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N7799Y accident description

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Tail numberN7799Y
Accident dateOctober 26, 2003
Aircraft typePiper PA-30
LocationSpartanburg, SC
Near 34.900278 N, -81.968889 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 26, 2003, at 2210 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-30, N7799Y, registered to and operated by Concept Displays LLC, collided with trees and the ground during approach to Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport, Spartanburg, South Carolina. The positioning flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument flight plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by impact and post-crash fire. The flight departed Evansville, Indiana, at 1900 central standard time on October 26, 2003.

A review of air traffic control records revealed the pilot made his initial contact with the Greer [South Carolina] Approach controller at 2148:14. The pilot was provided the Greer altimeter setting and was instructed to expect the ILS [instrument landing system] runway 5 approach at Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport. The pilot acknowledged and stated, "we have the AWOS [automated weather observing system] at Spartanburg we'll expect the ILS to five." At 2149:39 the controller stated, "nine nine yankee area of weather eleven o'clock ten miles about three mile diameter even with most of my weather filtered out it's still showing up so I guess it's best to take you around it." The pilot stated, "okay that will be just fine I appreciate that." The controller provided vectors, and at 2152:37 the controller stated, "twin comanche nine nine yankee looks like you are passing the weather now turn left heading one six zero," and the pilot acknowledged. The controller continued to provide vectors, cleared the flight to descend, and at 2204:39 the controller stated, "twin comanche nine nine yankee is niner miles from the runway turn left heading zero eight zero maintain two thousand five hundred 'til established on the localizer cleared ILS runway five approach." The pilot acknowledged, and the controller approved a change to the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport common traffic advisory frequency. At 2206:11, the pilot stated, "change to advisory frequency approved nine nine yankee." No further radio contact was made with the flight.

A review of radar data revealed the flight intercepted the runway 5 localizer and descended on course toward the airport. About 2208:51, the last recorded radar position showed the airplane at an altitude of approximately 1800 feet mean sea level, aligned with the runway 5 localizer 2.8 nautical miles from the runway threshold; according to air traffic control personnel, the position where the flight was last seen on radar was the expected lower limit of the radar coverage for the area. About 2215, the Greer Approach controller received a telephone call from the Spartanburg 911 operator reporting a downed airplane.

Witnesses in residences near the airport reported hearing a low-flying airplane they described as "very loud," and one witness stated he heard the airplane's engines rev up, followed by popping and crashing noises. The witness saw the airplane on the ground in flames and telephoned the 911 operator.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot held a second class medical certificate issued August 18, 2003, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses." The pilot's logbook was not recovered for examination. A review of records on file with the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the pilot reported 1921 total civilian flight hours on his most recent application for an airman medical certificate.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Piper PA-30 was manufactured in 1965 and was powered by two Lycoming IO-320-B1A, 160-horsepower engines. A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed an annual inspection and the installation of two factory-overhauled engines were completed on May 28, 2003, at an airframe total time of 6948 hours, right engine hobbs meter reading of 1992 hours, and left engine hobbs meter reading of 1988 hours. The most recent maintenance logbook entry dated October 16, 2003, for an exhaust repair, recorded the left and right hobbs meter readings as 2162.54 and 2166.25 hours, respectively.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The airport manager at Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport, Spartanburg, South Carolina, provided records of the airport's AWOS observations. According to the records, at 2141 sky conditions were overcast at 200 feet above ground level (AGL) and visibility 1 3/4 statue miles with haze; at 2201 sky conditions were overcast at 200 feet AGL and visibility 1 statute mile with haze; and at 2221 sky conditions were overcast at 200 feet AGL and visibility 1/2 statute mile with light rain.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed wreckage was in a wooded area 0.7 nautical miles from the runway 5 threshold about 950 feet to the right of the center of the runway 5 localizer course. Wreckage debris was scattered approximately 300 feet along a 110-degree magnetic heading from a tree broken approximately 75 feet above the ground. Near the base of the tree were fragments of clear window plastic. The cockpit glareshield, the outboard section of the right aileron, and the right wing tip tank were at the base of trees near the beginning of the wreckage debris path. The fuselage, inboard sections of the wings, and the engines were on the ground at the end of the wreckage debris path amid charred trees and ground.

