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N465TC accident description

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Tail numberN465TC
Accident dateMarch 24, 2008
Aircraft typePiper Pa 28-161
LocationVenice, FL
Near 27.078334 N, -82.466667 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 24, 2008, about 2040 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N465TC, was substantially damaged when it impacted water, shortly after takeoff from Venice Municipal Airport (VNC), Venice, Florida. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the president of a fixed based operator (FBO) at VNC, the pilot had recently completed a "check out" flight with a certified flight instructor (CFI), which allowed the pilot to rent the FBO's airplanes. The accident flight was the pilot's first solo flight in an FBO airplane.

According to information from the FBO and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airplane departed runway 31, and was on a left downwind leg for runway 31, when it descended and impacted the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 1/2-mile west of the shore.

Primary radar targets were recorded at the Tampa, Florida FAA terminal radar approach control (TRACON). A target was recorded near the departure end of runway 31 at VNC, at 2038:41. Eleven additional targets were recorded, along a track consistent with a left traffic pattern for runway 31. The last radar target recorded was approximately mid-field, about 1 mile west of runway 31, at 2039:36. Although the primary radar targets were consistent with the accident flight, they could not be positively identified as the accident airplane. In addition, no altitude information was recorded, as they were primary radar targets only.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot, age 64, held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, instrument airplane, and glider aero tow. He also held a flight instructor certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine and instrument airplane. The pilot's most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on November 5, 2007. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 4,000 hours.

The pilot's most recent logbook was the only one recovered. It contained one entry, which was a 1-hour flight dated January 15, 2008. According to the logbook and a the CFI at the FBO, the 1-hour flight was a combination flight review and rental "check out." The instructor added that the flight was conducted at night and included unusual attitudes. The logbook noted the flight time as night; however, there was no reference to unusual attitude training. The logbook entry included "Power on/off stalls, Steep turns, Forced landings, Night landings 3 full stop." The instructor believed that the pilot may have flown one additional time in March 2008, but there were no other logbook entries.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Review of the aircraft and engine logbooks revealed that the accident airplane's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed 3 days prior to the accident, at a total airframe time of 10,380.67 hours. According to the tachometer, the airplane flew an addition 8.5 hour since the inspection, until the accident. The airplane's most recent pitot static check was completed on May 1, 2006.

Another pilot had flown the accident airplane on January 30, 2008. During his rental "check out" flight, he noticed an error with the directional gyro (DG). Specifically, the DG would move approximately 10 degrees off for every 5 or 10 minutes of time that elapsed. After the flight, the pilot reported the problem to the FBO, and was told the unit would be replaced the following day. The pilot noticed the problem again when he subsequently flew the airplane on February 6, 2008; however, it was not as bad as previously noted.

Further review of the aircraft logbook revealed that the DG was replaced with an overhauled DG (S/N 7111) on February 1, 2008. The National Transportation Safety Board received no other reports of DG errors with the accident airplane.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Sarasota Airport (SRQ) was located approximately 20 miles northwest of the accident site. The reported weather at SRQ, at 2053, was: wind from 340 degrees at 9 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky clear; temperature 14 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 2 degrees C; altimeter 30.19 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was recovered from the water on March 27, 2008, and examined the following day. The right wing exhibited extensive leading edge damage, and had separated from the airplane into two sections, consistent with impact damage. The left wing was cut from the airplane during the recovery process. The outboard half of right aileron remained attached to the right wing, while the inboard section of right aileron had separated and was not recovered. The approximate one-third inboard section of right flap remained partially attached to the right wing, while the outboard section of right flap had separated and was not recovered. The left wing sustained less leading edge damage than the right wing, and the entire left flap remained attached to the left wing. The entire left aileron had separated and was not recovered. The cockpit and cabin area were crushed, the empennage remained attached to the fuselage, and had sustained less damage than the cockpit and cabin.

Aileron control continuity was confirmed from the forward cockpit area, to the left and right wing roots, respectively. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the rudder pedals to the rudder. Stabilator control continuity was confirmed from the forward cockpit area to the stabilator. Stabilator trim control continuity was confirmed from the trim wheel in the cockpit, to the stabilator trim jackscrew. Fifteen threads were measured on the stabilator trim jackscrew. According to a representative from the aircraft manufacturer, fifteen threads corresponded to a near full nose-up trim position, with sixteen threads equating to full nose up trim, and five threads equating to neutral trim.

Examination of the cockpit revealed that the fuel selector was positioned to the right fuel tank. The left fuel tank quantity gauge indicated 10 gallons, and the right fuel tank quantity gauge indicated 20 gallons. The flap handle was found in a flaps-retracted position. The throttle and mixture control were mid-range, and crushed consistent with impact. The magnetos were selected to "BOTH," the primer was in and locked, and the electric fuel pump was on. The airspeed indicator displayed 75 knots, the attitude indicator was tumbled to the right, and the vertical speed indicated displayed an approximate 2,000-foot-per-minute descent. The tachometer indicated 1,750 rpm, and 2,292.1 total engine hours. The altimeter displayed approximately negative 700 feet, with 30.28 in the Kollsman window.

The propeller remained attached to the engine, and the engine remained attached to the airframe. One propeller blade was bent aft, and the other exhibited little damage. The propeller was rotated by hand, and crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity was confirmed. Thumb compression was attained on all cylinders except for the No. 2 cylinder, which had ingested sand. A borescope examination of the No. 2 cylinder did not reveal any mechanical defects. All eight spark plugs were removed from the engine; their electrodes remained intact and were gray in color. The carburetor was disassembled for inspection; the floats remained intact, and carburetor screen was absent of debris. Oil was noted throughout the engine, and examination of the oil filter did not reveal any metallic contamination. When the mechanical fuel pump was cycled by hand, it pumped water freely. The vacuum pump was disassembled for inspection, and sand was noted throughout the pump; however, all vanes remained intact. Both magnetos contained salt water, sand, and corrosion, which precluded a successful functional test.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the State of Florida District Twelve Medical Examiner's office, Sarasota, Florida, on March 26, 2008. The autopsy report noted the cause of death as "Multiple Blunt Force Trauma."

Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Naproxen (Alleve) was detected in urine.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to the FBO's fueling records, the airplane was last fueled during the evening of March 22, 2008, with 10.46 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline.

Review of FAA-H-8083-3, Airplane Flying Handbook revealed, "...Dark nights tend to eliminate reference to a visual horizon. As a result, pilots need to rely less on outside references at night and more on flight and navigation instruments..."

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, Sunset occurred 57 minutes prior to the accident. Moonrise did not occur until 2 hours 25 minutes after the accident.

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