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N741RB accident description

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Tail numberN741RB
Accident dateAugust 27, 1996
Aircraft typePiper PA-32RT-300
LocationLagrange, GA
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 27, 1996, about 1020 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32RT-300, N741RB, registered to a private owner, was destroyed during a forced landing, near LaGrange, Georgia. The private-rated pilot was removed from the wreckage, and died of injuries at a local hospital. One passenger received serious injuries, and another passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed in the vicinity, and no flight plan had been filed. The trip started on August 21, 1996, at Hampton, Georgia, en route to Apalachicola, Florida. The flight departed Apalachicola on August 26, 1996, en route to Dothan, Alabama, and departed Dothan, August 27, 1996, at 0926 (0826 central daylight time). The personal flight was being conducted in accordance with Title 14 CFR Part 91.

At 0958:48, the pilot reported in on Columbus Approach Control, Arrival/Departure (AR/DR-1), radio frequency, and said; "...we are out here I think oh about 20 miles southeast of you. I'm V F R [visual flight rules and] I've gotten into I F R [instrument flight rules] conditions. Wonder if you can help me get back towards Griffin [Georgia]." The AR/DR-1 Specialist, issued a beacon code; advised the pilot he was in radar contact; and told him "...make a right turn now, immediate right turn heading one eight zero." The controller had to repeat the instructions several times before the pilot acknowledged the transmission.

Between 1002:57, and 1004:14, the controller repeated the clearances until the pilot finally acknowledged that he was to climb to 2,500 feet, and turn right to a heading of 270 degrees. The controller gave the pilot a subsequent clearance to climb 3,000 feet, cleared him to the Griffin Airport via radar vectors, and told him to turn right to a heading of 360 degrees.

The controller asked the pilot how he wanted to get to Griffin. The pilot said, "can you advise me sir I don't know...I can still see the ground a little bit...." The controller asked him if he was I F R qualified, and he answered, "no sir I am not?"

The controller instructed the pilot to descend and maintain VFR, and asked him if VFR was possible. The pilot answered, "yes sir that's correct...shall I descend now."

At 1007:43, the controller said to the pilot, "I want you to maintain VFR at all times...let me know when you get in VMC...please." The pilot told the controller at 1009:07, that "I am just getting under it [clouds]." The controller said that when you are VMC, " can just resume your own navigation on course back to Griffin." At 1009:20, the pilot said, "...I think I can take that from this point on...." The controller advised the pilot of N741RB, that he was going to remain under ATC control.

The controller said, " are getting close to another that altitude it's going to be quite dangerous around that airport, I have IFR traffic cleared in on a approach at your twelve o'clock...about 4 you have the LaGrange Airport in sight?" The pilot said "negative" and was asked if he could deviate to the east. The pilot responded that he could.

For the next 2 minutes 19 seconds the controller was trying to establish the pilot's identity and his home airport. The controller could not understand the information that the pilot had given, because of radio difficulty, so he had the pilot change radio frequencies.

At 1016:15, the pilot came up on the frequency and the controller said, "you hear all right on this frequency," and the pilot answered, "that is great."

At 1018:30, the pilot of N741RB radioed, "mayday mayday, mayday, Columbus Approach, Columbus approach." Radar and radio communications were lost, and the controller made several attempts to reestablish radio communication, with the pilot of N741RB, without any success.

The controller then vectored another airplane, that was on his frequency, to the vicinity of the last radar location. The other airplane found the wreckage site at 1031:02, and said to the controller, "...looks a field, at this time...they got a fire truck and E M S down there..."

Ground witnesses near the crash site saw and heard the airplane. They told the Safety Board that the airplane's engine was backfiring and sputtering. The airplane was seen at a low altitude, in a left bank, when the left wing struck a tree.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 32 degrees, 50 minutes north, and 84 degrees, 53 minutes west.


Information on the pilot is contained in this report on page 3, under First Pilot Information. The pilot's personal logbook containing his flight hours was not found.


Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Meteorological information is contained in this report on page 3, under Weather Information.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on August 27, 1996, at the Medical Examiner's Office, Atlanta, Georgia, by Dr. T. Martin.

Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration, Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and revealed, "...positive results...0.520 (ug/ml, ug/g) Lidocaine [Bronchodilator decongestant] detected in Blood...0.730 (ug/ml, ug/g) Lidocaine detected in Kidney Fluid...Ephedrine [local anesthetic and anti-arrhythmic] detected in Blood...Ephedrine detected in Kidney Fluid...."


The airplane had landed in a pasture that sloped down hill, bottomed out, then started uphill. According to the Sheriff's Department, the airplane came to rest on the uphill side. A tree north of the wreckage, was damaged, and airplane parts, from the left wing, were found at the base of the tree. Discolored vegetation in and around the tree was also observed. A ground scar was found in the pasture, about 165 feet south of the tree.

The wreckage had been removed from the crash site prior to the Safety Board's arrival, and was examined at the facilities of Atlantic Air Salvage Inc., Griffin, Georgia. The examination revealed that the left fuel tank was breached, and no fuel was observed in the tank. Rescue personnel stated to the Safety Board, that they observed about 1 gallon of fuel coming from the airplane after they arrived. The right fuel tank was not breached, and less then1/2 gallon of fuel was drained from the tank. The fuel selector was found on the "right" tank, and the electric fuel pump switch was found in the "OFF" position.

