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N8072X accident description

Massachusetts map... Massachusetts list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Rehoboth, MA
41.833434°N, 71.257827°W
Tail number N8072X
Accident date 03 Aug 1995
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-236
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

History of Flight

On August 3, 1995, about 1035 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-236, N8072X, was destroyed during an inflight breakup, near Rehoboth, Massachusetts (MA). The private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an IFR flight plan had been filed for the flight, which had departed Honoyoe Falls, New York, approximately 0815. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

At 0646, the pilot of N8072X, contacted the Automated Flight Service Station and requested a weather briefing for a flight from Honeoye Falls, to Chatham, Massachusetts.

The specialist provided the pilot the following weather information:

...right now we're showing a stationary front in from southern New England through southeastern New York State and across northern Pennsylvania...the charts this afternoon show that front kind of pivoting from southern New England and...western New York...moving as a warm front, chance of afternoon thunderstorms along that front, presently radar doesn't show any precipitation, a couple scattered-cells through central and northeastern Massachusetts...over at C Q X [Chatham], they're in a measured one hundred overcast, quarter mile and fog-Westover [MA] to Bradley [Connecticut] is when the ceilings go down to less than a thousand feet they're running eight hundred to nine hundred overcast a mile and a half to two and a half in fog, Albany is okay...Syracuse, Rochester no problem...a look at your destination, Providence has the nine AM [0900] this morning till one PM [1300] local...they're looking for-the fog to burn off-at five miles and haze...occasional visibility is more than six miles, with layers starting at five hundred scattered , three thousand scattered, occasional broken and eight thousand broken...Syracuse area...after noon they add a chance of thunderstorms....

The specialist continued to provide the pilot forecasts for winds aloft, in addition to Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) for the Chatham Airport. The pilot filed an IFR flight plan and the briefing ended at 0654:47.

The flight into the Providence area was uneventful. At 1017:12, the pilot established communications with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Specialist at the Providence Air Traffic Center Terminal (ATCT), West High Radar (WHR) position, Providence, Rhode Island, and was given a clearance to proceed direct to Chatham. The pilot acknowledged the clearance, and was handed off to the Providence ATCT, East High/Low (EH/LR) Radar position.

At 1028:45, N8072X was located approximately 9 miles west of the Providence Airport, at an altitude of 7000 feet mean sea level (MSL). ATC issued the pilot a clearance to turn right to a heading of 180 degrees for vectors around a level 5 thunderstorm.

The pilot did not acknowledge this transmission, and about 20 seconds later it was repeated. This time the pilot acknowledged.

At 1032:52, the pilot was told, " got ahh weather just ahead, can you make a right turn heading one eight zero, vectors around level five weather...your about to enter level five weather suggest a right turn heading one eight zero." The pilot acknowledged the transmission.

The NTSB Recorded Radar Study showed the airplane at 1033:21, at an altitude of 7000 feet, and at a velocity of 161.8 knots. The last radar return at 1033:49 showed that the airplane had descended to 4200 feet, and was at a velocity of 76.03 knots.

Several attempts were made to contact the pilot of N8072X with negative results. Radio and radar contact was lost at 1033:49.

Two witnesses in the vicinity of the accident site stated that their attention was directed toward the airplane when they heard the engine noise. They observed the airplane after it had descended below the clouds. The witnesses said, when they saw the airplane, it was raining "very hard" with lightning and thunder. Just prior to seeing the airplane, the witnesses said they heard a "bang" that was not thunder. The airplane disappeared behind trees and out of their sight.

The accident occurred during the hours of day light approximately 41 degrees, 47 minutes north, and 71 degrees, 11 minutes west.


The pilot held a Private Pilot Certificate, with single engine land, and instrument airplane ratings.

An FAA Third Class Airman Medical Certificate was issued to the pilot on December 5, 1995, with limitations for vision.

The pilot's log book indicated that at the time of the accident he had 886 total flight hours, of which 220 hours were in PA-28- 236 aircraft. He had accumulated about 222 hours of instrument flight time.


The nearest recorded weather station to the accident site was Providence (PVD), about 9 nautical miles west. The PVD special weather observation at 1046 was; measured ceiling 800 overcast, visibility 5 miles, fog, temperature [missing], dew point [missing], wind 030 degrees, at 8 knots, altimeter 30.29 inches Hg.

