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N232HC accident description

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Tail numberN232HC
Accident dateJune 12, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-32R-301
LocationCarthage, MS
Near 32.687222 N, -89.686666 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 12, 2003, about 1124 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-301, N232HC, registered to Acme Paper Box Company, Inc., experienced in-flight separation of both sides of the horizontal stabilator and left wing while descending near Carthage, Mississippi. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight from the Anderson Municipal Airport-Darlington Field, Anderson, Indiana, to the Lakefront Airport, New Orleans, Louisiana. The airplane was destroyed and the private-rated pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The flight originated about 0739 central standard time from Anderson Municipal Airport-Darlington Field.

According to a transcription of communications with the Kankakee, Illinois, Automated Flight Service Station (Kankakee AFSS), on the day of the accident at 0652:27, a person using the call sign of the accident airplane contacted the flight service station and requested a standard weather briefing for a flight from Anderson, Indiana, to New Orleans, Louisiana. The briefing specialist (briefer) questioned whether the flight would be conducted under visual flight rules (VFR) or IFR, the person responded "IFR sir." The briefer inquired about the altitude and the person responded with "six and nine please." The caller was advised of showers and thunderstorm activity, "...along uh well throughout arkansas, louisiana, mississippi, alabama, do you have storm scope and all that stuff" to which the caller replied "yes sir." The briefer provided information about Convective Sigmet 68C and 70C, which were in effect based on the route of flight; the sigmets called for thunderstorms and convective activity. After being advised of the location of the sigmets, the caller responded with "ok." The briefer also advised that the only airmet along his route of flight was for the departure area, and there were no pilot reports. The briefer questioned if the caller had seen the radar picture this morning to which he replied, "no sir i have not saw one yesterday a forecast." The briefer looked at a weather radar image and advised the caller of adverse weather near the departure area, to which the caller questioned if the flight could proceed direct once clear of the adverse weather. The briefer advised the caller to look at weather radar to which the caller replied, " why don’t you let me do that and i'll give you guys a call back to see if i can get some um other information." The call was then terminated. At 0710, the person using the same call sign called back to the Kankakee AFSS, and requested an abbreviated weather briefing, and requested the winds aloft for 9,000 feet. The briefer provided the winds aloft and the caller advised that he would like to file an IFR flight plan, and provided the name of the accident pilot as pilot-in-command. The planned flight was at 10,000 feet, estimated 4.0 hours in duration, would be flown direct, with 7 hours of fuel on-board. The flight plan filed and the phone call was terminated.

After takeoff at 0739, air traffic control communications were transferred to several facilities. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Report of Aircraft Accident continuation sheets, while in contact with the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center (Memphis ARTCC), at 1006, the pilot requested to contact the Greenwood, Mississippi, Automated Flight Service Station (Greenwood AFSS) which was approved. The pilot reported back on the Memphis ARTCC frequency 4 minutes later and advised he was unable to establish contact. The flight continued, and while in contact with the Columbus Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) facility, the pilot requested and was approved to contact the Greenwood AFSS. The pilot contacted the Greenwood AFSS at 1038:13, but two way radio communications were not established. The flight continued and air traffic control communications were transferred to Memphis ARTCC. While in contact with that facility at 1109, the pilot requested frequency change to Greenwood AFSS; the request was approved.

According to a transcription of communications with the Greenwood AFSS, at 1109:14, the pilot contacted the facility and advised the briefer that the flight was currently inside the Meridian MOA proceeding direct to the Lakefront Airport, New Orleans, Louisiana, and questioned whether the flight would "...beat that line of storms uhh that was headed eastbound." The pilot did not provide an exact location during the initial call. The pilot was asked by the briefing specialist if he had on-board weather radar to which he replied the airplane was equipped with a strike finder. The briefer questioned the altitude and the pilot responded 8,000 feet. The briefer asked the pilot if he had the convective sigmets and thunderstorm watch to which he replied he did not. The pilot was advised of a severe thunderstorm watch in effect, and his, "...best bet is to probably to turn and land at meridian at this point and time i don't think [your] going to be able to beat that." The pilot responded, "do that we are going to change our course and we're going to land at meridian thank you for your help."

