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N3040A accident description

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Tail numberN3040A
Accident dateOctober 09, 1998
Aircraft typePiper PA-44-180
LocationHowell, MI
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 9, 1998, at 1530 eastern daylight time (edt), a Piper PA-44-180, N3040A, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed during a collision with the ground and post-impact fire. Witnesses reported the airplane did a go-around while over the approach threshold of runway 31 (4,300' X 75' dry asphalt) at the Livingston County Airport, Howell, Michigan. The witnesses said the airplane yawed left and right while pitched up and then rolled to the left becoming inverted and nosed down. They said the airplane descended vertically until it collided with the ground. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 positioning flight was not operating on a flight plan. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed Terre Haute, Indiana, about 1330 edt.

A pilot at the accident airport said he heard "...a pilot announce: 'Livingston, downwind 31, engine out." A flight instructor at the airport said he saw a Piper "...Warrior rolling out after landing and at the same time I also spotted the Seminole [N3040A] passing overhead the Warrior by about 100 feet." The flight instructor continued, "...the Seminole was nose high and flying about 60 to 70 knots, it was wallowing and not gaining altitude or airspeed... . The Seminole drifted to the right of the runway, slightly right wing down and gained about 50 additional feet. The plane stalled, dropped the left wing and turned vertically nose down. The plane hit nearly straight down... ." Other witnesses confirmed what the flight instructor said.

According to the Livingston County Sheriff's Department, Howell, Michigan, report, a pilot in an airplane flying near the accident airport said he " . . . saw the plane [as] it was heading west toward an airport approach, and didn't look like it had any problems. He noted that both props were turning."

Pilot-qualified witnesses reported the airplane's left engine's propeller was stopped. They said the landing gear was extended and the flaps were partially extended.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to the pilot's logbook, the pilot had a total time of 1,081.8 hours and 487.7 hours of multi-engine time as of October 4, 1998. He obtained his multi-engine rating on December 10, 1990. The logbook showed he obtained his multi-engine flight instructor certificate on November 27, 1996. At that time the logbook showed he had 439.9 hours of multi-engine time and 27.4 hours flight time in the Piper PA-44-180. The pilot's logbook showed his next flight in the PA-44-180 was on September 23, 1998. This logbook entry showed he flew the accident airplane for 1.5 hours. There were no comments in the remark's section of the logbook entry.

The logbook shows the pilot had flown a Piper PA-31T 7.8 hours and .8 hour on November 6, 1997, and May 7, 1998, respectively. There were no other logbook entries showing the pilot had logged multi-engine flight time between November 27, 1996, and September 23, 1998. According to the logbook, the pilot had flown various makes and models of Cessna and Piper single engine airplanes since November 27, 1996, and the accident date.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

N3040A's total time was 5,192.6 hours on October 8, 1998. The airplane records were partially burnt. The annual inspection date was not complete because the page was partially burnt. The logbook page showed N3040A had its annual inspection during 1998. At that time the logbook showed, "Time since overhaul Tach Time: 1,890.0 [hours]."

The left and right engines' serial numbers were L-200-77 and L- 176-72 respectively. According to the left engine's logbook, it's annual inspection was completed on August 13, 1998. At that time its total time was 1,890.0 hours and it had 1,094.9 hours total time since it was overhauled. The right engine's logbook showed it had same number of hours total time and since it was overhauled as the left engine. This information was on the burnt page that had the same airframe and powerplant mechanic with inspection authorization (IA) number as found on the left engine's logbook page. The same IA number was found on the airframe logbook page with the 1998 annual inspection date.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was about 450 feet north-northeast of runway 31's departure end about 75 feet south of the "T" hangars on the airports north side. N3040A's wreckage heading was about 280 degrees magnetic.

N3040A's nose section had separated from the airframe and had aft crush damage on its forward end. N3040A's airframe was destroyed by fire from the nose bulkhead aft to the vertical stabilizer and between the left and right engine nacelles. The left wing was destroyed by fire between the engine's nacelle and midspan of the wing's outboard section. The wing's leading edge was crushed aft about 1/8 of the wing's chord. The right wing's leading edge near the root area next to the right nacelle's outboard side was crushed toward the wingtip. Chordwise fire damage was observed along this entire wing section.

