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N324ST accident description

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Tail numberN324ST
Accident dateMarch 24, 2007
Aircraft typePiper PA-32R-301
LocationJacksonville, MD
Near 39.503333 N, -76.555278 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On March 24, 2007, about 0919 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-301, N324ST, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Jacksonville, Maryland. The certificated private pilot, and the two passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Harford County Airport (0W3), Churchville, Maryland, about 0906, destined for Virginia Highlands Airport (VJI), Abingdon, Virginia. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to preliminary radar and voice data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after departure from 0W3, and while climbing through 4,000 feet msl, the pilot reported an autopilot problem and requested clearance to divert to Frederick, Maryland. Shortly afterward, the airplane completed 2 ½ left hand orbits at varying altitudes until radar and radio contact was lost.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on December 12, 2006. He reported 575 total hours of flight experience on that date.

The airplane was manufactured in 2006. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on March 1, 2007. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued 74.9 total hours of operation.

The wreckage was located in a residential area approximately 17 miles west of 0W3.

Examination on site revealed that all major components of the airplane were located at the accident site. After impacting trees, the airplane came to rest on a magnetic heading of 216 degrees. An approximately 3-foot deep by 10-foot long crater existed beneath the main wreckage. An 85-foot long debris field, oriented on a magnetic heading of 212 degrees was present. Multiple portions of tree limbs, exhibiting cut marks consistent with propeller strikes, were spread throughout the area.

The engine and propeller remained attached to the airplane but were buried below ground level. All three-propeller blades exhibited evidence of rotation. One blade was separated from the propeller hub approximately 1-inch outboard of the blade grip. The crankshaft was rotated through an accessory drive, and thumb compression was noted on all six cylinders. Continuity of the intake system, exhaust system, valve train, and crankshaft were confirmed. Operation of the engine driven fuel pump was confirmed. All spark plugs were removed, and the electrodes were intact and light gray in color. All six cylinders were examined internally with a lighted borescope, and no anomalies were observed. Both magnetos were impact damaged, but exhibited no evidence of preimpact malfunction. The oil suction and oil pressure screens were absent of debris and oil was noted in all rocker boxes.

All passenger entry and baggage door latches were in the closed position. Both the landing gear and the flaps were in the up position. The fuel selector valve was in the left tank position. The standby attitude indicator indicated a 60-degree right bank, a 20-degree nose down pitch attitude, and evidence of rotational scoring internally. The barometric scale on the standby altimeter indicated 29.65 inches of mercury. The airspeed indicator was off-scale above 215 knots.

Both wings were separated from their mounting locations and exhibited fracturing and various degrees of crush damage. The wing flaps and ailerons exhibited multiple breaks and separations and were spread throughout the debris field.

The vertical stabilizer and rudder panel remained attached to their fittings. The left and right portions of the stabilator were fragmented. The center portion of the stabilator, portions of the right side anti-servo tab, and stabilator actuation mechanism remained attached to the aft fuselage.

The pitch trim jackscrew was found in the full nose-down position, however; no preimpact failures or disconnects of the primary flight control system were discovered. Control continuity was established from the stabilator control mechanism to the control wheel pitch actuating mechanism; the rudder pedals to the rudder panel, and from the ailerons to the broken ends of the control cables, which exhibited evidence of tensile overload.

The airplane was retained by the Safety Board for further examination.

The reported weather at Martin State Airport (MTN), Baltimore, Maryland, approximately 26 nautical miles southeast of the accident site, at 0918, included: wind 020 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 3 miles, scattered clouds at 800 feet, broken clouds at 2,400 feet, temperature 46 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.36 inches of mercury.

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