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N9026W accident description

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Tail numberN9026W
Accident dateJuly 06, 2006
Aircraft typePiper PA-28
LocationManley Hot Spng, AK
Near 64.753333 N, -150.195 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 6, 2006, about 1430 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-28 airplane, N9026W, was destroyed following an in-flight breakup and impact with terrain, about 52 miles north of Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal cross-country flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The solo non-certificated pilot received fatal injuries. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure airport, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at the Manley Hot Springs Airport, Manley Hot Springs, about 1410, and was bound for the Five Mile Airstrip, about 65 miles north-northeast of Manley Hot Springs.

The airplane was reported missing on July 8, and an air and ground search was initiated. The airplane's wreckage was located July 12, about 12 miles west-southwest of the destination airport.

On July 12, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) pilot who located the wreckage, told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) he was approached by a pilot on July 11 who had seen the wreckage about 1900 on July 7. The pilot said that a passenger in his airplane saw airplane wreckage, and that he marked the position on his hand-held global positioning system (GPS). The pilot gave his hand-held GPS to a CAP pilot, who was able to retrace the airplane's route and locate the wreckage. The pilot said he delayed reporting the sighting because there was no media coverage about a missing airplane, and it's not unusual to come across old aircraft wreckage in remote areas of Alaska.

During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on July 13, a helicopter pilot said that on the morning of the accident he flew within a couple miles of the area where the wreckage was located. He said he had to navigate around that area due to what he described as a large dark cell. He said the areas he did fly through had low clouds, poor visibility, rain showers, and the mountain tops and ridges were obscured by clouds.

On July 13, a Fairbanks Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) FAA aviation safety inspector, told the IIC that he and another inspector were in Manley Hot Springs on July 6. He said they were there conducting part of an FAA safety awareness program, and they had spoken with the accident pilot prior to the fatal flight. The inspector said the weather at the departure airport was marginal VFR, and that the horizontal visibility along the road they drove to and from the airport, was as little as 100 feet, and that the peaks and ridges in the area were obscured by low clouds. The inspector said he and his partner were informally discussing safety and weather with a small group of local pilots in a hangar, when one of the group said they (the inspectors) needed to talk to "that pilot," indicating the accident pilot, who was moving around his airplane. The group indicated that the accident pilot didn't always use the best judgment with regard to flying. The inspector said he and his partner left the group to speak with the accident pilot. He said the pilot was reluctant to speak with them at first, but acquiesced, took an information packet from them, and thanked them for their time and concern. The inspector said they briefly discussed the safety program, which included decision making with respect to weather flying, and how bad the present day was. The inspector said the accident pilot was still working around the area when they departed the airport about 1300.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on July 27, the pilot's father said he had spoken with the pilot the morning of the accident. He said the pilot was in a quandary about whether to drive 3 hours to work, or take the airplane for the 20 minute flight. The pilot typically stayed at the job for several days due to the 3 hour, one-way drive over a rough, winding dirt road. There was an airstrip near the job, and flying allowed for a much easier commute. He said the pilot was worried about the weather that morning, and decided to drive. He said after leaving en route to the job, the pilot returned to the house saying he had reached a point in the road where he said he could see the surrounding terrain, and felt comfortable that he could make the flight. Not expecting to hear from the pilot, he said he did not know the airplane was missing until the following day, when the pilot's employer telephoned to ask why the pilot had not come to work.

INJURIES TO PERSONS

The solo pilot received fatal injuries.

DAMAGE TO AIRCRAFT

The airplane was destroyed by an in-flight breakup and impact with terrain.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

No personal flight records were discovered for examination, and the following information was taken from FAA records.

The pilot received an FAA Student Pilot Certificate May 7, 2003. No further application was made to the FAA, and no additional certificates were issued. An FAA third class medical certificate was issued May 7, 2003, in conjunction with the student pilot certificate. According to the FAA, the pilot held no current FAA certificates. The pilot's flight experience is unknown.

