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N23178 accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 39.568611°N, 79.635833°W
Nearest city Bruceton Mills, WV
39.658692°N, 79.641159°W
6.2 miles away
Tail number N23178
Accident date 06 Nov 2003
Aircraft type Cessna 150H
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On November 6, 2003, at 1529 eastern standard time, a Cessna 150H, N23178, was substantially damaged while maneuvering near Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. The non-certificated pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which originated at the Valley Point Airport (WV29), Valley Point, West Virginia. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A witness who owned a hangar near the pilot's hangar at the Valley Point Airport, reported that the pilot arrived at the airport about 1000 on the day of the accident, and began working on his airplane's nose-wheel landing gear. Shortly after, the witness observed the pilot perform take-offs and landings for about 1 hour, during which, he assumed the pilot was checking the landing gear. After the flight, the pilot stated to the witness that he hadn't slept in a while and that he was going home.

The pilot returned to the airport between 1300 and 1400, and appeared to be intoxicated. He had a quart of beer that was approximately half full, and he appeared "sleepy eyed." The pilot then fell asleep in a chair in the witness's hangar for about 40 minutes. When he woke up, he "staggered" around, and then asked the witness if he was going to fly. The witness informed the pilot that the weather was too bad to fly (300-foot overcast ceiling; 0-1 mile visibility), and the pilot left the hangar. Several minutes later, the witness heard an airplane takeoff and fly for about 15 minutes.

According to another witness, the weather was "foggy" at the time of the accident, with a cloud layer of "not more than 300 feet." The witness stated she could hear an airplane flying, but could only see its silhouette through the fog. The witnesses observed the airplane make two passes over a field in her backyard. During the second pass, the witness observed the airplane level just above the tree tops, and descending, with the engine running. She then heard the sound of the throttle being "cut," and thought the pilot was trying to make a landing to "get out of the weather."

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane impacted a Winnebago-type trailer in the witnesses field, which sheared the left main landing gear. The airplane then traveled 83 feet, before it came to rest, upright in the field. Examination of the airplane revealed fuel in the right wing fuel tank. The left wing fuel tank was compromised; however, an odor of fuel was present in the surrounding area. The fuel selector was observed in the "on" position, and the throttle and mixture controls were observed in their full forward positions.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the flight controls to the flight control surfaces.

The propeller was separated from the engine and exhibited chordwise scratching, and S-bending. Examination of the engine spark plugs revealed their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. No pre-impact mechanical anomalies were observed with the engine.

After the accident, the FAA inspector examined a handheld GPS unit, located in the airplane. When the unit was turned on, the inspector observed the most recent flightpath of the airplane. The unit indicated that the airplane departed from runway 26 at Valley Point Airport, and headed west. It then circled to the south, and then headed north for about 5-6 miles, until the flightpath ended in the vicinity of the accident site.

According to FAA records, the pilot purchased the airplane on October 6, 2003. Examination of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed the last annual inspection was performed on October 21, 2003, and the airplane had flown about 7 hours since then.

A review of FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC) information revealed the pilot did not obtain a weather briefing, or contact any ATC facilities prior to the flight.

Weather reported at the Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW), Morgantown, West Virginia, 12 miles west of the accident site, at 1553, included an overcast cloud layer at 300 feet, 1 1/2 miles visibility with light rain and mist, temperature 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and dew point 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

The State of West Virginia, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, performed an autopsy on the pilot on November 7, 2003. According to the autopsy report, the pilot had a blood alcohol level of 0.17%.

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. According to the pilot's toxicology test results, 168 (mg/dL) of ETHANOL was detected in his blood, and 235 (mg/dL) of ETHANOL was detected in his urine.

According to 14 CFR Part 91.17, "No person may act ... as a crewmember of a civil aircraft ... while under the influence of alcohol.."

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's physical impairment due to alcohol and his improper decision to attempt flight with a low cloud ceiling, low visibility, after consuming alcohol. A related factor in the accident was the low cloud ceiling.

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