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N15852 accident description

Arkansas map... Arkansas list
Crash location 35.086944°N, 93.427500°W
Nearest city Danville, AR
35.053979°N, 93.393518°W
3.0 miles away
Tail number N15852
Accident date 04 Nov 2006
Aircraft type Piper PA-32-300
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On November 4, 2006, at 2320 central standard time, a single-engine Piper PA-32-300 airplane, N15852, struck a transmission line and was destroyed upon collision with terrain during a night forced landing following a reported loss of engine power during cruise flight near Danville, Arkansas. The commercial pilot and his 2 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by a partnership. Night visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed throughout the area for 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 270-nautical mile cross-country flight that originated from Adams Field Airport (LIT), Little Rock, Arkansas, at 2244 with the Wiley Post Airport (PWA) near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as its original destination.

According to Air Traffic Control data, the airplane was in cruise, level flight at an assigned altitude of 6,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), when the pilot reported "a rough running engine." The pilot subsequently reported "mayday, going down, on fire." The flight was last cleared by air traffic control for a visual approach to the Danville Municipal Airport (32A), Danville, Arkansas. The airplane was observed on radar to have deviated toward 32A.

There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. The following morning, the burned-out wreckage of the airplane was located 3.6 miles east of the airport.


The pilot, age 26, held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land, multi-engine land, and aircraft instrument ratings. In addition, the pilot held a certified flight instructor certificate with aircraft multi-engine land and instrument ratings. A valid first-class airman medical certificate was issued on September 28, 2006. On that date the pilot reported having accumulated a total of 1,100 flight hours, with 350 hours in the preceding 6 months. The amount of flight time in the make and model is unknown. It could not be determined if the pilot was occupying the right or left front seat at the time of the accident.


The 1973 model PA-32-300 airplane, serial number 32-7340069, had dual controls, fixed landing gear, and configured with seats for 6 occupants. The airplane was powered by a single 300-horsepower Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 engine, serial number L-10354-48 driving a 2-bladed Hartzell constant speed propeller, serial number 9120U.

Registration records show the airplane was purchased by the co-owners on November 2, 2006. The airframe and engine logbook were never recovered. It could not be determined when the engine was last inspected or overhauled. On the "pre-buy" Aircraft Inspection Report dated October 18, 2006, the inspecting mechanic noted a tachometer reading of 6,581.06 hours. In addition, the mechanic noted that the next annual airframe inspection was due in January 2007 and under the section labeled Engine Nacelle Group, Compression Test, the mechanic made the note "oil leak top of engine case." All aspects of the airplane were noted as "airworthy."


At 1053, an automated weather reporting station, located approximately 20 nautical miles to the northeast of the accident site, reported winds calm, visibility 10 statute miles, a broken layer of clouds at 8,000 feet, an overcast ceiling at 12,000 feet, temperature 55 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 30.28 inches of Mercury.


The Danville Municipal Airport (32A) is at an elevation of 390 feet and features a single 5,300-foot long by 75-foot wide asphalt runway aligned on a heading of 110/290 degrees. The airfield was un-attended, without a control tower, and without weather reporting capabilities. The heading from the accident site to the airport was 300 degrees. The airport lights were reported to be on the night of the accident because the pilot activated light switch was out of service.


The airplane impacted the ground on a magnetic heading of 250 degrees, coming to rest in the inverted position with the nose of the airplane pointing to 170 degrees. The airplane had impacted power lines that were running diagonal at an angle of approximately 40 degrees to the flight path of the airplane. These power lines consisted of two unmarked parallel lines supported by upper guide wires suspended on wood poles. The guide wires were suspended about 80 feet above ground level.

All aircraft flight controls and components were found at the accident site. Ground signatures, wreckage distribution, and damage sustained by the airframe are consistent with ground impact in a nose down attitude in the inverted position.

A 2-foot wide, 5-foot long, by 14 inches deep crater was found at the point of initial ground impact. This crater was 35 feet short of the resting point of the main wreckage. In and near the crater were portions of the top engine cowling (including the oil service access panel), the pilot storm window hinge, the magnetic compass, assorted pieces of windshield and window plexiglass, and a cockpit overhead reading light.

The chrome propeller spinner and hub remained attached to the engine crankshaft. The propeller spinner sustained minor damage and did not show any evidence of rotational or crushing damage. One of the propeller blades was found bent, about 30 degrees opposite the direction of rotation, and had deep serrations about 10 inches from the tip of the blade. The serration signatures were consistent with a wire strike.

The leading edge of the right wing had signatures of a wire strike along a majority of the wing. The wire penetrated the skin near the tip of the wing and separated the wing tip fuel cell from the wing.

Flight control continuity was established at the accident site. The position of the wing flaps could not be determined due to fire and impact damage. The fuel selector could not be found. A representative from the aircraft manufacturer reported that the trim drum was found with a settling between normal cruise and full nose down trim.

The engine was found in the upright position and had sustained severe fire damage. All engine accessory case and associated accessories were consumed by fire. The engine data plate had separated from the engine and was recovered in the main wreckage. The propeller governor was not fire damaged, and was found separated from the engine near the initial impact crater.

All engine and flight instrument with the exception of the clock and the airspeed indicator were destroyed by fire. The clock was reading 6:13 and the airspeed indicator was reading zero. The magnetic compass was found inverted at the initial impact crater. When turned right side up, the compass was found to be operational, and was aligned with a heading of 240 degrees.

All four fuel cells were compromised during the impact and fire sequence and no fuel was found at the accident site. The fuel cap from the left wing tip tank was not located.


On November 7, 2007, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory. The manner of death was ruled to be chest injuries. Toxicology was performed and discovered no carbon monoxide, cyanide, or ethanol in the blood.


A post-impact fire consumed the airframe, with the exception of the right wing and the aft portion of the tail section.

The inside surfaces of all pieces of engine cowling, as well as windshield and window plexiglass found near the initial impact crater were inspected and did not reveal signature of an in-flight fire. However, several scorched areas of grass leading to the impact point suggested that an in-flight fire may have been present.


The aircraft was inverted and traveling at high velocity upon impact with terrain. The initial impact was not survivable.

The Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was destroyed in the post-impact fire. It could not be determined if the ELT activated during the accident sequence.


An examination of the engine was conducted by the NTSB with the assistance of a technical representative from Lycoming Engines. Both engine case halves had matching serial numbers. About half of the engine oil pan was consumed by a post-impact fire. Engine control continuity could not be established due to the severity of the fire and separation from the engine mounts. A large hole was found on top of the engine case between the number 4 and number 6 cylinders. In addition, thermal signatures consistent with the lack of oil lubrication were noticeable on both the number 4 and number 6 cylinders. The number 5 cylinder was found separated from its mount. The number 5 connecting rod cap separated from the connecting rod and was not recovered.

NTSB Probable Cause

Failure of the number 5 cylinder which resulted in oil starvation and the subsequent loss of engine power, and the pilot's inability to see the transmission line during the forced landing. Factors Contributing to the accident were the dark night and the transmission line.

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