The NTSB Meteorological Factual Report, stated that the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), displayed visible images for 1015, 1030, 1045, and showed:

clouds in the area of the accident...brighter clouds were noted to the north...general cloud movement to the southwest...temperatures of -33.2 degrees C, -40.2 degrees C, and -35.2 degrees C, respectively for a location of latitude 41:47:20 and longitude 71:11:55...temperatures colder than -33 degrees C would correspond to higher cloud tops....

The airplane's track data was determined by using the NTSB Recorded Radar Study for track data, and superimposing it on the Taunton, Massachusetts, Doppler Radar Composite Reflectivity Image for 1028. The data showed:

...a maximum reflectivity of 35 to <39 dBZ (moderate VIP [video integrator and processor] Level 2 intensity) was noted along the airplane['s] track. At the time the airplane track turns to the right a 50 to 55 dBZ [intense to extreme VIP Level 5 to VIP Level 6 intensity] echo is located about 3 nautical miles to the north. The airplane track comes as close as about 2 nautical miles to [an]...intense to extreme VIP Level 5 to VIP Level 6 intensity echo...

There were no Convective Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET), or a Boston Center Weather Advisory (CWA), in effect for embedded thunderstorms at the time of the accident, or in the area of the accident site. According to the NTSB Meteorological Study, there was "evidence" to indicate that cloud bases were near 800 feet, and cloud tops were above 15,000 feet. There was moderate or greater convective turbulence below 10,000 feet, with up and downdrafts and horizontal wind gusts. There were embedded thunderstorms, and the freezing level was above 14,000 feet.


The wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 3-4, 1995. To facilitate further investigation, the airframe and engine were removed from the accident site and examined at a hanger at the Fall River Airport, MA.

The airplane impacted the ground, in the front yard of a private residence, approximately 90 feet west of the front door, with no sign of forward movement, or ground scars.

The following major components were missing; approximately 108 inches of the outboard section of both wings, both ailerons, approximately 36 inches of the outboard left stabilator, the entire right side of the horizontal stabilizer, the entire vertical stabilizer, except the aft spar and a small section of skin, that was still attached to the stabilizer.

On August 8, 1995, portions of the wings and tail were located about 1/4 mile northwest of the accident site. A further search was conducted by helicopter and ground personnel, for additional missing parts. The results of the search were negative for locating the left and right wing tips, plus sections of the vertical and horizontal stabilizer.

Examination of the airframe revealed that the cabin section was flattened, crushing the floor boards up into the bottom of the instrument panel. All the instruments were destroyed rendering them unreadable, and their positions unreliable. The baggage door was damaged and had separated from the airplane. The pilot's seat belt was found unbuckled and wedged tightly between the instrument panel and floorboard. According to rescue personnel the pilot's seat belt had not been cut for extraction. No marks were found on either the male or female portions of the pilot's seat belt.

Left Wing

The left wing attaching fittings were not accessible. The leading edge skin on the left wing was pulled and bent inward toward the fuselage, approximately 23 inches from the fuselage. Fifteen rivets had been pulled through the skin.

The outboard leading edge of the left wing, 94 inches from the fuselage, had separated outboard of the fuel tank at the spar area. The lower spar web was buckled upward (positive). The lower spar cap was bent up and inward.

The left aileron control and balance cables were found cut through the upper wing skin and ribs to the fuselage. Both cables were cut in approximately the same area that the rescue personnel cut the fuselage to remove the victim. The aileron bellcrank was found with 82 inches of cable still attached to the arm. Eighty-eight inches of cable were attached to the forward arm of the bellcrank, and the cable had been cut.

The left fuel tank inboard attaching screws were separated from the tank. The tank's skin was ripped, exposing the inside of the tank. No fuel was observed in the tank.

Right Wing

The right wing forward spar attaching fittings were found intact. The leading edge and wing root area were crushed.

The outboard section of the right wing, 89 inches outboard from the fuselage, had separated at the main spar. The upper and lower spar caps were bent up and aft (positive) approximately 45 degrees to the spar. The main spar web was bent in an "S" shape.

The aft spar was bent up and aft at the separation. The aft spar attach fitting did not display any damage.

The right aileron control cable had torn through the upper wing skin and ribs, to the fuselage.

The rivet line, 26 inches outboard of the fuselage, had 18 rivets sheared on the right wing's top skin. The rivet line, approximately 34 inches outboard of the fuselage, was bent down and aft. Fourteen rivets had sheared.

