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N680HP accident description

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Tail numberN680HP
Accident dateAugust 16, 2002
Aircraft typePiper PA-31-350
LocationSanderson, WV
Near 38.359722 N, -81.278056 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 16, 2002, about 1135 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-31-350, N680HP, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during a descent near Sanderson, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated from the Charleston International Airport (CHS), Charleston, South Carolina, destined for the Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, West Virginia. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed and activated for the positioning flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to witnesses, the pilot flew five passengers from Charleston, West Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina, earlier in the day. The flight was conducted without incident, and once on the ground, the passengers deplaned. After the lineman serviced the airplane with a full load of fuel, he and the pilot had a short conversation. During the conversation, the pilot seemed relaxed, not rushed, and in good health. The conversation ended, the pilot conducted a walk around inspection, and reboarded the airplane for the flight back to Charleston, West Virginia.

According to air traffic control data, the airplane departed Charleston, South Carolina, and proceeded towards Charleston, West Virginia. Once in the Charleston, West Virginia, area the pilot was given a frequency change from Indianapolis Center to Charleston Approach Control. After contacting approach, the pilot was cleared to descend from 8,000 feet msl to 5,000 feet msl. According to radar data, after leaving 8,000 feet msl, the airplane maintained approximately a 500-foot per-minute descent until radar contact was lost at approximately 1,700 feet msl. During the descent, the airplane's ground track varied between 000 and 024 degrees magnetic, and ground speed varied between 178 and 197 knots.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located in a creek at 38 degrees, 21.58 minutes north latitude, 81 degrees, 18.69 minutes west longitude, and an elevation of approximately 860 feet msl.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to the airplane manufacturer, the airplane was manufactured in 1980. It was equipped with two 350-horsepower Lycoming TIO-540-J2BD engines, with constant speed propellers, and capable of carrying eight occupants, including the pilot.

The airplane was modified with a Colemill Panther conversion, which included adding 4-bladed "Q-tipped" propellers, Woodward governors and synchrophasers, modified propeller spinners, unfeathering accumulators, a Shadin digital fuel management computer, and winglets.

Examination of the airframe logbooks revealed that an annual inspection was performed on November 16, 2001. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued 4,493.2 hours of flight time. According to the airframe logbook and company flight logs, the airplane had approximately 4,690 hours of flight time at the time of the accident.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine-land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. On his last Federal Aviation administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate, which was dated July 16, 2002, he reported a total flight experience of 5,720 hours. The pilot's logbook was not located, and presumed destroyed in the postcrash fire.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A weather observation was taken about 7 minutes after the accident at the Yeager Airport, which had a field elevation of 981 feet msl, and located 15 miles to the west of the accident site. At the time of the observation, wind was 220 degrees at 6 knots, visibility was 9 miles, clouds were scattered at 7,500 feet, ceiling was broken at 12,000 feet, temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter setting was 30.27 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Debris Path

The debris path was orientated on a magnetic heading of 005 degrees, and was approximately 1,450 feet long. Within the debris path, all the major structural components for the airplane were identified, along with portions from all the flight control surfaces. The topography of the debris path varied. It started at a ridgeline then transitioned to approximately a 60-degree descending slope, before terminating in a creek bed at the bottom of a ravine. Freshly broken tree branches on the south side of the 1,300-foot ridge marked the beginning of the debris path. The ridge was orientated east to west, and covered with trees, except for its crest, which had been cleared several months before the accident to install a gas well. In addition, the broken tree tops on the south and north sides of the ridge were higher in elevation than the ridge crest. The down angle from the broken branches on the south side to the broken tree trunks on the north was approximately 4 degrees.

To facilitate the investigation, the debris path was divided into 1-foot increments called stations, and the beginning of the debris path was designated as station 1. On the ridge crest at station 20 was the inboard section of the right aileron, along with the aileron trim tab, which was approximately in the neutral position. This section of wreckage was approximately 2 feet long, and displayed impact damage. On the north side of the ridge crest at station 60 were freshly broken tree trunks. The trunks had a diameter of 10 to 14 inches, and ranged in height from approximately 15 to 30 feet above the ground. In addition, the broken tree branches on the south side of the ridge and the center of the broken tree trunks on the north side, were approximately level in elevation.

