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N4032R accident description

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Tail numberN4032R
Accident dateSeptember 10, 2005
Aircraft typePiper PA-32-300
LocationWabash, IN
Near 40.760278 N, -85.806667 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 10, 2005, at 2100 eastern standard time (est), a Piper PA-32-300 (Cherokee Six), N4032R, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with the terrain and subsequent ground explosion/fire while maneuvering to land at Wabash Municipal Airport (IWH), Wabash, Indiana. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 flight was operating without a flight plan. The pilot and his three passengers were fatally injured. The personal flight was reported to have departed Fulton County Airport (RCR), Rochester, Indiana, at approximately 2040.

The pilot reportedly had flown from IWH to RCR for dinner earlier in the evening, according to the pilot's daughter and an acquaintance of the pilot.

Aircraft radar track data was obtained from Fort Wayne Approach Control. The first radar return associated with the accident airplane was recorded at 2046:25 (hhmm:ss) and was 5.0 nm east-southeast of RCR. The track continued to the southeast at altitudes between 2,200 and 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl). Between 2054:38 and 2057:47, the airplane descended from 2,100 to 1,400 feet while approaching IWH from the north-northwest. At 2057:47, radar coverage was lost with the airplane at 1,400 feet msl about 1.7 nm northwest of the airport. The radar facility's lower altitude limitation over IWH was about 1,200 feet msl. At 2100:14, the radar facility reestablished radar coverage with the accident airplane approximately 1.6 nm east of the airport. The airplane completed a 90 degree turn from a heading of north to the west, consistent with a return to the airport area. At 2100:37, the last radar return was recorded at 1,200 feet msl about 1.0 nm east-northeast of the airport.

A witness to the accident reported that the airplane over flew the airport and circled toward the south, continuing to the west, then north before she lost sight of the airplane. The witness stated that the engine sounded "like the throttle was turned down to an idle." The witness reported that she heard the crash, followed by two explosions, and then saw a fire north of her position.

Another witness reported that he saw an airplane "coming in for what we thought was a landing." The witness stated that the airplane "circled out of sight" and then he heard the engine "sputter then revup really high, we thought a plane was going to take off, so we stopped to watch the plane." The witness reported hearing the crash, followed by seeing an explosion.

The main wreckage was found in a soybean field approximately 1/3 nm south of the runway 9 threshold.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot was not instrument rated. FAA records show the pilot's last medical examination was completed on June 23, 2005, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate with the limitation "must have available glasses for near vision."

A majority of the pilot's flight logbook was consumed during the post-impact fire. The recoverable portions of the logbook were reviewed and any identifiable flight times were transposed into an exemplar logbook copy. The logbook date entries were completely destroyed by fire and FAA airmen and medical records were used to develop a general timeline for the logbook entries.

On May 15, 1987, the pilot was issued his first medical certificate while completing his initial pilot training. The medical application indicated that he had a total flight time of 10 hours, all of which were accumulated within the previous 6 months.

On October 13, 1987, the pilot was issued his private pilot certificate after successfully completing a FAA check ride. The pilot had a total flight time of 50 hours, which included 24 hours as pilot-in-command (PIC), 3 hours of night experience, and 2 hours of simulated instrument time.

The pilot's last logged night flight was included on a logbook page that listed his total PIC time as 112 hours. The pilot's calculated total flight time was 138 hours. The pilot had accumulated 17 hours of night experience, as indicated on the logbook page. The remaining logbook pages did not contain any additional night flight time.

On March 22, 1990, the pilot was issued his second medical certificate. The medical application indicated that he had a total flight time of 150 hours, of which 20 hours were accumulated within the previous 6 months.

On June 14, 2005, the pilot purchased the accident airplane. Between June 18 and July 11, 2005, the pilot received 7 hours of dual instruction during 6 flights. According to the flight instructor who provided the instruction, all of the flights were completed during daylight hours. On July 11, 2005, the pilot sucessfully completed a biennial flight review, as required by regulation 14 CFR Part 61.56.