Local flight instructors were contacted, but none had given the accident pilot any flight instruction. The pilot's father said when the pilot first obtained his student certificate, he received primary instruction from another relative who was a certificated flight instructor. The pilot's father said the pilot had told him he finished his flight instruction out of the area.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a 1965 model year, Piper PA-28-235, single-engine, fixed tricycle landing gear airplane. According to the registered owner of record (pilot's father), the pilot was given the airplane several years prior, and he was not aware the pilot had not changed the registration. According to the last entry made in the airplane's maintenance log book on May 10, 2003, the airplane had accumulated about 2,566 operational hours. The last annual inspection recorded in the log book was performed on May 10, 2003.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

There were no meteorological observation facilities near the departure or the destination airports. Witnesses described the weather as marginal VFR to IFR, with low clouds below 500 feet agl, visibility along area roads of less than one-quarter mile, rain showers heavy at times, with peaks and ridges obscured by low clouds. At the time of departure, Fairbanks International Airport, 75 miles east of the departure airport, was reporting scattered clouds at 3,500 feet agl, broken clouds at 7,000 feet agl, broken clouds at 24,000 feet agl, 10 miles visibility in rain showers. The remarks section contained entries of cumulonimbus overhead, and southwest through northwest, thunderstorms north through south with lightning in cloud, and cumulonimbus distant west through northwest. The area weather forecast included thunderstorms, high winds, drizzle and rain. A flood advisory for the area's stream and rivers had been issued due to heavy rains from thunderstorms.

COMMUNICATIONS

There were no communications received from the accident airplane.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The on-site inspection of the wreckage commenced on July 24, by the IIC accompanied by a Fairbanks FSDO FAA aviation safety inspector. Access to the site was via helicopter to the area and then on foot to the site. The wreckage was located on a remote, steep northeast facing slope, about half-way between a river at 400 feet msl, and a peak at 3,281 feet msl. The distance from the river to the peak was about 4 miles, and the wreckage was at an elevation of about 2,100 feet msl. The wings, tail, and fuselage were separated from each other, and the wreckage was dispersed south to north, over an area 600-800 feet long, and 300-400 feet wide. The terrain had sparse tree cover, but thick, 6-8 foot high brush. None of the large components could be seen one from another, and there were no connecting trails or ground scars. The fuselage was the component farthest to the north, and highest up the slope. There were smaller components scattered about the hillside in all directions from the large components. Control continuity was not established. At the fuselage impact site there was an impact crater about 6 feet in diameter, and 2 feet deep. The engine had separated from the fuselage, and lay near the center of the crater. The propeller had chord-wise scratches and leading-edge gouging. The fuselage was extensively crushed and compacted by accordion style folding. The forward portion of the cabin was in direct contact with the ground, and split open. In separate areas, 300-400 feet down-slope from the fuselage, were the left and right wings. The right wing was not reached, but a photograph taken by the Alaska State Troopers showed the wing had separated from the fuselage near the wing root. The left wing had separated outboard of the main landing gear. The left wing main spar had a diagonal tear through a lightening hole, and elongated tear on the upper inboard side, consistent with a positive G-force stress overload. Located by itself on the east side of the debris field was the right wingtip. The wingtip was an auxiliary fuel tank. The tip had little impact damage, but the majority of the screws that attached the fiberglass tip to the wing had been pulled through the edge of the tip perpendicular to the chord of the wing. The left wingtip and the cabin door were located together about 200 feet down slope from the fuselage

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed under the authority of the Alaska State Medical Examiner, 4500 S. Boniface Parkway, Anchorage, Alaska, on July 13, 2006. The examination revealed the cause of death was massive blunt force impact injuries of the body due to an airplane crash. Tissue samples were sent to the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for toxicological examination. A review of available FAA medical records, autopsy, and toxicological results, did not disclose any evidence of any preimpact incapacitating medical conditions. Toxicology indicated small amounts of ETHANOL detected in the liver and muscle, which may be attributed to postmortem production.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

As of March 2007, there are no plans to recover the airplane. No pieces or parts of the airplane were retained by the NTSB.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.