Agency Probes Mysterious Red Marks
The following is an update of the
NTSB's investigation into the October 23, 2002, crash of a Mid
Atlantic Freight Cessna 208B (N76U) cargo airplane in a swamp near
Spanish Fort (AL).
Shortly after takeoff at night from the Mobile Downtown Airport,
in Mobile (AL) the airplane was level northeast bound at 3000 feet
and initiated a descent. At 2400 feet, radar contact was lost. The
airplane crashed about one-half to 1 mile south of the radar track.
The commercial pilot sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was
The wreckage that has been recovered was sent to laboratory
facilities at the NTSB Academy in Ashburn (VA) for a
two-dimensional layout and detailed examinations. The examinations
have revealed that significant portions from all of the major
structural components of the airplane, including the flight control
surfaces have been recovered from the accident site. A third
propeller blade was recently discovered at the accident site and
arrangements are being made to ship the propeller to the NTSB. The
major components of the propeller assembly have now been accounted
Numerous red transfer marks were noted on the wreckage, and a
detailed mapping of all 34 of these marks was performed. The
majority of marks were found in and above the forward area of the
cargo pod. The marks exhibited a random, smearing or rubbing
pattern, rather than a unidirectional and/or penetrating pattern.
Investigators also collected 20 samples of potential sources of red
material from items in the wreckage for additional laboratory
analysis in order to perform a comparison of these materials with
the transfer marks.
Additional examinations of the wreckage also revealed that a
small, previously unidentified piece of black debris that was found
imbedded in a wing panel was from a portion of an electrical dimmer
light assembly that was installed in the airplane.
Examination of the wreckage also indicates that the airplane
impacted the swamp at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, in a
nose-down attitude, and in a right bank.
Radar data shows that the C-208 (file photo, above) was not
in a position to encounter the wake turbulence from a nearby
The Board's investigation continues. The following activities
are on-going: aircraft performance computer simulations, a cockpit
visibility study, laboratory analysis of red materials found in the
wreckage, metallurgical examination of the propeller blades, and
research into the specific cargo carried on the airplane.