This paper will review the July 10, 2007 aviation accident involving a Cessna 310R, N501N, operated by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing corporate aviation division as a personal flight. The aircraft crashed while attempting an emergency in to Orlando Sanford International Airport, Sanford, Florida after experiencing an in-flight fire. The flight had been released for flight despite it having a known unrepaired maintenance discrepancy.
Safety issues discussed in this paper relate to the resetting of circuit breakers, the inspection and maintenance of electrical systems in general aviation aircraft, and the establishment of safety management systems in general aviation corporate aviation operations. Safety recommendations regarding these issues are addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration. (NTSB, 2009)
On July 10, 2007 at approximately 0835 eastern daylight time a Cessna Aircraft Company 310R registration number N501N that was operated by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) corporate aviation department crashed while performing an emergency diversion to Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), Sanford, Florida. The two pilots on board the airplane, a commercial pilot, and an airline transport pilot as well as three people on the ground were fatally injured.
Four other people on the ground received serious injuries. The aircraft and two houses were completely destroyed by impact forces and a post crash fire. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 under an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of this accident were the actions and decisions by NASCAR’s corporate aviation department’s management and maintenance personnel to allow the accident aircraft to be released for flight with a known and unrepaired discrepancy, as well as the accident pilots’ decision to operate the aircraft with the known discrepancy, a discrepancy that most likely resulted in an in-flight fire. NTSB, 2009) According to NASCAR’s corporate aviation department personnel, the commercial pilot was acting as pilot-in-command (PIC) for the personal flight, with the Airline Transportation Pilot (ATP) was acting as a “safety pilot” because only ATP pilots are authorized to fly NASCAR aircraft.
The aircraft departed Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), Daytona Beach, Florida, about 0822, with a destination of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida. NTSB, 2009) According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control records, at approximately 0832:49 eastern standard time, shortly after reaching a cruise altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level, the ATP pilot took control of the aircraft and contacted air traffic control tower at Sanford Orlando International Airport (SFB) to declare an in flight emergency, stating, “smoke in the cockpit we need…to land at Sanford. The air traffic controller cleared the flight to proceed directly to SFB and to descend to 2,000 feet.
DAB airport surveillance radar data indicated that the airplane subsequently turned toward SFB and began to descend. The last radio transmission from the airplane was received about 0833:15. This transmission terminated midsentence and seemed to include the phrase, “shutoff all radios, electrical”. (NTSB, 2009) The airplane was not equipped with a built-in fire extinguishing system, and it was not required to be equipped with such a system. NASCAR personnel stated that a handheld fire extinguisher was installed in the aircraft, as required by regulations, and was mounted on the cockpit floor just forward of the right side pilot’s seat.
Investigators were unable to locate the airplane’s handheld fire extinguisher in the wreckage and, therefore, could not determine if the pilots engaged in any smoke- or fire-fighting efforts. (NTSB, 2009) The NTSB’s aircraft performance radar study indicated that the last transponder signal from the accident aircraft was received at approximately the same time of the last radio transmission. At that time the aircraft was roughly 8 nautical miles northwest of SFB and was turning toward the airport while rapidly descending.
Primary radar returns that were recorded for about another minute and 30 seconds showed the airplane maintaining a heading of about 150° towards SFB. The last of these primary radar returns was recorded about 0834:45; the Board’s study estimated that at that time the aircraft was about three miles northwest of SFB and descending through about 1,200 feet above ground level (AGL). The aircraft subsequently crashed in a residential area about 0. 7 nautical miles west of the last primary radar return. According to several witnesses near the accident site, the airplane was raveling “extremely fast,” was “very low,” and its wings were “rocking” as it descended. Just before impact, the airplane entered a “steep bank” and made a sharp turn to the west. Several witnesses reported seeing smoke trailing from the airplane, and one witness stated, “Smoke was trailing from the port side. ” (NTSB, 2009) The main debris path was about 300 feet long and oriented on a western heading of approximately 255 degrees. The aircrafts initial point of impact was a north-south line of trees in a right-wing-low attitude at a height of about 65 feet AGL.
About 270 feet beyond the initial tree strikes, the aircraft struck a palm tree at a height of about 20 feet AGL. The aircraft then clipped the northeast corner of a house and subsequently continued through a second house before coming to rest in the third house along the street. A huge fire erupted, destroying the aircraft and the second- and third-impacted homes. (NTSB, 2009) Aircraft debris was found along the wreckage path, beginning near the impacted north-south line of trees and continuing past the impacted houses.
