Plane crash map Find crash sites, wreckage and more

N9103Z accident description

Go to the Alabama map...
Go to the Alabama list...

Tail numberN9103Z
Accident dateFebruary 23, 2004
Aircraft typePiper PA-46-310P
LocationArlington, AL
Near 32.067223 N, -87.612778 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 23, 2004, at 0849 central standard time, a Piper PA-46-310P, N9103Z, registered to a private owner, operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, broke up in-flight in the vicinity of Arlington, Alabama. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at flight altitude and an instrument flight plan was filed. The airplane was destroyed. The private pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries. The flight originated from Panama City-Bay County International Airport, Panama City, Florida, on February 23, 2004, at 0738 central standard time.

At 0605, the pilot received a preflight weather briefing from the Gainesville Automated Flight Service Station and filed and instrument flight plan. The briefer advised the pilot of the potential for occasional moderate turbulence between 24,000 and 37,000 feet and on the current Convective SIGMET for embedded thunderstorms over southern Mississippi. Review of pilot reports revealed light rime icing conditions and light to moderate turbulence across the area with instrument meteorological conditions. After takeoff from Panama City, Air Traffic Control procedures were described as routine.

At 0819:32, the pilot radioed Atlanta Center, "uh we'd like to deviate a little bit to the north to get around some of these buildups." The controller asked the pilot if he encountered any rime icing in his area, and the pilot stated no. The pilot was cleared to Flight level (FL) 230 and instructed to contact another sector of Atlanta Center at 0827. The pilot made the frequency change and informed the new controller that he was climbing to FL230. The controller informed the pilot to climb to FL250 and amended the climb clearance to FL240 at 08:30:23. The pilot stated "Four oh thank you." At 08:46:54, radar data revealed the airplane was at 24,000 feet flying a northwest heading. At 08:47:02, the airplane was at 23,800 feet in a right turn. At 08:47:04, the airplane was at 23,600 feet heading northwest. At 08:47:34, the airplane was heading northeast at 16,300 feet. At 08:47:51, the controller radioed the pilot to verify that he was flying at FL240. There was no response from the pilot. At 08:47:58, radar data revealed the airplane was at 9,600 feet. At 08:48:04, the airplane was at 8,300 feet heading southeast. At 08:48:44, the airplane was last observed by the controller in radar contact flying a southeast heading at 3,100 feet.

At 1000, the shift supervisor for the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center telephoned the Wilcox County Sheriff Department and reported the loss of radar contact with N9103Q at 24,000. The Sheriff Department was also told that the last radar contact with the airplane was 40 miles north of Monroeville, Alabama. A ground search was initiated at local airports failed to located the downed airplane. However, at 1715, the airplane wreckage was located by a local pilot. The airplane wreckage was scattered over an area 1/2 mile long.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on May 30, 1985, with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on April 16, 2002, with the limitation, "not valid for any class after April 30, 2004." The pilot reported his total flight time was 4,500 hours on his application for the medical certificate. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed the last recorded entry was on June 20, 2003. The pilot had logged 5,021.4 hours of which 883.6 hours were in the PA-46-310P. The pilot's last biennial flight review and instrument proficiency was on June 20, 2003.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Examination of the airplane logbooks revealed the last annual inspection was conducted on May 7, 2003. The Hobbs hour meter and total airframe hours was 2105.0. The Hobbs hour meter at the crash site and total airframe hours was 2155.15. The airplane had flown 50.15 hours since the annual inspection. The pitot system check and transponder inspection was conducted on April 29, 2003. The emergency locator transmitter was inspected on May 5, 2003. The last entry in the engine and airframe logbook was on August 12, 2003, at 2133.0 Hobbs hours. Review of refueling records revealed the airplane was last refueled on February 23, 2004; with 68.5 gallons of 100 low lead fuel.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart at 09:00 depicted a warm front extending along the Gulf coast to the south of the accident site with an extensive area of overrunning clouds and precipitation north of the front. A weak trough of low pressure extended over the accident site with an area of moderate-to-heavy rain.

The NWS Weather Depiction Chart issued at 10:00 depicted a large area of instrument flight rule and marginal flight rule conditions extending over southwest Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, southeast, and northern Texas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and extended over the accident site. Several stations across southwest and western Alabama, and Mississippi indicated moderate to continuous rain, with the majority of the stations over Louisiana reporting light continuous rain.

