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N4171Z accident description

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Crash location 30.066945°N, 95.548055°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Tomball, TX
30.097162°N, 95.616055°W
4.6 miles away

Tail number N4171Z
Accident date 06 Nov 2005
Aircraft type Piper PA-34-220T
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On November 6, 2005, at 0755 central standard time, a twin-engine Piper PA-34-220T airplane, N4171Z, was destroyed upon impact with terrain following a loss of control after calling for a missed approach on the localizer approach (LOC) to Runway 17R at the David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (DWH), near Tomball, Texas. The instrument rated commercial pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. A passenger car was struck during the impact sequence and the driver sustained minor injuries. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight originated from the Gillespie County Airport (T82) near Fredericksburg, Texas, approximately 1 hour and 12 minutes earlier.

The airplane impacted terrain on airport property on a heading of 345 degrees with the left wingtip, then the main fuselage, before colliding with a power pole. The airplane then stuck the berm to an adjacent public road and impacted a passing vehicle. The airplane continued for an additional 260 feet before coming to rest in a dense line of vegetation parallel to the public road.

In a written statement, an instrument rated pilot, employed by United Flight Systems described his observation as he was standing on the airport ramp. He reported that he "heard the airplane power-up as if going missed." He indicated that it was the usual full power, out of synch sound at first power up. However, it grabbed his attention almost immediately because the Doppler shift sounded wrong. He added that the usual missed approach sound was trailing down the runway and away from him, instead in this case "it appeared as if was coming directly towards him." The witness added that "he knew it was a dangerous situation, so he dropped the tow bar he was holding and waited for the situation to clarify in the event he had to run for cover." He further stated that "as the sound came closer, he heard the engines begin over speeding." The witness indicated that "it was the same sound one hears while doing power-on stalls when the prop blades stop biting the air and developing thrust." The witness added that the sound was still coming directly toward him. He remembers wondering if this was the "run for your life" stage. As he was about to do just that, there was a sudden shift in the sound so I knew the plane was close but not going to hit him. He looked up and out of the overcast appeared the Seneca about 300 feet above him. As the airplane broke out of the clouds, it was "wing down close to vertical and nose down." He stated that the airplane "broke-out pointed a little south of east, left wing almost straight down, turning hard to the left, and slipping." The witness used the term "dead-man spiral," because it was taught to him while he was an instrument student. He added that "it appeared to be a classic example of what he was taught." The witness further stated that the airplane "transitioned from it's initially observed attitude to less than a 45-degree bank" before he lost sight of the airplane about 20 feet above impact and to his north. The witness stated that he continued to watch the airplane to determine where to respond. He reported that he heard the airplane hit just beyond the adjacent hangars and saw debris go at least 40 feet into the air, including a vapor cloud. The witness then turned for his car, grabbed a large fire bottle from the hangar, and proceeded to the accident site.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the accident reported that she was driving south on Stuebner Airline Drive when she noticed out of the right corner of her eye a small aircraft . She stated that she normally saw aircraft along this road as it is located on the west border of the road. The driver recalled the weather that morning was overcast with a low ceiling of clouds. She reported that she did not remember any haze or fog as she saw the plane quite clearly. In a written statement she stated "I noted that the plane was not over where I thought the runway should be, but rather the plane was more over the hangars just to the southwest of my car. I began to wonder if the airplane was going to make an emergency landing on the road because at this point I did not perceive that the plane was in danger of crashing. The nose of the plane appeared parallel to the ground if not modestly tilting toward the sky."

The driver further stated that "the airplane did not appear to be flying normally at this point; from what I remember, it seemed to be trying to pull-up with the nose going up and the tail heading more toward the ground. Then the nose began to go toward the ground as the wings of the plane were going up and down." At this point the driver veered over to the northbound lane of the road in an attempt to slow the car down. The driver then stated that it was "my perception that the airplane was below the level of the power lines at the last moment that I remember, and the last thing that I remember prior to the crash, the airplane was still in the air, but the nose was heading toward the ground (likely the ditch) on the west side of the road."

