Plane crash map Find crash sites, wreckage and more

N911PL accident description

Go to the Mississippi map...
Go to the Mississippi list...

Tail numberN911PL
Accident dateMarch 03, 2001
Aircraft typePiper PA-32RT-300T
LocationGulfport, MS
Near 31.191666 N, -89.283333 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 3, 2001, about 1422 central standard time, a Piper PA-32RT-300T, N911PL, registered to S. and E. Aviation, Inc., operating as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed offshore near Gulfport, Mississippi. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules, (VFR) flight plan had been filed. The airplane was destroyed and the private-rated pilot, the sole occupant, is presumed to have received fatal injuries. The flight departed Tampa International Airport, Tampa, Florida, for Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas, about 1208 eastern standard time.

According to a transcript of a telephone conversation that occurred between 1002 and 1017 on March 3, 2001, between the St. Petersburg, Florida, FAA Automated Flight Service Station, (AFSS), and a person representing N911PL, the call was made to file a VFR flight plan and obtain a briefing on the en route and destination conditions and weather from Tampa to Beaumont, via Tallahassee, Mobile, and New Orleans, departing about noon with an en route flight time of about 3 hours 30 minutes. After the flight plan data was given to the AFSS, the briefer provided a briefing which dealt with the existing convective activity and frontal position, including current severe thunderstorm watches, convective SIGMETs, (a weather advisory issued concerning weather significant to the safety of all aircraft) and current weather radar identified thunderstorms. These thunderstorms existed in lines and clusters from the Florida panhandle, across the Mobile area, north of Gulfport, to New Orleans. The route of flight provided by N911PL would have precluded a safe flight, and the briefer recommends, "...you wanna stay over the water as much as possible to avoid most of this." The briefer mentioned AIRMET Tango for potential turbulence and AIRMET Zulu for icing conditions, but failed to provide AIRMET Sierra for extensive IFR conditions. The AFSS briefer is quoted stating that Beaumont will be no better than 300 to 400 overcast until about 2000 local Beaumont time. The flight departed TPA at 1208, and would have arrived at 1438 local Beaumont time, according to the aforementioned 3 hours 30 minutes en route time. Nowhere in the transcript does the pilot or the briefer state that VFR flight may not be recommended because of expected IFR conditions at destination on arrival, even discounting the proximity to known intense convective activity. The transcript is an attachment to this report.

According to FAA Gulfport Approach Control Radar, who was providing flight following to N911PL, they received a land line call from FAA New Orleans Approach Control Radar recommending that the flight not try to continue VFR. Gulfport Approach Control relayed the message to N911PL, recommended a left course reversal to avoid weather, and received an acknowledgement. There was no further communication with N911PL, and the radar returns showed the flight enter a right turn and commence a high rate of descent. The last known position of N911PL was the 216 degree radial/ 17NM from the Gulfport VOR, or coordinates, N30.10.1 by W089.16.2. A depiction of N911PL's radar plot is an attachment to this report. Using Mobile, Alabama's doppler weather surveillance radar, (WSR-88D), located 46 miles east of Gulfport, level 5 thunderstorms, (intense radar echoes) existed at N911PL's last known location at the time of the loss of communications.

FAA Gulfport Approach Control diverted an airborne Coast Guard helicopter to the area of last radar return of N911PL, and at 1509 the helicopter reported sighting a "sheen" on the water's surface, two wings floating, an undeployed life raft floating high on the water, aircraft seats, and what appeared to be a suitcase, and a soccer ball floating on the water's surface. There was no survivor observed.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to the pilot's wife, the pilot's personal logbook was probably in his flight bag on the front seat of the aircraft. It was not recovered. The pilot's business partner estimated the pilot's flight time to be about 500 to 600 hours, with about 30 hours in the PA-32 type aircraft. The partner stated that the pilot owned a Cessna 182. FAA Medical Records division stated his last airman's medical application, dated January 12, 2001, listed his total flight time as of that date as 850 hours, with 25 hours in the last 6 months.

The pilot was not instrument rated, but his wife supplied to the NTSB a copy of a certificate of completion from Aviation Seminars of El Cajon, California, of an instrument ground school dated January 23, 2000.

