Preliminary Report: Mayday Call Precedes Cessna 441 Accident

 - March 16, 2007, 10:35 AM

CESSNA 441, BIRMINGHAM, ALA., DEC. 10, 2003–Cessna N441W, registered to and operated by Warrington Development, crashed shortly after takeoff from Birmingham International Airport (BHM) at about 2:20 p.m. N441W was on a Part 91 flight in IMC operating on an IFR flight plan. The ATP-rated pilot and passenger were both killed when the aircraft crashed eight minutes after leaving BHM for Venice, Fla.

According to ATC records, the flight departed Runway 24 and was cleared to climb on runway heading to 5,000 feet. The pilot later contacted ATC and reported level at 5,000 feet. The controller then cleared N441W to climb to 10,000 feet and turn left to proceed on its intended course. Minutes later the pilot transmitted a mayday call.

Several witnesses near the accident site reported hearing airplane engine noises and seeing the airplane descend vertically from the clouds. An off-duty police officer near the accident site reported seeing the airplane descend straight down in a nose-down spiral. The officer stated the airplane hit some trees before he lost sight of it. He then saw a fireball and black smoke. He drove toward the smoke and saw the fire-damaged airplane in a creek.

The airplane came to rest in a creek at the bottom of a wooded ravine in a residential and commercial area 9.2 nm southwest BHM. Trees within 20 feet of the wreckage displayed fresh breaks and scrapes. Wreckage debris was found primarily in immediate proximity to the fuselage. The nose and cockpit areas were crushed aft to the forward cabin. The wing fuel tanks were breached, and a strong fuel odor was detected. All flight-control surfaces were found at the accident site.