An additional witness, located approximately 150 yards to the south of the resting place of the main wreckage, reported that he first heard the sounds of an aircraft engines and thought it was coming from a twin-engine airplane that was taking off. The witness then stated that the engine noise was getting louder and sounded as if the airplane was getting closer to his location. He then observed the airplane break out of the cloud layer about 300 to 400 feet above him with "the left wing pointing down and appeared to be yawing to the left." He added that the airplane began to level its wings but was descending at a high rate of speed. The witness then stated that the airplane "began to pull up but it was too low." The witness lost sight of the airplane at about 10 to 15 feet above the ground. He heard the impact sound, jumped in his truck and drove to the accident site to offer assistance.


The pilot and his passenger sustained fatal injuries due to the impact forces involved during the crash sequence. The female driver of a privately owned vehicle sustained minor injuries.


There was minor damage to the upper fiberglass fairing of a parked semi-tractor. An electrical wooden utility pole was sheared about two feet above its base and a privately owned passenger vehicle was destroyed in the crash sequence.


Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the 55-year old pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on September 15, 2005, with the limitation, "Must wear corrective lenses and possess glasses for near and interim vision." The pilot reported his total flight time was 1,783 hours on his FAA Form 8170.1, Airmen Certificate and/or Rating Application for commercial airplane multiengine rating dated October 18, 2005. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed the last recorded entry was on October 29, 2005. The pilot had logged 1,795.8 hours, with 350 hours of actual instrument at that time of which 41.1 hours and 3.9 hours actual instrument time were in the PA-34-220T. The pilot logbook indicated that 13.3 of those hours were as pilot in command with zero hours logged under actual instrument time.


The 1998 model airplane, serial number 34490654, was certificated for single pilot operation, with seating for six occupants. All aircraft components were original equipment on the aircraft since new and showed a total time on the Hobbs meter as 472.2 hours.

A review of the airframe and engine logbooks finds the aircraft had received its last annual inspection on November 11, 2004. The static system check, altimeter calibration, and the transponder checks were also completed in conjunction with the last annual inspection.

An airframe "spot check", engine oil change, and compression check were performed on October 5, 2005, at 427 hours by Elliot Aviation in Moline, IL. At that time there were no outstanding discrepancies noted.


At 0753 local time, DWH reported weather conditions as 300 foot overcast with fog, winds calm, visibility 3 statute miles, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 22 degrees Celsius, and a barometric pressure at 30.04 inches of Mercury. At 0757 local time, approximately 2 minutes after the accident, a special weather observation was taken reporting conditions as 300 foot overcast with fog, winds 190 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 1 3/4 statute miles, temperature 23 degrees Celsius, dew point 22 degrees Celsius, and a barometric pressure at 30.04 inches of Mercury. The airport landing minimums for the localizer approach (LOC) to runway 17R at David Wayne Hooks for Category A and B aircraft are listed as 500 foot ceiling and 1 mile visibility.


There was no evidence found that a flight plan had been programmed in the on board GPS system. There was also no evidence to establish whether the autopilot system was used at anytime during the accident flight.


The pilot contacted San Angelo flight service station (AFSS) at 0603 central standard time to obtain a weather briefing and file a flight plan. A standard weather briefing was provided and the pilot filed an IFR flight plan requesting direct routing from Gillespie County Airport (T82) to David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (DWH) at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Weather reported in the briefing included "sky conditions generally below a thousand along the entire route," ranging from 100 to 700 foot overcast. Destination weather current at the time of the briefing was winds 190 degrees at 5 knots, 7 miles visibility, clear below 12,000 feet, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 21 degrees Celsius. The pilot asked specifically about ceilings at his destination. The briefer responded "that's what they are saying, but I kind of find it hard to believe that everyone around them is one to three hundred overcast and they're clear below twelve thousand." The flight plan was filed and the telephone conversation ended at 0610.

After departing from T-82, the pilot contacted Houston Center at approximately 0643. He reported climbing through 2,700 feet to a cruising altitude of 5,000 feet. The IFR flight was handed-off to Houston Approach Control at approximately 0745 and the pilot contacted David Wayne Hooks Tower at 0750.

07:50:00 (N4171Z) Hooks Tower Seneca four one seven one zulu is with you on the localizer.

(Tower) Seneca four one seven one zulu Hooks Tower, runway one seven right, cleared to land. Ceiling now three hundred overcast and three miles.

