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N8349C accident description

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Crash location 38.138611°N, 78.452778°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 Charlottesville, VA
38.029306°N, 78.476678°W
7.7 miles away

Tail number N8349C
Accident date 10 Dec 2006
Aircraft type Piper PA-32R-300
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 10, 2006, at 1328 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N8349C, was destroyed when it impacted trees while on approach to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO), Charlottesville, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight which originated at the Chesterfield County Airport (FCI), Richmond, Virginia. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot checked in with Charlottesville Tower, and was instructed to "report left base for runway 21." The pilot acknowledged the instructions and shortly thereafter reported that "[his] engine [was] out," but that he was going to try to land at the airport. The pilot was subsequently cleared to land on runway 3, and responded, "I don't know if I can make it there." No further transmissions were received from the pilot.

A witness, who was the pilot of an emergency services (EMS) helicopter, was flying on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern at CHO, when he heard communications on the tower frequency regarding an airplane in distress. According to the witness's written statement, the tower controller reported to him that a Piper was enroute to CHO with an engine failure. The witness observed the airplane at his "3 o-clock position and low." He then notified the controller that he would be turning toward the airplane in the event he needed their assistance. The witness maneuvered the helicopter to approach the airplane from "his 7 o-clock position," and noted that the airplane was "extremely low (approximately 200 feet AGL)." At that time, the airplane was traveling north, paralleling the airport to the east by approximately three miles.

The helicopter was approximately 1/4 mile away from the accident airplane, and the pilot noted that the propeller was not turning. He did not see any trailing smoke, and was not close enough to observe whether the cowling and fuselage were oil soaked. The airplane cleared a tree line about 200 yards south of the crash site and continued descending into a clearing. At that time, the accident airplane pilot reported to the CHO tower, "I'm not going to make it." The helicopter pilot added that the airplane was traveling at what appeared to be a normal approach speed and was on what appeared to be a normal approach angle. Several seconds later, the airplane entered an approximate 20 degree bank to the left, impacted trees and "exploded." The helicopter pilot landed adjacent to the accident site approximately 20 seconds after impact, and the entire helicopter crew (nurse, doctor, and paramedic) circled the burning wreckage in an attempt to rescue the pilot.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on January 19, 2006. At that time, he reported 213 total hours of flight experience.


Examination of the airplane and engine logbooks revealed that the most recent annual inspection was performed on July 1, 2006, at a tach time of 4,645 hours, with no abnormalities noted. Two additional entries were noted since the inspection; one entry on September 28, 2006, for an oil change, and the last entry on October 20, 2006, for compliance of an Airworthiness Directive (AD) referencing a visual check of the rotary fuel pump. The most recent engine overhaul was performed on January 26, 1993, at 2,225 hours. The tach time recorded by the operator on December 9, 2006, was 4,736 hours.

According to Lycoming Service Instruction No. 1009AS, the recommended time between overhaul periods for the IO-540-K series engine was 2,000 hours. It was recommended that engines having not accumulated 2,000 hours should be overhauled in the twelfth year of service.


Weather reported at CHO, at 1253, included wind from 190 degrees at 6 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 14 degrees Celsius (C), dew point -06 degrees C, and altimeter setting 30.38 inches mercury.


An open field was noted adjacent to the wooded area, which the airplane impacted.

The initial impact point (IIP) was in a 20-foot tall tree, at a height of approximately 7 feet above the ground, where a portion of the left wing remained embedded in the tree branches. Approximately 10 feet to the right of the IIP, the outboard section of the right horizontal stabilizer remained embedded in tree branches at the same height. The wreckage path continued for approximately 30 feet on an approximate heading of 360 degrees. Located along the wreckage path were the left horizontal stabilizer, right wing, main fuselage and engine. The airplane was consumed by the postcrash fire.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder pedals to the rudder, and aileron control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the broomstraw-separated cable ends. The landing gear was in the extended (down) position, and the flaps were in the retracted (up) position.

The fuselage came to rest upright; the engine remained attached to the mount structure and the propeller remained attached to the mounting flange on the engine's crankshaft. Examination of the propeller blades revealed no rotational signatures.

The engine could not be rotated initially; however, after the cylinders and pistons were removed, the crankshaft could be rotated by turning the propeller. The crankcase halves were separated, and the crankshaft examined. No damage was noted to the main bearings. The main bearing journals on the crankshaft were heat discolored but were not scored. When the number 2, 5, and 6 connecting rods were removed from the crankshaft the rod bearings were intact. The rod journals on the crankshaft were also heat discolored but not scored. During a follow-up examination, the remaining connecting rods (numbers 1, 3, and 4) were removed from the crankshaft. Those rod bearings were also intact and the rod bearing journals heat-discolored but not scored. The crankshaft gear, bolt, and safety washer were in place and secure. The crankshaft and rod bearings were discolored by heat, but showed no evidence of embedded metallic particles.

Examination of all engine accessories revealed they were all severely fire-damaged and could not be tested.

Prior to disassembly, examination of the number 2, 4, and 6 cylinders revealed varying dimensions (between 1/4 - 3/8 of an inch) of the cylinder barrel threads exposed.


The Richmond, Virginia, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot on December 11, 2006.

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. According to the pilot's toxicology test results, CYANIDE and CARBON MONODXIDE were detected in the pilot's blood.


The number 2, 4, and 6 cylinders were retained and examined at the Safety Board Metalurgical Laboratory in Washington D.C. The examination revealed impact and severe postcrash thermal damage to the cylinders. Reduced thread flank contact was observed as a result of the thermal damage, and the reduced thread flank combined with the lower material strength associated with high heat resulted in the postcrash shearing of the head threads.

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