Both propellers had separated from their engines at their respective crankshaft flanges. The right propeller was about three feet in front of its engine. The left propeller was about five feet in front of its engine. The crankshaft flanges remained attached to the propeller assemblies. The flanges separated, surfaces' had a grainy texture and their edges had shear lips.

Both right propeller blades had chordwise scratching on the top surface of the blades. One blade was bent aft about 45 degrees at the 1/4 span location inboard of its tip. The second propeller blade was bowed forward about 10 degrees from its midspan point. One blade was found in a low blade angle/high RPM setting. The second blade was in a position similar to being "feathered." This blade had a gouge on its hub area that matched the damage found on the respective blade. About two inches of the blade's tip was missing. Gouges were observed along this blade's leading edge. The spinner was flattened on one side.

The left propeller was in the feathered position. One blade was bent aft about 10 degrees at the midspan location. The second blade was straight. The spinner was flattened on one side.

The right main landing gear had separated from the airframe at the oleo strut shaft location. The assembly was found about two feet aft of the right engine's nacelle remains. The separated end of the strut was bent aft about five degrees. The edges of the separated metal had shear lips on it. The left main landing gear leg had separated from the airframe at its oleo strut location. It was found under the trailing edge of the left wing's nacelle. The over-center arms were in the extended/locked position. The nose landing gear assembly was found in the wreckage of the forward fuselage. The nose landing gear doors were found in the open position.

Flight control continuity for all three axises was established. The left engine tachometer showed about 300 RPM and its manifold pressure was about 32.50 inches of mercury. The right engine tachometer showed about 700 RPM and its manifold pressure was about 28.50 inches of mercury.

The right engine was disassembled due to inadequate grip area to rotate it to check for mechanical continuity. Upon its disassembly no mechanical anomalies were found that would prevent it from running. The propeller governor control arm was resting on its high RPM stop. The arm was moved to its fullest extend without any binding. The starter Bendix drive engagement was in the retracted, or non-extended, position. The oil and oil finger screen were debris-free.

The left engine examination revealed it had thumb compression on four cylinders. The spark plugs were a grey color and were not corroded. The propeller governor arm was about 3/16 inch aft of its high RPM stop. The arm moved to its fullest travel without any binding. The starter Bendix drive engagement was extended. Debris was not observed in the governor oil or filter screen. The magnetos were fire damaged and could not be tested. The engine's fuel pump functioned when the actuating arm was moved by hand. The pump's diaphragm was heat damaged. Examination of the oil filter's element revealed no contamination. The engine's oil finger screen was crushed. The throttle arm was at the mid-range on the carburetor. The mixture control was about the 3/4 rich setting on the carburetor.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The pilot's autopsy was conducted on October 10, 1998, at the McPherson Hospital, Howell, Michigan. The pilot's toxicological examination was conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration's Research Laboratory at the Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report was negative except one (mg/dL, mg/hg) Acetaldehyde detected in the blood sample.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

N3040A's flight was a delivery flight to its new owner, the accident pilot's employer. A representative of the airplane's new owner, American Flight Technology Center, said she had told "Both instructors... to pick up the aircraft and return directly to Pontiac Airport. No diversions to other airports were suggested or authorized." Before departing on the delivery flight the accident pilot flew N3040A with another pilot associated with N3040A's seller. The pilot said, "We climbed to 5500 feet and... he did turns... a power off stall straight ahead, and a Vmc demo. I felt he did the airwork OK. He did the Vmc demo correctly but didn't carry it through to the point of losing yaw control. The airspeed was indicating about 60 when he said 'that's it' and recovered, I don't believe he had full rudder into the good engine." The observer said the pilot "...seemed well pleased with the aircraft and also pleased and confident with his own performance. I wouldn't say he was cocky... but perhaps a little more satisfied with his proficiency than I would have expected."

The wife of the accident pilot was interviewed by a Livingston County Sheriff's Department detective. His report showed that the wife said "...her husband had mentioned to her that they also planned to go by Livingston County Airport on the way back, to conduct some engine tests." The detective's report said the pilot's wife "...advised that her husband frequently flew out to the Livingston County Airport when instructing students...[and] used to work out of [that airport] prior to moving to his position at American flight Technology Center."

According to the manager of the company that owned N3040A, "Both instructors were told earlier in the week, when setting up the trip [to pick up N3040A], to pick up the aircraft and return directly to Pontiac Airport. No deviations to other airports were suggested or authorized."

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