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N93DC accident description

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Tail numberN93DC
Accident dateAugust 21, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-31
LocationClearwater, FL
Near 27.986389 N, -82.761111 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 21, 2003, about 1648 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-31, N93DC, registered to Clearwater Aircraft, Inc., experienced an in-flight loss of control and crashed into a residential area near Clearwater Air Park, Clearwater, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the reported 14 CFR Part 91 business flight from St. Augustine Airport, St. Augustine, Florida, to Clearwater Air Park. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire, and the commercial-rated pilot and pilot-rated right front seat passenger were fatally injured. A pilot-rated passenger sustained serious injuries. The flight originated about 1547, from St. Augustine Airport.

According to a partial transcription of communications with St. Augustine Air Traffic Control (ATC)Tower, at 1537:38, an occupant established contact and advised the controller they would be departing to the west, and requested taxi clearance; the flight was cleared to taxi to runway 13. At 1545:23, an occupant contacted the tower and advised the controller that the flight was ready to depart. The controller questioned the direction of flight and the response was, "westbound towards tampa." At 1546:28, the controller advised, "niner three delta charlie ah roger vfr runway one three cleared for takeoff make your turnout to the ah southwest." An occupant acknowledged the takeoff clearance and southwest departure route and at 1548:43, the tower controller advised the flight frequency change to Jacksonville Approach was approved. An occupant advised the controller that a change in heading was needed for weather avoidance, which the controller approved. An occupant acknowledged the controller approval to the heading change. There were no further communications with the accident airplane with any ATC facilities; the flight proceeded towards the destination airport.

According to an individual located at Clearwater Air Park (destination airport), before the accident occurred, he heard an occupant of an airplane whose registration he could not recall ask, "...for an advisory for the field", and "...what the weather was like." He advised that the winds appear to be in favor for runway 16, which was left hand traffic, the runway was wet, and the rain seemed to be letting up. At a point when the airplane should have landed and had not, he was alerted to the crash by an unknown individual. He called 911, and informed the dispatcher that an airplane had crashed on the runway. He subsequently learned the airplane had not crashed on airport property.

A pilot rated witness located north of the Clearwater Air Park (destination airport), and nearly due west of the accident site reported seeing the airplane on what he thought was final approach to runway 16, but the airplane was "very low." The witness reported the airplane made a, "sudden, sharp turn to the left [flying eastbound]." He then lost sight of the airplane and proceeded to the accident site. Another pilot-rated witness who was located in a vehicle approximately 1/4 mile west-northwest of the accident site reported observing an airplane flying from the northwest. The airplane banked to the left flying eastbound at a, "...very slow airspeed and banking and yawing left and right." While flying eastbound it appeared to him that whomever was flying the airplane was executing a go-around as evidenced by the landing gear retracting, followed by the flaps. The airplane then appeared to climb which appeared very unstable, again yawing left and right. The airplane then banked to the right, stalled, and entered a spin impacting the ground. He called 911 and drove to the Clearwater Air Park. He further reported seeing both propellers rotating during all phases of flight.

Still another witness who was located approximately 1/10th of a nautical mile east-southeast from the accident site reported he came out of his house after the rain ended and was facing west. He saw the accident airplane from the northwest and thought it had descended lower than normal. The airplane was flying above the tops of nearby trees and while flying in a southeasterly direction, pitched up, "darn near got 90 degrees", rolled to the left, and descended straight down. He reported he did not hear the engines, and thought he should have been able to hear them if the pilot had "revved them up." He estimated his view of the flight lasted approximately 10-15 seconds, and couldn't tell if the landing gear was extended. He did not see any smoke trailing the airplane, and after the impact he ran into his house, called 911, got into his car, and drove to the scene. He heard an explosion, and saw flames. He got to the airplane and helped rescue a passenger who was beating on the aircraft's door. Fire rescue arrived and he was told to leave the area.


The left seat occupant was the holder of a FAA commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. He also was the holder of a FAA certified flight instructor certificate with airplane single engine, airplane multi-engine, and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a first class medical certificate on July 24, 2002, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses." A review of the application for the medical certificate revealed he listed a total time of 600 hours.

