NTSB Fact Report
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On October 23, 2002, at 1945, central daylight time, a Cessna 208B, N76U, call sign Night Ship 282, registered to Atlantic Aero, Inc., and operated by
Mid Atlantic Freight, Inc. collided in-flight with an unknown object at 3,000 feet MSL and descended uncontrolled into swampy water in the Big Bateau
Bay in Spanish Fort, Alabama, shortly after takeoff from the Mobile Downtown Airport, in Mobile, Alabama. The cargo flight was operated under the
provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 135, and instrument flight rules. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed. The
commercial pilot sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from the Mobile Downtown Airport, in Mobile, Alabama
on October 23, 2002 at 1940.
According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) transcripts between the Mobile ATCT Approach Control East Radar and Night ship 282, at 19:42:21, Night Ship 282
contacted ATC and stated "Mobile departure night ship ah two eighty two is with you at one thousand going to two thousand." At 19:42:25, ATC
responded, "night ship two eighty two mobile departure radar contact maintain three thousand turn right join victor four fifty four please."
19:42:30 Night Ship 282 "roger right turn four fifty four." 19:44:25, ATC "night ship two eighty two traffic at twelve o'clock of you and seven
miles south bound heavy DC ten at four thousand." 19:44:29 Night Ship 282 "night ship two is looking I'm IMC." 19:44:32 ATC "roger." 19:45:34
ATC "night ship two eighty two your still IMC but that DC Ten is one o'clock and two miles south bound at four thousand." 19:45:41 Night Ship 282
"roger I got him above me right now." 19:45:42 ATC "roger." 19:45:57 Night Ship 282 "I needed to deviate, I needed to deviate, I needed to
deviate, I needed" end of transmission. The wreckage was located in a swamp, 7.7 nautical miles northeast of the departure airport scattered randomly
over an area of about 200 yards. The only radar data available was a "snap shot" taken from the equipment at Mobile Regional Departure Control and
NTAP data from Atlanta Center. The data shows that night ship 282, was at 3000 feet, and the DC-10 was at 4000 feet and two airplanes never crossed
paths. According to the snap shot the DC-10 was to the left of Night Ship 282. There were no known witnesses to the accident.
A review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was certificated as an
Airline Transport Pilot for airplane single engine land, and was certificated as a Commercial pilot for airplane multiengine land,
Rotorcraft-Helicopter, and Instrument helicopter. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a second-class
medical certificate issued on May 14, 2002, with restrictions that he must wear lenses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision. The
pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 4,000 total flight hours. The pilot's logbook was not located.
The pilot had worked for Mid-Atlantic Freight for several months and was reportedly familiar with this route. He was previously employed by Pan Am
Flight Academy in Memphis, Tennessee, where he instructed in the Cessna 208. He was also a veteran pilot of the New York City Police Department. His
last Part 135 check ride was on July 13, 2002.
The blue and gray on white Cargomaster Cessna 208B. S/N 208B0775, N76U, was originally sold on September 30, 1999 to 1st Source Bank, South Bend,
Indiana. The current owner subsequently purchased then registered the airplane on January 27, 2000. At the time of the accident, Mid-Atlantic Freight,
Inc., carrying cargo for DHL under contract, was operating the airplane. The operator reported that the airplane was carrying approximately 420 pounds
of cargo on the accident flight. A review of company maintenance records revealed that the airplane was maintained on a FAA Approved Airworthiness
Inspection Program (AAIP). The airplanes last periodic inspection was conducted on October 18, 2002, and at that time had accumulated 3,990.5 hours
total time. At the time of the accident the airplane had 4,001.8 hours total time.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Mobile Downtown Airport in Mobile, Alabama. The 1856 surface weather
observation was: Lowest cloud condition scattered 900 ft, Overcast 1300 ft, visibility 7 statute miles, temperature 20-degrees Celsius, dew point
19-degrees Celsius, wind 050-degrees at 11 knots, and altimeter 30.06 Hg. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the
The wreckage was located in Big Bateau Bay, in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which lies between Mobile and Spanish Fort, Alabama. The swamp/marsh area had
water that varied in depth from approximately 4 inches up to 3 feet, depending on the tide. Locals referred to the bottom of the swamp as "puff mud"
which was very soft and practically impossible to stand on. This puff mud was between 8 and 10 feet deep. Navigating the site and recovery of the
wreckage required the use of airboats; a barge was used to transport the large pieces of wreckage to shore.
The dispersion of the wreckage was oriented north/south. The southern most section was the engine. Approximately 100 feet to the east was the left
wing lift strut and section of the left wing spar. Three hundred and seventeen feet north was the largest piece of airframe (main landing gear through
the empennage). Another 105 feet north of that was an area that contained the firewall, engine mount and instrument panel sections.
