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N14255 accident description

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Tail numberN14255
Accident dateSeptember 13, 1997
Aircraft typePiper PA-18-150
LocationEthel, LA
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 13, 1997, at 0220 central daylight time, a Piper PA-18-150 tailwheel equipped airplane, N14255, owned by J. T. Howell and Son LLC, of Jackson, Louisiana, and flown by a private individual, struck trees while maneuvering near Ethel, Louisiana. The non certificated pilot received fatal injuries, the passenger received minor injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed from a private unlit sod airstrip near Jackson, Louisiana, approximately 20 minutes before the accident.

During a personal interview, conducted by the IIC, and on the enclosed statement, the passenger reported that the pilot was maneuvering the airplane around a friend's house. The passenger stated that it was during the second turn around that the airplane hit the trees and descended to the ground. The passenger was seated in the aft seat.

During personal interviews, conducted by the IIC and on the enclosed statement, the friend whose house the pilot circled, reported that he talked to the pilot earlier in the day and again about 2145. This friend confirmed that the pilot was going to work cattle until about 1900, then go to the another friend's house for dinner, and then go hunting for hog.

During personal interviews, conducted by the IIC, the owner of the house stated that his son and the pilot were close friends; however, his son was not home at the time of the accident. Between 0130 and 0230 the land owner heard what he thought was his son coming home. When the dogs continued to bark, the land owner went outside and saw a person standing out by the barn. This person identified himself as the passenger from the airplane that had struck trees and crashed in the owner's field. The passenger told the land owner the name of the pilot. The land owner assisted the passenger and called 911 at 0230. Local authorities responded to the scene.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

During personal interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge (IIC), local authorities and associates reported that the estate farm and cattle business had been worked by the grandfather, son, and grandson (pilot) for several generations. The pilot was born November 14, 1973, and began flying at a young age with his grandfather and father on the family estate. After the death of his father, the pilot often flew with his cousin. Pilot certificates were held by the grandfather, the father, and the cousin. The cousin's mother was executor of the estate, and this aunt had often encouraged the pilot to take flying lessons to get his pilot certificate; however, there was no evidence that the pilot was taking flight lessons. On the night of the accident, the pilot had gone to a friend's home about 1900 where he had a couple of alcoholic drinks and dinner. He departed the friends home about 2200 to go hog hunting.

A review of FAA records did not reveal any evidence that the 23 years old pilot held or had ever held a pilot certificate or a medical certificate.

The IIC estimated the pilot's flight time at 371 hours. This estimate was based on a total aircraft time of 1,215 hours divided by years (23) of aircraft ownership for an average 53 hours per year times the number of years since the pilot reached the age of 16 (53 X 7 =371). Under Title 14 CFR Part 61, a person may solo an aircraft at the age of 16.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The grandfather had purchased the airplane in 1974 to be used for cattle spotting and crop survey work at the estate. The Piper PA-18-150 aircraft was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on February 4, 1974. The airplane was registered to the current owner on March 27, 1994. A review of the maintenance records, by the IIC, revealed no evidence of any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects. The last annual inspection was performed on November 15, 1996.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane impacted trees and terrain before coming to rest, in a cattle pasture, on a measured magnetic heading of 220 degrees, 200 feet from the impact tree line. Numerous tree branches were found near the base of the trees and along the wreckage distribution path. Ground scars, consistent with the leading edge width of the right wing, were found from the initial ground impact point (149 feet from the tree line) to the final resting point of the airplane. See the wreckage diagram for additional details.

The left wing displayed several torn fabric areas consistent with the diameter of the tree branches. The fabric covering the left wing was ripped in numerous places along the outboard bottom surface of the wing. The wing was separated from the airframe at the forward wing attachment point. The front left strut was buckled upward through the bottom of the wing inboard of the outboard attachment point. Both left wing lift struts were attached at the wing and fuselage attachment points. Tree leaves were found stuck in the fuselage strut attachment points.

The right wing leading edge was folded aft and exhibited torn fabric areas along the leading edge, and the upper and lower wing areas. Both lift struts were attached to the wing and fuselage attachment points. The wing was separated from both fuselage attachment points.

Flight control continuity was established to the ailerons. The lower cabin door was unlatched, separated, and found beneath the forward fuselage. The right front seat frame was bent to the right. The fuselage was twisted to the right. The upper cabin plexiglass separated from the airframe and was found along the wreckage distribution path. The integrity of the fuel system lines was compromised. The fuel selector was found on the left tank.

The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator exhibited crushing at the outboard area. All elevator hinge points were secure. The elevator and the rudder control cables were secure, control stops in place, and cable continuity was established to the control stick and the rudder pedals, respectively.

The left wing tip navigation light bulb was examined and the filament was found broken and stretched. The filaments in the landing light bulbs were examined and one was found broken, the other appeared intact. No filament stretching was noted in either landing light bulb. The empennage navigation light bulb was removed and examined with no filament stretching or breaking noted. The cockpit instrument flood light bulb was examined and no filament stretching or breaking was noted.

The 4 cylinder Lycoming engine was removed from the airframe and examined. Continuity and compression were established for all the cylinders. Fuel was found in the Marvel Schebler (model MA-4SPA, serial number A38-17787) carburetor and the gascolator. Fuel was noted from the accelerator pump when worked. The muffler was crushed. The #1 cylinder exhaust pipe was crushed, and the #3 cylinder intake and exhaust pipes were crushed. The left Bendix magneto, model S4LN-21 sparked at 3 of the 4 posts. The number 3 post had impact damage. The right Bendix magneto (model S4LN-20) sparked at all posts. The top spark plugs showed normal wear. No pre-existing deficiencies were noted and the examination of the engine produced no evidence that the engine was not capable of operating and producing power prior to the accident.

The Sensenich propeller (part number 74DM6-O-56, serial number K35893) showed one propeller blade bent aft approximately 90 degrees near mid-span. The second propeller blade was bent forward approximately 10 degrees. Nicks were noted along the leading edges of the blades.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The autopsy was performed by Dr. E. M. Laga at the Richardson Funeral Home, at Clinton, Louisiana. Attached to the autopsy report was a toxicological test performed by Acadiana Medical Laboratories (AML) at Lafayette, Louisiana. The AML toxicological findings were positive for ethyl alcohol (180 mg/dL) (BAC 0.18% W/V).

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, performed toxicological testing for the Louisiana State Police. The toxicological test for the pilot was positive for an "ethyl alcohol level of 0.20 grams percent[age]" in the blood.

Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicological findings for the non certificated pilot were positive for ethanol (alcohol). According to Dr. Canfield, CAMI, "the 189.00 (mg/dL, mg/hg)(.189%) ethanol detected in blood, 181.000 (mg.dL, mg/hg)(.181%) ethanol detected in vitreous fluid, and 251.000 (mg/dL, mg/hg)(.251%) ethanol detected in urine, indicate recent ingestion of alcohol. In his opinion, these levels of ethanol would cause impairment of the pilot." See the toxicological report for details.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The airplane was released to the executor of the estate.

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