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N69146 accident description

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Crash location 29.586666°N, 95.160833°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 Houston, TX
29.763284°N, 95.363271°W
17.2 miles away

Tail number N69146
Accident date 17 Sep 2005
Aircraft type Piper PA-46-310P
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On September 17, 2005, about 2124 central daylight time, a Piper PA-46-310P single-engine airplane, N69146, was destroyed when it collided with terrain following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Ellington Field Airport (EFD), near Houston, Texas. The private pilot and his passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to a private corporation and operated by the pilot. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 155-nautical mile cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for the Rusty Allen Airport (5R3), near Lago Vista, Texas.

A witness, located near the south end of runway 17R, first observed the airplane while it was on its takeoff roll. The witness reported that as the airplane flew past him, left to right, at an altitude of about 200 feet, he detected no notable problems. The airplane continued to climb and shortly after, while at an altitude of approximately 300 to 400 feet, the engine started "sputtering." The engine "sputtered" for about two seconds and then there were no more audible engine sounds. Due to the prevailing darkness, the witness could only observe the airplane's navigation lights as the airplane entered a left turn followed by a sharp descent to the ground. On impact, the airplane erupted in flames.

A second witness was directly south of the airport when he first observed the airplane flying in a southerly direction. The witness stated the airplane appeared to be climbing "normally" and the engine sounded "even." Shortly after the airplane crossed over Highway 3, "the engine cut-out completely." The airplane continued straight for five to ten seconds and then began a left turn. While turning, the airplane maintained a consistent altitude for several seconds before it started to descend towards the ground in an "increasingly sharp arc." The airplane impacted the ground in an approximate 75-degree nose down attitude and burst into flames about 190 to 200 yards from where the witness was standing.

On the day of the accident, the pilot and the passenger landed at Ellington Field about 1700 and visited with family before departing for Lago Vista. A review of the fueling records established that the airplane was fueled at 1717, with the addition of 65 gallons of 100 low lead (LL) aviation fuel.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical was issued on September 06, 2002, with the limitation of "MUST WEAR CORRECTIVE LENSES."

An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated an estimated total flight time of 641 hours; of which 330 hours were in this make and model of airplane. He logged 71 hours in the last 90 days and 15 in the last 30 days. His last noted flight review was completed October 23, 2003.


The 1985-model Piper PA-46-310P, serial number 46-8508076, was a low wing, semi-monocoque airplane, with a retractable landing gear, and was configured for six occupants. The airplane was powered by a direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, turbo-charged, six-cylinder engine. The engine, installed under STC #SA00380AT, was a Teledyne Continental TSIO-550-C, serial number 802590, rated at 300 horsepower at 2,850 rpm, and was driving a two-bladed constant speed Hartzell propeller.

According to the airframe logbook, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on June 9, 2005, at an airframe total time of 3,835.9 hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated approximately 3,916.1 hours and 80.2 hours since the last inspection.

The engine logbook revealed that the engine had been inspected in accordance with an annual inspection on June 9, 2005. At the time of the accident the engine had accumulated approximately 996 hours since major overhaul and about 179 hours since a propeller strike inspection.


At 2150, the weather observation facility at Ellington Field reported, wind from 170 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 25,000 feet, temperature 80 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 29.98 inches of Mercury.


An air traffic controller reported that the pilot was cleared to takeoff of Runway 17R and instructed to fly south for three miles before turning west in order to stay clear of William P Hobby Airport's airspace. Shortly after the airplane took off, the controller heard a weak transmission that she could not completely understand, but did hear the words "engine" and "power." The controller asked the pilot to "say again", but there was no response. She again asked, "N69146 say again" and the pilot transmitted, " I'm going down." There were no further communications from the pilot.


Ellington Field was a controlled airport operating under class D airspace. The field elevation was 32 feet mean sea level (msl). Runway 17R was a 9,001-foot-long by 150- foot-wide concrete runway.


On site documentation of the wreckage was conducted by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, The New Piper Aircraft Company, and Teledyne Continental Motors.

