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N4344Q accident description

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Tail numberN4344Q
Accident dateAugust 27, 2000
Aircraft typeCessna 172L
LocationMill Creek, PA
Near 40.41667 N, -77.9 W
Additional details: Burgandy w/Gold stripes

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 27, 2000, about 2235 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 172L, N4344Q, was destroyed when it struck rising terrain near Mill Creek, Pennsylvania. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed Riverview Airport (08C), Jenison, Michigan, and was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The airplane was last refueled on August 27, 2000, with 18.1 gallons of 100 LL aviation grade gasoline. According to personnel at the Riverview Airport, the pilot and his airplane were seen at the airport about 1730. When the airport was closed about 1930, the airplane was gone, and the pilot was not seen.

According to pilot's wife, the purpose of the flight was to pickup a friend at Keller Brothers Airport, Lebanon, Pennsylvania , and return him to Jenison on the following day. The transponder onboard the airplane was inoperative. However, there was a hand held global positioning navigation system (GPS) onboard.

When the airplane did not arrive at its destination, family members notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On August 28, 2000, the FAA issued an alert notice (ALNOT) for any FAA facility that may have had radio contact with the airplane. No record was found for any communications with FAA facilities while en route. In addition, there was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing prior to departure, or filing a flight plan.

The airplane was found on the northwest slope of Jack's Mountain on September 10, 2000, 74 nautical miles from Lebanon.

Interviews with local residents revealed several low flying airplanes were seen throughout the day and into the night, but none, in the time frame of the accident.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness at 40 degrees, 27.37 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 56.54 minutes west longitude.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate for single and multi-engine airplanes, and instrument airplane. He also held a mechanic's certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings. He was last issued a second class FAA airman medical certificate on April 5, 1999. The pilot's last flight review was conducted on June 8, 2000, in the accident airplane. According to the pilot's most recent insurance application, dated March 1, 2000, his total flight experience was 5,500 hours, with 2,000 hours in make and model, and 275 hours in the preceding 12 months. The pilot was estimated to have flown about 70 hours in the preceding 90 days.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was issued a dual airworthiness certificate with standard and restricted categories. The restricted category was used for aerial advertising. The standard category was used for flight instruction and personal use.

Examination of the airplane's maintenance records revealed it had received an annual inspection on September 15, 1999. The airplane hours were not recorded; however, on the preceding annual inspection conducted on September 11, 1998, the hours were recorded as 3,791.1. At the accident site, the tachometer read 4071.2 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A check of archived radar images from the National Weather Service (NWS) revealed areas of precipitation in the accident area.

A witness reported that he was driving in the area at some time after 2030. He remembered it was raining, and the fog was rolling off the mountains.

The closest weather reporting station to the accident site was Altoona, Pennsylvania (AOO), elevation 1,504 feet, 22 miles distant on a bearing of 260 degrees. Starting with the 2135 weather at Altoona, and continuing through the 2320 observation, a thunderstorm with light rain was recorded. During this time, the visibility dropped from 7 statute miles to 3 statute miles, and the ceiling dropped from 5,500 feet above ground level (AGL) to 1,900 feet AGL with cumulonimbus clouds.

The area forecast (FA) issued at 1345 on August 27, called for:

Western Pennsylvania - Scattered to broken clouds at 2,500 feet, scattered to broken clouds at 4,000 feet, broken clouds at 12,000 feet, tops of clouds flight level 250 [25,000 feet]. Occasionally visibility 3 to 5 statue miles with haze. Widely scattered thunderstorms and light rain. Cumulonimbus cloud tops at FL 420 [42,000 feet]. By 2300 Z [1900 EDT] scattered to broken clouds at 3,500 feet, broken clouds at 12,000 feet. Outlook , VFR [conditions] becoming IFR with mist by 0800 Z [0400 EDT].