The NWS Radar Summary Chart depicted an area of echoes extending from western South Carolina, northern and western Georgia, extreme western Florida panhandle, most of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, to eastern Texas, and along the Gulf coastal sections. In the vicinity of the accident site the echoes were depicted as strong-to-very strong intensity rain showers. The echo tops depicted across southern Alabama ranged from 29,000 to 32,000 feet. Movement of the cells was depicted to the east-northeast at 38 knots near the Alabama Gulf coast.

The NWS Convective Outlook indicated possible thunderstorm activity over the region, with a slight chance of severe thunderstorms along the coastal area to the south of the crash site. The closest NWS Surveillance Radar was located at Birmingham, Alabama, 78 miles northeast of the accident site. The radar images indicate the accident airplane was operating in an area of echoes associated with heavy rain at the time of the in-flight breakup.

The nearest weather reporting facility was located at Middleton Field Airport, Evergreen, Alabama, and located 49 miles southeast of the crash site. The 0853 surface weather observation was, wind from 030 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 1 3/4 miles in moderate rain and mist, ceiling broken at 2,400 feet, overcast at 6,500 feet, temperature 46 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 45 degrees Fahrenheit, altimeter 30.13 inches of Mercury. Remarks: automated observation system, sea level pressure 1020.1-mb, precipitation in the last hour 0.19 inches, 6-hour rainfall 0.24 inches, 3-hour pressure tendency fallen 3.0-mb.

The 0842 special observation for Middleton Field Airport was, wind from 050 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 1 1/2 miles in heavy rain and mist, ceiling broken at 2,800 feet, overcast at 6,000 feet, temperature 46 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.12. Remarks: automated observation system, precipitation since last hour 0.13 inches.

The next closest observation location was from Key Field Airport, Meridian, Mississippi, located approximately 56 miles west of the accident site. The 0853 surface weather observation was, wind from 090 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 2 1/2 miles in heavy rain and mist, ceiling overcast at 2,800 feet, temperature 9 degrees C, dew point 8 degrees C, altimeter 30.10 inches of Mercury. Remarks: automated observation, sea level pressure 1019.1-mb, precipitation last hour 0.28 inches, 6-hour rainfall 0.72 inches, 3-hour pressure tendency fallen 1.2-mb.

The National Weather Service issued Convective SIGMET 47C at 0753 for portions of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and coastal waters was valid until 0955 for an area of embedded thunderstorms moving from 240-degrees at 20 knots, with tops to 37,000 feet. At 08:55 Convective SIGMET 51C updated the boundaries of the advisory. The advisor warned of an area of embedded thunderstorms moving from 240 at 20 knots, with tops to 38,000 feet. The accident site was located within the boundaries of the advisory.

The National Center for Environmental Prediction forecast for clear air turbulence indicated a high probability of turbulence across central Alabama. The forecast was confirmed by an air carrier report north-northwest of the accident site that reported moderate to severe turbulence at 35,000 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The main forward cabin wreckage was located north of County Road 32 in a wooded swampy area 1.31 miles northwest of Arlington, Alabama. The remaining empennage was located .31 nautical miles southwest of the main forward cabin, and 1.53 miles northwest of Arlington, Alabama.

Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane rested on its right side. Three slash marks were present on the side of a tree located to the right of the main cabin area18 feet above the base of the tree. There was no evidence of a crash debris line.

The engine assembly was displaced to the left. The engine cowling was damaged on both sides and the bottom. The propeller spinner was crushed and remained attached to the propeller hub. The propeller assembly was attached to the engine crankshaft propeller flange. Both propeller blades remained in their propeller hub. One propeller blade exhibited torsional twisting, "S" bending, and chord wise scarring on the camber and aft side of the propeller blade. The remaining propeller blade exhibited torsional twisting and was bent forward at midspan. The nose gear was in the extended position. The landing gear lever in the cockpit was in the retracted position.

The forward baggage compartment was buckled aft and up. The baggage door was attached to the airframe and in the open position. The door lock was in the latched position. The cabin windshield was broken and the cabin roof was crushed to the left and inward. The cabin roof skin separated 6-feet aft of the instrument panel. Diagonal crushing and scarring was present on the right side and top of the cabin roof next to the fourth passenger window. Black and maroon transfer marks were present on the right side of the fuselage, cabin roof, and extended over to the left cabin door. The airplane was painted maroon and white and was equipped with black deice boots. The cabin floor was compressed upward. The elevator control cables were connected at the pilot control column and extended aft to the broken and separated elevator bell crank. The left and right rudder cables were connected at the rudder bar sector assembly. The left rudder cable separated 4-feet aft of the rudder bar. The right rudder cable separated 1 foot aft of the rudder bar.