The underside of the fuselage, from the firewall aft to the airframe rib at the pilot's seat, was crushed upwards about 8 inches. The left side of the fuselage was creased upwards at a 45-degree angle to the instrument panel. The left side of the fuselage aft of the windshield, displayed impact damage about 2 inches inboard, which resulted in the window breaking. The overhead of the airplane had been bent aft to facilitate rescue of the occupants.

The left wing was broken at the outboard edge of the inboard fuel tank, 65 inches from the wing root. All the rivets from the main spar forward, around the leading edge were popped. The leading edge of the wing, 78 inches from the root, was crushed inward 1.5 inches. The inboard seam of the inboard fuel tank was popped from it's rivets, along the main spar, forward to the leading edge on the bottom of the wing. The aft half of the wing, from the spar aft, was creased at a 45-degree angle from a point 83 inches from the wing root, going aft, and outboard to a point 97 inches from the root. The leading edge of the wing, 130 inches from the root, was crushed aft 6 inches out to the fiberglass wing tip. The wing tip had ripped off. The right wing, and the empennage did not display any impact damage.

Examination of the engine revealed that it was still attached to the fuselage. The propeller hub had broken off the crankshaft flange, and the starter ring was broken. All the accessories were in place, and still attached.

All of the exhaust pipes and the muffler were crushed. The No. 2 cylinder intake pipe was displaced and crushed. The No. 4 cylinder intake pipe was crushed, and the intake pipe, upper flange was broken.

There were no obstructions observed in the fuel injector air inlet. The engine was set up on the airframe to facilitate an engine test run.


To make the engine ready for a test run, the following parts were replaced:

* No. 2 cylinder bottom spark plug * No. 2 cylinder intake pipe * No. 4 cylinder intake pipe upper flange * Starter ring gear * Test propeller, which was in the feathered position * Seven quarts of oil * The muffler was cut from the exhaust pipes

The engine was started and test run two times, up to a maximum of 1,400 rpm. The engine operated on the left magneto, right magneto, and both magnetos positions. The engine stopped when the magneto switch was placed in the "off" position.

The right wing was drained of about 1/2 gallon of blue fuel. The fuel was tested for water with water finding paste, and no water was found. The right fuel tank was then filled to the top with water and checked for leaks. No leaks were observed.


The last known fueling of the airplane was in Apalachicola, Florida, at 1100, on August 26, 1996, with 50 gallons of fuel. Total fuel in the airplane at that point was unknown. According to recorded Hobbs meter readings obtained from the operator at the time of departure from Georgia, and readings obtained at the crash site, a total of 6.1 hours were flown on the airplane from the time it departed Georgia until the crash.

The fuel flow and fuel burn rates were calculated using Piper's performance charts, and known information. The PA-32RT-300, had a total fuel capacity of 98 gallons, of which 94 gallons were usable fuel. Using the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), the airplane burned 18 gallons per hour of fuel at a power setting of 75 percent. At 75 percent power the airplane cruised at 155 knots

The distance from Georgia to Apalachicola was about 203 nautical miles. At a cruise speed of 155 knots, and no wind, the duration of the flight would have been about 1 hour and 20 minutes, and would have consumed 24 gallons of fuel. At Apalachicola, 50 gallons of fuel was added to the airplane's fuel tanks.

The airplane departed Apalachicola about 1130 (1030 CDT), August 26, 1996, and arrived Dothan, Alabama, about 1300 (CDT, duration 2.5 hours), a distance of 103 nautical miles, and would have consumed about 45 gallons of fuel. At a cruise speed of 155 knots, no wind, a direct flight of 103 nautical miles is about 42 minutes, with a fuel consumption of about 13 gallons.

ATC recorded the departure at Dothan at 0926, August 27, 1996. The accident time was about 1020 (.9 hours), a distance of about 108 nautical miles, and would have consumed about 18 gallons of fuel.

At a cruise speed of 155 knots, no wind, and using the distances for the different flight segments, the total flight time would have been 3 hours 50 minutes, leaving 2 hours 54 minutes of unknown flight time that was used during the entire trip. Total fuel obtained on the trip, assuming the tanks were full when the airplane departed Georgia, was 148 gallons [98+50]. About 87 gallons was used for the flights (not including taxi and climb), from the start to finish, leaving about 61 gallons of fuel that can not be accounted for during the trip.

Based on the Hobbs time of 6.1 hours, at a fuel burn rate of 18 gallons per hour, 110 gallons of fuel was consumed, which calculates to about 48 gallons of fuel remaining at the time of impact. The total usable fuel for each tank (2) was 47 gallons.

The Safety Board made several attempts to arrange an interview with the wife of the pilot, in effort to get her factual account of the events that occurred during the flight. Her doctor at the hospital would not allow interviews due to her injuries. An attorney claiming to represent the pilot's wife, telephoned the Safety Board and asked if a witness form could be sent to him, and he would see to it that it was completed. A letter dated September 19, 1996, was sent to the wife's home address. The letter and a witness form were sent (fax transmittal, Randy Davis), September 24, 1996, to the attorney, but was never returned. On March 31, 1997, an NTSB Form 6120.11, Statement of Witness, was received from the pilot's wife and she stated, "I do not recall the events of this flight."

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Ralph M. Bulloch, an employee of the owner, on August 29, 1996.

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