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N7635P accident description

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Tail numberN7635P
Accident dateAugust 20, 1996
Aircraft typePiper PA-24-180
LocationWhitefield, NH
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT

On August 20, 1996, at about 1840 eastern daylight time, N7635P, a Piper PA24-180, on a local sightseeing flight collided with the ground shortly after takeoff in a heavily wooded area about 3/4 of a mile off the end of runway 28 at Mount Washington Regional Airport, in Whitefield, New Hampshire. Visual meteorological conditions existed, and no flight plan was filed. The certificated commercial pilot and three passengers were fatally injured, and the aircraft was destroyed. The local flight was operated under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the Whitefield Police, the pilot was taking the passengers on a sight-seeing tour over the Littleton-St. Johnsbury, Vermont area. The family had won the plane ride in a local charitable fund-raiser, and the pilot was to receive a full tank of fuel in his aircraft for providing the tour.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a Commercial certificate. He had Commercial pilot privileges for airplane single engine land, and Multi-engine land. The pilot reported 800 civilian flight hours in all aircraft on the application for the most recent Second Class Medical Certificate, which was dated May 10, 1996. According to the FAA the pilots last flight review was accomplished in conjunction with a checkout in the PA24-180 aircraft. The review was required by the pilot's insurance company and was conducted by a Certified Flight Instructor.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Piper PA24-180, S/N 24-2847, was manufactured and certificated in 1962. FAA records indicate that the aircraft was registered to the current owners on November 12, 1995. The registration document was signed by Joseph E. Parker and Brenda L. Parker. The aircraft's maintenance records indicated that the most recent inspection was an Annual Inspection, which was dated September 10, 1995. The aircraft had accumulated a total time of 3,862 hours at the time of the accident, including 115 hours since the Annual Inspection. A review of aircraft maintenance logbooks revealed no evidence of discrepancies.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Visibility was 10 miles and clear. Winds were light and variable. Altimeter was 30.19 inches of mercury and the temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

WITNESS STATEMENTS

One witness stated that at about 1830, while doing yard work, he saw a small plane leaving Whitefield Airport. He heard a "pop" from the engine and the plane then banked hard to the left. He said that just before he lost sight of the plane it was still in a steep bank flying slow. He said that he ran around the house and caught a glimpse of the plane through the trees just before he heard a crunch sound.

Another witness stated that she was in her garden and heard a private plane extremely low coming from the airport. The plane was in a hard bank turning left. She said she did not recall any unusual noises. She said the plane then began to nose-dive straight down. She heard a loud crash after the plane went out of sight. She then reported the incident to 911.

Another witness stated that she was at her Aunt's house on Hazard road in Whitefield. She said her Aunt stated that a small plane was flying too low and she was concerned about it hitting her house. The plane seemed to be too low as well as too slow. The motor seemed to be sounding normal without stuttering or backfiring. The plane was tilting to the left. The plane then righted itself and its wings were level. Almost right after leveling, the plane nose-dived out of sight behind the house. I heard a loud quick thud and then silence. My Aunt called and reported the crash.

WRECKAGE EXAMINATION/DOCUMENTATION

The aircraft remained intact and all components were identified. However, the fuselage was substantially damaged. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the aileron bell cranks to the forward cockpit area just under the pilot seat. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the tail group to the same forward cockpit area. The control cables for the ailerons, rudder, and stabilator were bound by deformation of the airframe in the lower and forward cockpit floor area. No pre-impact visual discrepancies were noted on the airframe, flight control surfaces, hinges, or control cables.

The engine cowling side panels were deflected upward. Examination of the propeller found one blade bent forward slightly and had some twist. The other blade was bent aft about 30 degrees. Neither blade showed chordwise scratches or leading edge dents or gouges. Removal of the top cowling and side panels revealed that the engine was at approximately a 35-degree nose down attitude, and rolled to the left. It remained attached to the airframe mounting structure. The cylinders on the left side of the engine were buried in the soft ground at the site.

After recovery of the aircraft by helicopter, and removal of the propeller, rocker covers, and one spark plug from each cylinder, the crankshaft was rotated by hand. Thumb compression was obtained in each cylinder. Mechanical continuity was demonstrated through the accessory drive gear and valve train. The oil level gage indicated approximately 4.5 quarts of oil in the sump with the engine in a level attitude.

The magnetos remained intact on their mounts. The ignition harness was intact except for the number two lead, which was cut near the spark plug. Spark was produced at the terminal ends of the each ignition lead when the crankshaft was rotated by hand. Number two and four bottom spark plug electrodes were wet with oil. The engine was found on site with these two cylinders lower than their normal level attitude. The remaining spark plug electrodes were dry and the combustion deposits had normal color. Electrode wear was moderate to severe.

