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N3331W accident description

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Crash location 27.069167°N, 82.440555°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Venice, FL
27.099777°N, 82.454263°W
2.3 miles away

Tail number N3331W
Accident date 20 May 2004
Aircraft type Piper PA-32-260
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On May 20, 2004, about 1815 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3331W, registered to Freedom Aviation LLC, and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed while performing touch-and-go landings at Venice Municipal Airport, Venice, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft incurred substantial damage and the private-rated pilot received fatal injuries. The flight had originated from Venice Municipal Airport minutes before the accident.

The pilot's wife stated that at the time of the accident she was at the Venice Airport, standing near the hangar where they keep the airplane. She observed her husband doing touch-and-go landings to runway 22. Just prior to the accident, her husband approached to land on runway 22. The airplane never touched down on the runway. As the airplane neared the runway she observed it do a slight lift back up to about the height of a 2 1/2 story building. The right wing then raised up and the left wing dropped down. She stopped watching the airplane and ran to a person at another hangar to call for help. She does not recall the engine sounds. There were some other airplanes taking off before her husband, but they had left the area. At the time of the accident, there were no other airplanes flying in the area.


The pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land privileges, issued on December 16, 2003. The pilot held an FAA third-class medical certificate issued on July 22, 2003, with limitations that corrective lenses be worn while exercising the privileges of the certificate. According to the pilot's logbook, at the time of the accident the pilot had accumulated about 87 total flight hours, with about 21 hours in the Piper PA-32-260.


The airplane was a Piper Aircraft Corporation model PA-32-260, serial number 32-169, manufactured in 1965. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated about 2,355.84 total flight hours. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming model O-540-E4B5 reciprocating engine, which produces 250 horsepower. The airplane was equipped with a Hartzell model HC-C24K-1BF propeller, which contained two blades.

Maintenance records showed the airplane was last inspected on April 21, 2004, when it received an annual inspection. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated about 18 flight hours since this inspection, the engine had accumulated about 18 flight hours since factory overhaul, and the propeller had accumulated about 402 flight hours since major overhaul. The airplanes static system, altimeter, and transponder were last tested on May 9, 2003.


The Venice Municipal Airport, 1821 surface weather observation was wind from 310 at 11 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky condition clear, temperature 27 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 22 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.15 inHg. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.


The airplane wreckage was located on the south side of the Venice Municipal Airport near the intersection of runways 31 and 4, at latitude 27 degrees 04.152 minutes North and longitude 82 degrees 26.435 minutes West. The airplane came to a rest with the tail of the airplane resting in the trees and the nose of the airplane against the ground with the left wing partially separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The debris path was approximately 75 feet long heading 220 degrees and the aircraft was resting at a heading of 360 degrees. Fragments of the red position light lens were found in the vicinity of the initial ground scar. All components of the airplane which are necessary for flight were located on or around the airplane wreckage.

Examination of the flight control system showed that there was continuity within the aileron, rudder, stabilator, and stabilator trim systems. The stabilator trim system was found in the neutral position. The wing flaps were found in the full down position and flap continuity was established from both flaps to the flap handle. The throttle control, propeller control, and mixture control in the cockpit were all found in the full forward position and continuity was established between the engine controls and the engine. The stall warning system was tested and found to be operating normally.

Examination of the fuel system showed the fuel caps were in place on the wings. The left main fuel tank was found to contain 10 gallons of fuel, the left auxiliary tank had impact damage and was breached. The right main fuel tank was found to contain 5 gallons of fuel and the right auxiliary tank contained 1/2 gallon of fuel. The fuel selector valve was positioned on the left main tank and was found to be operating normally. Fuel line continuity was established throughout the fuel system and no obstructions were found. The fuel boost pump switch was found in the on position. The electric fuel boost pump operated normally when tested after the accident.

Examination of the engine showed that the engine rotated and all cylinders produced compression. When rotated by hand, continuity was established for the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives. The engine contained oil and the oil lines and oil cooler were unobstructed. Each magneto produced a spark at each post when they were rotated by hand. The magneto switch was found in the both position and operated normally when tested. The spark plugs were removed and found to have a light gray colored deposit, consistent with normal operation. The carburetor bowl was found to be clean and full of fuel, the inlet fuel screen was clean, the needle valve and float operated normally, and all passages in the carburetor were unobstructed. The muffler was examined and no evidence of leakage was found.

The propeller was found attached to the engine after the accident. The propeller spinner was fragmented during the accident. Examination of the propeller was conducted at a propeller overhaul facility with NTSB and Hartzell Propeller personnel present. The examination revealed that cycling of the pitch change mechanism was not possible and the blades were not loose in the hub and could not be manually turned. One blade was twisted approximately 90 degrees toward low pitch. It was also bent aft approximately 60 degrees with a large radius bend The other blade was twisted approximately 90 degrees toward low pitch. It was bent aft approximately 45 degrees with a large radius bend which started at about 1/3 radius. It also had an aft bend in the trailing edge of the blade at about 2/3 radius. There was significant paint abrasion at the blade tips of both blades. The abrasion and tip damage to both blades was very similar. Disassembly of the propeller showed the pitch change rod was fractured in two places. It was fractured in overstress on both the forward and aft sides of the fork. All other components within the hub were intact.


Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Medical Examiner's Office, Sarasota, Florida. The cause of death was attributed to blunt impact to head and neck. No findings which could be considered causal to the accident were reported.

Postmortem toxicology studies on specimens obtained from the pilot were performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.


The airplane wreckage was released to the pilot's wife on May 21, 2004. During return shipment of the accident airplane's disassembled propeller, the propeller hub was lost by the shipping company. The propeller blades did arrive at the storage point of the airplane wreckage at the Venice Municipal Airport. All other components retained by NTSB for further testing were returned to the pilot's wife.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.