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N7082W accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Grosse Ile, MI
42.128375°N, 83.149369°W
Tail number N7082W
Accident date 02 Sep 1996
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 2, 1996, at 1215 eastern daylight time (edt), a Piper PA-28-180, N7082W, operated by a private pilot sustained substantial damage when on initial climb after takeoff, the airplane departed controlled flight. The airplane subsequently impacted into a river. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. A VFR flight plan was on file. Two passengers sustained fatal injuries. The pilot-in- command and another passenger sustained serious injuries. The flight originated at Grosse Ile, Michigan, at 1215 edt, and was en route to Jackson, Michigan.

Several witnesses saw the airplane takeoff from Grosse Ile Municipal Airport, Michigan. One witness who observed the airplane from her home on the opposite shore, southeast of the departure end of the runway, remembered first hearing the airplane and then turned to watch the airplane climb out. She said to her husband that the airplane's altitude was lower than normal. "The airplane was going right to left. It was half as high as the normal flight traffic going on." The witness said she then saw the airplane enter a steep left bank of approximately 70 to 75 degrees. The airplane came at her and continued its turn so that they could see the bottom of the airplane. The witness said that the airplane lost altitude steadily through the turn until the left wing contacted the water. "There was a splash, but not an overly large one. The airplane then came out upright."

Another witness who observed the airplane on takeoff from the opposite shore, southeast of the departure end of the runway, said that the airplane was just above the trees heading out over the bay when it "banked over hard to the left almost turning over. He banked around reversing direction and went straight down into the bay." The witness did not recall hearing the engine running.

A third witness observed the airplane from the shore west of the departure end of the runway. She said that the airplane was behind a tree. "We heard it initially. It was way low. Usually, they [airplanes departing Grosse Ile Municipal Airport] are five times higher. The right wing went up. The engine sound went silent. The airplane disappeared behind the trees. Then I heard a thud. That's what got my attention. The whole thing lasted 6 to 8 seconds."

A fourth witness observed the airplane from the shore west of the departure end of the runway. He said that he heard no engine noise from the time the airplane banked to the time he heard the "thud." "I heard the engine. There was no roar. It was steady, maybe wavering. It came up low, like it was not producing rpm's. the airplane was low. Most airplanes are two to three times higher. It was barely above the trees."

The pilot survived the accident, but sustained numerous serious injuries. The pilot's wife said that he remembers nothing of the accident.

The passenger in the right rear seat also survived the accident, and also sustained serious injuries. The passenger's wife said that sustained a "closed head injury." She said that he regained consciousness a few days after the accident, but when asked about what happened, he can only remember driving to the airport.


The pilot logbook was never recovered. Based upon the information provided for the pilot's most recent FAA medical certificate, it was estimated that the pilot had 1,144 hours total flying time.


The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot and his wife.

The airplane had an annual inspection performed on January 1, 1996. The pilot maintained an account for fuel with Seaway Aviation, Incorporated, Grosse Ile Municipal Airport, Michigan. According to their records the airplane was serviced with 8.9 gallons of 100 low lead fuel on August 26, 1996.


The NTSB on scene investigation began on September 3, 1996, at 0830 edt.

The wreckage had been moved into a hangar on the Grosse Ile Municipal Airport, Grosse Ile, Michigan.

The accident site was located in Gibraltar Bay, an inlet off of the Detroit River on the south end of Grosse Ile, Michigan. The airplane impacted in four feet of water approximately 25 feet south of an east-west running shoreline on a 162-degree magnetic heading.

The main wreckage encompassed all of the airplane's components.

The fuselage was intact from the aft cabin to the empennage. Numerous bends and buckles were observed along both sides, at the top and along the bottom of the aft fuselage. A green watermark line was observed running longitudinally along both sides of the fuselage approximately two thirds up from the bottom. The right side of the fuselage was buckled and bent inward at a point two- thirds the distance aft of the crew cabin and approximately 15 inches forward of the leading edge of the right stabilator. An identical inward bend was observed on the right side of the fuselage approximately 20 inches aft of the cabin. Tears in the metal skin were observed forward of the empennage along the bottom of the fuselage. The bottom of the fuselage was crushed upward 10 inches forward of the empennage. The left side of the fuselage at the pilot's seat was broken outward and separated just above the wing root. The cabin door on the right side of the cabin was broken off at the hinges. The door frame was buckled outward and slightly aft. The door was bent inward and aft. The door window was broken out. The instrument panel, glare shield and firewall were broken outward from the forward fuselage and twisted to the right 180 degrees. The forward windscreen and left forward cabin windows were broken out. The forward floor of the cabin was pushed upward and aft into the two forward seats. The cowling had separated longitudinally at the rivet line running midway up from the bottom of the airplane. The cowling was bent to the right and twisted outward. All four of the engine mounts were broken. The engine remained attached to the firewall by engine control cables, wiring bundles and several lines and hoses. It was rotated 180 degrees. The nose gear and wheel remained attached to the engine mount and showed minor damage. The nose gear wheel pant had broken off. The stall warning light bulb was removed and examined. It showed filament stretching to one side.