The fuselage was inverted and fire-damaged; the cockpit and the cabin forward of the empennage was consumed by fire down to the cabin roof, and the cabin door was separated. The cockpit instruments, avionics, and throttle quadrant were crushed and fire-damaged, and the fuel selector valves were separated and fire-damaged. The left fuel selector valve was positioned to the left main fuel tank. Examination revealed the valve moved freely, the ports were free of obstruction, and the screen was fire-damaged and free of obstruction. The right fuel selector valve was positioned to the right main fuel tank. Examination revealed the valve could not be moved, the ports were free of obstruction, and the screen was fire-damaged and free of obstruction.

The inboard nine feet of the left wing were fire-damaged, and the leading edge of the outboard wing was crushed aft to the main spar. The pitot tube was crushed with tree bark embedded, and the engine was separated. The main and auxiliary fuel bladders were breached, the tip tank was separated, and fuel was recovered from the tip tank. The left main landing gear was in the retracted position. The left aileron was attached to the airframe at the inboard attachment with the balance weight in place; the aileron push-pull rod was bent and separated at the aileron attachment. The left aileron bellcrank stops were in place, and both aileron cables were attached to the bellcrank. Continuity for the aileron primary control cable was established from the bellcrank to the chain at the cockpit yoke control. Continuity for the aileron balance cable was established from the bellcrank to a separation in the mid-cabin area. The left flap was crushed and fire-damaged and attached to the airframe at the outboard and middle flap tracks, and the flap was in the down position. The flap was attached to the bellcrank with the cable separated at the turnbuckle, which was bent.

The inboard six feet of the right wing were fire-damaged, the middle and outboard sections of the wing were crushed and separated, and the main spar was bent aft approximately 45 degrees. The engine was separated. The main and auxiliary fuel bladders were breached, the tip tank was separated, and fuel was recovered from the tip tank. The upper wing skin of the outboard six feet of the wing was crushed aft with tree bark embedded. The aileron was separated from the airframe and separated into three sections. The aileron bellcrank was attached to the airframe; the stops were in place, the push-pull rod was attached, and both aileron cables were attached to the bellcrank. Continuity for the aileron control cables was established from the bellcrank to separations approximately nine feet from the bellcrank. The right flap was crushed, fire-damaged, and separated. A one-foot section of the flap was attached to the middle flap track and the flap bellcrank, and the flap position could not be determined. Continuity for the flap control cable was established from the bellcrank to the turnbuckle, which was fire-damaged and broken with the safety wire in place.

The empennage was separated from the fuselage. The left side of the stabilator was separated two feet from the root, and the inboard section was fire-damaged. The right side of the stabilator was crushed with tree bark embedded; it was separated into three sections and was separated from the airframe at the root. Continuity for the stabilator control cable was established from the stabilator balance bar to the control column in the cockpit. Continuity for the stabilator trim control cable was established from the trim drum to the mid-cabin area. The vertical fin and rudder were separated and lodged in a tree approximately 25 feet above the ground. The left side of the vertical fin and rudder displayed a circular crush pattern with tree bark embedded. The rudder horn was attached to the empennage with the stops in place. Rudder cable continuity was established from the rudder horn to the rudder bar in the cockpit floor.

The left engine was inverted on the ground with the upper engine cowling attached. The tubular mounts and exhaust were crushed. The crankshaft was fractured aft of the propeller flange, and the propeller was separated. Examination revealed the crankshaft could be turned from the accessory drive; crankshaft continuity was established from the rear case to the fracture at the flange, movement of all valves was observed, and compression developed on all cylinders. Borescope examination of the piston domes and valves revealed no abnormalities, and the spark plugs displayed no evidence of abnormalities. The left magneto was damaged with the flange fractured, and the ignition harnesses were damaged; both magnetos produced spark on all towers when turned by hand. The fuel pump operated when turned by hand. The fuel injector servo was damaged, and the flange adapter was fractured. The injector inlet screen was free of obstruction. The fuel injector nozzles were free of obstruction, and fuel was observed in the nozzles, lines, and fuel flow divider. The oil suction screen and oil filter element were free of obstruction. The vacuum pump was attached; the vanes and drive coupling were intact, and the rotor was fractured.