The instrument panel glare shield was located on the roof of the first house. Most of the fuselage, the wings, the instrument panel, some avionics, seats, and the right engine were found in and around the second- and third-impacted homes. (NTSB, 2009) The aircraft was fragmented and severely burned; however, there was no indication of pre-impact structural failure. Flight control cable continuity for the rudder and elevators was verified from the cable separation points at the mid-cabin area to the control surfaces in the empennage.
Aileron control cable continuity was verified from the left wing root outboard to the left aileron bell crank. Multiple separations in the control cables in the right wing and forward fuselage exhibited signatures consistent with tensile overload. Although much of the airplane was destroyed during the post impact fire, investigators observed some discolorations and soot deposits on airplane parts that were not directly exposed to the post crash fire. The instrument panel skin that was located outside of the area where the post crash fire occurred showed signs of heat damage.
Localized areas of the underside of this component showed discolored paint, patches of charred and bubbling paint as well as soot deposits, all of which were consistent with an in-flight fire behind the instrument panel. Additionally, the instrument panel glare shield, which is normally attached to the upper surface of the instrument panel skin, was found with damage at the attachment point. The glare shield was found on the roof of the first house, which was unburned. (NTSB, 2009) The cabin door was found about 60 feet away from the main wreckage unburned and with latching pins undamaged.
However, multiple soot deposits were found on the interior side of this door, also consistent with an in-flight fire. The soot deposits trailed across the lower portion of the door from an area that would have been near the lower edge of the instrument panel on the intact airplane to the aft edge of the door. The undamaged latching pins and the location and existence of the observed trailing soot deposit are consistent with the pilots having opened the cabin door to vent smoke during an in-flight fire. NTSB, 2009) Most of the aircraft’s electrical system components and wiring that were recovered were severely damaged or destroyed, and most of the electrical insulation had been burned off those wires. Examination of some small sections of recovered wiring along with one partial wire bundle found among the fuselage wreckage showed characteristics of strand fusing and globules of resolidified copper that may be consistent with electrical arcing and/or exposure to heat from the post impact fire.
The aircraft parts and wiring were damaged to positively identify which system or systems those wires were associated with or to determine what system or part started to in-flight fire. Recovered flight instruments, cockpit avionics, controls, switches, and circuit breakers exhibited severe post impact fire damage and yielded no usable information regarding their pre-accident configuration or condition. A component of the weather radar antenna assembly and some attached electronic circuit boards exhibited severe impact and thermal damage; however, no evidence of arcing or other electrical faults was observed. NTSB, 2009) At the time of the accident, NASCAR’s corporate aviation department operated a fleet of nine aircraft including seven corporate jets, one turbo propeller-driven aircraft, and the accident aircraft. NASCAR employed ten maintenance technicians and about twenty five pilots in support of its aviation fleet. According to NASCAR records, the airplanes flew about 1,950 flights per year for a total fleet use of about 2,500 to 3,000 flight hours, primarily transporting NASCAR’s corporate personnel.
The accident aircraft was a twin piston-engine airplane, manufactured in 1977 and purchased by NASCAR in March 1995, was housed and maintained at DAB. The accident airplane was the only piston-engine powered aircraft operated by NASCAR’s corporate aviation department. Unlike the rest of the NASCAR fleet this aircraft was used primarily to transport parts, goods, and documents for NASCAR rather than personnel. In addition to these business flights, the accident airplane was occasionally used by the commercial pilot for personal flights.
NASCAR’s policies did not allow any pilot who was not an ATP certified pilot to act as PIC in a company airplane; therefore, the commercial pilot had to be accompanied by the ATP on all such flights. (NTSB, 2009) The commercial pilot making the personal flight, Dr. Bruce Kennedy, age 53 was Daytona Beach plastic surgeon hired by NASCAR as a medical official. He was married to Lesa France Kennedy son of Bill France Jr. creator of NASCAR and brother to Brian France president and CEO of NASCAR.
Lesa Kennedy is owner of International Speedway Corporation (ISC) which is a sister company of NASCAR. ISC owns and operates thirteen racetracks across the country to include Daytona International Speedway. This is most likely the reason the commercial pilot was allowed to make personal flights in a NASCAR aircraft The ATP pilot, Michael Klemm, age 56, was hired by NASCAR as a pilot on October 1, 1985. He occupied the right seat during the accident flight. He held multiple ATP ratings.
