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N57326 accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Suffolk, VA
36.728205°N, 76.583562°W

Tail number N57326
Accident date 12 Mar 1995
Aircraft type Piper PA-32-260
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On March 12, 1995, about 2130 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-260, N57326, was destroyed during a forced landing in Suffolk, Virginia. The pilot, a pilot-rated passenger, and one passenger were fatally injured. Three passengers received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, and had departed Tara Airport, Hampton, Georgia, about 1800.

The pilot and passengers had flown to Hampton, Georgia, to attend an auto race. At the completion of the race, the pilot and passengers returned to the airport. Prior to departure, the pilot signed a receipt which contained both the amount of fuel delivered, and cost, after which the passenger boarded the airplane and departed.

A surviving female passenger reported that as the flight neared the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area, the pilot turned the airplane east toward the Suffolk airport. Shortly thereafter, the engine lost power. It was restarted momentarily, and then lost power again, and was not restarted. She said the pilot attempted to make a forced landing in an open field, overshot the field and struck trees. She extracted herself from the airplane, and walked 1/4 mile to a residence, at which time the authorities were notified of the accident.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, 5 miles west of the Suffolk Airport, at location 36 degrees, 42 minutes North, and 76 degrees, 42 minutes, West.


The pilot-in-command held a Commercial Pilot Certificate with airplane single and multi-engine land, instrument airplane, and glider ratings. In addition, he held a Flight Instructor Certificate, with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine, and instrument airplane. His 2nd class FAA Airman Medical Certificate, was issued on May 4, 1995.

The pilot's log book was not recovered, and according to FAA records, he had 4,767 hours, with 4,471 hours as pilot-in- command, as of December 3, 1994. He was estimated to have in excess of 2,000 hours in the Piper PA-32, and to have flown 110 hours in the preceding 3 months, for a total time of 4877 hours, and 4581 hours as pilot-in-command.

A pilot-rated passenger occupied the right seat. He held a Private Pilot Certificate for airplane single engine land. There was no record of a medical certificate, and the date of his last medical was not determined. His total time and recency of experience was not determined.


The airplane had 4 fuel tanks. The main tanks held 25 gallons each, and the tip tanks held 17 gallons each. According to the Pilot's Operating Manual, "...all of which is useable except for approximately one pint in each of the four tanks...."


The airplane was examined at the accident site on March 13, 1995. The accident occurred in a stand of trees, 80 to 100 feet tall, adjacent to an open field. The debris trail started at the edge of the wooded area, and continued deeper into the woods on a heading of 340 degrees magnetic, for a distance of 123 feet.

The debris trail started with the left wing which was imbedded in a tree, 39 feet above the ground. Near the base of the tree, the inboard portion of the right wing, and right main landing gear, and right wing tip were found. The fuselage was found 95 feet forward, resting on its right side. Between the left wing and the fuselage, pieces of the right wing, and horizontal stabilizers were found.

The instrument panel was laying against the base of two trees, which had impact marks 20 feet above the ground. The engine, with the firewall still attached was found 28 feet ahead of the instrument panel, nose down in a swamp. All components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene.

The instrument panel was pushed back into the cabin area. Additionally, the roof of the cabin, and right side of the fuselage was crushed. Flight control continuity was established between the control yoke, and the rudder and elevator. At the breaks on the aileron cables, the ends were opened up similar to a tension overload. The wing flap control lever was found in the flaps up position.

There was no evidence of fuel at the accident site. In addition, emergency personnel who responded to the scene did not report the smell of fuel. All fuel tanks were ruptured, and the fuel caps were identified at the scene. There was no evidence of fuel leakage or siphoning. The area around the fuel selector valve was damaged and its pre-impact position was not determined.

No fuel was found in the engine. There was no evidence of distress on the spark plugs which were slate gray in appearance. The engine primer was found in the locked position. The propeller had separated from the engine, and was found on the right side of the debris path.


Autopsies were conducted on March 13, 1995, by Dr. Farouk Presswalla, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, for the Commonwealth of Virginia, in Norfolk.

Toxicological testing conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, found the drug chlorpheniramine, an over-the-counter antihistamine, in the pilot's blood at a level of .048 ug/ml. In a telephone interview, the head of the toxicological laboratory at CAMI, reported that the published side affects of the drug include increased response time, and a slowing of the cognitive functions. Additionally, the drug package contained a warning about the operation of heavy equipment while taking the drug.


Flight & Refueling History

On March 11, 1995, the airplane was refueled, and filled to capacity (87 gallons). The pilot then flew locally for an estimated 30 minutes.

On March 12, 1995, the pilot flew to Patrick Henry Airport, Williamsburg, Virginia, for passenger pickup, and returned to Suffolk Airport. The flight then departed for New London, North Carolina, where, according to records, the airplane was serviced with 66.2 gallons of 100 LL aviation grade gasoline. The total fuel load at departure from New London, was not determined.

The flight continued to Tara Airport, where the pilot filled out a fuel request which indicated he wanted all tanks filled. Records from Tara Airport, indicated that the airplane was serviced with 33.8 gallons of 100 LL aviation grade gasoline. The refueler at Tara Airport, who helped service the airplane, reported that the mains were filled, but that the tip tanks (auxs) were not serviced. The actual fuel load on the airplane at departure from Tara Airport was not determined.

The flight times, altitudes flown, power settings used, and amount of leaning used, were not determined.


One surviving female passenger was interviewed by the FAA on March 13, 1995. The FAA written report of the interview stated:

...the engine had quit, fuel had been run out of one tank and they had talked about landing at RDU [Raleigh-Durham] for fuel, but were having radio problems and could not [get] RDU ATC to answer, and flew past.

Flew on up toward PHF and decided to land at Suffolk for fuel. Used the hand VHF to turn on the landing lights at Suffolk. She said that they did see the runway lights. Then the engine quit,...[the pilot] ...[said] a field [was] below and [he] was trying to get the aircraft into [it], but [he] over shot the field and hit the trees. She said that it helped her in the accident after she put her head in her lap before they hit the trees.

She said that...[the pilot] liked to take... [right front seat pilot rated passenger] with him, for emergencies, and...[the pilot's] eye sight was not too good.

When interviewed by the Safety Board on March 14, 1995, the passenger denied any knowledge of the fuel situation prior to the accident, or of any vision problems with the pilot.

A check with Raleigh-Durham approach controllers revealed that they had radio contact with N57326 at 2040, and then heard what sounded like a stuck microphone on the frequency. They could hear radio calls from N57326, and answered them, but the pilot did not acknowledge. The radio calls continued until airplane disappeared from radar to the north.

Wreckage Release

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Andy Paul, of the Crittendon Adjustment Company on March 13, 1995.

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