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N8955J accident description

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Tail numberN8955J
Accident dateJuly 11, 2001
Aircraft typePiper PA-28-180
LocationWest Lafayette, IN
Near 40.467778 N, -86.946666 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 11, 2001, at 0015 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N8955J, operated by Indy Aero, Inc., sustained substantial damage when it impacted a field and trees during a forced landing near West Lafayette, Indiana. The private pilot received fatal injuries. Witnesses reported hearing the airplane flying at a low altitude when the engine quit. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight had departed Mount Comfort Airport (MQJ), Greenfield, Indiana, approximately 2115, July 10, 2001. The airplane was not on a flight plan and no record of a weather brief was reported. The destination airport is unknown. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

A witness reported the pilot had arrived at the MQJ about 2100. The pilot was observed getting in N8955J and taxiing for takeoff on an unscheduled flight. N8955J was observed flying in the local traffic pattern. The witness observed the airplane make one full stop landing and takeoff, and a low approach before departing the pattern.

A hand-held aviation Garmin GPS III was found in the "ON" position at the site of the accident. The recorded track data indicated N8955J flew north from the Mt. Comfort area to Wabash, Indiana. It then proceeded east to the Logansport, Indiana, area, before turning southeast toward Lafayette, Indiana. The track data indicated about 2 hours and 18 minutes elapsed during the portion of the flight recorded by the GPS. The GPS did not provide altitude readouts.

A deputy of the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department reported that at 0015 he observed an airplane flying about 300 feet above the ground near the intersection of McCormick Road and Highway 52W near West Lafayette, Indiana. He reported, "I observed what appeared to be an airplane flying in a north west direction at a low altitude. It appeared as the airplane was losing altitude. I lost sight of the airplane behind some trees at a distance. At that time I did not hear engine noise from an airplane. After several seconds passed I heard a loud crashing noise. The crashing noise came from an area that would have been consistent with the path of the airplane. I observed the area to see if I could see the airplane flying around, but I did not see it anywhere in the sky."

A ground search and an aerial helicopter search for the airplane was conducted. The airplane wreckage was found about 0700 on July 11, 2001.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. He held a Third Class Medical Certificate that was issued on August 6, 1999. The pilot reported his total flight time was 1,250 hours during his last medical examination.

The operator of the airplane reported that the pilot had started working as an airplane salesman for him on April 30, 2001.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a single engine Piper PA-28-180, serial number 28-2976. The airplane seated four and had a maximum gross weight of 2,450 pounds. The engine was a 180 horsepower Lycoming O-360-A3A engine. The last annual inspection was conducted on June 26, 2001. The airplane had flown 18 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of 3,320 hours. The airplane fuel tanks held 48 gallons of useable fuel.

Operator records indicated the airplane was last refueled with 30.2 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel on July 7, 2001. The operator reported the airplane had flown about 1 hour between when it was refueled on July 7 and the time when the accident flight departed on July 11. The operator records did not indicate that the airplane had been topped off with fuel after the 1 hour of flight time.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 2354, the observed weather at Purdue University Airport (LAF), Lafayette, Indiana, located about 4.5 miles from the accident site, was: winds 030 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 8,000 feet, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 19 degrees C, altimeter 29.86.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was located in a tree line at the north end of an open field about 3,500 feet north of Highway 52 and 2,500 feet west of Morehouse Road in West Lafayette, Indiana. The initial impact point was in the open field. The main wreckage was located about 68 feet and on a 030 magnetic heading from the initial impact point. The airplane wreckage was lodged in trees with the nose of the airplane heading to the southeast and in about a 45 degrees nose down attitude. The engine, cabin, right wing, and tail cone remained attached. The left wing had separated from the fuselage and was found behind and to the right of the airplane. The wreckage diagram of the accident provided by the Tippecanoe Sheriff's Department indicated there was a "deep impact gouge" in the center of initial impact point, and "wing impressions" on the left and right side of the deep impact gouge. Miscellaneous debris and matted down grass were observed along the wreckage path.

The right wing revealed crushing and buckling on the bottom side of the leading edge along the entire span of the wing. The remaining wing was intact. The left wing had separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The left wing revealed crushing and buckling on the bottom side of the leading edge along the entire span of the wing. The tailcone and empennage remained attached to the fuselage and were intact. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the control surfaces to the flight controls. Less than one gallon of fuel was found in the left and right fuel tanks.

The engine remained attached to the fuselage but it was broken from its engine mounts. No fuel was found in the engine fuel lines, fuel pump, or carburetor bowl. The engine rotated and continuity was confirmed to the valve train and gear train. Thumb compression and suction was observed in all cylinders. Both magnetos produced spark when rotated.

Both propeller blades remained attached to the crankshaft flange. One blade was found bent aft under the engine. The other blade was slightly bent aft. The blades did not exhibit any leading edge dents or gouging, and there was no chordwise scratching evident.

Emergency responders to the accident reported the pilot's seat belt was found unbuckled. They reported that a 750 ml bottle of vodka was found in the cockpit with about 1/4 of it gone.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed at the Tippecanoe County Morque, West Lafayette, Indiana, on July 11, 2001.

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The report concerning the pilot indicated the following results:

No carbon monoxide detected in blood.

No cyanide detected in blood.

Volatiles:

398 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in blood.

405 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in vitreous.

259 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in brain.

1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde detected in blood.

2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde detected in vitreous.

3 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde detected in brain.

1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in blood.

1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in vitreous.

Drugs:

0.049 (ug/mL, ug/g) sertraline detected in blood.

0.042 (mg/dL, mg/hg) desmethysertraline detected in blood.

Setraline detected in liver.

Desmethylsertraline detected in liver.

In most states, the legal limit for presumed intoxication is 0.08 - 0.10 percent by weight or more alcohol in the blood. Sertraline (trade name Zoloft) is a prescription antidepressant, also used in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

FAA regulations concerning alcohol and drug usage state in 14 CFR Part 91.17, the following information:

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft -

(1)Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage; (2) While under the influence of alcohol; (3) While using any drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety; (4) While having 0.04 percent by weight or more alcohol in the blood. Parties to the investigation included the FAA, Textron Lycoming, and the New Piper Aircraft Company.

The airplane wreckage was released to Indy Aero Services, Inc. The Garmin GPS was released to the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office for return to the pilot's family.

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