On June 23, 2005, the pilot was issued his third and final medical certificate. The medical application indicated that he had a total flight time of 150 hours and that he had not flown within the previous 6 months.

On July 9, 2005, the pilot applied for an aviation insurance policy for the recently purchased airplane. The initial phone questionnaire indicated that his total flight time was 155 hours. The pilot completed the finalized insurance application package on July 29, 2005.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The accident airplane was a 1967 Piper PA-32-300, Cherokee Six, serial number 32-40328. The Cherokee Six is an all-metal airplane that incorporates a semimonocoque fuselage and empennage design. The airplane is equipped with fully cantilevered wings, wing flaps, a constant speed propeller, and a fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane is configured to seat six occupants and has a certified maximum takeoff weight of 3,400 lbs.

The accident airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on September 29, 1967. A review of the maintenance records showed that the airplane had undergone an annual inspection on September 10, 2004. The airplane had accumulated 7,089 hours total time in service at the time of the annual inspection. The last maintenance logbook entry was for an engine oil change completed on June 9, 2005. The airplane had accumulated 7,136 hours total time in service at the time of the oil change. The airplane's recording tachometer was destroyed by fire, which prevented the calculation of a total service time at the time of the accident.

The airplane was equipped with a 300 horsepower Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 engine, serial number L-13748-48A. The IO-540-K1A5 engine is a six-cylinder, 540 cubic-inch displacement, fuel injected, reciprocating engine. The engine was overhauled on April 12, 2001. The engine had accumulated 384 hours since major overhaul at the time of the last annual inspection. The propeller was a two bladed Hartzell HC-C2YK-1BF, serial number CH34858B. The propeller had accumulated 384 hours since overhaul at the time of the last annual inspection.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest weather reporting station to the accident site was located at the Grissom Air Reserve Base (GUS), Peru, Indiana, about 18 nm southwest of the accident site. The following weather conditions were reported five minutes before the accident:

At 2055 est: Wind 130 degrees true at 3 knots; visibility 6 sm with haze; sky clear; temperature 23 degrees Celsius; dew point 17 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.17 inches of mercury.

The sunset occurred at 1900 est and the end of civil twilight was at 1928 est, according to astronomical data provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory. The accident occurred at night with 41-percent of the moon's visible disk illuminated. The moonrise was at 1332 est, the moon reached its apex at 1801 est, and the moonset was at 2226 est.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The Wabash Municipal Airport (IWH) is located about 3 nautical miles (nm) south-southeast of Wabash, Indiana. The airport has two runways: 9/27 (4,401 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) and 18/36 (1,938 feet by 30 feet, asphalt). The general airport elevation is listed as 796 feet msl. Runway 9/27 is equipped with medium intensity runway lights (MIRL) which are activated from dusk to dawn. The default lighting was on the low intensity setting, but the lighting output could be increased by transmitting on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). Runway 9/27 is also equipped with runway end identifier lights (REIL), which were activated by transmitting on the CTAF. Airport personnel verified after the accident that the runway 9/27 runway lighting systems were operational.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The National Transportation Safety Board's on-scene investigation began on September 11, 2005.

A global positioning system (GPS) receiver was used to identify the position of the main wreckage as 40 degrees 45.373 minutes north latitude, 85 degrees 48.399 minutes west longitude. The main wreckage was located about 0.29 nm south of the runway 9 threshold. The general accident area was a flat, cultivated soybean field located near a farm residence. There were no obstructions noted in the general area of the accident site. The GPS elevation of the accident site was 791 feet msl.

The wreckage was surveyed using a GPS receiver, tape measure, and compass. The first evidence of ground contact was about 161 feet northwest of the main wreckage. The initial ground scar contained small pieces of red navigational lens material and the left wingtip navigation light cover. The wreckage debris path was about 161 feet long on a 145 degree magnetic heading. There was a ground impression 42.5 feet from the initial impact point that was consistent with the propeller impacting terrain.

