, both engines and their respective propeller assemblies were destroyed by impact and post-crash fire and were entangled about 48 feet down the wreckage path. Control continuity was established from the cockpit area to the flight control surfaces.

The propeller blades of each assembly exhibited similar twisting, bending, leading and trailing edge gouging, and chord-wise scratching. The tips of each blade on one propeller system were melted away by fire. One propeller blade tip was fractured and found 215 feet southeast of the main wreckage. The compressor and power turbine sections of both engines were exposed, and the blade tips were all bent opposite the direction of rotation.

Eric M. Weiss
Public Affairs Officer
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, D.C.

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