On site examination began on October 24, 2002. The examination continued over the course of five days, while recovering all wreckage that was found.
The recovered wreckage was then transported to Atlanta Air Recovery, Griffin, Georgia and examined again on November 19, 2002 through November 21,
2002. The engine was broken into two sections and separated from the airframe. Red transfer marks were observed on many pieces of the airframe,
concentrated on the lower airframe skin forward of the main landing gear and the nose landing gear area. The left side of the cargo pod was impact
damaged. There was no evidence of fire, and the origin of the red transfer marks has not been identified.
Examination of the fuselage found it fragmented forward of the rear fuselage cargo door area. The aft cargo area, tailcone and empennage were easily
identifiable and remained as one piece, but damaged. The remainder of the fuselage was randomly spread across the southern half of the site. The
empennage surfaces, although damaged, remained partially attached to the tailcone structure. The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were
relatively complete but bent down 90-degrees mid-span. The right horizontal stabilizer had chordwise compression along the outer 1/3 of the span (it
was cut in half for transport post-recovery). The right elevator was separated into three sections. The vertical stabilizer was crushed chordwise; on
site it was twisted clockwise and bent down nearly 180-degrees. The lower half of the rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer.
Both wings were separated into multiple pieces. Loose portions of each wing control surface were observed. Control cable continuity was not
established for any flight control surface due to the condition of the wreckage.
Examination of the right main landing gear leg found it rotated aft approximately 90-degrees; the wheel assembly was separated from the leg. The nose
landing gear oleo piston was bent aft and turned to the right approximately 60-degrees as viewed from the pilot seat. The fork was separated from the
strut. Along the forward, top, right side of the fork. Inside the oleo attachment area of the fork, gouges made by the bolt that attaches the oleo to
the fork, were observed and confirmed that the fork had turned to the right, relative to the oleo piston.
As the wreckage was being recovered, various parts were observed with localized red transfer marks. The marks were small and had a definite direction
of transfer; however, the direction varied. During wreckage review, a concentrated effort was made to determine the location (on the airframe) of
pieces of wreckage with transfer marks. The following is a list of some identified areas:
Nose landing gear wheel (inside the tire)
Top of the nose landing gear fork, aft side
Top nose landing gear trunnion, forward side
Outer surface of the lower left side cowling near upper aft corner
Instrument panel support
Lower aft side of cockpit cargo barrier
Multiple places along the fuselage belly from Fuselage Station (FS) 135 to FS 269, concentrated below the crew seats, at the left cockpit door
threshold, and main landing gear attachment area.
Left lift strut fuselage fairing
Left lift strut, aft side 2.5 feet outboard of the fuselage
Bottom trailing edge skin wing near Wing Station (WS) 75 (side unconfirmed)
Left wing dry bay panel (bottom of wing root between forward and aft spars)
Adjacent to right wing fuel filler
Top of right elevator adjacent to outboard hinge
There were many additional pieces exhibiting the same type of transfer marks; however, the small size of many prevented confirming their location on
the airframe. There was a small piece of what appeared to be black anodized aluminum, which was found embedded in the left wing dry bay panel at the
wing root between the spars. The origin of the metal remains unknown; and is not believed to have come from the accident airplane.
The investigative team as a group categorized major damage by either aerodynamic or impact related. The following list contained some of the
observations made by the team:
Major Aerodynamic Damage:
Right lift strut twisted counter-clockwise and bent aft 90-degrees 18-inches outboard of its attachment point.
Right wing main spar upper cap bent and twisted in several locations with no impact related marks observed.
Left upper wing skin between spars torn in several sections with no contact damage observed.
Aft portion of cargo pod torn away from fuselage along the right side.
Major Impact Damage
Right main landing gear wheel separated from the leg and rotated aft 90-degrees.
Damage mid-span, on the aft side of the left lift strut.
Engine broken into two main sections.
Aft portion of cargo pod impacted damage along the left side.
Nose landing gear oleo piston bent aft and turned to the left 60-degrees.
Damage to nose landing gear wheel assembly.
The forward part of the fuselage was fragmented, to include the cockpit. The cargo barrier was also separated from the airplane structure and damaged.
The instrument panel was in multiple sections and some were entangled with surrounding structure. No detailed examination of any instrument or related
system was performed due to damage. The odor of Jet A was present at the mishap site, as well as a petroleum "slick" on the surface of the water.