At station 70 was the outboard section of the right wing, minus the winglet. This section of wing was approximately 5 feet long and displayed leading edge impact damage. The aileron, along with the aileron counterweight had separated from the wing section, the associated attachment points were deformed, and the fracture surfaces were gray in color and absent of beach marks. At station 80 was the inboard section of the left aileron. It was approximately 2 feet long, and displayed impact damage. At station 85, and approximately 10 feet left of debris path center, was the outboard section of the left wing, minus the aileron and winglet. This section of wing was approximately 4 feet long, the aileron counterweight was attached, and the leading edge displayed impact damage.

At station 90, approximately 15 feet left of debris path center, and approximately 20 feet above the ground, was a section of left wing wrapped around a tree trunk. At station 95, and approximately 20 feet above the ground, were fresh cut marks on a tree trunk. The marks were approximately 12 inches long, and 90 degrees to the horizontal axis of the debris path. At station 100 were the left and right winglets. Also at station 100, and approximately 15 feet left of debris path center, were the outboard sections of the left aileron, and left horizontal stabilizer. The aileron section was approximately 3 feet long, the stabilizer section was approximately 2.5 feet long, and both displayed impact damage. Located between stations 105 and 220 were approximately the outboard 4 feet of the right flap, the outboard 3 feet of the right aileron, the outboard 3 feet of the left flap, and the outboard 2.5 feet of the right horizontal stabilizer. All of which displayed impact damage.

At station 225 was a section from the left wing. This section of wing was approximately 3 feet long, and contained the left aileron bellcrank. The bellcrank was in place, and the aileron and balance cables were still attached. Both cables were approximately 4 feet long, and the ends were broomstrawed. In addition, the aileron push-pull rod was fractured. Examination of the fracture revealed it was gray in color and absent of beach marks. At station 320 was the upper half of the right engine cowling. At station 400 was the outboard section of the left stabilizer, with the corresponding elevator. This section of wreckage was approximately 2.5 feet long and displayed impact damage.

At station 800 was a piece of cut wood. The wood was approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, and was cut on a 45-degree angle. At station 980 was the right engine propeller. The No. 1 blade displayed leading edge gouges, and "S" bends. The No. 2 blade was bent mid span opposite the direction of rotation and displayed "S" bends. The No. 3 blade was bent mid span opposite the direction of rotation, had one leading edge gouge, and chordwise gouges on the non-cambered side of the blade. The No. 4 blade had separated from the propeller hub and was not recovered. Examination of the fracture surfaces associated with the No. 4 blade revealed they were gray in color, and absent of beach marks.

Main Wreckage

The main wreckage was located at station 1,450, in a small creek at the base of the ridge, and orientated on a magnetic heading of approximately 200 degrees. It was fragmented, and displayed severe impact and fire damage. It was comprised of remnants from the cockpit, left inboard wing, left inboard flap, left engine, cabin, empennage, horizontal stabilizer, elevator, vertical stabilizer, rudder, right engine, inboard right wing, and inboard right flap.

The instrument panel was destroyed in the postcrash fire. The pilot side altimeter had separated from the panel and was located approximately 15 feet to the west of the main wreckage. The glass face was broken, and all three pointers were missing. No needle impact marks were observed, and the altimeter was set to 30.34 inches of mercury. The pilot side airspeed indicator was located about 10 feet to the west of the main wreckage. The glass was broken and the needle was missing. No needle impact marks were identified on the face of the indicator.

Due to impact and fire damage, the throttle levers, propeller control levers, mixture control levers, elevator trim wheel, rudder trim wheel, aileron trim wheel, trim indicators, cowl flap switches, cowl flap indicators, both fuel selectors, and crossfeed valve were not identified.

The left main landing gear displayed impact and fire damage, and was retracted. The right main landing gear displayed impact damage, the gear door was partially closed, and the gear was retracted. The left flap jackscrew was not identified. The right flap jackscrew was in the up position. The left and right inboard wing spars, along with the spar cap were destroyed in the postcrash fire. The airframe left wing aft attachment point was not identified. The airframe right wing aft attachment point was deformed, the connecting bolt was in place, and a portion of the aft right wing attachment was present. The left and right engine electric boost pumps, electric low-pressure boost pumps, and emergency shutoff valves were not located.

