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C-GBEN accident description

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Tail numberC-GBEN
Accident dateJuly 17, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-34-200T
LocationWhite Bird, ID
Near 45.733611 N, -116.385277 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 17, 2003, approximately 0845 Pacific daylight time, a Canadian registered Piper PA-34-200T multiengine airplane, C-GBEN, was destroyed after impacting terrain while maneuvering near White Bird, Idaho. The airplane was registered to a private individual and flown by a United States certificated airline transport pilot. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the personal flight which was operated under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from the Springbank Airport, Calgary, Alberta, with the destination reported to be Vancouver, British Columbia. The time of departure could not be determined.

Before departing, the pilot told maintenance personnel that he would be flying from Calgary, Canada to Vancouver, Canada, a trip he had made several times. There was no record of a weather briefing before the departure, and no radar data existed which would identify the airplane during its departure and en route portions of the flight. According to the Idaho Country Sheriff's Department, located in Grangeville, Idaho, approximately 18 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, a telephone call was received at 0755 from an individual who reported seeing a twin engine airplane flying low over the area close to the Salmon River. A second witness, who lives approximately 5 nautical miles east of the accident site reported that at approximately 0845 he was in his front yard cutting grass when he observed a twin-engine airplane on the east side of the Salmon River "flying right toward the Salmon River Mountains." The witness said he estimated the airplane's altitude was between 200 and 500 feet, heading north-northwest paralleling the Salmon River. The witness stated that he didn't hear anything "irregular" about the engine, and that the airplane disappeared out of sight as it continued in a north-northwest direction.

At 0845, the Idaho Aeronautics Department reported receiving an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal. At 0930 the aircraft wreckage was located in a remote forested area approximately 5 nautical miles southwest of White Bird. The aircraft was subsequently recovered and stored at a salvage facility pending further examination by representatives from the NTSB and the FAA.


The pilot possessed a United States issued airline transport pilot certificate with a multi-engine land rating and a Lear Jet type rating. His most recent first class medical certificate was issued on June 3, 2003, with no limitations. On the medical application, the pilot indicated that he had accumulated 10,200 hours total time, of which 100 hours had been accrued in the six months preceding the medical application. According to records provided by the owner of the aircraft, the pilot had accumulated a total of 310 hours of flight time in the accident aircraft.


At 0856, the weather reporting facility at Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport, Lewiston, Idaho, located 56 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, reported wind variable at 3 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear, temperature 24 degrees C, dew point 6 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.14 inches of Mercury.


An FAA inspector, who traveled to the accident site, reported the wreckage distribution path was on a southerly heading in a remote forested area interspersed with various brush covered clearings. Coordinates of the accident site were reported as 45 degrees 44.01 minutes north latitude and 116 degrees 23.07 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of 5,633 feet mean sea level. Physical evidence indicated that the aircraft impacted the tops of several trees approximately 40 feet high. The debris field encompassed an area 554 feet long and 72 feet wide, on a magnetic heading of 180 degrees. Approximately 133 feet down the energy path, the aircraft impacted a second grove of trees 10 feet above the ground in a right wing low, left wing high attitude. This was evidenced by several wing parts and tree scars which were located higher in the trees on the left side of the debris path than on the right side. The aircraft subsequently impacted the ground in a nose low, right wing low attitude, evidenced by a large ground scar encompassing pieces of the aircraft's nose section and right wing tip. The wings and tail surfaces of the aircraft were impact damaged and separated from the aircraft, and all fuel tanks were breached. There was no post-impact fire.

From the aircraft's initial ground impact point the airplane skidded approximately 284 feet forward, coming to rest against several evergreen trees. The left and right engines were separated from the aircraft by impact forces, and the nose section of the airplane was torn away from the pilot and copilot's seats forward. The right engine remained attached to the nacelle, which was torn from the fuselage, coming to rest 80 feet forward of the fuselage. The left engine was separated and located under the fuselage. The right-hand wing panel outboard of the engine nacelle came to rest approximately halfway down the debris field. The left wing was twisted, mangled and torn into several pieces. Both propellers were separated from their respective engines, coming to rest approximately 340 feet from the initial impact point with the trees.

Control continuity was established from the aft section of the cabin to the rudder. Both elevators were separated from the empennage by impact forces and control cable separation was evidenced by tension overload. The left and right wings were bent, twisted, mangled, and shredded, which precluded an examination for control cable continuity to the ailerons and flaps. The separated cable signatures were consistent with tension overload.

The fuselage was separated at the aft spar. The horizontal stabilizer and associated parts were also separated from the fuselage, while the vertical stabilizer and rudder remained attached. The fuselage was buckled to the left and down 7 feet forward of the tailcone.

The left wing was destroyed and exhibited three major impact marks. The first impact mark was just outboard of the engine nacelle and centered on the inboard fuel tank. The indentation was approximately 7 inches across with aft crushing to the rear spar. The second impact mark was approximately 6 feet outboard of the wing root with aft crushing back to the trailing edge of the wing. The third impact mark was 2 feet inboard from the left wing tip and was crushed aft to the rear spar. Both the aileron and the flap were separated into two pieces.

The right wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root and found in two pieces just outboard of the engine nacelle. The impact marks outboard of the engine nacelle had brown tree transfer. The aileron remained attached to the wing at all hinge points, and the flap was separated from the wing structure and found in three pieces.

Both engine's distributor valves were opened. A small amount of fuel was found in the left engine, and no fuel was found in the right engine. No additional evidence of fuel was detected at the wreckage site All left wing and right wing fuel tanks had been breached.

All three landing gear were separated from the aircraft. It could not be determined whether they were in the retracted or extended position at the time of impact.


Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed on July 21, 2003, at the Pathologist's Regional Laboratory, Lewiston, Idaho. The cause of the pilot's death was attributed to "multiple traumatic injuries".

Aviation toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology indicated 17% carbon monoxide detected in Blood, and Ephedrine present in Blood and Liver. The toxicology was negative for cyanide and ethanol.


A subsequent examination of the aircraft wreckage was conducted by an NTSB representative after its removal to a secure salvage facility.

The right engine's crankshaft was broken aft of the propeller, the oil filter was separated, and the alternator case was broken. The air induction system was bent and twisted, the left magneto was separated from the engine, the engine mounts were broken, and the #5 cylinder had heavy impact damage which resulted in the valve train being destroyed. The valve trains for cylinders 1, 2, 4, and 6 were intact. Both of the engine's magnetos produced spark to all 6 leads when tested. The engine's vacuum pump was not sheared. A compression check indicated that there was compression on all cylinders except #5, which had sustained heavy impact damage. An adapter was used in the vacuum pump drive to establish engine continuity. The spark plugs were of the fine wire type and were tan or light gray in color. The turbocharger rotated freely.

The left engine's crankshaft was broken aft of the propeller. The engine remained intact with the exception of the intake system, which was impact damaged. The valve trains to cylinders 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were intact. The left and right magnetos produced spark to all 6 leads when tested. The vacuum pump shaft was not sheared. A compression check confirmed there was compression on all cylinders. Use of an adapter in the vacuum pump drive confirmed engine continuity. The spark plugs were of the fine wire type and were tan or light gray in color. The turbocharger rotated freely.

A FAA Airworthiness inspector from the Spokane Flight Standards District Office, Spokane, Washington, recovered the aircraft's Janitor heater, P/N 90D38-1, S/N 013087-6. Subsequent pressure testing of the component revealed no leakage or any other anomalies which would have prevented normal operation.


The wreckage was released to the owner's representative, Mr. Don Morse, Discount Aircraft Salvage, Deer Park, Washington, on August 18, 2003.

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