NTSB Identification: NYC00FA248.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 03, 2000 in SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/23/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-301, registration: N8230G
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane was headed southwest, level at 8,000 feet, either in, or above instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot was instructed to change radio frequency, and after he checked in with the next sector controller, no further transmissions were heard from him. The airplane descended to 7,400 feet, then climbed to 8,500 feet over a period of 4 minutes. It remained at 8,500 feet for about a minute, then descended to and maintained between 8,100 and 8,200 feet for another minute. The airplane then made a descending turn to the right, with rates of descent up to approximately 16,000 feet per minute. The wreckage path was 1,900 feet in length, and began with parts from the airplane's tail section. About 500 feet from the beginning, was a section of the right wing, and 400 feet beyond that, the entire left wing. The stabilator spar and left wing separations exhibited downwards bending. The airplane was equipped with a vacuum-driven attitude indicator (AI) and directional gyro (DG). It also had a standby vacuum system, which required a reduction of power to properly operate. One low-vacuum annunciator light exhibited filament characteristics consistent with its being lit at the time of the accident. The other light was a diode-type, and could only be/was tested as operational. Post-accident examination found that the vacuum pump flex coupling was sheared, and the vacuum-driven instruments did not exhibit any rotational scoring. The vacuum pump coupling was manufactured in 1979. The manufacturer recommended changing the coupling every 6 years. There was no regulatory requirement to change the coupling, nor was there any regulatory requirement for redundant systems in case of vacuum system failure.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's loss of control, and his subsequent overstress of the airplane after a vacuum system failure during flight in instrument meteorological conditions. Factors included the instrument meteorological conditions, a sheared coupling on the vacuum pump, the pilot/owner's failure to ensure the coupling was changed per the manufacturer's recommendations, a lack of regulatory requirement to ensure compliance with the manufacturer's recommendations, and a lack of regulatory requirement to ensure installation of a suitable backup system.

Full narrative available

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