Central Pennsylvania - Scattered to broken clouds at 12,000 feet, with tops at FL 250 [25,000 feet]. Occasionally visibility 3 to 5 statue miles with haze. By 2000 Z [1600 EDT] scattered to broken clouds at 5,000 feet, broken clouds at 8,000 feet, tops of clouds at FL 250 [25,000 feet]. Scattered thunderstorms and light rain showers. Cumulonimbus cloud tops at FL 430 [43,000 feet]. By 0000 Z [2000 EDT], broken clouds at 3,500 to 4,500 feet. Occasionally visibility 3 to 5 statue miles in scattered isolated embedded thunderstorms with light rain until 0400 Z [2400 EDT]. After 0400 Z [2400 EDT] visibility 3 to 5 statue miles with mist. Outlook - IFR ceilings and mist present.

Cloud heights in area forecasts were presented in altitudes above mean sea level (MSL). According to the DETROIT aeronautical sectional, the top of the ridgeline struck by the airplane was 2,300 feet. The top of a lighted antenna on the top of ridge was listed as 2,509 feet. Several ridges within a 10-mile radius of the accident site had elevations in excess of 2,000 feet.

The elevation of the accident site was 2,000 feet. The Altoona temperature was 18 C and the altimeter setting was 29.98.

RADAR AND OTHER REMOTELY RECORDED DATA

According to a radar plot prepared by FAA personnel, on August 27, 2000, at 1811:17, a primary radar target (skin paint only), was detected about 0.6 nautical miles (NM) southeast of Jenison, proceeding in a southeasterly direction. The target was tracked, proceeding south of Detroit, Michigan, and north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The target then passed between Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, and proceeded northeast toward Petersburg, Pennsylvania. Passing Petersburg, the target reversed course. As the target neared Holidaysburg, it turned to the southeast, and then turned east again, just prior to disappearing from radar. The target disappeared from radar at 2234:03, about 3 NM northwest of the accident site, heading east.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane was examined at the accident site on September 11, 2000. The airplane had collided with rising terrain on the side of a ridgeline, about 300 feet from the top. The closure angle to the side of the ridgeline was about 10 degrees. The top of the ridgeline was about 2,300 feet. Debris was scattered on a heading of 200 degrees for 250 feet. Trees in the area ranged from 25 feet to 75 feet in height. Broken trees branches began about 250 feet from the main wreckage and were progressively lower in the direction of the main wreckage. The descent angle along the broken branches was about 7 degrees. A piece of cut wood, about 6 inches in diameter, cut at a 45-degree angle to its long axis was found along the debris path.

About 100 feet from the initial tree strike, an outboard section of the right wing was found. A rounded depression in the leading edge, similar to a tree strike, had compressed the metal rearward and upward. Aileron cables in the separated wing, had puffed ends, similar to a tension overload.

The airplane came to rest inverted, with the engine twisted in the mounts, and attached to the fuselage. The elevator trim was measured at 1.38 inches extension. A representative of Cessna Aircraft Company reported the elevator trim setting equated to the trailing edge of the elevator tab angled up 5 degrees.

Flight control continuity was confirmed between the rudder and elevator, and the forward under floor area where the cables were jammed. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) had been turned off by the Civil Air Patrol. The ELT antenna was shielded by the fuselage, and broken off.

The communications and navigation radios were found turned off. The GPS was not recovered; however, there were areas of dense brush nearby and ahead of the airplane.

The pilot's seat was found attached to the fuselage seat rails by the outboard seat grips. The grips on the inboard seat rails were expanded.

Both fuel tanks had been ruptured and there was no evidence of fuel, or a fuel smell at the accident site. Vegetation within 50 feet forward of both fuel tanks was wilted and had turned brown, while other nearby vegetation was green in color.

The crankshaft was rotated, and valve train continuity was confirmed to the accessory gear drive. Compression was detected in all cylinders. The engine oil pressure screen and sump screens were absent of debris. The magneto drive shafts were rotated by hand, and spark was observed between each distributor tower and the magneto case. The spark plugs were gray in appearance with no fouling present in the terminals. The carburetor was broken open, and the main jet broken. The finger screen in the carburetor was absent of debris. One blade of the propeller had a wavy appearance along the trailing edge.

The airplane was configured in a passenger configuration with no evidence of being used for aerial advertising.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.

An autopsy was conducted on September 11, 2000, by Brian Kolar, MD, pathologist for Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The aircraft wreckage was released to the Huntingdon County Emergency Director on September 11, 2000.

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