Both control columns displayed impact and fire damage, and had separated from the airframe. The elevator control cables were attached to the elevator control sector and continuity was confirmed through the autopilot elevator pitch control servo to the elevator bellcrank in the rear of the fuselage. The aft elevator torque horn was intact, the elevator push-pull tube connecting points were intact, and melted aluminum was identified in the area of the connecting points.

The first portion of the elevator pitch trim system identified was the trim control cables, which emerged from melted aluminum just forward of the autopilot elevator pitch control servo. The nose-up cable was wrapped around the cable drum, and continuity was confirmed from the control servo to the elevator trim tab through the elevator trim jackscrew. The jackscrew had approximately three threads exposed, which equated to approximately 1-degree of nose up trim.

The aileron control chain was fragmented, and had separated from the control column sprockets. The left side of the chain was connected to the left aileron control cable, and the right side was connected to the right aileron control cable. Aft of the cockpit area, the left aileron control cable was visible for about 5 feet before disappearing into melted aluminum, and the right was visible for about 2 feet before also disappearing into melted aluminum. The cable ends were not located. An approximately 4-foot section of the aileron balance cable was located in the cabin area. The left end of the cable was broomstrawed, and the right was incased in melted aluminum. The autopilot roll servo was identified, and the bridle cable was still attached to the balance cable.

Rudder cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit rudder bar to the rudder horn. Continuity from the rudder pedals could not be confirmed because of impact and fire damage. Continuity of the rudder trim system also could not be verified because of impact and fire damage. The rudder trim jackscrew had approximately nine threads visible, which equated to approximately a neutral trim setting.

The wreckage was recovered and transported to a facility in Clayton, Delaware, where the left and right engines were examined on August 22, 2002.

Left Engine

The propeller was partially attached, and the governor was in place. The propeller hub displayed impact damage and was compromised. The No. 1 blade displayed no chordwise scratches, "S" bends, or leading edge gouges. The No. 2 blade displayed "S" bends, and chordwise scratches. The No. 3 blade had separated from the hub. The fracture surfaces were gray in color and absent of beach marks. The No. 3 blade was recovered, and displayed "S" bends. The No. 4 blade was bent aft approximately 40 degrees, and displayed chordwise scratches.

The fuel servo was not recovered. The oil sump, along with the induction plenum was consumed in the postcrash fire. The left and right intake manifolds were destroyed. Continuity of the fuel lines that connected the fuel servo to the fuel dividers could not be confirmed because of impact and fire damage. Continuity from the fuel dividers to the No. 3, No. 4, and No. 6 fuel nozzles was confirmed. Continuity was not confirmed to the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 5 fuel nozzles because of impact and fire damage. Examination of the No. 5 fuel nozzle fitting revealed that the "B" nut and washer for the nozzle were suspended from the associated fuel line. Examination of the "B" nut revealed no impact damage on the outside of the fitting. Examination of the inside revealed the threads were damage approximately 90 degrees to the direction of rotation. In addition, no fire damage was identified on the engine baffling downstream of the No. 5 fuel nozzle.

Continuity from the air inlet box to the left and right fuel nozzle vent manifolds could not be confirmed because of impact and fire damage. Continuity was confirmed from the manifolds to the No. 4 and No. 6 fuel nozzles, but not to the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, or No. 5 because of impact damage.

The top sparkplugs were removed, and the electrodes examined. The No. 1 and No. 2 were light gray in color, and absent of debris. The No. 3 and No. 4 were gray in color, and absent of debris. The No. 5 and No. 6 were dark gray in color, and absent of debris. The bottom sparkplugs were also removed and the electrodes examined. The No. 1 was gray in color, displayed impact damage, and contained debris. The No. 2 was destroyed. The No. 3 was destroyed. The No. 4 was gray in color, coated in oil, and displayed impact damage. The No. 5 was dark gray in color, and contained carbon deposits. The No. 6 was gray in color, and contained debris.

The No. 1 cylinder cooling fins were embedded with dirt, and both push rods displayed impact damage. The No. 2 cylinder valve assembly displayed impact damage, and both rocker arms and the intake push rod had separated from the cylinder. The No. 3 cylinder intake push rod displayed impact damage. The No. 4, and No. 5 cylinders displayed general impact damage. The No. 6 cylinder exhaust push rod displayed impact damage.

A rotational force was applied to the engine crankshaft. The crankshaft rotated about 300 degrees and then stopped. The idler gear was removed and the engine rotated 360 d

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