Saturday, October 28, 2017

North American P-51D Mustang, Big Beautiful Doll, N551JP: Fatal accident occurred February 05, 2016 near Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Maricopa, Pinal County, Arizona





Jeff Pino and  Nick Tramontano



The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


http://registry.faa.gov/N551JP



NTSB Identification: WPR16FA064

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 05, 2016 in Maricopa, AZ
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN F51, registration: N551JP
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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.


HISTORY OF FLIGHT


On February 5, 2016, about 1157 mountain standard time, a North American F-51D, N551JP, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain about 6 miles southwest of Maricopa, Arizona. The commercial pilot and the pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The local personal flight departed Stellar Airpark, Chandler, Arizona, earlier that morning, at an unknown time.


Several witnesses, located between about 1/2 to 1 mile from the accident site, reported observing the airplane performing acrobatic-type maneuvers. One witness, described the maneuver as a "regular loop." The witness stated that, during the last half of the maneuver, the airplane never pulled up. He estimated the height of the airplane to be about 2,500 ft above ground level, at the top of the maneuver, and said that the airplane may have rotated during the dive. Several other witnesses reported seeing the airplane descending in a nose-down spiral until it impacted the ground. Further, all of the witnesses that commented on the airplane's engine, stated that they heard the engine running during the nose down spiraling descent. Some of the witnesses described the engine sounding like it was going from full power to a lower power setting.


PERSONNEL INFORMATION 


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane multi-engine land and single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine and helicopter ratings. The pilot was issued a third-class airman medical certificate on March 10, 2015, with the limitation that it was not valid for any class after March 31, 2016. The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 6,700 total flight hours, and had flown 105 hours in the last 6 months. 


AIRCRAFT INFORMATION 


The dual-seat, low-wing, retractable gear, tail wheel airplane, serial number 44-85634, was manufactured in 1944. The airplane was a type of American fighter used during World War II. A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed that the last annual inspection was accomplished on August 10, 2015, at an airplane hour meter time of 1,882 hours. The engine was given a 100 hour conditional check on August 10, 2015, at an hour meter time of 1,882 hours and 2.4 hours since overhaul.


The airplane's current weight and balance form could not be located and the investigation was unable to determine the weight and balance condition at the time of the accident.


METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION


A review of recorded data from the Casa Grande Municipal Airport, Case Grande, Arizona, automated weather observation station, located about 21 miles east of the accident site, revealed that at 1155 conditions were wind from 010° at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 15° C, dew point -7° C, and an altimeter setting of 30.36 inches of mercury.


WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION 


Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge revealed that the airplane impacted terrain at an elevation of about 1,274 ft. All major components of the airplane were contained within the main wreckage site. Wreckage debris of mostly broken canopy pieces and small metal fragments was scattered about 150 ft in front of the main wreckage. The first identified point of contact was a large area of disturbed dirt, about 4 ft by 3 ft in size and 6 inches deep, located about 5 ft aft of the wreckage. The airplane was partially buried in dirt, and two of the four propellers blades were completely buried in the dirt. The two propellers blades that were visible, had about 1/3 of their blades in the ground. 


The airplane came to rest perpendicular to the edge of a road and partially buried in a crater. Across the road, an area of light vegetation of about 25 ft by 150 ft was scorched by the post-impact fire. A majority of the fuselage structure and wings were consumed by fire. The power lines located adjacent to the main wreckage were not damaged.


The fuselage came to rest upright on a heading of about 180° magnetic. The wings remained partially attached to the main fuselage. The empennage was partially attached to the main fuselage. 


Flight control continuity was established from the individual flight controls to the center portion of the cabin.


The wings sustained thermal damage, and leading-edge compression damage was observed on both wings. The left aileron was attached at all its respective mounts. The left aileron's trim tab was located behind the main wreckage. The left flap was separated but located near its normal position, in the main wreckage. The right aileron was attached at all its respective mounts and sustained thermal damage. The right flap and portions of the right aileron trim tab were separated and were located near the main wreckage. 


The empennage was crushed and sustained thermal damage. The vertical stabilizer was attached to all its respective attachment points, and its leading edge was crushed aft throughout its entire vertical span. The rudder was separated, and portions of it were located on top of the engine and on the right wing. The horizontal stabilizers and right elevator remained attached to all their respective attachment points. The left elevator was separated but located near its normal position behind the left horizontal stabilizer. The damage sustained to the left elevator was consistent with impact damage. Both elevator trim tabs were intact and remained attached at all their respective attach points.


The instrument control panel and cabin area were mostly consumed by the post-impact fire. The mounts to a video recording system were found in the wreckage but the recording devices were located, at a later date, in the airplane's hanger. Following the on scene examination, the airplane wreckage was recovered to a secure facility for further examination.


MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION 


The Pima County, Office of Medical Examiner, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries."


The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested-for drugs. Ethanol was detected in the muscle and liver. Ethanol is primarily a central nervous system depressant commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. After ingestion and absorption, ethanol is quickly distributed uniformly throughout the body's tissues and fluids. Ethanol is also produced after death by microbial activity. 


Review of the pilot's FAA medical records found that they included multiple cardiology evaluations performed as part of special issue requirements because of the pilot's history of an arrhythmia and stroke. The pilot suffered a cardioembolic stroke in March 2012, because of a blood clot that resulted from atrial fibrillation. The atrial fibrillation was successful ablated in June 2012. At the time of his last FAA medical exam, he reported using rivaroxaban, a blood thinner use to decrease the risk of clots commonly marked as Xarelto. 


The most recent cardiology evaluation in the pilot's FAA records, dated February 2015, found no evidence of recurrent atrial fibrillation and no significant cardiovascular abnormalities. Additionally, the pilot's FAA records included multiple neurological evaluations, the most recent of which was from August 2013, which found no significant motor or cognitive impairment.


