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N3701W accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Front Royal, VA
38.918167°N, 78.194445°W

Tail number N3701W
Accident date 16 Aug 1994
Aircraft type Piper PA-32-260
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 16, 1994, at 1346 eastern daylight time, N3701W, a Piper PA-32-260, owned and operated by William H. Peoples of Powell, Ohio, crashed while en route to Delaware, Ohio. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and a flight plan was not filed. The certificated private pilot and his four passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed. The flight was operated under 14 CFR 91. The flight originated in Manteo, North Carolina.

The pilot made a fuel stop at Shannon Airport, Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he refueled en route to his destination in Ohio. The airplane collided with trees in mountainous terrain during cruise flight about 11 miles southeast of Warren County Airport, Front Royal, Virginia. According to the FAA, the pilot received a weather briefing which indicated marginal VFR and IFR conditions along his route of flight.

A witness who was at the 2300 foot level of the 2900 foot high mountain stated that the airplane was flying low over the mountains. The witness stated that it was foggy at the time and that the clouds had obscured the mountains. Shortly afterward, she heard what was later determined to be the sound of the collision.

The airplane was reported overdue. Search personnel found the wreckage eight days later at an elevation of about 2500 feet MSL on the top of Comptons Peak.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight, at 38 degrees 49 minutes North and 10 minutes 24 seconds West.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine land rating. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating. His logbooks were not located and his last record of flight time was on his application for a Class III Medical Certificate dated July 7, 1993. At that time he reported 250 hours of flight time.


The 1966 year model Piper PA-32-260 airplane, serial No. 32-614 was powered by a Lycoming O-540-E4B5 engine, serial No. L-1758- 48C. The airplane log books were not located; however, maintenance records showed the airplane completed an annual inspection on June 4, 1994, and at that time had accumulated over 3139.7 hours of total flight time. The engine records indicated that the aircraft had over 1593.77 hours since major overhaul.


The 1253 hours surface weather observation for Washington National Airport, Washington, DC, about 63 miles east of the accident site was as follows:

Sky condition, 900 feet scattered, Ceiling measured 1700 feet broken; visibility, 2 miles in heavy rainshowers and fog; temperature, 68 degrees (F); dew point, 66 degrees (F); wind condition, 180 degrees magnetic at 18 knots; and altimeter, 30.22 inches Hg.


The aircraft collided with trees in mountainous terrain oriented on a 310 degree magnetic heading. The wreckage was strewn a distance of about 300 feet. The first piece of wreckage along the wreckage path was the outboard section of the right wing. About 25 feet from the outboard section wing was the right wing tip. Approximately 15 feet from the right wing tip was the left wing. At the top of the hill about 35 feet from the left wing was the horizontal stabilizer and fuselage relatively intact. The cockpit, instrument panel, left landing gear and nosewheel were destroyed by fire.

One of the two bladed propeller blades was melted. The other blade revealed evidence of heat damage and it exhibited twisting and bending. The tip of the blade exhibited leading and trailing edge damage.

The engine was recovered from the accident site and transported to Dawn Aeronautics, New Castle, Delaware, for examination on September 23, 1994. The examination revealed that the engine sustained impact and fire damage. All six cylinders remained attached and secured to the crankcase. The oil sump was melted. The accessory housing and the numbers 1,3 and 5 cylinder heads were melted. The pistons for the number 3 and 5 cylinder were visible from the outside of the engine. The right magneto sustained fire and impact damage and could not be tested. The left magneto separated from its mounting pad and sustained fire damage. The ignition harness for the magneto was attached to the engine. The magneto when rotated by hand produced a spark at one magneto distributor block tower.

The exhaust valve stems of the number 3 and 5 cylinders were broken. The valves were bent. Both cylinders sustained fire damage. The number 4 cylinder sustained fire damage and was difficult to remove. The number 4 piston and valves were intact. The accessory housing was removed. The oil pump sustained heat damage. The accessory drive gears with the exception of the right magneto drive gear were intact. The right magneto drive gear was bent. The crankshaft gear was attached. The examination did not reveal any preexisting mechanical failures.


A post-mortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Jerry W. Martin, Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, on August 26, 1994. Toxicological tests were completed by the Civil Aeromedical Institute of the FAA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the toxicological report .09% liver-alcohol, and .022% urine-alcohol was detected. The report indicated "marked putrifaction " condition of the specimen.


The wreckage was released to Leo Howe, of Howe Associates Inc., representing the owner on September 23, 1994.

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