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N422FL accident description

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Tail numberN422FL
Accident dateSeptember 07, 1996
Aircraft typePiper PA-28-140
LocationFrankford Twnsp, NJ
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 7, 1996, about 1950 eastern daylight time, N422FL, a Piper PA-28-140, was destroyed when it collided with terrain during an uncontrolled descent, near Frankford Township, New Jersey. The instrument rated, certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that departed the Sussex Airport (FWN), Sussex, New Jersey, about 1930. No flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to a witness who talked with the pilot just before the pilot departed, the pilot indicated that he was instrument rated, and planned to conduct a local flight to a navigational facility near Sparta, New Jersey. The witness observed exterior lighting on the accident airplane as the pilot taxied to runway 21 for departure, and stated that it was between 1930 and 1945, just prior to complete darkness. Additionally, the witness estimated that the clouds were about 1,500 feet above the ground, and the visibility was less than 1 mile.

Another witness estimated the ceiling was about 1,000 to 1,500 feet, with less than a mile visibility. He observed the accident airplane depart runway 21, about 20 minutes prior to complete darkness. Several minutes after departure, the airplane was observed to perform a touch a go landing, followed by a straight out departure.

The airplane was reported missing on September 7, and was located September 9, on the east side of Sunrise Mountain (1,553 feet), in wooded terrain, at an elevation of about 1,500 feet, about 4 to 5 miles west of FWN.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, at approximately 41 degrees, 13 minutes north latitude, and 74 degrees, 43 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. He obtained his instrument rating on July 27, 1992.

His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Medical Certificate was issued on October 21, 1994, with a limitation to posses corrective lenses for near vision.

A review of the pilot's most recent log book, revealed that he had a total flight experience of 540 hours, of which 9 were actual instrument, and 64 were night hours. The last actual instrument experience consisted of 5 hours during an instrument competency check completed August, 1995. The pilot's most recent night experience was a .7 hour flight, August, 1993. The pilot had no actual instrument night experience.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing prior to the accident flight. A review of the area and terminal weather forecasts for northern New Jersey and New York Coastal Waters revealed that there was an AIRMET (Airman's Meteorological Information) Sierra, sixth update, issued at 1545, valid through 2200 on September 8, 1996. The AIRMET stated:

"AIRMET IFR. . .ME CT RI NY NJ AND CSTL WTRS FROM 25SE CON TO ACK TO 30SW EWR TO 30NW EWR TO ALB TO 25SE CON. OCNL CIG BLW 010/VIS BLW 3SM BR. CONDS CONTG BYD 02Z. . .DVLPG INTO SRN NJ/ERN PA/ERN NY/VT/NH THRU 08Z."

The synopsis issued at 1345, valid through 0800 the following day, for the northern portions of New Jersey stated:

"NJ NRN HLF. .BKN-OVC010-015 TOP 100. VIS 3-5SM BR. SCT SHRA/ISOL EMBD TSRA. TS TOPS FL340."

An amended terminal area forecast for the Newark International Airport (EWR), Newark, New Jersey, issued at 1435, valid through 1400 the following day, forecasted after 1900, 3 miles visibility with mist; ceiling 4,000 feet overcast; temporarily between 1900 and 0000, 2 miles visibility with mist and light rain showers, and a 2,000 foot overcast ceiling.

The METAR's (Aviation Routine Weather Report) for EWR were as follows:

EWR recorded 1951; visibility 7 miles; few clouds at 500 feet; ceiling 1,000 feet broken; temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit; dewpoint 71 degrees Fahrenheit.

EWR recorded 2051; visibility 5 miles with light rain and mist; scattered clouds at 500 feet; ceiling 800 feet overcast; temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit; dewpoint 71 degrees Fahrenheit.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage site was examined September 9 and 10, 1996. Examination of the accident site revealed that the wreckage was oriented on a 360 degree magnetic heading and strewn a distance of 33 feet. The impact scars on trees were measured at an approximate 55 degree down angle. The airplane came to rest on a magnetic heading of 130 degrees. The right wing was separated and located inverted, in front of the left wing. Approximately 3 feet of the right wing tip came to rest in a tree, about 45 feet above the ground, located 20 feet and 310 degrees from the main wreckage. The fuselage was consumed by postcrash fire.

A tree along side the main wreckage was observed to have 3 slash marks with a similar one foot spacing in between. A piece of tree bark, 1 foot long, was observed with both ends smoothly cut at 90 degree angles.

Examination of the engine revealed that the electrodes of all top spark plugs were dry and appeared light gray in color. Both magnetos were removed and rotated by hand. The right magneto produced spark at all towers, and the left produced none. The propeller blade displayed S bending and chord wise scratches. The internal walls of the vacuum pump were observed to have rotational scratches. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand, and valve train continuity was confirmed.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area through the empennage. The flap actuator was fire damaged and indicated 10 degrees of flaps.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on September 13, 1996, by Dr. Michael J. Dunne, M.D., County Medical Examiner, Office of the County Medical Examiner, County of Sussex, Newton, New Jersey.

Toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot by the Office of the County Medical Examiner, County of Sussex, Newton, New Jersey.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Aeromedical

In the Aeromedical Training for Flight Personnel, published by the Department of the Army, for spatial disorientation, it stated:

"Spatial disorientation is an individual's inaccurate perception of position, attitude, and motion relative to the center of the earth. When it occurs, pilots are unable to see, believe, interpret, or process the information on the flight instruments. Instead, they rely on the false information their senses provide."

In the Instrument Flying Handbook, published by the FAA, for sensory systems for orientation, it stated:

". . .under IFR [instrument flight rules] conditions, aircraft attitude can only be determined accurately by observing and interpreting the flight instruments. In the absence of reliable visual information from the Earth's surface, we become more aware of information provided by our motion and position sensing systems. Unfortunately, the sensations of motion and position during various flight maneuvers are often quite misleading, and even tend to compel us to believe them rather than information from the flight instruments."

WRECKAGE RELEASE

On September 10, 1996, the wreckage was released to the Sussex Airport owner.

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