Final Report: Cocaine impairment and failed approach kills two

Aviation International News » April 2002
May 15, 2008, 10:18 AM

CESSNA 421B, NORMAN, OKLA., DEC. 10, 2000–The NTSB listed as the probable cause of this accident “the pilot’s failure to follow the instrument approach procedure and his continued descent below the prescribed minimum descent altitude (MDA).” Contributory factors were the pilot’s physical impairment from drugs, the low ceiling, fog and dark-night light conditions. The pilot and his passenger were killed in the accident.

The report elaborates that the privately owned aircraft was dropped off on December 3 at the University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport (OUN) in Norman for an annual inspection. A flight instructor for Airman Flight School–who knew the owner and had once borrowed the aircraft–apparently took the aircraft sometime on December 9 and flew to Altus, Okla., with a passenger. The owner said “no one was authorized to fly the airplane.” The next morning at 0400, the pilot set off with his friend to fly home.

Investigators found no record of a preflight weather briefing for either flight. Weather observations taken about 10 min before the crash showed overcast ceilings at 200 ft, one-quarter-mile visibility in fog, wind 140 deg at six knots and temperature and dew point 45 deg F. Straight-in minimums for the approach require 400 ft and three-quarter-mile visibility.

At 0434, N52KL checked in with the Oklahoma City Tracon; the airplane was “VFR over-the-top and six miles west of Chickasha, Okla.” The pilot requested an IFR clearance to OUN and told controllers he had the ASOS information. He received the clearance along with the current weather for OUN and Oklahoma City. Tracon cleared him for the localizer to Runway 3 at 0443 and issued the missed approach procedure: “Fly heading 350 and maintain 3,000 ft.” One mile from the FAF, at 0445, controllers approved changing to the advisory frequency.

Radar data showed the aircraft intercepted the localizer inbound approximately 3,000 ft and eight nautical miles and began the descent. The pilot crossed the FAF (Sooner intersection) about 100 ft below the minimum altitude and continued toward MDA (1,580 ft msl). He overflew the runway and made a left turn to a northerly heading before the aircraft disappeared below radar coverage. The final altitude recorded was 1,200 ft at 0448:24; the wreckage was found one mile northeast of the airport.

Based on the position of the throttles, mixtures and fuel selectors, the pilot was attempting to rectify a situation. According to the final report, “The left throttle was found in the full-forward position and the right throttle was found in the midrange position. The left and right propeller controls were found in the midrange position. The left mixture control was found in the idle cutoff position and the right mixture control position was found in the midrange position. The left engine’s fuel selector was found in the right main position and the right engine’s fuel selector was found in the left main position (crossfeed). The left engine’s fuel boost pump was found in the off position, the right engine’s fuel boost pump was found in the low position and the fuel transfer pump was found in the off position. Additionally, the landing gear
was extended and flaps were extended 15 degrees.”

Some fuel was found underneath the left main tank, which was ruptured in the crash, and approximately two gallons were found in the left aux tank. The right main contained 12 gal of fuel but investigators were unable to determine how much fuel was in the right aux tank due to its loss of integrity.

In the wreckage, investigators found two Ziploc bags containing a white powder in the pilot’s shaving kit; a third bag turned up in the pilot’s wallet. One bag contained a “solid dilutant or cut“ and the other two contained cocaine HCL and methamphetamine. Amphetamine, methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine were found in the pilot’s body during the autopsy.

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