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N1762J accident description

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Tail numberN1762J
Accident dateApril 19, 1998
Aircraft typePiper PA-28-140
LocationKalamazoo, MI
Additional details: None

NTSB description

History of Flight

On April 19, 1998, at 2209 eastern daylight time (All times EDT), a Piper PA-28-140, N1762J, operated by St. Joe Flying Club, was destroyed when it impacted the terrain after takeoff. The 14 CFR Part 91 airplane had departed runway 5 at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), Kalamazoo, Michigan, on a local flight. The airplane impacted a taxiway about 150 yards from the departure end of the runway. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

A witness reported that the pilot departed the Three Rivers Airport (HAI), Three Rivers, Michigan, at approximately 2100, and flew to AZO about 25 miles to the north.

At 2120, N1762J reported to the AZO tower controller that he was 2.5 miles from the airport with information "Victor."

The ATIS information Victor reported the following information: Winds 240 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky scattered at 6,500 feet, ceiling at 9,000 feet broken, temperature was 11 degrees C, dew point 4 degrees C, altimeter 30.03, visual approaches in use landing and departing runway 35.

At 2126, N1762J was cleared to land on runway 5.

At 2128, the tower cleared N1762J to taxi to Kal-Aero, a local fixed base operator (FBO) that was located adjacent to the approach end of runway 5.

Witnesses reported that the pilot waited in the lobby at Kal-Aero for his passengers to arrive. The Kal-Aero receptionist reported that three passengers, two men and a woman, arrived at 2145. She reported the pilot and passengers went out to the airplane. The receptionist reported she closed and locked the lobby of Kal-Aero at 2205. She reported the pilot and passengers had not yet boarded the airplane when she left.

At 2206:14, N1762J radioed the AZO clearance delivery, "Kalamazoo Clearance, Cherokee One Seven Six Two Juliet with information Whiskey. Would like to go up and do a traffic pattern touch and go, real quick."

The ATIS information Whiskey reported the following information: Winds 250 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 9,500 feet, temperature was 9 degrees C, dew point 4 degrees C, altimeter 30.04, visual approaches in use landing and departing runway 35.

At 2206:25, the tower cleared N1762J to taxi to runway 5 for takeoff.

At 2206:29, N1762J responded, "Taxi to 5 for Six Two Juliet. Thanks."

At 2207:34, N1762J reported, "And Kalamazoo Tower, Cherokee Six Two Juliet ready to go on 5."

At 2207:38, the tower reported, "Cherokee Six Two Juliet, the winds 270 at 3, runway 5. Make right traffic. Cleared for takeoff."

At 2207:44, N1762J responded, "And we're right traffic, Six Two Juliet."

There no further transmissions from N1762J.

At 2209:16, the sound of an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was heard.

A witness reported the airplane became airborne after it had passed the runway 17/35 and runway 05/23 intersection. The witness reported seeing the airplane lift off and climb to approximately 250 to 300 feet. The witness reported the airplane rolled to the left and then went straight down. The witness reported the airplane sounded normal during takeoff and climb. The witness reported the engine noise sounded, "...like it was going to cut out and quit..." when the airplane rolled to the left.

A witness who was located about 1/4 mile from the departure end of runway 5 reported watching the airplane during takeoff. The witness reported the airplane's engine noise sounded like it was "straining" or "under a heavy load" during takeoff. The witness reported the airplane was climbing with it landing light on, and was approximately 250 to 300 feet when it made a sudden, hard left bank. The airplane then went nose down at a sharp angle. The witness reported he did not remember hearing the engine after the hard left bank.

A witness reported seeing heavy black smoke after impact, and 2 to 3 seconds later saw the airplane engulfed in flames.

Personnel Information

The pilot was a private pilot with a single engine land rating. He held a first class medical certificate. He had a total of about 192 hours of flight time. It was estimated the pilot had about 57 hours of flight time in the accident airplane since January 15, 1998, when he became a member of the flying club that owned and operated the airplane. The pilot had flown the airplane about 15 hours since the airplane had its last annual maintenance inspection.

Aircraft Information

The airplane was a single engine Piper Cherokee, PA-28-140. The airplane seated four and had a maximum certified gross weight of 2,150 pounds. The original Lycoming 150 horsepower O-320-E series engine had been replaced with a Lycoming 160 horsepower O-320-D2A engine. The last annual inspection was conducted on March 29, 1998. The airplane had flown 16 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of about 4,242 hours.

