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N681KW accident description

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Tail numberN681KW
Accident dateNovember 07, 2008
Aircraft typePartenavia Spa P.68C
LocationGainesville, FL
Near 29.683889 N, -82.249722 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On November 7, 2008, about 0245 eastern standard time, a Partenavia SPA P68C, N681KW, operated by Air Key West, was substantially damaged during approach to Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV), Gainesville, Florida. The personal flight was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The certificated airline transport pilot and two passengers were killed. The flight originated from Key West International Airport (EYW), Key West, Florida, at 0037.

According to a friend of the pilot, and the airplane’s owner/operator, the pilot previously flew on Monday, November 3. He was then off-duty on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 4 and 5. The pilot was on-duty Thursday, November 6; however, no flights were scheduled. The pilot went to bed early Thursday night, as he had a flight scheduled for 0600 on Friday, November 7. About 2230 on Thursday night, the pilot received a telephone call from a good friend, who was on an organ transplant waiting list. The friend stated that a possible organ was available in Gainesville, and that he’d have to get there quickly for surgery the following morning. The pilot had previously briefed the owner/operator about his friend’s situation, and the owner/operator agreed to take the 0600-trip so that the pilot could conduct the flight to GNV. The owner/operator added that he did not charge any fee for the trip; it was a favor to the pilot, who was a good employee and friend, and had a friend in need of an organ transplant. The owner/operator further stated that he had never previously operated any “Angel Flights” or organ transport flights.

According to an employee at a fixed based operator (FBO) located at GNV, the pilot contacted him via radio between 0200 and 0300, and asked about the weather and runway lighting conditions. The employee replied that the visibility was low due to fog, and he could not see the terminal lights from the FBO. The employee also stated that the runway lights were pilot-controlled-lighting, and they were not currently on the highest setting. The pilot then asked about which was a closer alternate airport, Leesburg Florida or St. Augustine Florida, and the employee stated that he did not know. The employee then heard the pilot “click” the runway lights and contact Gainesville Radio. He did not hear any further communications from persons on the accident airplane.

According to preliminary data from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control (ATC), Jacksonville Center cleared the flight for the “ILS RWY 29” approach at GNV about 0240. About 10 miles from GNV, the pilot was instructed to contact the local common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as the control tower at GNV was closed. Radar contact was lost with the accident airplane about 0245. The last recorded radar target was about 1.25 miles east of GNV, at 400 feet mean sea level.

The wreckage was located in a wooded area about 0700, approximately 3,575 feet from the runway 29 threshold. The wreckage was examined on November 7 and 8, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. An approximate 575-foot debris path was observed, that originated with tree strikes. The debris path extended on a course of approximately 290 degrees magnetic, and terminated at the main wreckage. Freshly cut tree branches were recovered along the debris path. They varied in diameter up to about 6 inches, and were cut at approximately 45-degree angles. The outboard one-third of both wings were located near the debris path origin. The stabilator was also located along the debris path, about 50 feet prior to the main wreckage, and was separated into two sections.

The main wreckage was resting nose down, and oriented about a 090-degree heading. The cabin and cockpit area were consumed by fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and stabilator trim pulley, to the mid-cabin area. Continuity was also confirmed from the right aileron, to the inboard section of right wing, where the aileron cables were separated and exhibited broomstraw ends. The stabilator was controlled by push-pull tubes, and an approximate 4-foot section of push-pull tube remained attached to the stabilator. As of the publication of this report, the outboard section of left wing remained in an approximate 100-foot-tall tree and had not been recovered. The empennage, including vertical stabilizer and rudder, remained intact.

The airplane was equipped with a fixed landing gear, and the flaps were observed in the retracted position. An airspeed indicator, altimeter, manifold pressure indicator, and rpm indicator were recovered from the cockpit, but sustained fire damage. One attitude indicator was recovered and observed to be tumbled. The attitude indicator was disassembled, and its gyro was found intact. The other attitude indicator was destroyed. Approximately two-thirds of both wings, the inboard sections including engines, remained intact. The propellers remained attached to both engines, and were partially buried in the ground.

The engines were subsequently examined on November 9, at a recovery facility. Both engines were separated from the airframe for inspection, and their propellers exhibited s-bending and chordwise scratching. The throttle butterfly valves for both engines were found near the full throttle positions. The valve covers and sparkplugs were removed from the engines. The top and bottom sparkplug electrodes were intact, and light to medium gray in color. The right engine spark plugs No. 1 top and bottom, No. 2 bottom, and No. 4 bottom were oil soaked. The vacuum pump from each engine was removed and disassembled, and their vanes were intact. Both oil filters, fuel screens, and oil screens were absent of debris, and oil was noted throughout each engine. The propellers were rotated by hand on both engines. Camshaft, crankshaft and valvetrain continuity was established to the rear accessory sections, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. All four magnetos sustained thermal damage and could not be tested.

The pilot, age 45, held an airline transport pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane multiengine land. He held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on November 21, 2007. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 3,300 hours.

The seven-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number 273, was manufactured in 1983. It was powered by two Lycoming IO-360, 200-horsepower engines, equipped with Hartzell propellers. The operator stated that the airplane was in “good shape,” and he used the airplane the previous week for an FAA-checkride. The airplane’s most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on September 19, 2008. The operator further stated that the airplane was also equipped with an IFR-certified Apollo GX50 global positioning system (GPS). The airplane was not equipped with a radar altimeter, ground proximity warning system, or a terrain awareness and warning system.

The reported weather at GNV, at 0253, was: wind calm; visibility 1/4 mile in fog; vertical visibility 100 feet; temperature 11 degrees Celsius; dew point 10 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.02 inches of mercury.

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