The left wing was found about 125 feet from the initial impact point. The left wing had separated from the fuselage at the wing root. A majority of the left wing was destroyed by fire. The main landing gear remained attached to the wing. The left aileron remained attached to the outboard hinge. The majority of the left aileron was destroyed by fire. The aileron balance weight remained attached to the aileron. The aileron bellcrank assembly had separated from its attachment point. Aileron flight control continuity was verified from the left aileron bellcrank to the wing root. The flight control cables for the left aileron were examined and all separations were consistent with overload. A rivet bucking bar was found lying on the aft spar between the inboard and outboard flap brackets. The left flap remained attached to the inboard and middle flap brackets. A majority of the left flap was destroyed by fire.

The main wreckage consisted of the engine, fuselage, right wing, and empennage. The main wreckage was located about 161 feet from the initial point of impact. The entire fuselage was destroyed by fire. The only identifiable fuselage components remaining were of steel construction. All seats had separated from their respective attachment points. The instrument panel was destroyed by fire. The altimeter's Kollsman window read 30.15 inches of mercury. The fuel selector had separated from the fuselage and was found positioned on the left main fuel tank. The flap handle had separated from its attachment point and was found positioned in a fully retracted position. The control column and rudder bar had separated from their respective positions. The empennage had separated from the fuselage at the dorsal fin area. The separation area was consumed by fire. The vertical stabilizer sustained minor damage and the rudder remained attached. The rudder stops were in-place and were undamaged. Rudder control cable continuity was established to the cockpit rudder bar. The left side of the stabilator was not damaged. The outboard 24 inches of the right stabilator was bent upwards. The stabilator stops were in-place and were undamaged. Stabilator control cable continuity was established to the cockpit 'T-bar.' The trim tab remained attached to the stabilator. The stabilator trim cable drum displayed 3-4 threads, consistent with a nose down setting. The rudder and stabilator cables were cut to facilitate wreckage recovery.

The right wing was found resting inverted next to the fuselage. The right wing had separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The right wing exhibited minor fire damage and was relatively undamaged. The main landing gear remained attached to the wing. The aileron remained attached to the wing. The aileron balance weight remained attached to the aileron. Aileron flight control continuity was verified from the right aileron to the wing root. The right aileron control cable was separated at the wing root and was consistent with overload. The aileron balance cable was cut to facilitate wreckage recovery. The right flap remained attached to the wing. The flap push-pull rod remained attached to the control surface and the flap torque tube. The flap torque tube had separated from the fuselage.

The engine remained partially attached to its mount assembly and the fuselage firewall. Internal engine continuity was confirmed as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders as the engine crankshaft was rotated. The left and right magnetos were destroyed by fire. The spark plugs were removed and their electrodes exhibited normal wear. All cylinders were inspected with a lighted boroscope and no discrepancies were noted. The vacuum pump was disassembled and the pump vanes and rotor were intact. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange. Both propeller blades were loose in the propeller hub assembly. The propeller blade surfaces exhibited chordwise scratching and leading edge abrasion. One propeller blade exhibited an S-shape spanwise bend. The other propeller blade was bent aft.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on September 11, 2005, at the Wabash County Hospital.

Toxicology samples for the pilot were submitted to the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology results were negative for all tests conducted.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

According to 14 CFR Part 61.57(b) (Recent Flight Experience):

No person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise.

According to FAA Advisory Circular AC 60-4A (Pilot's Spatial Disorientation):

The attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface. If neither horizon nor surface references exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Sight, supported by other senses, allows the pilot to maintain orientation. However, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation.

Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above visual flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or surface reference is common on overwater flights, at night, and especially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas, or in low visibility conditions. A sloping cloud formation, an obscured horizon, a dark scene spread with ground lights and stars, and certain geometric patterns of ground lights can provide inaccurate visual information for aligning the aircraft correctly with the actual horizon. The disoriented pilot may place the aircraft in a dangerous attitude.

The wreckage was released on September 11, 2005, to the owner of a fixed base operator loca

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