The airplane's basic weight was 1314.2 pounds with an arm of 84.75inches. Witnesses reported the airplane had been refueled and topped off prior to the pilot's flight from Three Rivers Airport to AZO, which brought the total fuel on board to approximately 50 gallons. The flight time between the two airports was about 20 minutes. The engine consumed approximately 10 gallons per hour. The fuel load at takeoff from AZO was estimated to be about 45 gallons or 270 pounds.

The combined weight of the pilot and the three passengers was about 730 pounds. At the time of departure of the accident flight, the airplane weight was calculated to be 2,314 pounds at a CG of 91.76 inches. The airplane's published maximum gross weight is 2,150 pounds and the CG limits of 84.0 to 95.9 inches. At the time of the accident, the airplane exceeded the maximum gross weight by approximately 164 pounds. The calculated CG was within the published limits at 91.76 inches.

Meteorological Conditions

At 2153, weather conditions reported at AZO were VFR with winds at 250 at 4 knots, 10 miles visibility, few clouds at 9,500 feet, temperature 9 degrees C., dew point 4 degrees C., and altimeter 30.04.

Wreckage Information

The airplane impacted the northern taxiway that paralleled runway 5 and was about 150 yards from the departure end of runway 5. Pieces of the left wingtip were found at the first impact mark on the south side of the taxiway. Eighteen feet from the first impact mark was an impression on the taxiway made by the nose of the airplane as it impacted the taxiway.

An impression was made in the taxiway's asphalt that was curved and in the shape of a very shallow "U." The asphalt had been scraped from the north side of the impression and transferred to the south side of the impression. The scrape was shallow on the north side of the impression and approximately 0.5 inch deep on the south side of the impression.

Oil and fuel residue was evident on the taxiway in the area where the nose of the airplane had impacted. Scrape marks and red paint transfer marks on a 340 degree heading were evident on the taxiway between the "U" shaped impression and nose impact marks, and the north side of the taxiway.

The propeller had separated from the propeller flange and was found on the north edge of the taxiway on a 310 degree heading from the first impact mark.

The main wreckage was located about 36 feet from the north edge of the taxiway on a 340 degree heading from the initial impact. The airplane was inverted and the nose of the airplane was heading about 180 degrees.

The airplane had sustained post crash fire and impact damage. The airplane's cockpit and fuselage were destroyed by fire. The outboard sections of the left and right wings had leading edge crush damage. The right wing exhibited aft leading edge crushing throughout its span. The left wing area exhibited diagonal aft crushing from the tip to about mid-span. The empennage was intact, except for the fire damaged vertical stabilizer, and did not exhibit ground impact damage.

All flight controls remained attached to the airplane. Continuity of the flight control system was established. The flap mechanism was between the full up and the 10 degree flap position detent. The stabilator trim drum jack screw had ten exposed threads which equated to tab down, nose up trim.

The engine had sustained post crash fire and impact damage. The fuel lines, gascolator, and fuel pump were destroyed by fire. The oil cooler and lines were destroyed by fire. The propeller flange was bent due to impact damage. The crankshaft could not be rotated. The magnetos drive gears did exhibit rotation. Both magnetos produced spark when hand rotated.

The propeller hub and propeller flange studs and short bushing exhibited elongated holes and bent and twisted studs. The propeller blades had extensive chordwise scratches on the chamber side of the blades. The leading edge of the blades exhibited extensive nicks and gouges. The blades exhibited torsional twisting and were bent aft.

Medical and Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed on the pilot and the Metropolitan Hospital, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The toxicology results were negative.

Additional Information

The pilot had become a member of the flying club that operated the airplane in January of 1998. The airplane was equipped for instrument training and a witness reported that the pilot often practiced instrument flying in the airplane. The pilot's entries in his flight logbook also indicated that he had been practicing flying instrument approaches.

The manager of the fixed base operator at Three Rivers Airport reported that the airplane had flown the previous day. Prior to putting the airplane back in the hangar, the airplane was fueled with 9.3 gallons of fuel. The manager reported the tanks were "topped off," and not just fueled to the tabs.

The airplane's next flight was the flight from Three Rivers Airport to Kalamazoo.

The lineman at Kal-Aero in AZO reported that he saw the airplane taxi to Kal-Aero's ramp for parking. The lineman reported that he recognized the pilot. The lineman reported, "The purpose of the flight was to give his friends a quick ride as I had often seen him do for many other people before."

A witness reported that the airplane did not get airborne until after passing the runway 17/35 and runway 05/23 intersection. Runway 5 is 3,999 feet long. The runway 17/35 intersection is located approximately 2664 to 3108 feet from the approach end of runway 5.

The reported winds at takeoff were 250 degrees at 4 knots. The airplane departed with a 4 knot left quartering tailwind.

Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration and the New Piper Aircraft Company.

The wreckage was released to the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport authority.

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