The pilot re-established contact with Memphis ARTCC, and requested to land at Meridian. At 1112, the controller advised the pilot that there was a large cell of heavy weather between his position and Meridian. The controller advised the pilot better weather conditions existed near Greenwood, Mississippi. The pilot advised the controller that he would proceed to the destination airport heading 187 degrees. At 1121, the pilot requested to descend to 6,000 feet, but air traffic communications were transferred to Jackson Air Traffic Control Tower. At 1120, the pilot established contact with that facility; he was reportedly provided the altimeter setting. Radar and radio contact were lost with that facility at 1124.

Review of NTSB plotted radar data revealed that from 1030, until the time of the accident, the airplane was proceeding in a southwesterly direction until flying near Starkville, Mississippi, at which time the airplane turned to a westerly course. The airplane continued on the westerly direction until flying near Kilmichael, Mississippi, at which time the airplane turned left and proceeded until 1121:51, on a heading of 180 degrees flying at 8,000 feet, at an average ground speed of approximately 125 knots. At that time, the airplane began a right turn to heading 220 degrees, and descended at 440 feet-per-minute. At 1123:03, the airplane began a right descending turn in excess of 6,000 feet-per-minute descent, with the last recorded radar target at 1124:03, at 1,500 feet. The last recorded radar target was located at 32 degrees 41 minutes 21 seconds North latitude, and 089 degrees 40 minutes 57 seconds West longitude.

A search for the airplane was initiated, it was located the following day. The main wreckage consisting of the fuselage was located approximately 243 degrees and .24 nautical mile from the last radar target.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot-in-command (pilot) was the holder of a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating, which was issued on January 15, 2002. He was issued a third class medical certificate on August 19, 2002, with the restriction to wear lenses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision. Review of his airman file revealed no accidents/incidents, and no enforcement action.

Review of the pilot's logbooks which begin with his first logged flight on September 20, 1997, to the last logged flight on June 6, 2003 (6 days before the accident), revealed he logged a total flight time of 414.2 hours, of which 319.1 hours were as pilot-in-command. He logged 3.8 hours simulated instrument instruction received prior to obtaining his private pilot certificate on January 15, 2002, (the logged entries total 3.8, while the total to date block indicates 4.8). After receiving his private pilot certificate on January 15, 2002, he logged a total of 24 hours simulated instrument instruction. Further review of his logbook revealed an entry on an unknown date after November 23, 2002, but before January 2, 2003, in which he logged 1.0 hour actual instrument flight time. The remarks block for that flight contained "Syracuse N.Y. Snow Ice Rain"; there was no signature by a flight instructor. Additionally, the dual received block for that entry date was not completed. Further review of his logbook after the date he obtained his private pilot certificate revealed he logged 4.2 hours dual actual instrument flight training. Neither his first or second logbooks contained endorsement(s) by a certified flight instructor toward obtaining an instrument rating.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was manufactured in 2000, by The New Piper Aircraft, Inc., as model PA-32R-301, and was designated serial number 3246155. The airplane was certificated in the normal category, and was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540-K1G5 engine, a Hartzell constant speed HC-I3YR-1RF propeller, a strike finder, and a Garmin GNS 430 transceiver and navigation display. The airplane was also equipped with a S-Tec system 55 autopilot system.

Review of the maintenance records revealed the transponder, altimeter, and altimeter reporting system were checked last on January 16, 2002, in accordance with 14 CFR Parts 91.413 and 91.411. The airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on January 14, 2003, at an airplane total time of 477.4 hours. Based on entries in the pilot's pilot logbook, the airplane had been operated approximately 88 hours since the inspection as of the last logged flight on June 6, 2003, (6 days before the accident).

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

According to a NTSB Meteorology report, the radar summary chart for 1115, on June 12, 2003, (approximately 10 minutes prior to the accident), indicates thunderstorms existed throughout much of Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. Over central Mississippi, the radar summary noted the existence of intense to extreme thunderstorms, with the general movement of the storms to east-northeast. The highest storm tops found over central Mississippi were near 42,000 feet. A severe thunderstorm watch box was also depicted over southern Mississippi.

The closest WSR-88D (Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler) to the accident site was the Brandon, Mississippi (KDGX) radar, approximately 45 miles and 237 degrees from the accident site. A review of several weather radar plots for the time 1108, showing the flight path of the accident airplane for the altitude flown, indicates that at the time the controller advised the pilot that Greenwood, Mississippi, had better weather conditions (1109), Greenwood, Mississippi, had greater than or equal to 10 dBZ but less than 21 dBZ reflectivities. The reflectivity image for the 1.4 degree scan which covered the altitude of the accident airplane indicates the airplane entered an area of high reflectivity (about 45 dBZ), which equates to a very strong cell. Additionally, clouds existed throughout the region.

