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N5464Y accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Baptistown, NJ
40.521770°N, 75.006003°W
Tail number N5464Y
Accident date 29 Aug 1997
Aircraft type Piper PA-23-250
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 29, 1997, about 1245 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-23-250, N5464Y, was destroyed when it struck the ground in Baptistown, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the post maintenance evaluation flight that had departed from Alexandria Field, Pittstown, New Jersey, about 1230. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot was flying the airplane for the owner, following the overhaul of both engines and propellers. The pilot had departed about 1030, from Sky Manor Airport, Pittstown, New Jersey, where the overhauled components had been reinstalled. The airplane was then observed to land at Alexandria Airport, about 1100. The pilot discussed the airplane condition with a mechanic, which included the pilot's observation that the left engine was running hot, but that it was controllable with mixture and cowl flap. The pilot then took the cowling off the left engine and the mechanic looked at it. The mechanic reported that he observed a small oil leak. The pilot replaced the engine cowling, and the mechanic departed the airport before the departure of the airplane. The mechanic reported that he heard the airplane overfly his home, about 1230, and the engines sounded smooth.

The airplane was next observed over Frenchtown, New Jersey, operating between 2,500 feet, and 3,000 feet.

About 1245, the airplane was observed by several witnesses in the vicinity of Baptistown. They reported the airplane was moving fast, and at a low altitude, in an easterly direction. One witness reported that he observed the airplane flying low with the engines operating at high power. The airplane then rolled right and descended into the trees. Other witnesses saw the airplane as it descended into the trees. All witnesses were consistent that the engines were operating and sounded smooth. One witness, a pilot, reported that the speed was "fast and not near a stall or Vmc."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 40 degrees, 31 minutes, 37 seconds North Latitude, and 74 degrees, 59 minutes, 47 seconds West Longitude.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine and multi-engine land, single engine sea, and instrument airplane. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single and multiengine, and instrument airplane. He was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 2nd class airman medical certificate on May 1, 1997, with a limitation of, "Holder shall possess corrective glasses for near vision,"

The pilot's flight logbook was not recovered. Based upon FAA and insurance company records, the pilot's total time was estimated to be about 13,000 hours, of which 3,500 hours was in multi-engine airplanes. He had more than 100 hours in the Piper PA-23-250.

According to his most recent FAA medical certificate application dated April 30, 1997, he had flown 100 hours in the preceding 6 months.


The airplane was examined at the accident site on August 29 through August 31, 1997. The airplane impacted in a wooded area about 2 1/2 miles southwest of the Pittstown, Airport. The examination revealed that broken tree branches and scrape marks on the sides of trees were aligned on a descending angle of 55 degrees. The first items found on the ground were from the right wing, followed by the nose, and then the left wing. The roof, rudder and vertical stabilizer of the airplane were found on one side of the tree over 12 inches in diameter, while the lower fuselage was found on the other side of the tree.

A slash of cut wood which measured over 13 inches long, and about 8 inches wide was found at the base of a tree. Slashes and cut wood which measured over 8 inches in diameter was found about 20 feet up from the ground on the same tree.

All primary flight control surfaces were recovered at the site. The rudder, ailerons, and wings flaps had separated from their mating surfaces. Flight control continuity was verified to the rudder. The up elevator control cable was fractured with puffed ends about 3 inches from the forward attach point, at a pulley. The down elevator cable was intact. The aileron control cables were separated with puffed ends. All breaks in control cables occurred at other than cable attach points.

The elevator trim was found with 5 threads showing on the bottom of the jackscrew. This corresponded to a elevator trailing edge tab down position of 1.1 degrees

Fuselage side panels were separated from the airplane. The main cabin door was identified with the door lock in the latched position. Both wings were fragmented and the fuel tanks ruptured. No fuel was found in the tanks.

The flap extension cylinder was extended beyond it maximum allowable length. Damage to the flaps, which had separated from the wings, was consistent with the flaps retracted at impact. The hydraulic system had been compromised with broken hydraulic lines on the extension cylinder.

The right engine propeller blades and hub had separated from the engine behind the propeller flange, similar to a torsional shear, and were found about 3 feet down in the ground. Both blades were bent rearward, with the outboard 14 inches of one blade broken off and not recovered.

The left propeller blades had separated from the propeller hub, while the hub remained attached to the engine. The propeller blades were between 1 and 2 feet into the ground. One of the propeller blades exhibited "S" curves along its length.

Both engines had received impact damage. Examination of the spark plugs from both engines revealed the electrodes were not damaged, and gray in color. The suction oil screen on both engines was free of debris.

The left engine was rotated and compression was felt in all cylinders. The right magneto produced spark. The left magneto was not identified.

The right engine could not be rotated. The left magneto produced spark. The right magneto was not identified.

Fuel was found in the left engine fuel control unit, but not the right engine fuel control unit.


The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol.

An autopsy was conducted on the pilot on August 30, 1997, by Anthony D'Aguilo, MD, Deputy Medical Examiner, for Hunterdon County, New Jersey.


A review of the pilot's medical history, as listed on his FAA Airman medical applications, revealed he was not receiving medical treatment.

A check with two doctors who had treated the pilot revealed he was not currently being treated by them, and they had no outstanding medical concerns.

A witness at Pittstown airport described the pilot as normally talkative, and noted that he was quiet, like he had something on his mind that morning. The mechanic who talked to the pilot at Alexandria airport described the pilot as in good spirits and upbeat.

A check of Service Difficulty Reports (SDRs) related to the flight control system for the Piper PA-23-250, failed to find anything related to uncommanded rolls.

A check of Piper PA-23-250 accidents from the NTSB database did not reveal any accidents where the airplane had an uncommanded roll at high-speed flight.

Examination of the airplane maintenance logbooks revealed that the last documented maintenance on the flight controls was performed on February 1, 1996, 81 hours prior to the accident, and consisted of adjustment of the cable tension for the elevator and rudder.

The last documented work on the aileron system was conducted on December 31, 1994, 243 hours prior to the accident, when the flight controls were rebalanced after the airplane was painted.

The accident flight was the first flight following an annual inspection.

When the Safety Board completed the on-scene investigation, no person had been located who would take custody of the airplane. The New Jersey State Police were notified, and the Safety Board departed the site on August 31, 1997.

NTSB Probable Cause

failure of the pilot to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reason(s), while operating it at low altitude.

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