The right seat occupant (pilot-in-command) was the holder of a FAA private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, instrument airplane, and glider ratings. He was issued a second class medical certificate on July 18, 2002, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses and possess glasses for near & intermediate vision." A review of the application for the medical certificate revealed he listed a total time of 760 hours.

No determination could be made as to who was manipulating the controls at the time of the accident.


The airplane was manufactured by Piper Aircraft Corporation as a model PA-31, and designated serial number 31-7712017. It was certificated in the normal category and equipped with two Lycoming TIO-540-A2C engines rated at 310 horsepower at 2,400 rpm, and two constant speed, manual feathering Hartzell HC-E3YR-2ATF propellers with FC8468B-6R propeller blades.

A review of the airplane maintenance records revealed the airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection that was signed off as being completed on August 5, 2002. The airplane total time on that date was 6,019.8 hours. The last entry in the airframe logbook was dated February 8, 2003. The entry indicated replacement of the directional gyro; the airplane total time was 6,042.3 hours.


There was no record that the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing for the intended flight.

According to the NTSB Meteorological Factual Report, the closest airport with a surface weather observation was the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (KPIE), St. Petersburg, Florida, which was located approximately 134 degrees and 6 nautical miles from the accident site. A METAR taken at the airport at 1653, or approximately 5 minutes after the accident, indicates the wind was from 120 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 23 knots. The visibility was 10 statute miles, the present weather-thunderstorms; broken clouds existed at 4,300 feet and 5,500 feet, and overcast clouds existed at 8,000 feet. The temperature and dew point were 24 and 23 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.02 inHg. The remarks section of the METAR indicated lightning was noted in all quadrants, and rain ended at 1645.

The NTSB Meteorological Factual Report also indicates that the surface analysis chart for 1700 hours, or approximately 12 minutes after the accident does not show any fronts over Florida. A pilot report (PIREP) over PIE at 2,500 feet on the day of the accident at 1615, or approximately 33 minutes before the accident, indicates overcast clouds existed at 2,500 feet. A plot of the flight path of the airplane overlaid onto a image of visible data for the time 1645, or approximately 3 minutes before the accident, indicates at the end of the flight path, clouds were visible. Additional plotting of the flight path of the airplane overlaid onto Tampa Bay Weather Surveillance Radar (TBW WSR-88D) radar images revealed that at 1633:39, the airplane was in an area of NWS/FAA Intensity Level (VIP) 1 reflectivity. Another image at 1638:45, indicates the airplane was between reflectivity of VIP level 5. The reflectivity were approximately 2-3 miles either side of the airplane's ground track. Still another image at 1643:52, indicates the airplane was in an area of VIP level 2 reflectivity.


The communications to and from the Clearwater Air Park Airport were not recorded. There were no reported communication difficulties.


The Clearwater Air Park Airport is equipped with one runway designated 16/34. The asphalt runway is 3,300 feet long by 75 feet wide, and is equipped with a 4-box visual approach slope indicator (VASI) on the left side of runway 16.


The airplane crashed in the front yard of a house located at 1840 Greenlea Drive, Clearwater, Florida. The residence was not damaged and there were no ground injuries. The accident site was located at 27 degrees 59.189 minutes North latitude and 082 degrees 45.664 minutes West longitude, or 003 degrees and .34 nautical mile from the approach end of runway 16 at Clearwater Air Park (destination airport).

Examination of the accident site revealed the majority of the wreckage came to rest in the driveway of the residence near a road; separated portions of the airplane were located on the ground adjacent to trees in the front yard of the residence. The wreckage was upright on a magnetic heading of 278 degrees. Tree contact associated with the right wing was noted 30 feet above ground level. Parts associated with the right wing were noted near the base of the contacted tree. A tree contact approximately 30 feet above ground level was noted to a tree located immediately adjacent to the location where the main wreckage came to rest. Several tree limbs with diameters of 1.25 inches, 2.5 inches, and 4 inches were found on the ground adjacent to the main wreckage. Examination of the tree limbs revealed several exhibited smooth, 45-degree angle cuts to the long axis of the limb with black/gray colored transfer on the cut surface.

