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N577SK accident description

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Tail numberN577SK
Accident dateAugust 02, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-34-200T
LocationGalion, OH
Near 40.735277 N, -82.718611 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 2, 2003, about 1500 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-34-200T airplane, N577SK, was destroyed when it collided with trees and terrain while maneuvering near Galion, Ohio. The certificated commercial pilot/owner and a passenger were fatally injured. The two other passengers sustained serious injuries. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK), Akron, Ohio, about 1411, destined for Galion Municipal Airport (GQQ), Galion, Ohio. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

At 1210, the pilot contacted the Cleveland, Ohio, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and obtained a weather briefing. He told the weather briefer that he planned to depart Akron-Canton Airport about 1310 and fly to Galion, Ohio. The pilot said he was hopeful that he would be able to make the flight under visual flight rules (VFR) conditions due to anticipated precipitation and thunderstorms.

The weather briefer informed the pilot that the air mass along the route of flight was unstable, and cumulous clouds were starting to appear on satellite imagery in western Ohio. No echoes appeared on weather radar, but the "potential" for thunderstorm activity existed and could occur at anytime, anywhere and be any size. The weather briefer told the pilot that if he left in the next hour, he should not run into any weather problems, but should obtain another weather briefing prior to departing Galion.

No AIRMETS were issued, but the Area Forecast reported a threat of scattered rain showers and thunderstorms after 1300. The briefing ended at 1216.

The pilot departed Akron-Canton Airport at 1411, approximately 2 hours after the weather briefing. A review of air traffic control (ATC) communications revealed the pilot requested, and was provided VFR flight following services, shortly after departure.

At 1447, as the airplane approached the Galion, Ohio, area, the pilot asked an air traffic controller where the airport was located. The controller responded that he was directly over the airport. There was no further communications with the pilot.

During an interview with officials from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot's wife, who was seated in the front right seat, said that they had flown to Galion to attend a family function. They did not encounter any weather until they reached the Galion Airport, and it was raining so hard that they could only see out the airplane's side windows. The sound of the rain on the windshield was so loud that they could barely hear the air traffic controller. Her husband had tried to land, but he couldn't see, and added power to get out of the weather. After adding power, he repeatedly said, "It won't climb...It won't climb."

According to a witness, a certified flight instructor with over 17,000 hours of flight experience, he landed at Galion Airport at 1420, after completing a cross-country instructional flight. Upon landing, he called a waiting student and cancelled the flight due to the "threatening weather approaching from the west."

Before parking the airplane, the witness and his cross country student taxied to the ramp, and subsequently refueled the airplane. During that time, the witness spoke to a man who said he was waiting for a relative who was flying in from Akron, Ohio.

The witness and the student then put the airplane into a hangar located on the southeastern side of the airport. It began to rain, and they decided to wait for it to stop before going to their parked cars.

About 1440, the witness saw the airplane fly over the airport approximately 600 feet above the ground, with the landing gear down and flaps extended. The airplane entered the downwind leg for runway 05. At that time, it was raining moderately, and there was frequent lightning and wind. The witness and his student elected to run for their cars.

The witness drove north on the taxiway and observed the airplane about 25-50 feet above the runway centerline, about halfway down the runway, and it was climbing. The landing gear was down, and "some" flaps were extended. The witness then watched the airplane disappear into heavy rain. At that time, the visibility was less than 1 mile.

The witness drove over to the parking ramp, and made several 360-degree turns in an attempt to see the airplane, but never saw it.

The man who had been waiting for the airplane pulled up next to the witness, and said that the airplane had just gone "back up in the air." By that time, it was raining very hard.

The witness decided to leave the airport, and on his way out, noticed a damaged fire hydrant and stopped next to it. The weather then intensified; it began to hail, with extremely heavy rain, and winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. The witness thought "he might be getting close to a tornado."

The witness drove back to the airport, and made a few more 360-degree scans of the sky, but never saw the airplane.