The left propeller was separated on the ground with the spinner, flange, and part of the crankshaft attached. One propeller blade displayed chordwise scratches near the blade root, and the blade was curled with the tip missing. The other blade was bent aft and displayed chordwise and longitudinal scratches; paint was missing from the forward and aft faces of the blade and from the leading and trailing edges of the blade. The propeller governor was damaged, and the control arm was damaged. The propeller governor drive coupling was intact, the unit rotated when turned by hand, and oil pumping action was observed. The gasket screen was free of obstruction.

The right engine was inverted on the ground, and the propeller was attached. Examination revealed the crankshaft could be turned from the propeller; crankshaft continuity was established from the rear case to the propeller, movement of all valves was observed, and compression developed on all cylinders. Borescope examination of the piston domes and valves revealed no abnormalities, and the spark plugs displayed no evidence of abnormalities. The right magneto was damaged with the flange fractured, and the ignition harnesses were damaged; both magnetos produced spark on all towers when turned by hand. The fuel pump was damaged with the flange fractured. The fuel injector servo was damaged, and the flange adapter was fractured. Fire damage was observed in the area of the servo and firewall. The injector inlet screen was free of obstruction. The fuel injector nozzles were free of obstruction, and fuel was observed in the nozzles, lines, and fuel flow divider. The oil suction screen and oil filter element were free of obstruction. The vacuum pump was attached; the vanes, rotor, and drive coupling were intact.

The right propeller was attached to the crankshaft flange with the spinner attached, and both blades turned freely within the hub. One propeller blade displayed longitudinal scratches near the blade root; the blade was twisted with the tip missing, and paint was missing from the trailing edge of the blade. The other blade was bent forward with the tip missing. The propeller governor was damaged and separated, and the control arm was damaged. The propeller governor drive coupling was intact, the unit rotated when turned by hand, and oil pumping action was observed. The gasket screen was free of obstruction.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on October 28, 2003, by the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, Spartanburg, South Carolina. The cause of death was reported as, "cardiorespiratory arrest secondary to internal hemorrhage, carbon monoxide intoxication, and probable concussion with diffuse severe thermal burns ... ."

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report stated 11 percent carbon monoxide and 0.35 ug/ml cyanide were detected in the blood, no ethanol was detected in the urine, 0.008 ug/ml, ug/g brompheniramine was detected in the blood, and brompheniramine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine were detected in the urine.

A family member who spoke with the pilot via telephone prior to the flight's departure from Evansville, Indiana, stated the pilot had a cold and "had the sniffles." A co-worker of the pilot stated he noticed the pilot seemed to have a cold two days prior to the accident, and he stated the pilot "seemed fine" the day of the accident.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to the published approach procedures for the ILS runway 5 approach at Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport, for all category aircraft, the landing minima are decision altitude 1001 feet mean sea level (MSL) and reported visibility 1/2 statute mile. The touchdown zone elevation is 801 feet MSL. The missed approach procedures are climb on runway heading to 1300 feet MSL, then a climbing left turn to 3000 feet MSL direct to the Spartanburg VORTAC and hold.

The FAA performed a flight inspection of the ILS runway 5 approach and missed approach at Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport on October 27, 2003. The report stated the facility operation and the minimum safe altitude warning checked satisfactory. Subsequent inspection of the Visual Approach Slope Indicator on October 31, 2003, revealed the glide slope angle was 3.34 degrees.

According to a co-worker of the pilot, the flight initially departed Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a business flight that morning. The pilot flew the airplane to Lawrenceville, Georgia, then to Lexington, Kentucky. A review of Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) records revealed at 1642, the pilot telephoned the Louisville AFSS and filed an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan from Lexington, Kentucky, to Evansville, Indiana, and was provided a weather briefing for the route of flight. The pilot then filed another IFR flight plan from Evansville, Indiana, to Spartanburg, South Carolina, and he stated to the weather briefer that he would obtain updated weather information once on the ground in Evansville, Indiana. The pilot flew the airplane from Lexington, Kentucky, to Evansville, Indiana, where he dropped off his last passenger.

According to a family member who resided in the vicinity of Spartanburg, South Carolina, the pilot telephoned from Evansville, Indiana, prior to the accident flight to let the family know he was run

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