N7283P accident descriptionGo to the Utah map...
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|Accident date||December 31, 1998|
|Aircraft type||Piper PA-24-180|
|Location||West Jordan, UT|
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On December 31, 1998, at 1515 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-24-180, N7283P, was destroyed after colliding with terrain while maneuvering along the Oquirrh Mountain foothills west of West Jordan, Utah. The non-instrument rated private pilot and his passenger were both fatally injured. The airplane was being operated as a personal flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Wendover Airport, Wendover, Utah, approximately 45 minutes before the accident. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the accident area.
According to family members, the pilot and a business client had departed Salt Lake City Municipal 2 Airport (U42) at approximately 0830 on the morning of the accident. They were planing to fly to Elko, Nevada, to pick up another business associate and bring him back to Salt Lake City for a business meeting.
According to FAA records, the pilot of N7283P requested a weather briefing at 0817 on the morning of the accident from the Cedar City Flight Service Station (FSS). He was advised that VFR flight was not recommended, with AIRMETs (airman's meteorological information) for moderate rime icing in clouds and precipitation, moderate turbulence, and mountain obscuration with clouds, precipitation, fog and mist. He was told that a high pressure ridge over the area was moving east, with a new front approaching from the west. The front was expected to arrive sometime in the afternoon, creating forecasted marginal conditions.
According to a supervisor at the Wendover Airport, N7283P landed at Wendover, an airport located approximately midway between Salt Lake City and Elko. The aircraft landed at about 1030 and parked on the ramp. He observed the pilot of N7283P and his passenger obtain shuttle services into town. According to the manager, that was the only aircraft that had arrived and departed to and from the airport on the day of the accident.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicate that the pilot of N7283P obtained another weather briefing at 1201. The pilot told the briefer that he "couldn't quite get into Elko," and asked for an update on the weather in the Elko area. He stated that he received a briefing in the morning, "but it was marginal in those days and now I can concur." Again, the pilot was advised by the briefer that VFR flight was not recommended, with AIRMETs for moderate icing and mountain obscurement.
The airport supervisor at Wendover observed the two men returning back to the airport sometime between 1400 and 1430. He stated that he overheard the pilot of N7283P announce his departure over the Unicom radio. At the time of their departure, he observed the weather to be "hazy due to bad weather in the west and east of Wendover with possible snowy weather in the mountains." He stated that he "could not see the mountains to the east or west due to the weather."
According to FAA transcripts, the pilot of N7283P contacted Cedar City Flight Watch at 1502:28 and stated, "We're up here in IFR conditions and we're a VFR pilot. We're trying to land at U42 and we're needing some help." The Flight Watch briefer contacted Salt Lake City Approach Control (TRACON), and was instructed to provide the pilot with a discreet transponder code. The TRACON specialist asked the Flight Watch briefer to verify the pilot's status and the pilot again confirmed, "I'm in clearly IFR conditions."
The TRACON specialist told the Flight Watch briefer to instruct the pilot of N7283P to climb immediately to a minimum altitude of 8,000 feet on a heading of 130 degrees away from the mountains. The pilot responded, "Sir, I'm disoriented." After being provided the instructions a second time, the pilot replied, "I'm stalling." The pilot then acknowledged the instructions, and the TRACON specialist told the Flight Watch briefer to instruct the pilot to contact him on his frequency.
At 1514:01, the pilot of N7283P contacted Salt Lake City TRACON, and was asked if he could fly eastbound and maintain VFR. The pilot responded, "I don't know. I don't even know which direction I'm headed. Can you help me with that please?" The pilot was instructed to turn right, to which he responded, "Ma'am, I'm totally disoriented. I may be upside down." That was the last transmission received from the pilot, and all further attempts to contact the pilot were unsuccessful.
According to a witness who was farming his property about one mile from the accident site, he heard a "loud bang" near the time when the accident occurred, and stated that a "snowstorm and heavy fog" was sweeping though the area at the time of the accident. A search was initiated, and the wreckage was located at 0830 the following morning.
The pilot, Michael H. Wray, age 45, was born on March 23, 1953. He held Private Pilot Certificate No. 566920158, dated March 27, 1996, with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. He possessed a third class airman medical certificate, dated August 12, 1997, with no restrictions or limitations. According to the pilot's logbook, Mr. Wray began flying on September 14, 1995. At the time of the accident, he had acquired a total of 338 hours, all of which were performed in N7283P. He accomplished a biennial flight review on March 21, 1998.
N7283P was manufactured by the New Piper Aircraft, Inc., in 1961. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-360-A1D engine, rated at 180 horsepower, a Hartzell 2-blade, all-metal, constant speed propeller, and retractable landing gear. According to maintenance records, the annual inspection on the airframe and the engine were performed on February 2, 1998, at a tachometer time of 733.59 hours. At that time, the airframe had accumulated 3806.59 hours total time. The engine and airframe had acquired 100.01 hours since the last inspection.
At 1456, weather conditions at the Salt Lake City Airport (the closest weather reporting facility), located 10 miles north of the accident site, were reported as: wind 100 degrees at 5 knots, scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, overcast clouds at 2,800 feet, visibility 2 1/2 miles with light rain and mist, temperature 2 degrees C. (36 degrees F.), dew point 1 degree C. (34 degrees F.), and an altimeter setting of 29.84 Hg.
According to several witnesses present in the area, a sudden white-out snow storm was passing through the area near the time when the accident occurred. For approximately five hours following the aircraft's disappearance from radar, the search to find the airplane was hampered due to snow, fog and high wind weather conditions. By late evening, the weather conditions had improved enough to allow the search to resume.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft was located (40 degrees 37.05 minutes north latitude, 112 degrees 06.10 minutes west longitude) at approximately the 6,000 foot level along the foothills of the Oquirrh Mountain range, six miles west of U42. Ground impact scars indicate that the aircraft struck the ground left wing first, and came to rest 85 feet beyond the first impact point in an upright position. The wreckage was scattered along a flight path of approximately 232 degrees magnetic heading. The was no postimpact fire.
The left wing section was found along an area of thick brush. The propeller was found 50 feet beyond the left wing section, and bore evidence of leading edge gouges and chordwise striations. The left horizontal stabilator was partially separated, but still attached to the fuselage. Flight control continuity was established. The engine was detached from the engine mount and firewall, and was found 30 feet beyond the main wreckage.
The outboard section of the right wing and aileron were found approximately 400 yards from the main wreckage along an adjacent ridge, and appeared to have separated in flight. The right wing spar exhibited signatures similar to that of overload failure, breaking in a positive direction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies (#R199800002 and #R199900003) were performed by the State of Utah's Office of the Medical Examiner on January 2, 1999. A toxicology protocol on the pilot was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. No ethanol or drugs were detected. Carbon monoxide and cyanide analysis was not performed due to a lack of suitable specimens.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
CDR (continuous data recording) radar data was provided by the Salt Lake City TRACON. According to the data, the first target of N7283P was observed at 1508:01 on a heading of 233 degrees. At 1509:33, the aircraft turned right, which developed into a series of progressive right turns with varying altitudes. The last radar target was observed at 1514:56, and no altitude was encoded. In the time period between the first and last radar targets in a span of nearly seven minutes, the aircraft's altitude varied between 6,100 and 7,800 feet msl, with headings encompassing all 360 degrees.
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation were the New Piper Aircraft, Inc., and Textron Lycoming.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the Spanish Fork Flying Service, Spanish Fork, Utah, on January 2, 1999.