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CGHUE accident description

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Tail numberCGHUE
Accident dateSeptember 23, 1997
Aircraft typePiper PA-28R-200
LocationGlastenbury, VT
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 23, 1997, about 1600 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-200, Canadian registry, C-GHUE, was destroyed when it struck trees in mountainous terrain on Glastenbury Mountain, Glastenbury, Vermont. The Canadian certificated, non-instrument rated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site. The flight that departed Massena, New York, about 1455, and was destined for Willimantic, Connecticut, was operated on a Visual flight Rules (VFR) flight plan under 14 CFR Part 91.

The international flight originated in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, about 1322, and entered the United States at Massena.

While on the ground at Massena, the pilot contacted the Burlington Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), at 1410. The pilot reported his intended destination, and the briefer asked about his routing. The pilot reported that he was going on a direct route, over the mountains.

The briefer then stated:

"okay I would say v f r flight not recommended along...that routing, we have a flight precaution out for mountain obscuration with lower cloud cover along...mountains...occasionally obscured in cloud and precipitation and attributable to the...leading edge of the cold front, moderate turbulence can be expected as well below twelve thousand feet and icing also expected above eight thousand feet, occasional light to moderate rime or mixed icing in clouds as well as precipitation again above eight thousand freezing level forecast to be six to eight thousand feet, on departure, and looks like eight to twelve thousand on arrival"

Further in the briefing, the briefer stated, "...gonna be nice tomorrow once all this mess runs through but...I think you'd be very questionable v f r today...." To which the pilot replied, "yeah well i'll file anyway and ahh if it looks bad I'll turn back."

After the pilot filed the flight plan, the briefer added, "and once again v f r flight would not be recommended.", to which the pilot replied, "okay then."

The airplane departed Massena, about 1455, and the pilot activated the VFR flight plan, at 1459. No further communications were received from the pilot.

A hiker who was traveling southbound along the Appalachian Trail took refuge from deteriorating weather in a shelter near the peak of Glastenbury Mountain. He reported that he was in the clouds with visibility of about 10 feet. The rain was intermittent and cool. He said he suspected there might be freezing rain due to the temperature. Hail was also falling intermittently. The wind was from the west with strong sudden gusts that had a peak velocity of about 25 to 30 miles per hour. The hiker reported that at some time between 1600 and 1615, he heard an airplane engine for about 4 seconds. The engine was loud, at a high power setting and screaming. He also reported that he heard the engine sputter twice as if it was hitting trees, and then he heard a bang followed by silence. He stepped out of the shelter and walked into the woods in the direction he thought the noise came from, but was unable to hear anything else. He did not observe the airplane and remained in the shelter overnight.

The accident site was located about 2,100 feet southeast of Glastenbury Peak (3,748 feet high), at an elevation of about 3,600 feet, and about 600 feet west of the shelter.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 42 degrees, 58.45 minutes North Latitude, and 73 degrees, 4.04 minutes West Longitude.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot was the holder of Canadian and United States pilot certificates. Both certificates were at the private pilot level, with an airplane single engine land rating. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating. According to the pilot's flying logbook, which was current through September 14, 1997, he had logged a total time of 2,059 hours, including 1,833 hours as pilot-in-command. He was issued an first class FAA Airman Medical Certificate on June 14, 1996. He was also issued a first class Canadian Medical Certificate on June 26, 1997. Both medicals contained a vision limitation for corrective lenses.

According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the right seat passenger had been a rated pilot in rotorcraft several years ago. He was not current as a pilot and did not possess a valid medical certificate.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a 1970 Piper PA-28R-200. It was registered in Canada, and maintained under Transport Canada regulations. The airplane journey log was recovered from the airplane at the accident site. The airplane was maintained under a continuous airworthiness inspection program. The airplane had last been inspected on September 15, 1997, about 11 hours before the accident. The last inspection of the pitot/static system occurred on August 28, 1996.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A check of weather radar returns from the US Weather Bureau, at Albany, New York, revealed numerous weather radar returns of varying intensity in the vicinity of Mount Glastenbury.

At 1528, the picture showed a large area of returns between Shaftsbury, Vermont, and Bennington, Vermont. At 1558, the picture showed the returns had decreased with localized mountain activity between Shaftsbury and Bennington. At 1621, the picture showed the returns starting to build again between Shaftsbury and Bennington, although they were still less than was recorded at 1528.

RADAR AND OTHER REMOTELY RECORDED DATA

Radar data was received from the Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The data was in the National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) format. The airplane was not on an assigned beacon code and a target squawking code 1200 was first observed about 22 mile Southeast of Massena, at 1509. The altitude of the target was 7,300 feet and it was climbing. At 1521, the target reached 10,700 feet. After a few minutes, the target initiated a descent, which stopped at 1543, at an altitude of 3,300 feet. The target then entered an intermittent climb to 4,300 feet. The last radar target was observed at 1557:51. At that time the target was 1.04 miles north of, and .93 miles west of, the accident site, at an altitude of 4,200 feet. During the 50 minutes that the target was tracked, it maintained a south by southeast ground track.

A check of navigation maps revealed that a direct course between Massena, and Willimantic, was a magnetic heading of about 163 degrees.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed that the debris path extended for about 154 feet, on a general magnetic direction of 220 degrees. Broken tree limbs were observed to be progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the wreckage. The tops of broken trees were on a 20-degree descending angle.

The airplane was inverted on the ground. The left wing was intact, and the right wing was fragmented. Flight control continuity was verified to the rudder and elevator. The aileron cables were attached to the control wheel chain and exhibited characteristics similar to overload failures where they separated. The ailerons were separated from the wings and found along the debris path.

The elevator trim jack screw had 1 1/2 threads visible on the bottom, which corresponded to an elevator tab up position of 1.5 degrees.

The throttle, propeller control, and mixture control were found in the full forward position.

The fuel injection throttle body was separated from the engine, and the throttle butterfly in the throat was in the full open position.

Fuel was found in the fuel control unit, and spark was obtained from both magnetos. There were numerous areas of dying vegetation, similar to vegetation that had been sprayed with fuel.

The propeller was separated from the engine. The tip of one blade was missing, and the other blade was next to the left side of the passenger cabin. The trailing edge of both blades was wavy in appearance. A piece of cut wood, which measured 9 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches, was found midway along the debris path.

The vacuum pump shear shaft was intact.

The directional gyro and attitude indicator were disassembled, and rotational scoring was found on the gyro rotors and cases of both instruments.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Testing conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.

Autopsies were conducted on the pilot and passenger on September 25, 1997, by Paul Morrow M.D., Chief Medical Examiner, State of Vermont, and Steve Adams, M.D., Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, State of Vermont.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The aircraft wreckage was released to John A. Sudnikowicz, of Altech Adjusters, Ltd., Brampton, Ontario, Canada, the insurance adjuster on September 25, 1997.

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