(N4171Z) three hundred overcast and three miles, seven one zulu, thank you

07:54:04 (Tower) Seneca seven one zulu low altitude alert...ah...check altitude.

07:54:09 (N4171Z) We're going to climb back up and go missed approach.

07:54:50 (N4171Z) I got the tower. Can I go ahead and land?

07:54:54 (Tower) Yea, you're cleared to land sir.

07:55:40 (Tower) Seneca seven one zulu Hooks.

07:55:52 (Tower) Seneca seven one zulu Hooks Tower.

07:56:11 (Tower) Seneca seven one zulu Hooks Tower.

07:56:28 (Tower) Seneca seven one zulu Hooks Tower.

There was no reported additional radio contact with N4171Z.


The localizer approach to runway 17R, a 7,009-foot long, by 100-foot wide asphalt runway, depicts a final approach heading of 168 degrees, a minimum descent altitude of 500 feet, and visibility of 1 mile. Missed approach instructions are to climb to 1,000 feet then make a right turn, direct to the David Hooks (DHW) non-directional beacon (NDB) and hold at 1,800 feet. The airport elevation is 152 feet MSL and the control tower is located approximately mid-field on the west side of the runway. The top of the control tower is reported at 233 feet msl. Radar data and GPS data indicated that the airplane descended to an altitude of 314 feet msl at approximately the time that the pilot reported seeing the tower and asked if he was still cleared to land. Recorded radar data showed the airplane began an ascent to about 800 feet and turned right to a heading of 185 degrees. The pilot then began a left turn to approximately 105 degrees. The aircraft's altitude varied between 800 feet and 400 feet. The last recorded radar information was received at 07:55:15 with no altitude readout, a heading of 105 degrees, and airspeed of 138 mph. The entire time sequence from the low altitude radar reading of 300 feet MSL and the last recorded track was 56 seconds.


Ground scars at the initial impact point appeared consistent with the aircraft striking the ground in a near level configuration. Propeller blade strikes were noted in the ground as well as depressions consistent in size and placement to the fuselage stringers along the bottom of the cabin area. A semi tractor parked on the ramp near the initial impact point had a cut in a fiberglass fairing just behind the cab. The noted damage was consistent with the first impact to have been with the truck before hitting the ground then striking the telephone pole, road berm and the automobile. The debris line heading from the initial impact point was measured on a magnetic heading of 345 degrees. The initial impact point was located with a global positioning satellite receiver and found to be at north 30 degrees 03.987 minutes west and 095 degrees 32.899 minutest. The telephone pole was found to be located at north 30 degrees 04.000 minutes and west 095 degrees 32.903 minutes. The automobile which was stuck was found at north 35 degrees 04.012 minutes and west 095 degrees 32.894 minutes. The largest remaining part of the fuselage was the instrument panel/forward bulkhead. It was found to be located at north 30 degrees 04.012 minutes and west 095 degrees 32.894 minutes.

The left wing was found separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The wing was also separated outboard of the nacelle. The wing displayed an upward bend and the upper wing skin was buckled. The wing was found along the roadway lodged in the bushes that lined the road. The wing showed a compression impact near the tip and the wingtip was separated. The fuel tank was ruptured and the fuel cap was in place and secure. The heated stall vane was in place and impact damaged.

The aileron was in place and secured at all hinge points. The balance weight was in place. The aileron control rod and bellcrank were impact damaged, but in place. Both control cables were found secured to the bellcrank but were separated near the wing root. Both separations were broomstrawed consistent with impact overload.

The flap was impact damaged and separated. The flap was separated and fragmented. The flap actuator was separated from the flap torque tube and fuselage. The actuator was recovered from the debris path and found to be in the fully extended position. This position is consistent with the flaps being in the retracted position at the time of initial ground impact.

Ground scars and actuator positions were consistent with the landing gear in the retracted position at the time of the impact.

The right wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The wing was also separated outboard of the nacelle. The wing displayed an upward bend and the upper wing skin was buckled. The wing was found along the roadway lodged in the bushes that lined the road. The fuel tank was ruptured and the fuel cap was in place and secured. The wingtip was separated and found along the debris path.

The aileron was separated and recovered along the debris path. The balance weight was secure in the outboard portion of the aileron. The bellcrank was loose and had been pulled inboard. Both control cables were secure to the bellcrank. One

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.