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N5841P accident description

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Crash location 38.985833°N, 77.968889°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 Paris, VA
39.004553°N, 77.951385°W
1.6 miles away
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Tail number N5841P
Accident date 31 Mar 2001
Aircraft type Piper PA-24-250
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 31, 2001, about 1318 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-24-250, N5841P, was substantially damaged when it collided with mountainous terrain near Paris, Virginia. The certificated private pilot/owner was fatally injured. The flight originated at the Warrenton-Faquier County Airport (W66), Warrenton, Virginia, at 1254, destined for the Winchester Regional Airport (OKV), Winchester, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The airplane was reported missing on March 31, 2001, at 1646, and a ground search was initiated. An air search was not conducted due to low clouds. The airplane was located the following morning on April 1, 2001, at 0756.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 59 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 58 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued on January 27, 2000. At that time, the pilot reported a total of 2,000 flight hours.

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed that the first entry was logged on July 1, 1982, and the last entry was logged on June 24, 1999. Between that time, the pilot had logged a total of about 763.5 hours, of which 37.5 hours were in actual instrument conditions.

According to the pilot's son, his father only flew the accident airplane, and the time on the tachometer would reflect his father's total flight time since the last annual inspection.

At the time of the accident, the tachometer setting was 3166.21. Examination of the aircraft logbooks revealed that the last annual inspection performed on the airplane was on November 1, 1999, at a tachometer time of 3162.75.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

On March 7, 2001, an annual inspection was performed on the airplane at a maintenance facility located at W66. According to the facility's Director of Maintenance (DOM), the inspection resulted in a list of 25 discrepancies. The DOM informed the pilot that he would not sign-off the annual inspection until the discrepancies were corrected. According to the DOM, the pilot was not pleased by his decision.

The DOM and another certificated airframe and power plant mechanic made an entry in the airframe logbook, which stated that the aircraft was in an unairworthy condition and was not within 100 hour or annual inspection limits. Also at that time, the DOM asked the pilot to sign the discrepancy list. The pilot signed and dated the discrepancy list on March 7, 2001.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a ferry permit to the pilot on March 26, 2001. The permit authorized a flight from W66 to OKV for the purpose of annual inspection, and expired upon arrival at the destination or on April 5, 2001.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on April 2, 2001. There was a strong odor of automotive gasoline and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest partially inverted, with the nose of the airplane facing downhill on a heading of about 094 degrees. The accident site was at an elevation of 1,604 feet mean sea level (msl). The top of the ridge line was 1,880 feet msl.

Initial tree impact scars were marked by wreckage suspended in a tree about 180 feet prior to the main wreckage. Tree impact scars became progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the main wreckage. The outboard sections of both wings, the right aileron, right wing tip, and several angular cut tree limbs were found along the tree impact path, which was oriented 020 degrees magnetic.

The outboard sections of both wings exhibited concave impact marks along and perpendicular to the leading edges.

The main wreckage included the engine, cockpit, fuselage, inboard sections of both wings, empennage, and tail cone. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, stabilator, and stabilator trim were intact, but exhibited impact damage. The airplane was resting on the inboard section of the left wing. The inboard section of this wing had impacted a tree, and the tree was underneath the wing and cockpit.

The left inboard section of wing was partially pulled from the fuselage at the wing root, and the fuel bladder tank was ruptured. The tank's fuel finger screen was absent of debris. About 1 cup of green colored fuel was drained from the tank, and had an odor similar to automotive gasoline.

The right inboard section of wing was also partially pulled from the fuselage at the wing root. Concave impact marks were noted along the entire length of the wing's leading edge. The fuel bladder tank was ruptured, and the tank's fuel finger screen was absent of debris.

Both the left and right wing flaps were intact and found in the fully retracted position.

Control cable continuity was established for all flight control surfaces from the control surface to the cockpit. The manual flap handle was in the fully extended position and the shaft of the handle was bent aft.

The fuel selector handle was in the right tank position, and moved freely when manually manipulated.

The instrument panel was intact and pushed forward toward the engine. Both front seats were intact and secured to the seat rails. Both seat belts were intact, secured to the floor mounts, and found unbuckled. When buckled, both seat belts latched and unlatched easily. Shoulder harnesses were not installed.

The propeller was intact and attached to the engine. One blade was turned 180 degrees in the hub, and was bent forward about 14 inches from the hub. The back side of the blade exhibited chord wise scratching. The other blade was intact and appeared to be relatively straight. The leading and trailing edges of both blades were not damaged.

Examination of the engine revealed that control continuity was established from the cockpit to the engine. The throttle, mixture, propeller, and carburetor heat controls were all found full forward. Engine and valve train continuity were established by manual rotation of the propeller flange, and compression was produced on each cylinder. When the engine was rotated, fuel was expelled from the #2 bottom spark plug opening. During the compression check, spark was produced at all magneto ignition leads.

