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N48ED accident description

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Crash location 39.676667°N, 74.228611°W
Nearest city Manahawkin, NJ
39.695397°N, 74.258753°W
2.1 miles away
Tail number N48ED
Accident date 31 May 2006
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-236
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 31, 2006, at 1041 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-236, N48ED, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain following an inflight breakup near Manahawkin, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Old Bridge Airport (3N6), Old Bridge, New Jersey, about 1015, destined for Atlantic City Municipal Airport/Bader Field (AIY), Atlantic City, New Jersey. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot received a weather briefing at 0726, prior to departing from Somerset Airport (SMQ), Somerset, New Jersey. During the briefing, the pilot was advised of an AIRMET for IMC that extended across the northeastern part of the country, and that visual flight rules (VFR) flight was not recommended. The briefer further advised that some of the stations along the intended route of flight were beginning to report visual meteorological conditions, but that other stations were still reporting IMC. According to the briefer, the terminal area forecast at Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) indicated that beginning at 0900 through 1200, the visibility would be greater than 6 statute miles, with scattered clouds at 2,500 feet.

A review of air traffic control information revealed that at 1036, another pilot contacted the Atlantic City Approach Control facility and requested a report of the current weather conditions at Bader Field. The controller responded that the conditions were IMC, that there was a fog bank along the coast, and that all of the airplanes that had conducted instrument approaches to Bader Field were unable to land. The pilot then advised the controller that he would return to his departure airport.

At 1037, the accident pilot contacted the controller and advised that he had heard the previous exchange. He further stated that he would like to return Old Bridge Airport, and that he was 24 miles north of Atlantic City. The controller then advised the pilot that he needed to contact a controller on another frequency who handled the northern sector, and the pilot responded in the affirmative. At 1038, the pilot contacted the north sector controller, and was advised that he should change his transponder code and "ident." The pilot again replied in the affirmative, and no further transmissions were received.

Review of radar data revealed that a target, later correlated to be the accident airplane, departed Old Bridge Airport at 1017. The airplane continued southwest, then roughly tracked the Garden State Parkway south, and climbed to 4,500 feet. About 2 miles east of the accident site, at 1038, the airplane's transponder code changed to the transponder code requested by ATC, and an "ident" signal was received. Less than a minute later, and in the vicinity of the accident site, the airplane was observed at 3,900 feet msl. About four seconds later, the airplane was observed at 2,600 feet. The next radar return did not have a transponder signal associated with it, and no further radar targets were observed.

According to the New Jersey State Police, several witnesses reported hearing and seeing the accident airplane as it descended below the clouds. They described hearing intermittent engine noise, and a loud "bang" sound. The witness also observed pieces of the airplane falling to the ground before the airplane impacted trees and terrain.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 39 degrees 40.596 minutes north latitude, 74 degrees 13.722 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He did not hold an instrument rating. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on July 22, 2004. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated 193 total hours of flight experience, 34 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model, and 3.8 hours of simulated instrument experience.


A review of FAA records revealed that the accident airplane was manufactured in 1979, and shortly thereafter was exported from the United States to Belgium. The airplane was subsequently re-registered in the United States in May, 2004, and was purchased by the accident pilot on February 6, 2006.

No maintenance records for the airplane were located. A review of maintenance invoice information revealed that on February 15, 2006, the airplane was serviced by a maintenance facility. According to the invoice for the service, the airplane had accumulated 1,606 total hours of operation. Review of another invoice, and FAA airworthiness documents, revealed that the pilot had a new avionics suite, which in part included a multi-functional navigation/communication/Global Positioning System unit, intercom, and transponder, installed on May 7, 2006.


The weather conditions reported at Atlantic City Municipal Airport, about 21 nautical miles southwest, at 1054, included winds from 090 degrees at 8 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, an overcast ceiling at 700 feet, temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 62 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.20 inches of mercury.

An AIRMET for IFR conditions was issued at 0720, for an area that included the accident airplane's route of flight. It warned of occasional ceilings below 1,000 feet, and visibilities below 3 statute miles due to clouds, precipitation, mist, and fog, with the conditions continuing beyond 1000, through 1600 for the costal waters area.

Review of visible data taken from Geostationary Operations Environmental Satellite number 12, at 1032, revealed an area of clouds extended along almost the entire New Jersey coastline.


The initial impact point was a tree about 50 feet tall. The main wreckage came to rest about 20 feet beyond the initial impact point, in a direction of about 090 degrees magnetic. The wreckage was inverted, and oriented in a direction of 030 degrees. The main wreckage included the fuselage, empennage, and inboard 7 feet of both wings. Portions of the stabilator, outboard portions of the left wing, and the right aileron were clustered in an area between 1,000 and 1,500 feet from the main wreckage, on a bearing about 270 degrees. The outboard portion of the right wing was located about 2,000 feet from the main wreckage on a bearing about 230 degrees.

Examination of the inboard and separated outboard portions of both wings revealed signatures consistent with an in-flight separation in the positive, or upward, direction. The stabilator exhibited signatures consistent with failure in the negative or downward direction. All of the fracture surfaces examined on the wing and stabilator portions were consistent with overload. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit, to the stabilator, ailerons, and rudder. All cable breaks exhibited signatures consistent with overload.

Both wing fuel tanks were ruptured, and did not contain fuel. First responders reported a strong odor of fuel upon arriving at the accident site. No evidence of fire was found on any portion of the wreckage, or at the accident site.

The propeller was separated from the crankshaft, and was buried in dirt next to the engine. Both propeller blades exhibited s-bending, and chordwise scratching and gouging. One blade was bent aft about mid-span, and the propeller hub exhibited rotational scarring. Several trees and branches cut at 45-degree angles were found in the vicinity of the main wreckage. One tree, about 3 inches in diameter, along with an approximate 3-foot long separated section of the tree, displayed 45-degree angle cuts and gray paint transfer similar in color to the paint on the propeller.

The engine was examined, and crankshaft continuity was confirmed from the forward portion of the crankshaft, where the propeller had separated, through the rear accessory gears, and to the valvetrain. Rotation of the crankshaft produced compression on all cylinders. The top spark plugs were removed and examined. They were impact damaged and their electrodes were light brown in color. Both magnetos were removed, and rotation of the input shaft produced spark at all terminal leads.

The vacuum pump was removed and disassembled. The rotor vanes were intact; however, the rotor was fractured, and the drive was sheared from the input shaft. The attitude gyro and directional gyro were removed and disassembled. Both gyro housings exhibited rotational scoring. No evidence of any pre-impact failure or malfunction of the vacuum pump or gyros was noted.

NTSB Probable Cause

The noninstrument-rated pilot's inadvertent VFR cruise flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and his subsequent loss of aircraft control, which resulted in his exeeding the design stress limits of the airplane, and an in-flight separation of the wings and horizontal stabilizer.

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