The right wing remained attached at the wing root. The forward and aft spar attachments were attached to the airframe. The right wing separated 7-feet outboard of the wing root near the main spar splice with 7-feet of the inboard flap. This separation area containing the forward spar, main spar, and aft spar were forwarded to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. The examination revealed all fracture surfaces were consistent with overstress fracturing and there was no evidence of pre-existing conditions or fatigue damage observed. The remaining outboard section of the wing, flap, and right aileron were not located. The right flap push pull rod separated and impact damage was noted at the wing root. The landing gears are held in the up position by hydraulic pressure. The hydraulic lines were found separated and the right main landing gear was found in the transit position. The right main fuel tank was ruptured. The header fuel tank was not ruptured and fuel was present in the header tank. The aileron control cable was intact from the pilot control column and separated 5-feet outboard of the wing root.

The aft section of the fuselage separated forward of the left cabin door and the fuselage came to rest upright. The three static ports were clear and unobstructed. The cabin floor was compressed upward. Black and maroon transfer marks were present on the right emergency exit window and extended diagonally over the cabin roof to the main cabin door. An 8-inch tree penetrated the right side of the fuselage in the cabin area next to the No. 6 seat. The right side of the fuselage was crushed inward and upward extending aft to the rear-pressurized bulkhead. The tail section was partially separated aft of the pressurized bulkhead. The left and right rudder cables separated near the mid cabin area. The separated cables were attached to the broken and separated rudder bell crank.

The dorsal fin separated from the fuselage and was attached to the vertical fin. The vertical fin was damaged at the rear vertical fin attachment point. The rudder separated from its attachment points and was located behind the tail cone. The rudder stops were intact. The horizontal stabilizer separated and was not located. The elevator was not located. The elevator stops were damaged. The aft 32 inches of the empennage and tail cone were forwarded to the NTSB Materials laboratory for further examination. The examination revealed all fracture surfaces were consistent with overstress fracturing and no evidence of pre-existing conditions or fatigue damage observed. The left side of the fuselage was crushed inward 18-inches aft of the left rear passenger window. The left side of the fuselage was resting against a 4-inch tree. The cabin door was attached to the airframe and was in the open position. The door latch was in the closed position.

The left wing remained attached at the forward and aft wing attachments. The top and bottom main spar cap was separated and the wing was bent downward. The leading edge of the wing received impact damage 9-feet outboard of the wing root, and the outboard wing tip was damaged. The pitot tube was clear and unobstructed. The left aileron was not recovered. The left flap was attached to it's attach points and was in the retracted position. The trailing edge of the flap was damaged 3-feet outboard of the wing root extending outboard 3-feet. The flap push pull rod separated at the flap bell crank. The flap jackscrew displayed 3 ½ threads and was 5/8 inch in length. The left main landing gear was in the down and locked position. Both fuel caps were in place with a tight seal. The left main fuel tank was ruptured. The left header tank was not ruptured and fuel was present in the header tank. The aileron control cable was intact from the pilot control column to the left aileron sector. The aileron stops were intact and were damaged. The balance cable separated at the mid cabin section.

The engine assembly received damage. The left inner cooler was intact, the right inner cooler received impact damage. The left and right turbochargers were not damaged. Both turbine shafts rotated freely when turned by hand. The exhaust system was not damaged. The fuel manifold valve, lines, and fuel nozzles No.2, No.4, No.5 and No. 6 were not damaged. The No. 1 and No.3 fuel nozzle received damage. The right side engine baffling received impact damage. The waste gate actuator, oil cooler, oil filter canister, turbo controller, oil pump, scavenge pump, fuel pump, starter adapter, starter motor, both alternators, air conditioner compressor, oil sump, air/oil separator, magnetos, and the throttle body and metering unit were not damaged.

The crankcase and crankshaft propeller flange were not visibly damaged. The No. 1 and No. 3 cylinder fins received impact damage. The No. 1 and No. 3 cylinders top spark plugs received impact damage. All top spark plugs were removed and all electrodes were normal when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Chart. The electrodes were clean and were light tan in color. The piston crowns were tan in color and were absent of carbon and oil. The No.1 cylinder top and bottom ignition leads were severed at the spark plug. The No. 3 top ignition lead was severed at the spark plug. The remaining ignition harness was not damage

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