The oil filter and oil sump screen were removed from the engine and examined. No evidence of contamination was found in the oil filter, and the oil sump screen was absent of debris.

Both of the auxiliary fuel boost pumps were opened. The forward pump had about 1 tablespoon of green colored fuel inside, and the rear pump had about 2-3 tablespoons of green colored fuel inside. The fuel strainer was removed easily, and no fuel was found inside the bowl. The fuel strainer screen was absent of debris.

The airplane was recovered and moved to a secured storage facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. A follow up examination was performed on April 10, 2001.

At this examination, the engine driven vacuum pump was removed from the engine and examined. The examination revealed that the drive coupling was intact and rotated easily. The pump was opened and the vanes were found intact.

Suction was applied to the vacuum suction hose located in the engine compartment. When suction was applied, movement was noted on the attitude/Piper autocontrol indicator, and suction gauge.

The engine driven fuel pump was removed from the engine and examined. Examination of the pump revealed that the rubber gasket was intact, and a small amount of fuel was found inside the pump chamber.

The top and bottom spark plugs were removed and examined. The exterior of the spark plug barrels were corroded, and the double fine wire electrodes were dark gray in color.

The carburetor was removed from the engine and examined. No fuel was found in the carburetor bowl, but a trace amount of fuel was noted inside the accelerator pump chamber. The fuel finger screen was absent of debris. All of the internal components of the carburetor, including the metal floats were intact.

The pitot tube and related plumbing were clear of blockages. The T-fitting for the pitot/static lines that attached to the back of the airspeed indicator and encoder calibration instrument was found separated. When suction was applied to the static line, movement was noted on the vertical speed indicator and altimeter.

The altimeter was found set to 29.92 inHG.

WEATHER INFORMATION

Weather at Winchester Regional Airport, about 12 miles from the accident site, at 1320, was reported as winds calm, visibility 10 miles, ceiling 1,600 broken, 4,400 broken, temperature 9 degrees C, dewpoint 6 degrees C, and altimeter setting 29.80 inHG.

Weather at Washington Dulles International Airport, about 25 miles from the accident site, at 1251, was reported as wind calm, visibility 10 miles, ceiling overcast 1,400 feet, temperature 7 degrees C, dewpoint 5 degrees C, and altimeter setting 29.83 inHG.

Airmet Sierra Update 3 for mountain obscuration was issued on March 31, 2001, at 0945, for Virginia, and was valid until 1600. The Airmet reported that mountains would be occasionally obscured in clouds and precipitation. These conditions were forecasted to continue beyond 1600 through 2200.

The Area Forecast for Virginia was issued at 0245 and was valid until 2300. The forecast reported scattered to broken clouds between 1,500-2,500 feet, broken clouds between 3,000-5,000, and broken clouds at 10,000 feet, with clouds layered to flight level 24,000. Occasional light rain, mist, lowering ceilings and visibilities, overcast ceilings 1,000-2,000 feet, and visibility 3-5 miles. The outlook was reported as marginal visual flight rules, rain, and mist.

The pilot contacted the Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), Leesburg, Virginia, on March 31, 2001, between 1007 and 1019. Review of the recorded Leesburg AFSS briefing revealed that the pilot initially told the briefer that he "would like to make a quick VFR flight from Warrenton over to Winchester", and wanted to know if he was "going to get a clear shot this afternoon for VFR." The briefer asked the pilot what time his departure was, and the pilot responded, "I can go whenever it clears up."

The briefer initially told the pilot that weather conditions at the time were was currently VFR, but immediately corrected himself. At which point, the pilot stated, "Well I have to go through the mountains, and I really don't like to do that. If the visibility goes down and I can't climb, probably close to the icing level too."

The AFSS briefer informed the pilot that weather conditions up until 2300 were forecasted to be visibility greater than 6 miles, with overcast ceilings between 2,000 to 4,000 feet. However, the briefer stated that the highest the overcast was going to get was 3,000 feet.

Toward the end of the conversation, the pilot asked the briefer, "is it going to get any better than it is now?" The briefer responded, "..the best its going to get is 3,000 overcast."

According to a Virginia State Police officer, the mountain where the accident occurred was fogged in the entire day.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on April 2, 2001, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Fairfax, Virginia.

Toxicological testing was performed on May 1, 2001, by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A hand held Garmin GPS 90 was examined on April 17, 2000, under the supervision of the FAA. The unit was powered on normally, and communication was established with a personal computer. Data was extracted through a serial port download with Garmin's MapSource Program.

When the track points were overlaid on a map, it revealed a northwesterly flight track from W66 toward Winchester Regional Airport, Winchester, Virginia.

The GPS's last recorded track point was at 39 degrees, 00 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 58 minutes west longitude, on a heading of 001 degrees.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A fuel receipt obtained from the Warrenton-Faquier County Airport revealed that the airplane was serviced with 23.2 gallons of 100 LL fuel on March 31, 2001, at 1235.

The airplane wreckage was released on April 10, 2001, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

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