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N5391Z accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Falmouth, MA
41.600108°N, 70.582807°W
Tail number N5391Z
Accident date 15 Jan 2001
Aircraft type Piper PA-22-108
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On January 15, 2001, about 1945 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-22-108, N5391Z, was last observed in the vicinity of Falmouth, Massachusetts. The airplane departed the Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD), Norwood Massachusetts, and as of May 7, 2002, the airplane had not been located. The body of the certificated commercial pilot was located in Buzzards Bay, about 3 miles north of Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, on May 27, 2001. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller at OWD, about 1612 the pilot requested a "special visual flight rules" (SVFR) clearance to depart the airport to the southwest. The controller noted that the ceiling was 400 feet overcast, and observed "what appeared to be up to 2 inches of slush and snow on the airplane's wings and control surfaces." The controller denied the SVFR clearance and advised the pilot of the low ceilings and snow/slush contamination he observed on the airplane. However, the pilot departed runway 17 without a clearance and turned southwest along Interstate I-95. The pilot reported clear of the airport's "class Delta" airspace within 5 minutes. There were no further known communications with the airplane.

About 1700, a witness observed a blue and white painted airplane strike a power line on Route 28, at the Falmouth/Bourne town line. When police officers were dispatched to the scene, they observed the airplane flying just above the tree tops. Unidentified, intermittent radar targets were observed in the areas of Martha's Vineyard, Woods Hole, and Falmouth, Massachusetts. Additionally, several residents reported seeing and/or hearing a low-flying airplane to local authorities. The last visual sighting, and radar contact with the airplane was in the area of East Falmouth, between 1930 and 2000.

The weather reported at OWD at 1553, was: Winds from 070 degrees at 8 knots; Visibility 3 miles in mist; Ceiling 400 feet overcast; Temperature 36 degrees F; Dew point 30 degrees F.

The following weather observations were reported at Otis Airport (FMH), in Falmouth:

At 1855: Winds from 360 degrees at 13 knots ; Visibility 1 1/2 miles in light rain and mist; Ceiling 300 feet broken, 500 feet overcast; Temperature and Dew Point 37 degrees F.

At 1955: Winds from 30 degrees at 12 knots; Visibility 1 1/2 miles in light rain and mist; Ceiling 800 feet overcast; Temperature and Dew Point 37 degrees F.

At 2055: Winds from 350 degrees at 15 knots; Visibility 1 1/2 miles in light rain and mist; Ceiling 300 feet overcast; Temperature and Dew Point 37 degrees F.

During an interview, the pilot's wife stated that the pilot woke up early on the day of the accident, and flew to Lawrence, Massachusetts, to look at an airplane he was considering purchasing. She talked with the pilot via telephone at about 1000. The pilot stated he had landed at OWD due to snow and the poor weather conditions and that he had hoped to complete the flight before the weather moved into the area. At that time, the pilot stated he had called for a rental car and was waiting for it to arrive, so he could drive home. She next talked to the pilot about 1430, and was informed that he was still waiting for a rental car to arrive. She stated that the pilot was "very frustrated;" and they talked about him possibly renting a room at a local hotel. The pilot stated he would call her when the rental car arrived. The pilot's wife had no further communications with the pilot. She added that the thought of him taking off in "that kind of weather" never crossed her mind.

The pilot's wife reported that the pilot was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocyte Leukemia 7 years ago, and on the Friday prior to the accident, the pilot under went a chemotherapy treatment. The pilot did not experience any side effects from the treatment. She described the pilot's mood as "happy, and excited about buying a new plane." They had also been planning a trip to Europe during the upcoming summer.

The pilot's wife reported the pilot purchased the accident airplane about 6 months prior to the accident, and that the airplane was equipped for flight in instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot had never reported any problems with the airplane to her, and maintained the airplane in "top notch shape." The pilot flew the airplane on both the Saturday and Sunday, prior to the accident.

The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on August 28, 2000. At that time, the airplane and engine had been operated for 4,656 total hours. Additionally, the engine had been operated for 356 hours since it was overhauled on February 16, 1992.

The pilot was instrument rated and also held a flight instructor certificate with single engine land and instrument ratings. The pilot's logbook was not recovered. He reported 15,000 hours of total flight experience on his most recent FAA second class medical certificate, which was issued on December 20, 1999.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on May 27, 2001, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Pocasset, Massachusetts.


NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to takeoff and attempt VFR flight in IMC conditions.

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