The empennage was intact and showed minor damage. The stabilator showed no damage. The elevator trim tab was bent slightly downward at the left outside edge. The vertical stabilizer and rudder showed no damage.

The left wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root and broken into two pieces at the mid-span point. The left inboard wing section was crushed inward from the leading edge aft to the main wing spar. The upper metal skin showed numerous buckling throughout. The left wing flap was bent upward at mid- span. The left main landing gear was bent aft and remained attached to the wing section. The tire showed no damage. The wheel pant had broken off. The left fuel tank was broken open. The smell of fuel was present.

The outboard section of the left wing was opened up at the mid- rivet line and was bent down and inward. The wing was also bent inward at a 45-degree angle, 20 inches inboard of the wing tip. The wing tip was broken longitudinally along the leading edge at mid-chord. The left aileron was bent upward at the inboard edge.

The right wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root and from the main spar 30 inches outboard of the wing root. The rear spar attachment bolt was missing. A 24 inch section of the wing was broken off forward of the main spar and inboard of the right wing fuel tank. The right wing fuel tank showed an 18 inch wide dent pushing upward and aft from beneath the leading edge of the wing. The tank was broken open at the top leading edge. The right main landing gear remained attached to the wing and showed minor damage. The wheel pant was broken off. The right flap was bent underneath the wing. The right aileron was buckled at the inboard edge and bent 4-degrees inward at the outboard edge. The right wing tip was broken in several places along the top surface. Several wave-like scratches were observed in the top surface paint running from the forward wing tip rivet line inboard at a 50-degree angle from the leading edge of the wing.

The propeller was intact and showed minor damage. Some chordwise scratches were observed in the forward surface. There were no signs of torsional bending. The propeller spinner was bent aft and conformed to the propeller at the hub.

The engine and stall warning indicator light bulb were retained for further examination and testing.


Autopsies of the two passengers were conducted by the Wayne County, Michigan, Assistant Medical Examiner, on September 3, 1996, at Detroit, Michigan.

The autopsy of the passenger in the right front seat stated that the cause of death was due to multiple injuries. The postmortem examination revealed "the decedent had severe hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

The autopsy of the passenger in the left rear seat stated that the cause of death was due to drowning.


Several witnesses who observed the accident from the southeast shore responded immediately to the scene by boat. Local fire fighters and emergency medical personnel arrived approximately 4 to five minutes later. The first two witnesses to arrive at the scene said that they could make out three persons in the airplane. At first they thought they were dead because their faces were down in the water. One of the two witness saw two of the persons in the airplane move. The two witnesses got out of their boat, waded through the water and reached through the door and broken out windows to hold the pilot and passengers' heads out of the water. When the witnesses got the pilot and the passengers' faces out of the water, all three of them started breathing on their own.

A third and fourth witness arrived at the airplane approximately one minute after the first witnesses arrived. Both of the witnesses got out of their boat to help hold the passengers' heads out of the water until emergency medical personnel arrived. When emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene they asked how many people were in the plane. The witnesses said, "three." It was just then that the third witness who was positioned aft and left of the pilot reached down and felt the body of a fourth person. The witness lifted the fourth person's head up out of the water and felt for a pulse. There was no pulse.

The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses.


The engine was placed on a test stand and ran at Poplar Grove Airmotive, Incorporated, Poplar Grove, Illinois, on December 6, 1996, at 1000 est. The engine started normally and was run through its full range of power settings. No anomalies were found.


Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Belleville, Michigan, The New Piper Aircraft, Incorporated, Vero Beach, Florida, and Textron Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

All wreckage and retained components were released to AIG Aviation, Corporation, Chicago, Illinois.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot exceeding the critical angle of bank required to maintain altitude.

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