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N4166P accident description

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Tail numberN4166P
Accident dateFebruary 26, 2004
Aircraft typePiper PA-28-181
LocationCorry, PA
Near 41.989166 N, -79.71 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 26, 2004, about 2020 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, N4166P, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during a forced landing in Corry, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual rules flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from the Erie International Airport (ERI), Erie, Pennsylvania; destined for the Waterbury-Oxford Airport (OXC), Oxford, Connecticut. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

Review of air traffic communications revealed that the pilot departed from ERI at 1958, and proceeded toward OXC. At 2018, about 22 miles southeast of ERI, the pilot reported a rough-running engine to air traffic control. The pilot requested to return to ERI, and the air traffic controller replied "reverse course, report airport insight." The air traffic controller then requested remaining fuel information and occupants on board from the pilot, who replied that he had 5 hours of fuel, and one occupant on board. No further transmissions were received from the pilot.

A witness near the accident site reported observing the airplane approach a field at a very high speed. The airplane was heading north, paralleling Buffalo Road, at a height of about 800 feet. The airplane then turned to the left, and began to descend. During the turn, the airplane "dipped" its wings several times, before descending from view. The witness did not hear any noises from the airplane due to other noises in his immediate area.

A second witness observed the airplane flying in a northerly direction. The airplane made a left turn over a neighbor's house, and descended from his view. The witness added that the airplane's engine was "spitting and sputtering like it was stalling or running out of gas."

The wreckage was located about 2145, in a snow covered farm field, next to a row of six large hardwood trees, about 25 miles southeast of ERI.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, at 41 degrees, 59.21 minutes north longitude, 79 degrees, 42.36 minutes west latitude, at an elevation of 1,784 feet.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for single-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on October 11, 2002.

Review of the pilot's logbook and airplane rental receipts, revealed that he had accumulated about 233 hours of total flight experience, 2.6 hours of which were in Piper PA-28 airplanes.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on May 1, 2003. As of the day of the accident, the airplane had accumulated approximately 328 hours of operation since new.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The reported weather at ERI, about the time of the accident, included winds from 050 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, and clear skies. The temperature was 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and a dew point of 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was examined at the accident site on February 27 and 28, 2004. The surrounding area consisted of slightly rolling snow-covered farm fields. The row of hardwood trees separated three of the fields.

The debris path was about 30 feet in length, and oriented on an approximate 215-degree magnetic heading. At the first impact mark, the outboard left wing tip cap was located. A swath path in the ground continued for about 20 feet, to a 5-foot deep crater. About 5 feet past the crater, the ground rose upward 3 feet, where the main wreckage came to rest. Dirt and small airplane parts were sprayed forward of the main wreckage to a distance of about 50 feet.

All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The exposed airframe structure was intact, and oriented on an approximate 220-degree magnetic heading.

The left wing was separated from its attachment point, into two sections, and came to rest on top of the main fuselage. The leading edge was crushed rearward, and its fuel tank was ruptured. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing.

The right wing was also separated from its attachment point, and was lying next to the main fuselage. The leading edge was crushed rearward, and its fuel tank was ruptured. The flap was separated from the wing, and located about 10 feet beyond the main wreckage.

The cockpit area was crushed, and the instrument panel was destroyed, except for a few instrument displays. The tachometer gauge displayed a reading of 3,000 rpm. The throttle and mixture control levers in the cockpit were both in the full forward position; however, the levers were bent. The carburetor heat lever was observed in the "ON" position. The carburetor ice detection system's "sensitivity" knob was positioned to a setting of "8."

The flap handle was observed pulled upward and aft, corresponding to a 40-degree flap position.

Flight control continuity could not be confirmed due to impact damage.

The propeller blades remained attached to the engine crankshaft. Both blades were twisted, bent aft, and displayed leading edge nicks and chordwise scratches.

The engine was rotated 1/8 turn using the propeller blades. Continuity of the crankshaft and accessory drive section was established.

The fuel selector was removed from the wreckage for further examination and testing. Its position indicator was destroyed. When water was forced into the engine outlet line of the selector, no fluid was observed draining from either the left or right inlet lines. Using a pair if pliers, the selector position was rotated one detent to the left. When water was forced into the outlet line, no fluid was observed draining from either the left or right inlet lines. The selector position was rotated left to a second detent, and when water was forced into the outlet line, fluid was observed draining from the left inlet line. The selector position was rotated left to a third detent, and when water was forced into the outlet line, fluid was observed draining from the right inlet line.

The engine was examined on March 12, 2004, and no abnormalities were observed. Disassembly of the carburetor revealed that the ice detection gauge probe was destroyed.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Erie County Coroner's Office, Erie, Pennsylvania, performed an autopsy on the pilot, on February 28, 2004.

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted toxicological testing on the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to the operator of the airplane, the pilot had difficulty in starting the airplane's engine prior to departing for ERI, and requested assistance. The operator proceeded out to the airplane, and instructed the pilot on how to start the engine. The operator then informed the pilot that he did not want him flying at night and to plan on leaving ERI with enough time to return to OXC before sunset. Later in the day, the pilot called the operator and informed him that the airplane operated fine on the flight to ERI, and would return to OXC by 1900.

According to an employee of a fixed base operator (FBO) at ERI, the accident airplane arrived at their facility about 1400 on the day of the accident. The pilot inquired about how late the facility was open, and if they had mechanics on duty. The employee informed the pilot that mechanics were on duty until 1700. The pilot also stated that he had trouble starting the engine earlier in the day, and would "wait and see' if he would need assistance from the mechanics.

While at ERI, the airplane was fueled with 27 gallons of 100 low-lead aviation fuel. Review of fuel quality records at the FBO in ERI, from the 100LL aviation gasoline fuel farm and fuel truck did not reveal any abnormalities.

According to the PA-28-181 Information Manual, Emergency Procedures section, "Carburetor heat should be full on when carburetor ice is encountered."

The airplane was equipped with a carburetor ice detection system. The system consisted of a probe sensor mounted in the carburetor, a control box mounted on the instrument panel, and a red warning light to indicate the presence of ice in the carburetor. To adjust the system for the critical ice detection setting, the pilot would turn a "sensitivity" knob located on the control box counterclockwise, until the red light would illuminate. The pilot would then turn the "sensitivity" knob clockwise, until the red light would extinguish. The carburetor ice detection system was "...approved as optional equipment only and flight operations should not be predicated on its use."

A review of a FAA carburetor icing probability chart placed the reported temperature and dew point in the "icing at glide and cruise power" area of the chart.

The Corry Airport, Corry, Pennsylvania, was located about 5 nautical miles southeast of the accident site.

The airplane wreckage was released on March 12, 2004, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

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