A second witness stated that he heard an airplane flying over the Galion Airport about 1500. The weather at the time was "bad", and it had hailed for a while. About 1 hour later, he heard the sounds of rescue vehicles responding to the accident site.

According to a third witness, he was in his home about 1600, when a woman ( the pilot's wife) knocked on his door. She said that she had been involved in an airplane accident, and asked if he would call 911. The woman made the 911 call while the witness ran to the airplane, which was located in his backyard about 300 feet from his house, and assisted the woman's 3-year-old daughter.

The witness also noted, "Sometime before the woman came to my back door a terrible storm blew through hard and fast. The corn in the garden was laid down to the ground. Hail hit the house horizontally from the west and then the east. Rain was coming down so fast and with such volume that I could not see a tree that stands 30 feet from our kitchen window."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight, approximately 40 degrees, 44 minutes north latitude, and 82 degrees, 43 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine and multi-engine land, instrument airplane. He also held a certified flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine and multi-engine land airplane.

His most recent FAA medical certificate was issued on May 27, 2003. At that time, he reported a total of 1,300 flight hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Examination of weather radar data revealed that at the time of the accident, VIP level 5 thunderstorm activity was located over the Galion Airport area.

Weather at Mansfield-Lahm Regional Airport (MFD), Mansfield, Ohio, about 10 miles northeast, at 1452, was reported as wind from 240 degrees at 6 knots, 7 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 2,700 feet, broken clouds at 3,400 feet, broken clouds at 4,400 feet, temperature 77 degrees F, dewpoint 68 degrees F, and barometric pressure 29.99 inches HG.

At 1510, weather was reported as wind from 220 degrees at 7 knots, 5 miles visibility, light rain, broken clouds at 2,700 feet, broken clouds at 4,000 feet, temperature 75 degrees F, dewpoint 70 degrees F, and barometric pressure of 29.99 inches HG.

At 1512, weather was reported as wind from 220 degrees at 8 knots, 2 1/2 miles visibility, thunderstorms, few clouds at 1,800 feet, broken clouds at 2,700 feet, broken clouds 4,000 feet, temperature 75 degrees F, dewpoint 70 degrees F, and barometric pressure of 29.99 inches HG, with remarks that the thunderstorms began at 1511, and the rain began at 1459, with thunderstorms overhead.

Weather at Marion Airport (MNN), Marion, Ohio, about 17 miles southwest, at 1444, was reported as wind from 270 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 4 miles, light thunderstorms, few clouds at 1,400 feet, broken clouds at 2,900 feet, broken clouds at 3,400 feet, temperature 81 degrees F, dewpoint 70 degrees, with remarks of lightning in all quadrants.

At 1453, weather was reported as: winds from 270 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 3 miles, thunderstorms, few clouds at 100 feet, scattered clouds at 1,300 feet, overcast clouds at 3,100 feet, temperature 77 degrees F, dewpoint 72 degrees, with remarks of distant lightning in all quadrants, and thunderstorm activity began at 1438.

At 1506, weather was reported as wind from 260 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 1 3/4 miles, heavy rain, few clouds at 100 feet, broken clouds at 3,500 feet, overcast 4, 300 feet, temperature 77 degrees F, dewpoint 72 degrees, barometric pressure setting of 29.97 inches HG, with remarks of distant lightning, moving northwest.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on August 3-4, 2003, and all major components were accounted for at the scene.

The initial impact point was in a stand of 25- to 30-foot trees that separated fields located about 1,360 feet from the runway and about 700 feet right of centerline.

The wreckage was scattered for about 220 feet, along a heading of 130 degrees magnetic from the initial impact point.

The first signs of impact were found on the lower portions of tree trunks in an area about 50 feet wide. Several of the trees, up to 1 foot in diameter, were broken, and numerous branches littered the ground. There were two tree trunks, about 12 feet apart, that exhibited angular cuts and black paint transfer marks, along with several braches scattered around the initial impact point. One of the larger trees showed significant impact damage, with small pieces of airplane structure imbedded in the wood, and several engine control cables wrapped around the base.

