Saturday, August 15, 2020

Visual Flight Rules Encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions: Air Tractor AT-502B, N6082B; fatal accident occurred August 16, 2017 in Philipp, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi

Brandon Michael Horton
October 16th, 1988 - August 16th, 2017
"Michael Horton wasn’t just a valued employee to Midway Air Service. He was like a member of the family." -Timmy Jones, operator 

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Jackson, Mississippi   
Air Tractor; Olney, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Philipp, MS
Accident Number: ERA17FA279
Date & Time: 08/16/2017, 0613 CDT
Registration: N6082B
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR AT502
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On August 16, 2017, at 0613 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-502B, N6082B, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Philipp, Mississippi. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight.

A Hemisphere GPS MD M3 Bantam unit was recovered from the wreckage and data were successfully downloaded and plotted. Review of the data for the approximate 2-minute flight revealed that the airplane flew southeast at GPS altitudes between 250 to 350 ft. The last recorded data point was at 0613:10, indicating a GPS altitude of 315 ft and a groundspeed of 123 knots; the point was just before a tree line.

According to the operator, the airplane was supposed to spray a cornfield located about 5 miles southeast of the airstrip. When the airplane did not return, a search was initiated, and the wreckage was located in wooded terrain about 3 miles southeast of the airstrip at 0930 (about 1/2 mile south of the last data point). The operator added that the clouds were low at the time of departure but that the forward visibility was good.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 28, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/20/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 1800 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

The pilot's logbook was not recovered. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: AIR TRACTOR
Registration: N6082B
Model/Series: AT502 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1994
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate:Restricted 
Serial Number: 502B-0274
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/30/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 9400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 288 Hours
Engines: 1 Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time: 11409 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt & Whitney
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: PT6A-34
Rated Power: 750 hp
Operator: MIDWAY-AIR
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: JY0G

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Dawn
Observation Facility, Elevation: GWO, 162 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0641 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 152°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  6 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 400 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.02 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 23°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Mist; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Minter City, MS (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Minter City, MS (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0611 CDT
Type of Airspace: 

There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing from flight service. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire:None 
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.757222, -90.258889 

An approximate 50-ft debris path was observed oriented about a magnetic course of 130°. The debris path began with freshly cut tree branches at a descending angle and ended with the main wreckage, which was also oriented about 130° magnetic. The main wreckage came to rest upright and a strong odor of fuel was present at the accident site. An impression of the left wing leading edge was observed in the ground near where the left wing came to rest, consistent with a nose-down vertical descent. Both wings were partially separated from the airframe. The flaps and ailerons remained attached to both wings, and both wings exhibited crushing damage to the leading edges.

The vertical stabilizer and rudder remained attached, and the horizontal stabilizer and elevator were partially separated. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the rudder through cables to the rudder pedals in the cockpit. Elevator control continuity was confirmed from the elevator through push-pull tubes to the cockpit area, where the push-pull tubes had separated consistent with impact. Aileron control continuity was confirmed from both ailerons to their respective wing root, where the push-pull tubes had separated consistent with impact. The elevator trim was connected by push-pull tubes to the cockpit area and found in the full nose-down position; however, the preimpact position of the elevator trim could not be determined.

The cockpit was partially crushed, and the four-point restraint system remained intact except the right shoulder harness, which separated consistent with overload. The power lever and propeller control were found in the full forward position and the fuel valve was in the on position. Measurement of the flap actuator corresponded to a flap-retracted position. The altimeter indicated a negative number and 30.00 was displayed in the Kollsman window.

The propeller hub separated from the engine, but all three blades remained attached to the hub. One blade was bent aft with its tip separated and exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise scratching. Another blade exhibited s-bending and the third blade was bent aft. The propeller shaft exhibited a torsional separation. Partial teardown and examination of the engine revealed that the power turbine and compressor turbine exhibited rotational scoring consistent with contact from the power turbine vane and baffle. The first stage compressor blades exhibited tip rollover and some of the blades were also bent opposite the direction of rotation. Fuel was recovered from the fuel filter and fuel line to the flow divider. The fuel was consistent in odor to Jet A and absent of visible contamination. 

Medical And Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed by the Mississippi Crime Lab, Jackson, Mississippi. Multiple attempts were made to obtain the autopsy report. However, as of April 17, 2020, the autopsy report had not yet been issued.

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA's Forensic Science Laboratory identified diphenhydramine in heart blood and liver in amounts too low to quantify.

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