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N6373C accident description

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Tail numberN6373C
Accident dateAugust 08, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-32-300
LocationFactoryville, PA
Near 41.591111 N, -75.751111 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 8, 2003, at 0749 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300 single-engine airplane, N6373C, was destroyed when it collided with trees, then terrain, while executing an instrument approach into Seaman's Airport (9N3), Factoryville, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot/co-owner and the passenger were fatally injured. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at Pottstown-Limmerick Airport (PTW), Pottstown, Pennsylvania, about 0716. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A review of air traffic control communications revealed that the pilot was cleared for the VOR instrument approach into Seaman's Airport.

A witness stated that the weather was foggy, with a visibility of less than 50 feet, when he heard the airplane fly over the airport with a low engine rpm. Shortly thereafter, he heard the airplane's engine increase to full power, followed by the sound of a loud crack, similar to lightning hitting a tree.

A second witness, a certified airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanic, was also at the airport when he heard the sound of trees breaking, followed immediately by the airplane's engine going to full power. Shortly thereafter, he heard the sound of a crash. In addition, "when the engine powered up...there were no misses, no nothing."

The witness described the weather at the time of the accident as foggy, with a forward visibility of less than 100 feet.

A third witness, a certified flight instructor, was in her home located on airport property when she heard the sound of an airplane approaching the airport, and said to her husband, "Impossible!" She described the weather conditions at that time as "zero, zero." The witness left her home and walked to the taxiway, but did not hear anything.

A fourth witness, who was also in his home located on airport property, heard an airplane with the engine power "pulled back," make a low approach to the runway. He could not see the airplane, or even the runway lights, because the fog had reduced visibility to less than 100 feet. As the sound of the airplane passed by, he heard the sudden surge of the engine, which became very loud. About 8 to 9 minutes later, he was standing in front of his house when a car approached out of the fog. The witness described the car as a "blur." He said the fog lifted quickly about 15-20 minutes later.

The accident occurred during the hours of day approximately 41 degrees, 35 minutes north latitude, and 75 degrees, 45 minutes west longitude.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Seaman's Airport was an uncontrolled airport with a single runway. Runway 4/22 was a 2,500-foot-long and 50-foot-wide asphalt runway, which was equipped with low intensity runway edge lights. The elevation was 1,209 feet msl.

The published inbound course for the VOR approach was 309 degrees, and the minimum descent altitude (MDA) utilizing Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania's, altimeter setting was 1,860 feet msl.

The published weather minimums were a 600-foot ceiling and a 1-mile visibility.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. Examination of his logbook revealed that the last entry was made on July 20, 2003. At that time, he had a total of 445.4 hours, of which 30.3 hours were in make and model, and 80.7 hours were logged in actual instrument conditions.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Weather reported at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP), Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles south-southeast of the accident site, at 0754, included visibility 3 miles, calm winds, mist, clear skies, temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.92 inches Hg.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on August 8-9, 2003, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest on its right side, in heavily wooded terrain, on a heading of 250 degrees magnetic, at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet, about 100 yards northwest of the runway.

Initial tree impact scars started about 200 feet from the main wreckage, and became progressively closer to the ground along the wreckage path, in a general direction of 050 degrees. At the point of initial contact, a 5- to 10-foot-wide diagonal swath was cut through the approximately 100-foot trees.

Several cut tree branches were found along the wreckage path. Examination of the branches revealed that the ends were cut at approximately 45-degree angles. The surface of some of the cuts exhibited black transfer marks.

The right wing, right aileron, right flap, outboard section of left aileron, tail section, and right main landing gear were found scattered along the wreckage path.

The main wreckage consisted of the engine, cockpit, fuselage, empennage, and inboard section of the left wing.

The right wing was separated at the wing root. Examination of the inboard section of the right wing revealed a crescent-shaped impact mark, that extended from the leading edge back toward the flap. Pieces of tree bark were found around the leading edge of this mark. The flap was separated from the wing, and torn into two sections. The aileron remained attached to the wing at the outboard hinge, but was separated at the inboard hinge.

The left wing was also separated at the wing root. The inboard section of the wing, including the landing gear, exhibited impact damage. The flap was intact, and remained attached. The aileron was intact, but separated from the wing.

Both wing fuel tanks were breached, and the finger screens were absent of debris.

The tail control surfaces were separated from the empennage. The left stabilator and trim were intact, and exhibited impact damage. The right horizontal stabilator was pushed aft, had leading edge impact damage, and the tip was separated. The rudder was intact, and exhibited impact damage.

Flight control continuity was established for all flight control surfaces. Some of the control cables were separated and exhibited "broom straw" ends, consistent with overload.

The flap handle was damaged, and was found in the 10 degree (first notch) position.

The airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, attitude indicator and directional gyro were located inside the cockpit. The altimeter was located outside of the main wreckage. The altimeter setting was 29.84 inches HG. The airspeed indicator read "0", the attitude indicator was tumbled, and the turn coordinator was wings level with ball positioned to the far left on the inclinometer. The attitude indicator was dissembled and the gyro housing was removed and examined. The gyro was intact, and there was no rotational scoring on the interior of the housing.

The throttle, mixture, and propeller controls were all in the full forward position.

The engine remained partially attached to the airframe. Engine continuity and compression were established to each cylinder by manual rotation of the propeller. During the compression check, valve train continuity was confirmed to each cylinder.

Each of the magneto harnesses were impact damaged. The magnetos were removed from the engine and their harnesses were removed. When manually rotated, both magnetos produced spark at each terminal tower.

The oil sump screen was removed, and was absent of debris. The oil filter element was also absent of debris.

The spark plugs were removed, and appeared light gray in color.

The fuel pump sustained impact damage, but a small amount of fuel drained from it when it was removed from the engine. Fuel was found in the fuel line to the fuel servo. The fuel screen was absent of debris. The fuel flow divider was intact and disassembled. Fuel was present in the divider. Each of the fuel injectors were removed, and were absent of debris.

The vacuum pump was intact, and removed from the engine. An internal examination of the pump revealed the drum and vanes were intact.

The three-bladed propeller assembly remained attached to the engine, and the spinner was crushed. One blade was loose in the hub, twisted, with some nicks near the tip. The second blade fit tight in the hub, and was twisted. The third blade was bent aft, fit tight in the hub, and was twisted.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Pathology Associates of N. E. PA, Ltd, on August 9, 2003.

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A hand held global position system (GPS) receiver was located near the main wreckage. Information downloaded from the receiver revealed that the entire flight was recorded.

The GPS began recording at 0716:31 and ended at 0749:44. A review of the last 1 minute and 3 seconds of recorded data revealed that the airplane was headed 299 degrees, then initiated a turn to a heading of 017 degrees as it flew over the runway. During that time, the airplane descended from an altitude of 2,000 feet to 1,268 feet mean sea level, before the data ended.

The last position recorded by the GPS was 41 degrees, 35 minutes north latitude, and 75 degrees, 45 minutes west longitude.

Two instrument approach plates (one was Jeppesen and the other N.O.S) for the VOR or GPS-A instrument approach were found in the airplane wreckage.

On the backside of the Jeppensen approach plate was an airport diagram of Seaman's Airport. A review of the diagram revealed there were trees located along the northwestern boundary of the airport at an elevation of 1,287 feet.

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