The pilot's cardiology records from his treating cardiologist for the period from January 2014 to February 2016, were also reviewed. The most recent visit was dated February 5, 2016, the day of the accident. The visit was to follow up on the pilot's annual Holter monitor study (a 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiogram [EKG]). The physician documented that the pilot had done very well in the past year and had not sustained palpitations to indicate atrial fibrillation. The examination documented a normal cardiovascular examination and a normal EKG. The 24-hour monitor showed no evidence of atrial fibrillation. The cardiologist stated that from a cardiovascular standpoint, the pilot was fit for a third-class medical certificate. 


TESTS AND RESEARCH


Engine and Airframe Examination


On April 11 and 12, 2016, at the facilities of Air Transport, in Phoenix, Arizona, the airframe and engine were examined. 


A majority of the fuselage was extremely fragmented. Some remains of the airplane's instruments and engine controls were located in the recovered wreckage. The airspeed indicator displayed about 530 miles per hour. The left and right wing leading edges, exhibited compression, aft to the wing spar, throughout their entire span. 


The forward and aft control stick assembly was located. The forward control stick remained attached; however, it was separated into multiple sections. The aft control stick was bent forward near the base and aft near the upper portion of the stick. The forward and aft control sticks were removed and sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. The examination revealed that both control sticks exhibited ductile overload fractures, and no corrosion or cracks were present.


The engine was mostly intact. Visual continuity of the crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons was established throughout the entire engine. One of the four propeller blades had separated. The separated blade exhibited "S" bending signatures, leading edge gouges, and chordwise scratches. Two of the attached blades were slightly bent and exhibited leading edge damage and chordwise striations. The other attached blade exhibited slight bending and chordwise striations.


Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no pre-impact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.


A performance study was conducted by the NTSB Office of Research and Engineering. The study used airport surveillance radar to determine the accident airplane's ground track, altitude, and speed. The radar data used in the study began at 1154:59 when the airplane was northwest of Maricopa, Arizona. The airplane climbed from an initial altitude of 5,400 ft to 6,100 ft mean sea level (msl), and, at 1156:45, it descended to 5,700 ft msl. The airplane's airspeeds were calculated and revealed that, during this portion of the flight, airspeed was increasing from 180 kts to 250 kts. The descent and airspeed increase were consistent with maneuvering to enter a climbing acrobatic-type maneuver. The study determined that the airplane's maneuvering and speed during the period from the beginning of the radar data to 1156:45 were well within the airplane's flight envelope. 


The secondary set of radar data started after 1156:45, when the airplane was about 5 miles southwest of Maricopa. Ten more radar returns were recorded, but only one recorded an altitude. The point that recorded the altitude was the fifth data point, at 1156:59, and it indicated 7,700 ft msl. Several of the data points were very closely grouped together with no associated altitude information recorded. Acrobatic maneuvering could account for the loss of the altitude information, as the airplane's transponder may not have been properly positioned, relative to the radar antenna.


By 1156:59, the airspeed had slowed to about 100 kts. Additionally, climbing to 7,700 ft, would have required a significant nose-up pitch attitude and a rate of climb of over 8,000 ft/min from the previously known radar point at 1156:45. The last secondary radar return was located about 2,600 ft from the airplane wreckage location.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 


The F-51D Aircraft Flight Manual states that "no intentional power-on spins or snap rolls are permitted, as it is impossible to do a good snap roll and most attempts end up in a power spin." The manual further states that "no intentional power-off spins are permitted below 12,000 ft."


The manual also states that "power-on spins should never be intentionally performed in this airplane. In a power-on spin, the nose of the airplane remains 10 to 20 degrees above the horizon, and recovery control has no effect upon the airplane until the throttle is completely retarded." In the "Power-On Spin Recovery" section, the manual states if you should ever get into a power spin: "close the throttle completely and apply controls as for the power-off spin recovery…As many as 5 or 6 turns are made after the rudder is applied for recovery, and 9,000 to 10,000 ft of altitude is lost." Additionally, the manual warns that "power-on spins are extremely dangerous in this airplane." 


Subtracting the accident site elevation from the airplane's highest altitude recorded (7,700 ft msl), would allow for about 6,426 ft of altitude for a spin recovery.


According to the manual, the airplane's estimated stall speeds at a gross weight of 9,000 lbs, with gear and flaps up, are 101 mph level, 109 mph at 30° of bank, and 121 mph at 45° of bank. At a gross weight of 10,000 lbs, with gear and flaps up, the stall speeds are 106 mph level, 115 mph at 30° of bank, and 128 mph at 45° of bank.




NTSB Identification: WPR16FA064
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 05, 2016 in Maricopa, AZ
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN F51, registration: N551JP
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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 February 5, 2016, about 1157 mountain standard time, a North American F-51D, N551JP, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain about 6 miles southwest of Maricopa, Arizona. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The commercial pilot and a passenger, who was an airline transport pilot, were fatally injured. Visual (VMC) meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The local personal flight departed Stellar Airpark (P19), Chandler, Arizona earlier that morning, at an unknown time.


A witness located about 1 mile from the accident site reported observing the airplane in a nose down spiral about 1,500-2,000 feet above ground level, until it impacted the ground. Another witness located near the accident site stated that the airplane was in a dive and that he did not observe the airplane pull out of the descent.


Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), investigator-in-charge (IIC), revealed that all the major components of the airplane were located at the main wreckage site. A debris path extended from the forward part of the airplane about 150 feet and contained various debris including fragments of the canopy. A majority of the fuselage structure and wings were consumed by a post impact fire. The power lines located adjacent to the main wreckage were not damaged.


The airplane was recovered to a secure facility for further examination.

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