The wreckage was located in a flat grassy field approximately 250 feet south of the airport's perimeter fence. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates recorded at the accident site were 29 degrees 35.195 minutes North latitude and 095 degrees 09.654 minutes West longitude, at a field elevation of approximately 25 feet mean sea level (msl). The debris field encompassed an area approximately 125 feet long and approximately 50 feet wide, on a magnetic heading of 352 degrees. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

The initial point of impact was a ground scar containing red glass consistent with the left wing navigation light lens.

The propeller assembly separated from the engine crankshaft and was found buried 23 feet from the initial impact point, at a depth of approximately two feet and six inches in the ground. The propeller was recovered from the ground with the assistance of a backhoe. One blade was loose in the hub and found near the low pitch angle. The blade was bent towards the non-cambered side at an approximate angle of 30 degrees. There were no leading edge gouges or chordwise scratches. The other blade was found near the low pitch angle and was bent about 45 degrees aft towards the non-cambered side. The leading edge did not exhibit gouges or chordwise scratches. The spinner was mapped aft over the propeller hub and did not exhibit rotational crushing.

The engine, nose landing gear, and fuselage section, from the instrument panel area forward, were located approximately nine feet beyond the propeller.

The main wreckage consisting of, the cabin section, remaining fuselage, right wing, outboard section of the left wing, and empennage, was located about 45 feet beyond the engine. The fuselage and cabin area came to rest upright on a heading of 205 degrees. A post-impact fire consumed the cabin area and fuselage aft to the vertical stabilizer.

The fuel tank selector system consisted of a valve assembly located in the right wing root area and a selector lever mounted on the instrument panel. The valve and selector lever were interconnected via a cable. The fuel valve positions, which could be selected, were, "OFF, LEFT, or RIGHT." The fuel tank selector lever was found between the "OFF" and "LEFT" tank positions. The fuel selector valve was found in the "OFF" position.

The vertical and horizontal stabilizers remained attached in their respective positions and displayed impact damage. The rudder and elevator were attached via all hinge points. Control cable continuity was established from the forward fuselage separation, aft to the rudder and elevator. The elevator trim was found in the approximate 17-degree, of the available 19-degree, nose down setting.

The right wing remained partially attached to the fuselage, sustained extensive thermal damage, and came to rest with the leading edge pointing skyward. The right aileron was separated and found beneath the outboard end of the right wing. The right aileron control cable was separated near the right wing root and at the forward fuselage separation. The ailerons single balance cable was separated approximately 1-foot inboard of the left aileron drive sector assembly and again near the right wing root. The right flap was partially separated and located beneath the trailing edge of the wing. The right flap position could not be determined. The right fuel cap was in place and secure. All fuel from the right fuel tank was consumed in the post impact fire. The right main landing gear was found partially extended. The right spoiler was found in the stowed position.

The left wing was found separated from the fuselage and in two main parts. About 7 feet 6 inches of the inboard section was located 45 feet beyond the main wreckage. The remaining outboard section of left wing was located near the main wreckage. Both sections sustained substantial thermal as well as impact damage. The left aileron remained attached to the outboard wing section. The left aileron control cable was separated from the aileron drive sector at the attach point fastener and again near the left wing root. The remaining section of the left aileron control cable was located with the separated front fuselage section. The left flap was separated from the wing and found in two pieces. The left flap position could not be determined. The left fuel cap was in place and secure. All fuel from the left fuel tank was consumed in the post impact fire. The left main landing gear was found in the retracted position. The left spoiler was found in the stowed position.

The engine, which sustained impact and thermal damage, was slung from a hoist. The engine was manually rotated via an adapter inserted in the vacuum pump drive. The engine rotated freely and valve train continuity was established for each cylinder except the #5 cylinder exhaust valve due to a push rod that sustained impact damage. Continuity was established to the gears in the accessory case. Compression was developed in each cylinder.

All spark plugs were removed and displayed "Normal" signatures when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug (AV-27) chart. The top and bottom spark plugs from the #1 cylinder and the top spark plug from the #6 cylinder contained an oily substance consistent with engine oil.