The exhaust system was damaged but remained attached to the cylinder heads. It was removed and disassembled to inspect the muffler. The muffler was the type that does not contain internal baffles. The muffler was free of obstructions.

Examination of the engine did not reveal any mechanical anomalies.

Examination of the aircraft fuel system on site revealed that the fuel selector was in the right tank position. There was no evidence of fuel in the right tank. The left fuel tank bladder was ruptured. There was no evidence of foliage kill on the site. There was no strong smell of fuel on site. When the aircraft was lifted by a helicopter, an attempt to drain fuel from the main aircraft filter did not reveal any fuel in the filter. After recovery of the aircraft to a field at the Whitefield Airport, a more detailed examination of the fuel system revealed a small amount of fuel in the line from the left fuel tank to the fuel selector. There was no fuel in the line from the right tank to the fuel selector. The top skin was removed from the right wing and the fuel tank bladder was removed. There was no fuel in the bladder. There was a small hole near the bottom of the bladder along the inboard end. The surrounding structure was heavily creased in that area. There was no evidence of heavy fuel stains in that area. The fuel line from each tank was cut inside the fuselage to allow separation of the forward fuselage section from the remainder of the aircraft. The lines were bent and crimped to minimize any loss of fuel still in the aircraft system forward of the cuts in the lines. After detachment of the forward fuselage section, it was moved with the engine attached to a hangar for additional examination. The aircraft fuel filter bowl was removed. The bowl was one third to one half-full of fuel and tested free of water. There was a large amount of loose debris on the bottom of the bowl. The drain valve was actuated and fuel did drain through it. The filter screen was clean. The electric boost pump was disassembled and did not contain any fuel.

The engine driven fuel pump was removed. It contained a few drops of fuel. The inlet hose was submerged in a cup of water and the actuating arm was moved by hand. The pump functioned normally. The carburetor was broken off its mount and the throttle body housing was broken into several pieces. The accelerator pump linkage was broken and missing. The accelerator pump piston remained in its bore and the seal was intact. There was no fuel in the bore. Water was poured into the bore and the check valve retained it there. The piston was reinserted and actuated by hand and pumped the water out of the bore. Two of the three struts for the venturi were broken and the venturi was loose. The end of the discharge nozzle that protruded into the venturi was broken off and missing. The float bowl was found dry and contained debris that entered the area exposed by the broken throttle body housing. The composite float was intact and the needle valve functioned normally. The carburetor fuel inlet screen was clean.

MEDICAL/PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An Autopsy examination of the pilot was conducted by James A. Kaplan, MD, Acting Chief Medical Examiner State of New Hampshire, 250 Pleasant Street, Concord, New Hampshire 03301. (603) 271-1235.

A Postaccident toxicological examination was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aeromedical Institute, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report was negative for Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide, and Ethanol, and detected the following:

0.12 (ug/ml, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in Blood Diphenhydramine was detected in Urine Ibuprofen was detected in Blood Ibuprofen was detected in Urine

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The investigation revealed that the last recorded date that the pilot purchased fuel for N7635P was at the Mt. Washington Regional Airport on Sunday, August 18, 1996. The records indicate that 20.9 gallons were purchased. The pilot did not keep any log of aircraft flight time or fuel usage, and it remains undetermined as to the amount of fuel on the aircraft at the time of this last refueling.

On Monday August 19, 1996, the pilot flew the aircraft VFR from Mt. Washington Regional Airport to Manchester, New Hampshire with a stop on the return leg in Concord, New Hampshire. Using the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) it was calculated that the aircraft would have consumed approximately eleven gallons of fuel. In addition, a check was made with all the Fixed Base Operators at Manchester and Concord Airports and there was no indication that the pilot had purchased fuel at those locations.

Upon return to Mt. Washington Regional Airport on Monday August 19, 1996, the pilot asked a friend of his if he would like to go flying with him in N7635P, for a local flight around the Whitefield, New Hampshire area. During an interview with the friend, the FAA stated that according to the friend the flight would have lasted about one hour. According to the POH this would have consumed about 9 gallons of fuel.

On Tuesday, August 20, 1996, the pilot conducted two scenic rides prior to the accident flight. The first ride was with the pilot's wife. She stated that this ride lasted about thirty minutes. During the second ride the pilot was accompanied by a friend who was also his scuba diving instructor and two small children. The ride lasted about twenty minutes, and the two rides would have consumed about 9 gallons of fuel. Shortly after takeoff on the forth flight following the fueling, the aircraft crashed into a wooded area.

The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on August 22, 1996.

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