The wing panel inboard of the fuel tank was crushed down and flattened from the leading edge aft to the main spar.

The right fuel tank, top skin was shredded, exposing the inside of the tank. A 33 inch section of upper wing skin from the fuel tank, was completely separated. No fuel was observed in the tank.

The flap handle was dislodged from the mounts, and its position could not be determined. The left outboard flap attaching bracket was separated from the flap and the wing. The center and inboard flap attaching points were intact. An "L" shaped tear was noted in the upper portion of the flap, approximately 48 inches outboard of the fuselage. The right flap was absent of impact damage. Both flaps were in the up position.

Tail Section

All the tail surfaces had separated from the airplane. The fuselage tail area had collapsed and was crushed. The height at the static vent measured approximately 2 feet. The control cable pulleys and stabilator tube was misaligned. Both cables were found off the pulleys. There was no indication of fraying or wear between cables and pulleys.

A 44 inch section of the left inboard stabilator was recovered, but had separated from the airplane. The inboard leading edge was bent approximately 110 degrees up, and a 12 inch section of the inboard spar was separated, turned down, and buckled. Both sides of the horizontal stabilator had separated from the spar box at the fuselage. The skin was ripped down and aft from the spar box at the fuselage. Stabilator control stops were found in position and undamaged.

The entire anti-servo tab was missing, along with the remaining sections of the stabilator. The tail stinger assembly was not found.

The stabilator trim drum displayed two threads extending from the top of the drum. The anti-servo, control arm drum, attaching end was bent right and broken to the left.

The entire vertical stabilizer had separated from the airplane. The aft vertical spar was recovered and still attached to the rudder. The spar was found close to the accident site with the control cables still attached. Two small pieces of skin were still attached to the spar. Seventeen inches of the stabilizer was still attached to the spar, and was bent to the right. A section of stabilizer, approximately 25 inches by 6 inches, was still attached to the left side of the spar and was bent to the right. The vertical spar was bent approximately 10 to 12 degrees aft, and 5 degrees to the right. The four spar mounting bolts were still in place.

The rudder bellcrank was bent downward 90 degrees on the left side, 45 degrees on the right side, and was turned slightly left. The rudder had been crushed and bent to the left against the spar. Both control stops were in place and undamaged. Both rudder control cables were still attached to the bellcrank, 52 inches on the left side and 17 inches on the right side. Both cables had been cut. The rudder balance weight had separated from the rudder. The rudder had several tears along the trailing edge at approximately 24, 33, 36, and 41 inches from the top.

All 3 landing gear had separated from the airplane at impact, and all antennas except the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) had broken from top of the fuselage.


The engine was with the main wreckage, and displayed impact damage. The engine was removed from the accident site, taken to a hanger at the Fall River Airport, and examined. The engine rotated at the crankshaft. Internal gear and valve train continuity was established. Impact damage was observed on cylinders #2 and #3, and the valves were binding. Removal of the push rods relieved the binding. Compression was observed on all six cylinders. The oil system was checked and lubrication was present. Examination of the suction screen and filter element revealed that they were clean. The induction and exhaust system revealed no obstructions. Examination of the engine revealed no discrepancies.

The propeller was separated from the engine during the impact sequence. The propeller blades displayed cordwise scratches and impact damage. One blade displayed leading edge damage, damage at the tip, and chordwise scratches. The other blade was bent aft.

The carburetor was crushed. The venturi and throttle shaft were missing. The fuel screen was clean. The fuel lines from the carburetor to the firewall were free of obstructions. No fuel was observed. The engine driven fuel pump was destroyed.

The single shaft magneto was intact, rotated freely, and spark was observed on all the leads.

The spark plugs were removed, dry and clean of carbon deposits, and all leads were a light brownish color.

The vacuum pump mounting pad was broken at impact. The pump rotated freely by hand. Disassembly of the vacuum pump revealed no discrepancies.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on August 3, 1995, at the Bristol County Medical Examiner's Office, in Pocasset, Massachusetts, by Dr. James Weiner.

Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA), Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and revealed, "no drugs or alcohol."


The airplane was released to Mr. James Travassos, Airport Manager, for the owner's insurance company, on August 4, 1995.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadvertent flight into hazardous weather, which subsequently resulted in exceeding the design stress limits of the airplane and an in-flight breakup. Factors relating to the accident were: embedded thunderstorms, turbulence, and failure of the National Weather Service to issue a Convective SIGMET or a Center Weather Advisory.

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