The oil sump was removed and the oil sump screen was clean and open. The propeller governor screen was found unobstructed with small amounts of debris present. The oil filter exhibited thermal damage. When cut open, the oil filter element was found charred. The engine driven fuel pump exhibited thermal damage and could not be turned by hand. The fuel pump drive coupling was found undamaged. The fuel manifold valve plunger moved freely, the rubber diaphragm was unbroken, and no contamination was noted in the screen. The fuel injector nozzles were found unobstructed.

The left magneto exhibited thermal damage and could not be tested. All teeth were present on the distributor and rotor gear. The right magneto was rotated via a magneto-testing bench and produced spark through all leads of a slave harness.

The fuel filter bowl was removed and the filter element was found unrestricted.

The engine and engine accessories were then recovered to Teledyne Continental Motors located in Mobile, Alabama. On December 6, 2005, the engine was further examined under the supervision of the Safety Board.

The external surfaces of the crankcase exhibited thermal discoloration. Internal engine continuity was confirmed by separating the crankcase. No evidence of fretting was noted on the crankcase halves. The main bearing support diameters exhibited no signs of bearing movement or rotation. All cylinder bays were undamaged. The oil galleys and passages in the left and right crankcase halves were clear and unobstructed.

The crankshaft exhibited thermal discoloration toward the aft end of the assembly. The connecting rod journals, main journals and thrust surfaces were undamaged and showed no signs of lubrication distress. The counterweights were attached, undamaged, and had free and unrestricted movement on their respective attachment points. The propeller flange end of the crankshaft was fractured and separated upon impact.

The camshaft exhibited thermal discoloration at the aft (driven) end of the assembly. The lobes exhibited normal operating and wear signatures.

The accessory gears had continuity and exhibited thermal discoloration. The gear teeth were undamaged and exhibited normal operating signatures.

All cylinder combustion chambers exhibited normal amounts of combustion deposits and the cylinder bores were not scored or damage. All cylinder skirts were undamaged and exhibited hone marks in each cylinder bore. The intake and exhaust valve heads exhibited normal deposits and operating signatures. Each rocker box area had an oil residue consistent with lubrication to the cylinder overhead components. The cylinder overhead components (valves, rocker arms, guides, springs, and retainers) were undamaged.

All piston heads exhibited normal combustion deposits and the piston skirts were free of scoring and damage. All piston rings were free to move in their respective grooves and exhibited normal wear and operating signatures. The piston pin and plug assemblies were undamaged.

Both turbochargers exhibited impact damage and thermal discoloration. The turbines were rotated freely by hand with no rubbing or dragging noted when an axial load was applied. The wastegate and actuator assembly exhibited extensive impact and thermal damage. The wastegate was found approximately 80 percent open. The wastegate clevis pin was removed and the wastegate valve could be moved freely by hand. The actuator shaft was found bent approximately forty-five degrees, which was consistent with impact damage.

Both vacuum pumps exhibited thermal damage and both drive gears were broken and could not be turned. All vacuum pump vanes were complete and in their respective positions.

Examination of the engine revealed no preimpact anomalies that could have contributed to the loss engine power.

An inspector from the FAA quarantined the fuel truck after the accident and extracted a quart sample. The liquid was blue in color and consistent with 100 low lead (LL) aviation fuel. No contaminants were observed.


The Office of the Medical Examiner of Harris County, located in Houston, Texas, performed an autopsy on the pilot on September 18, 2005.

The FAA, Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot.


A passenger, who had been on board the accident airplane on a previous flight, provided a written statement to the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC). According to the passenger, on September 5, 2005, after a cross-country flight of about 4 hours and 45 minutes, the pilot landed for additional fuel before continuing on to their final destination. After the addition of 15 gallons of fuel to each fuel tank, the pilot performed a pre-flight inspection, including a check of the fuel, and an engine run up before departing. During the initial takeoff climb, while at an altitude of approximately 600-800 feet and in a slight right turn, the engine experienced a partial loss of power.

After the pilot reported the engine trouble to the airport tower controller, the controller responded that the airplane was emitting smoke and asked the pilot if he was declaring an emergency. The passenger reported, "I saw the pilot press some switches that I believed changed the fuel tan

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