The pilot's most recent biennial flight review, (BFR) date was not recovered, however, a statement from an FAA Certified Flight Instructor revealed that the pilot had briefed and flown with the CFI, "early in 2001", that included all requirements for a BFR sign off. At that time the pilot stated to the CFI that he was current and did not need the logbook sign off.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The aircraft had undergone an annual inspection on July 1, 2000, at an aircraft total time of 1545 hours. Additionally, at that time the Lycoming TIO-540-S1AD engine and the Hartzell model no. HC-E2YK-1BF/FC8477A-4 propeller underwent an overhaul and was subsequently reinstalled on the aircraft. The aircraft and all components were signed off as airworthy on that date.

The aircraft was equipped with a cockpit displayed Storm scope. When the pilot was queried by FAA Gulfport Approach Control if he had weather radar aboard, he responded, "...yes sir I have a storm scope on board I have weather radar."

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Gulfport terminal weather at 1355 was, 500 feet overcast and 4 miles visibility in light rain. The temperature was 72 degrees F and the dew point was 70 degrees F. The altimeter was 29.55 inches Hg, and the winds were from 200 degrees at 5 knots. The METAR for 1355 in an attachment to this report, as well as The National Weather System's Center for Environmental Prediction, (NCEP) Surface Analysis chart for 1800Z on March 3, 2001, (attachment #1 of NTSB's Meteorology Factual Report).

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

A Coast Guard surface vessel was dispatched from the USCG station at Gulfport the day of the accident and retrieved the following: (1) an aircraft seat, minus its headrest, attached to a piece of aluminum floorboard. On the underside of the floorboard was attached the autopilot amplifier, (2) a second aircraft seat, also attached to a piece of floorboard. On the underside of that floorboard were four pulleys and pulley brackets, (3) a fiberglass empennage tip fairing, (4) various pieces of interior insulation and upholstery with outboard arm rests still attached, (5) cockpit center storage console, (6) a 3 ft. by 4 ft. section of carpeted cabin floorboard with seat attachment points, (7) three undeployed life vests, (8) an undeployed life raft, (9) a flight bag with several sectional charts of the Caribbean and South America, (10) a survival kit, (11) an ear cup to a pilot's headset. Also retrieved were the pilot's personal suitcase and briefcase that the wife took personal custody of on the day following the accident, once contents were monitored and recorded by the Harrison [Mississippi] County Sheriff's Department.

On March 9, 2001, the left wing was found floating by a commercial fishing boat about 25 miles southeast of the estimated impact point, and transferred to the Gulfport based U. S. Coast Guard. An FAA inspector examined and photographed the left wing, and subsequently took custody for the purpose of separating the fracture sites of the front and rear spars for failure analysis by the NTSB Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The aircraft's left wing front and rear spar fracture sites were examined by the NTSB Materials Laboratory for failure mode. Both fractures were very close to being directly in line with the fuselage. Examination revealed no evidence of preexisting damage, (such as fatigue cracking or corrosion) that would have contributed to the spar fractures. Both spar fractures exhibited evidence of overstress separation. In the case of the front spar, the upper portion of the spar exhibited bending overstress, while the lower portion exhibited primarily tensile overloading. The rear spar showed evidence of gross deformation and fracturing of the fuselage structure that interfaced the spar. That deformation was typical of wing overstress in the direction of the left wingtip rotating upward relative to an upright fuselage. It was not possible to detect when during the descent, the fractures occurred. On first sighting of the wreckage by the Coast Guard helicopter, the crew reported observing both separated wings in the vicinity of the other floating debris.

The fixed base operator who fuelled N911PL prior to its departure provided the NTSB with fueling facility and fueling vehicle contamination check sheets. Sump test samples for solid and water contamination were made and annotated on the sheets as, "clear" and "bright". The fuelling receipt and the fuel contamination check sheet are an attachment to this report.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The left wing pieces that were detached and sent to the NTSB laboratory for analysis were returned to a facility designated by a representative of the owner/operator on December 27, 2001. The NTSB form 6120.15, "Release of Wreckage" was signed and returned to the NTSB by the representative on January 4, 2002.

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