Examination of the engine a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-114A, S/N PC0710, found severe impact damage. Only the power section and part of the gas
generator was recovered. The constant speed unit, fuel control unit and fuel pump were not recovered. The compressor turbine stators were found bent
in the direction of rotor rotation. The first and second stage compressor rotors were not recovered. The engine power section including the reduction
gearbox and gas generator was recovered intact. The compressor intake case and remaining engine including the accessory gearbox and accessories were
not recovered. The engine displayed impact damage at the 4 o'clock position on the exhaust case in the area of the flange. The propeller shaft was
intact and seized. The exhaust duct displayed severe impact deformation with a significant portion detached. The gas generator case displayed evidence
of structural compression and buckling. The compressor section was exposed as recovered. The 1st and 2nd stage compressor rotors were not recovered.
The 3rd stage compressor rotor was missing all blades except one which was found lodged in the 2nd stage stator. The impeller was intact with nicks on
the leading edge. The 1st and 2nd stage compressor stators were intact and found bent in the direction of rotor rotation. the 3rd stage stator was
found intact with minor damage to the leading edge. The 2nd and 3rd stage spacers were found intact. The 1st stage spacer was missing. The tie rods
were fractured in the region of the 1st stage rotor. The compressor inlet case and remaining engine was detached at the flange attachment to the gas
generator case. The compressor shroud displayed circumferential rubbing due to compressor rotor blades making radial contact. Examination of the power
turbine as viewed through the exhaust duct showed several blades fractured near the tip. The blades remained attached to the power turbine disk.
Examination of the engine revealed that the damage noted was consistent with the engine making power at time of the accident.
On October 24, 2002, a walk-around examination of the FedEx DC-10, which was on approach to Mobile Downtown Airport at the time of the accident, found
no damage to the exterior of the aircraft. No further examinations of the airplane were conducted.
Dr. Leszek Chrostowski, State Medical Examiner, Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on October
24, 2002. The cause of death was "Multiple blunt force injuries." The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. Carbon Monoxide and Cyanide Analysis was not performed. Neither
ethanol or drugs were detected in the lung or muscle tissue submitted for examination.
Two pieces of airplane skin, a piece of cargo bag material a piece of unmanned aerial vehicle, and a piece of fabric were sent to Wright Patterson Air
Force Base for analysis using microscope-based Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). The infrared spectra were taken in transmission mode
with samples mounted on a sodium chloride crystal plate, using a Bio-Rad Excalibur Series instrument. The spectra obtained were matched to spectra
from several different databases to identify the type of polymer.
Piece A, was red material from bare metal the Spectra obtained for the red deposit were found to be most similar to references for polyester materials
based on tere- and iso- phthalates. The spectra also suggested the possible presence of inorganic silicate compounds. Piece B, Red material from
surface of white coating, the spectra obtained for the red deposit were very similar to those for the red material from piece A. The spectra suggested
a composition of a phthalate-based polyester with some inorganic silicate material. Piece A, White coating, the spectra obtained for a reference
sample of the white coating most closely matched references for polyurethane-based materials. Piece A, Green primer, the spectra were obtained for a
reference sample of the green layer between the white coating and metal substrate. Obtained spectra most closely matched references for epoxy
materials with some inorganic silicate fillers. Cargo bag, the spectra obtained for the red plastic most closely matched references for polypropylene
materials. The red pitot cover, spectra obtained for this red material most closely matched references for poly vinyl chloride materials with an
ester-based plasticizer. The clear colorless topcoat from the unmanned aerial vehicle, the spectra indicated a composition of a modified acrylate type
material (possibly a styrene based modifier). and finally, the red coating layer from the unmanned aerial vehicle, spectra were most similar to some
references for modified polyurethane type materials.
The main result from the investigation is that the material in the red streaks on the skin of the accident airplane was significantly different from
the other materials that were examined for comparison: the red cargo bag, the red pitot cover, the paint on the airplane and the piece from the
unmanned aerial vehicle. The spectra that were obtained at Wright Patterson Air Force base are effectively identical to those obtained by the
laboratory hired by the insurance company, indicating that the red streaks on all the pieces of the airplane are the same material. Without a specific
candidate material for comparison, it is not possible to identify the source of the red streaks.
According to the FAA, the equipment used to record the radar data for this area was inoperative, and had been inoperable for several months.
Therefore, there was no recorded data available to the investigation for review. The only data was a "snap shot" of the tracks of the Cargomaster
(C208) and DC-10 retrieved from Mobile Regional Departure Control equipment. That information showed the Cargomaster and DC-10 never crossed paths
before the Cargomaster's radar return went into coast mode at 19:46:00. It also showed that the DC-10 was to the Cargomaster pilot's left, not
straight ahead and, later, to the right, as called out by the controller.
The wreckage of N76U, was released to a representative of USAIG Insurance Group on February 12, 2004.