NASCAR’s aviation director, who was the head of NASCAR’s aviation department at the time of the accident, held an ATP certificate and type ratings in 10 airplane models. He had been employed by the NASCAR since 1987 and had been the company’s aviation director, reporting directly to the president of NASCAR, since 1994. (NTSB, 2009) According to several witnesses in the area surrounding the crash site, their attention was drawn to the airplane because of its speed, and low altitude, as well as its position and orientation in relation to SFB as it was “going the wrong way. Many of the witnesses stated the airplane was traveling “extremely fast,” was “very low,” and the wings were “rocking. ” Then, just prior to impact, the airplane made a sharp turn to the west in a “steep” bank. Several described smoke trailing from the airplane, and one witness stated, “Smoke was trailing from the port side. ” (WFTV, 2007) Witness state that the “first point of impact point was in tree tops on the eastern edge of a housing development, about sixty to 70 feet above the ground. (Heather Stahley, 2007)
Janice Joseph age 24, and her 6-month-old son, Joseph Woodard, were tragically killed when the home they were in was hit by the plane. Also killed was a 4-year-old girl, Gabriela Dechat, who was in the second destroyed home. Her parents, Milagros Dechat, 33, and Peter Dechat, 36 were seriously injured and transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center. A 10-year-old boy also in that home was transported to Cincinnati Burn Center with burns over 80 to 90 percent of his body. Fox News, 2007) Eric Domnitz, a neighbor of the victims hurried to the scene with a fire extinguisher to help aid some of the victims. “It’s in my head. The woman was just melting. It looked like her skin was just melting off. The guy, he was melting. He looked like wax. ” (Eric Dominitz, 2007) The NTSB found the weather radar system problem that was experienced by another NASCAR pilot the day before the accident could have developed at that time into a significant in-flight smoke and fire event; however the problem was temporarily resolved when the pilot pulled the related circuit breaker.
Without examining the weather radar system or removing the aircraft from service or placard the aircraft and collaring the circuit breaker, as well as making a proper maintenance records entry, it was not permissible to fly the aircraft under Federal regulations. The ATP pilot and the commercial pilot were well aware of the weather radar discrepancy to determine that the aircraft should not have been flown until repairs were performed by maintenance personnel. The pilots accepted the aircraft that was made available by NASCAR’s aviation management and maintenance officials, despite known discrepancy.
There was not enough evidence to determine the origin of the in-flight fire. It is likely that one of the pilots, consistent with routine and/or the “Before Starting Engines” checklist for the accident aircraft reset the weather radar circuit breaker, which restored electrical power to the weather radar system’s wiring and resulted in the in-flight fire. After analyzing the available evidence, it was not possible to definitively determine the events that led to the accident airplane’s maneuvers away from Orlando Sanford International Airport.
If general aviation pilots, maintenance personnel, and operators had a more thorough understanding of the potential hazards of a reset circuit breaker they would be less likely to reset a tripped circuit breaker without knowing what caused that circuit breaker to trip. (NTSB, 2009 Officials with NASCAR and its aviation insurance company, United States Aviation Underwriters reached a settlement with the husband of the female victim that was tragically killed along with their daughter. “The settlement is confidential” those involved said.
There were two claims one for Woodard and another for the couple’s 4-year-old daughter said an attorney for the family. Peter Dechat and his wife also intend to file a claim for the death of their four year old daughter that was killed and their 10-year-old son that severely burned. (Orlando Sentinel, 2008) NASCAR also settled a 2. 4 Million dollar wrongful death lawsuit with the family of ATP pilot Michael Kleem.
Works Cited Board, N. T. (2008). NTSB. Retrieved from NTSB accident query: http://www. ntsb. gov/publictn/2009/aar0901. pdf NTSB. (n. d. ). NTSB. Retrieved from NTSB accident query: http://www. tsb. gov/publictn/2009/aar0901. pdf Works Cited Sentinel, O. (2007). Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from Orlando Sentinel: articles. orlandosentinel. com/… /settle15_1_joe-woodard-woodard-family-jackson – Works Cited news, f. (2007). fox news. Retrieved from 5 killed in sanford plane crash: http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,288784,00. html Works Cited WFTV. (n. d. ). WFTV. Retrieved from WFTV. com: www. wftv. com/news/13745935/detail. html Works Cited Stahley, H. (2007). Sanford Plane Crash. (Woodward, Interviewer) Works Cited Dominitz, E. (2007). Sanford Plane Crash. (Woodward, Interviewer)