Examination of the wreckage revealed the postcrash fire consumed the cockpit, cabin, sections of both wings, and portions of both engines. All components necessary to sustain flight remained attached or were in close proximity to the main wreckage. Both wings remained secured to the airframe; the outer 7 feet of the left wing remained secured by the aileron flight control cables. The outer 7 feet section of the right wing was separated from the airplane. A section of the leading edge of the right wing was found embedded in the fork of a tree immediately adjacent to the main wreckage. The leading edge skin piece exhibited a semi-circular indentation that was consistent with tree contact. The nose section of the airplane was crushed aft to the instrument panel. The vertical stabilizer remained attached to the airframe and the rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer. A section of the rudder and rudder counterweight were separated but found in close proximity to the main wreckage. Both horizontal stabilizers remained attached to the airframe and both elevators remained attached to the horizontal stabilizers. The lower door of the main cabin door was found secured; post accident the latch mechanism was found to operate normally. The landing gear was retracted, and both flap actuators were symmetrically extended 6.25 inches which equates to near full extension. Flight control continuity was confirmed for rudder and elevator. The turnbuckle of the right aileron flight control cable near the control surface was bent and fractured, and the aileron balance cable exhibited tension overload approximately 3 feet inboard of the right aileron bellcrank. The right aileron trim tab actuator was extended 1.25 inches, which equates to full trailing edge tab down, or right wing down trim. The rudder trim tab actuator was extended 1.25 inches, which equates to trailing edge neutral, and the elevator trim tab actuator was extended .625 inch, which equates to 14 degrees trailing edge tab down, or aircraft nose-up.

Examination of the left wing revealed the leading edge exhibited impact and fire damage, and the wing was damage by fire. The aileron remained attached at both attach points, and the aileron balance weight remained attached to the aileron. The aileron push/pull rod was attached at the bellcrank near the control surface and also at the control surface. The flap remained attached at all three attach points. Examination of the crossfeed valve revealed the arm was in the "up" position which correlates to the position found in the cockpit, or the "off" position. Also, the fuel selector valve was found positioned approximately 1/4 inch from the full "off" position, while the left fuel selector handle in the cockpit was found in the "off" detent. The fuel selector valve operationally tested satisfactory. The firewall shutoff valve was found positioned midrange; the valve was operational. The fuel strainer screen was examined and found to be clean. The engine remained secured to the airframe and the propeller remained secured to the engine; the engine and propeller were buried in the ground. The firewall was nearly separated from the airframe.

Examination of the right wing revealed the leading edge exhibited impact and fire damage, and the wing was damage by fire. Semi-circular indentations were noted on the leading edge 19 and 67 inches outboard of the inboard aileron root. The wing remained attached at the front attach point and the main spar locations. The upper spar cap of the main spar and 1/2 of the spar web was fractured. The aft spar was burned and separated at the wing root. The aft wing attachment was separated; the attachment bolt remained in position. The flap remained attached at all three attach points. A 19 inch length of aileron remained attached at the inboard hinge to the structurally separated section of the wing. The aileron push/pull rod was bent and fractured near the aileron attach point. The fuel selector valve was positioned to the outboard tank, and the firewall shutoff valve was in the "open" position. The fuel strainer was examined and found to be clean. The propeller remained secured to the engine, but the engine mount was broken and the firewall was separated from the airframe.

Examination of the cockpit revealed the throttle, propeller, and mixture controls were all forward, and the throttle friction was tight. Examination of the pilot's and co-pilot's seats revealed both were attached to the seat tracks. The forward portion of the pilot's seat was crushed upwards and aft, and the seat pan of the co-pilot's seat was displaced to the right. The left fuel selector was found in the "off" detent, while the right fuel selector was found in the "inboard" detent. The crossfeed selector valve was in the "off" detent. Examination of the combination manifold pressure gauge revealed the left needle was indicating 38 inHg, and the right needle was indicating 42 inHg. Examination of the dual tachometer revealed both needles were off scale low. Both fuel quantity gauges were indicating approximately 3/4 capacity. The airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, and pilot's altimeter were destroyed by the postcrash fire. The vertical speed indicator was indicating 2,600 fpm ascent, and the heading bug on the directional gyro was set to 150 degrees. The radios were destroyed by the post crash fire, and the compass was unreadable.

Examination of the left engine was performed by a representative of the engine manufacturer with FAA oversight. The examination revealed heat da

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