The right wing was fragmented in several pieces around the initial impact point. The right wing tip was wrapped around one of the broken trees with the wing tip fairing adjacent to it. The inboard and outboard wing sections were heavily damaged, and fragmented with crescent-shaped impact marks to the leading edge. The aileron and landing gear were separated, while the flap was still attached to the inboard wing.

The entire tail section was also found in the initial impact area, and exhibited minimal damage. The tip of the right horizontal stabilizer was separated from the empennage and exhibited a crescent-shaped impact mark at the leading edge adjacent to the separation point.

Scattered forward along the wreckage path, was the aft fuselage section containing the right, aft window and a section of the left aileron.

The left wing and engine, right engine, and forward fuselage were located at the far end of the wreckage path.

The left wing was almost entirely intact, including the flap and landing gear. The wingtip exhibited severe impact damage while the rest of the wing had relatively little damage. The wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root, the landing gear was in the down and locked position, and the flap was extended. The left nacelle remained attached to the wing, while the engine was separated from it. The engine was found immediately in front of the wing with severe impact damage to the propeller spinner. All three propeller blades remained attached.

The right engine, nacelle and attached mounting structure were found next to the inboard end of the left wing and included the section of wing immediately aft of the engine. There were crescent-shaped impact marks on the leading edge of the wing at each side of the engine. All three propeller blades were attached.

The cockpit and passenger cabin area of the fuselage was found upright against trees at the far end of the wreckage field. There were impact marks and broken branches in the trees about 10-15 feet above the fuselage. The forward fuselage had significant impact damage on all sides. Most of the right side structure was intact up to the aft most passenger seat. The two forward seats remained attached while the aft seat was only partially attached.

The left side structure was intact to just aft of the pilot's seat. The forward (pilot's) seat remained attached, the middle passenger seat was separated and lying just aft of the forward seat, and the aft seat was separated and found in the midst of the wreckage field. The nose landing gear remained attached forward of the cockpit and was in the up position.

Flight control continuity was established to all control surfaces; however, all the cables were separated and exhibited "broomstraw" ends, consistent with overload.

The manual flap handle was found extended, and locked in the 25-degree detent position.

Both propeller controls, both mixture controls and the right throttle control were found in the full forward position. The left throttle control was found about 1- inch aft.

The left engine fuel cross feed was found in the 'on' position, and the right engine fuel cross feed was found in the 'off' position.

The altimeter was set to 29.98 inches Hg.

The right engine had impact damage to the left side near the #2 cylinder and to the spinner. Two of the three propeller blades exhibited s-bending and were loose in the propeller hub. The third blade was bent aft and was tight in the hub. The engine was manually rotated and compression and valve train continuity were established on all cylinders except #2. During the compression check, spark was produced on all ignition leads. The vacuum pump was removed, rotated freely and an internal exam revealed an intact drum and vanes. The fuel pump was also removed; fuel was present, it rotated freely and the coupling was intact. The fuel distributor was opened; fuel was present, and the screen was absent of debris. The turbocharger did not sustain impact damage and rotated freely.

The left engine had severe impact damage to the spinner and propeller cylinder. All three propeller blades were loose in the hub. Two of the blades exhibited aft bending with one missing the outboard 6-8 inches of the tip. The third blade exhibited only slight bending.

The engine could no t be rotated due to impact damage. Both magnetos were removed, and the impulse couplings were turned by hand. Spark was produced at each terminal. The vacuum pump was removed; it rotated freely and an internal exam revealed an intact drum and vanes. The fuel pump was also removed; fuel was present, it rotated freely and the coupling was intact. The fuel distributor was opened; fuel was present and the screen was absent of debris. The turbocharger did not sustain impact damage and rotated freely.

In addition to the accessories, the sump and accessory case were removed. The interior of the engine was visually examined with a lighted borescope and revealed no anomalies.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on August 3, 2003, by the Franklin County Coroner's Office, Columbus, Ohio.

Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

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