The National Transportation and Safety Board has issued their preliminary findings in the crash that killed pilot Tom Steeper. He was on his way from Houston to Oklahoma on November 26, when the plane crashed in southern Cherokee County. Below is the full preliminary report from the NTSB.
NTSB Identification: CEN13FA073
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, November 26, 2012 in Wells, TX
Aircraft: CESSNA 421C, registration: N67SR
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On November 26, 2012, about 2124 central standard time, a Cessna 421C airplane, N67SR, was substantially damaged during an in-flight encounter with weather, in-flight separation of airframe components, and subsequent impact with the ground near Wells, Texas. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane sustained impact and fire damage to all major airframe components. The aircraft was registered to H-S Air LP and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a business flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the West Houston Airport (IWS), Houston, Texas, at an unconfirmed time and was bound for the Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Witnesses near the accident site reported hearing an explosion and then seeing a fireball descending through the clouds to the ground.
The airplane came to rest in a wooded area near Wells, Texas. The airplane came to rest in an inverted position with the fuselage oriented in a 220 degree direction. The fuselage and both wings suffered extensive fire damage. The lower fuselage was almost completely consumed by fire. The upper fuselage was recognizable but also had significant fire damage. The landing gear was observed in the retracted position. A baggage door from the nose of the airplane was located about 0.6 miles southeast of the main wreckage.
The vertical stabilizer had impacted a tree on its lower leading edge. It remained attached to the aft fuselage and was predominately intact. The majority of the rudder was not located at the accident scene. The horizontal stabilizer and elevators were separated from the airframe and were located about 0.25 miles south-southwest of the main wreckage. The horizontal stabilizer showed no evidence of fire damage. The left stabilizer was bent in a leading edge upward direction. The forward spar was separated at a location approximately where the fuselage side would have met the spar. The leading one-third of the upper surface of the left stabilizer had numerous dents with a fore-aft component that were consistent with an in-flight encounter with hail. A large portion of the left elevator was missing and was not located at the accident scene. The right stabilizer was bent in a leading edge downward direction and had large portions of its structure missing. Those missing pieces were not located during the on-scene investigation. The remaining structure exhibited evidence of tearing of the outer skin and underlying substructure. The right elevator was predominately intact and remained attached to its hinge locations.
The remains of the outboard right wing came to rest adjacent to the right engine nacelle. The entire wing structure had suffered significant fire damage and was almost completely consumed by fire. The wing tip was positioned next to the engine nacelle while the root portion of the outboard wing was positioned approximately where the wing tip would have normally been. The wing was resting with its upper surface on the ground, the leading edge facing aft, and the trailing edge facing forward relative to the fuselage. The aileron hinge fittings were identified in their normal location. The aileron tip and root were found as was the curved leading edge. The portion of the aileron between the tip and root was not found and is presumed to have been consumed by fire. Examination of the inboard wing spars showed damage consistent with overload failure in a downward direction.
A portion of the outboard left wing was found lying atop the left engine nacelle. A large portion of the left wing was not located; however, the retractable landing light that was located near the wing tip was identified in the wreckage. The missing portions of the left wing were presumed to have been consumed by fire.
Several cuts were made to the control cables by first responders to the accident scene and were discounted during the control system examination. The rudder cables were continuous from the tail cone to their attachment points on the rudder bar bellcranks. One bellcrank on the right rudder bar was separated from the tube at the weld. The break was consistent with the bellcrank arm having been pulled from the tube during the impact sequence. The elevator control cables were continuous from the tail cone to the cockpit. The aft ends of the cables remained attached to the elevator bellcrank attachment points; however the bellcrank itself was fractured. The forward ends of the control cables still had the swaged balls that would have engaged the pulley sector on the forward elevator torque tube within the cockpit. The pulley sector, which is made from aluminum, was partially melted due to fire damage. One cable still remained attached to the remnants of the pulley sector and the other half of the pulley sector was not located and was presumed to have been consumed by fire. One aileron cable remained attached to the interconnect chain, and the cable that would attached to the opposite end of the chain was embedded in melted and re-solidified aluminum within the cockpit. The cables from the interconnect chain were continuous to the bellcrank position located in the center fuselage. The bellcrank was not found and is presumed to have been consumed by fire. Both right side control cables were separated at a location approximately near the outboard side of the engine nacelle. The inboard ends of these cables were continuous to the bellcrank position located in the center fuselage. The outboard ends of these cables were intact and one cable remained attached to the bull-wheel at the aileron. The other cable had been pulled loose from the bull-wheel. The cable separations were consistent with overload failure. The left side control cables were continuous from the bellcrank position in the center fuselage to the outboard ends of the cables. The bull-wheel was not found and is presumed to have been consumed by fire.
The left engine was examined and an attempt was made to rotate the engine. The engine could not be rotated. Subsequently, the engine was disassembled and all internal components examined. The forward engine case near the gear reduction drive was fractured. None of the internal engine components exhibited any pre impact anomalies that would have prevented normal engine operation. The spark plugs exhibited normal burn signatures. The magnetos had impact damage and could not be rotated.
The right engine was examined and the crankshaft was able to be rotated. Compression and suction were verified on all cylinders. The rocker covers were removed and valve action was verified on all cylinders. The spark plugs exhibited normal burn signatures. Both magnetos had impact damage and could not be rotated. No pre impact anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operation.