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A Locked Steering Column Caused Fatal Plane Crash
By Eddy Metcalf

On May 12, 2000, Kent Chatagnier, pilot along with 5 passengers boarded a Beechcraft Beech BE-95-B55 Baron, N4005A for a flight to Galliano, Louisiana. The passengers were headed on a fishing trip in Louisiana. The instrument rated pilot, completed his preflight check and departed runway 22 at Hobby Airport, Houston, Texas. 

Upon investigation, it was learned that during the ground preflight, the pilot failed to pull the steering lock from the yolk column. The yolk lock is used to secure the aircraft while on the ground in a parked position from light to heavy winds. 

The private pilot was issued an instrument airplane rating on October 12, 1979. On October 22, 1981, the pilot obtained a multi-engine airplane rating. Chatagnier’s last biennial flight review was completed on November 21, 1999, in the accident airplane.  

Chatagnier stopped logging flights in his logbook in 1992. According to an insurance application filled out approximately one year prior to the accident, Chatagnier had accumulated a total of 3,000 flight hours, of which 740 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane.  

Chatagnier was issued a third class medical certificate on January 25, 2000, with the limitation "holder shall wear corrective lenses." On his last FAA medical application dated January 25, 2000, Chatagnier reported having accumulated 4,111 total flight hours. 

In Chatagnier’s earlier years he had a love for racing cars. He began in his sophomore year in High School, 1953. Chatagnier went on to college were he studied mechanical engineering. While in college the young student purchased a Pontiac in which he turned it into a dragster and began going out on the open circuit to race. 

On June 19, 1960, Gulf Freeway Dragstrip Houston, Texas Chatagnier was the worlds first to reach 200+ mph on the 1/4 Mile Run at 201.78 MPH he was driving a supercharged, fuel injected, 430 cubic inch Pontiac  with an engine of 825 Horsepower. 

In 1965 Chatagnier went into business for himself and opened a speed shop called "Kent’s Speed and Auto Supply" in Groves, Texas. In the early 1970’s he moved his business Beaumont and renamed his business “American High Performance”. Chatagnier continued to race cars, he began racing funny cars a notetable car was the "The Texas." 



Chatagnier also had a love for boats in which he and he raced a Keith Black drag boat called "Cole Black". Back then virtually every top named racer who has competed in Top Fuel or Funny Car has at one time used Keith Black equipment. Kent loved racing but decide to leave the sport and become a Roofing Consultant. However, Chatagnier real love was flying aircraft. At the age of 19 he obtained a private pilots license and continued to fly until his death. 

On the day of the crash, about 8:30 AM, mother’s day weekend, Kent and a friend Jim Pfluger departed Lakeway, Texas in his Beach Baron to take some friends fishing. He had to make some stops to pick them up. They flew to San Marcus which was a 10 to 15 minute flight to pickup a friend, then they flew down to Corpus Christi to pick up two other friends and then on to Houston Hobby Airport to pick up the last passenger for the fishing trip. The aircraft fueled up at Houston Hobby Airport and all six onboard departed for Galliano, Louisiana. Just after 12 PM the aircraft departed the airport, crashed and all onboard were killed.  

Numerous witnesses observed the airplane pitch up to a 70 to 80-degree nose high attitude upon liftoff. The witnesses then observed the nose of the airplane momentarily pitch nose down slightly and immediately pitch nose high again. They then reported observing the airplane roll to the left and impact the ground in a nose low, left wing low attitude.  

Shortly after impacting the ground, a fire erupted. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the pilot had failed to remove the control lock pin from the control column. A safety alert, service instruction, and mandatory service bulletin were issued by the aircraft manufacturer, which dealt with control lock awareness and a control lock modification.  

The NTSB ruled that the he pilot/aircraft owner did not comply with the service instruction and mandatory service bulletin, nor did he have the original control lock assembly installed. A conservative weight and balance computation indicated that the pilot loaded the airplane beyond the airplane's certificated maximum gross weight and aft center of gravity limitations. An autopsy of the pilot revealed that he had suffered from an 'acute myocardial infarct' prior to the airplane impacting the ground.

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