A METAR taken at the Jackson International Airport (KJAN) approximately 3 minutes before the accident indicates the wind was from 250 degrees at 6 knots, the visibility was 2 1/2 statute miles, the weather condition consisted of thunderstorm, heavy rain, and mist. Few clouds existed at 600 feet, scattered clouds existed at 1,300 feet, and an overcast ceiling existed at 2,300 feet. The temperature and dew point were each 21 degrees Celsius, and the altimeter setting was 29.95 in Hg. The remarks section of the METAR indicated occasional lightning, lightning in cloud, east and southeast, thunderstorm east and southeast, moving northeast. The KJAN Airport was located approximately 29 nautical miles and 222 degrees from the accident site.

COMMUNICATIONS

The pilot was last in contact with the Jackson Air Traffic Control Tower. At the time of the accident the tower was not recording the communications; therefore, information concerning communications from the pilot or the air traffic controller are unknown.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The main wreckage consisting of the fuselage, vertical stabilizer with attached rudder, partially attached right wing, and engine and propeller assembly was located in a heavily wooded area at 32 degrees 41.238 minutes North latitude and 089 degrees 41.206 minutes West longitude. The left wing and both sides of the one-piece horizontal stabilator assembly were separated from the airframe. The left wing was later located at 32 degrees 41.315 minutes North latitude and 089 degrees 41.682 minutes West longitude, or 281 degrees and ..41 nautical mile from the main wreckage location. The left side of the stabilator assembly was located at 32 degrees 41.55 minutes North latitude and 089 degrees 40.837 minutes West longitude, or 055 degrees and .38 nautical mile from the main wreckage location. One of two pieces of the right side of the horizontal stabilator assembly was located at 32 degrees 41.340 minutes North latitude and 089 degrees 41.099 minutes West longitude, or 041 degrees and .14 nautical mile from the main wreckage. The second piece of the right side of the horizontal stabilator was recovered but not documented as to where found.

Examination of the accident site revealed the fuselage was resting on the left side, and the full span right wing was parallel to and immediately adjacent to the fuselage. The fuselage was heading 084 degrees magnetic; there was no post crash fire on any of the examined or later recovered components. Located in the wreckage was a kneeboard which contained instrument approach procedures pages for instrument approaches to the KNEW airport. A low-altitude IFR En Route chart identified as L23/L24, with an effective date range from May 15, 2003, through July 10, 2003, was located in the wreckage. Additionally, a completed flight plan page indicated an instrument flight rules flight plan for the route of flight the same as the accident flight was also found in the wreckage. The airplane was recovered for further examination.

Examination of the left wing revealed the upper and lower spar caps of the main spar were displaced up; the main spar was fractured at the outboard end of the carry-through location. The aft spar of the left wing was fractured approximately 12 inches outboard of the aft spar attach point. No evidence of preexisting cracks were noted in the fracture surfaces of the main or aft spars of the left wing. Examination of the right wing revealed the main spar was fractured near the outer end of the carry-through spar, and the aft spar was fractured in the cabin area. No evidence of preexisting cracks were noted in the fracture surfaces of the main or aft spars of the right wing. Examination of the main spar of the stabilator revealed the spar was fractured approximately 12 inches outboard of the left hinge point, and also fractured immediately outboard of the hinge on the right side. No evidence of preexisting cracks were noted on the fracture surfaces. The main spar of the left side of the stabilator was bent aft and the leading edge was twisted down. The main spar of the right side of the stabilator was displaced down and aft. The stabilator trim was in the neutral position; no trim tabs were installed for rudder or aileron. Examination of the autopilot pitch servo revealed impact damage to the unit preventing rotation of the capstan. The bridle cable remained secured to the stabilator cable. The autopilot roll servo capstan was free to rotate, the bridle cable ball was in the slot of the capstan and one of the bridle cables was cut while the other exhibited tension overload. Flight control cable continuity was confirmed for yaw and pitch. Examination of the aileron flight control cables revealed the left and right primary flight control cables and the balance cable exhibited tension overload characteristics. The left and right main landing gears were noted in the wheel wells when examined. The flap actuator was in the retracted position. No evidence of in-flight or postcrash fire was noted on any of the examined wreckage components.

Examination of the fuel strainer revealed the screen

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