NTSB Identification: WPR10FA217
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, April 27, 2010 in Merced, CA
Aircraft: PIPER PA-30, registration: N847DE
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.
On April 27, 2010, about 1135 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-30, N847DE, collided with a highway embankment in Merced, California. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The certificated private pilot was killed. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings and the forward fuselage. The local personal flight departed Merced Regional Airport/Macready Field at 1130. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
Video of the airplane’s takeoff roll, captured by Merced City security cameras, revealed that the airplane took off at 1130 from runway 30. After rotating, it turned left and joined the downwind leg to the east.
A few minutes later, an airport employee heard a weak transmission over the UNICOM frequency stating, “all kinds of trouble/problems in the cockpit… I will try to make it back to Merced Airport… I am following Childs Ave…”
A witness, located in a restaurant parking lot 3 miles east of the airport, was facing west when he observed an airplane fly directly over his position towards the airport. The airplane was flying straight and level just below the top of an elevated restaurant sign. He described the airplane sound as, “full bore,” comparable to, “Three Harley’s.” The airplane then passed beyond the tops of adjacent trees, and out of his view. He did not observe any smoke or vapors emanating from the airplane.
Another witness, who was driving on the southbound lane of Highway 99, noticed what he initially thought was a crop duster about 50 yards to his left, just above the highway. The airplane then passed directly in front of his vehicle from left to right and collided with the highway embankment.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 88-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, instrument airplane, and glider. He held a third-class medical certificate issued in June 2009, with the limitation that he must have glasses available for near vision.
The airplane came to rest on the highway embankment, 3 miles east of the arrival end of runway 30. The pitch of the embankment was about 40 degrees as it rose to an exit ramp; the airplane was observed facing uphill, on a heading of about 210 degrees magnetic. The first identified point of impact was characterized by a flat, horizontal swath cut through the branches at the top of an 80-foot-tall tree. Fragments of freshly cut branches were observed at the base of the tree. The next point of impact consisted of a wood communications pole, severed at about the 80-foot level, 120 feet beyond the tree. A 5-foot section of the pole was located about 30 feet west of the base. The fractured section exhibited slash markings, and fragments of light green paint, similar in color to the internal painted surfaces of the airplane's wing structure.
The main wreckage was located about 600 feet west of the initial point of impact. The main cabin was intact, and sustained damage to the nose cone. The tail section had become separated aft of the cabin, and was for the most part intact. The right wing sustained two semicircular shaped indentations along its leading edge. One indentation was observed at the center wing section, between the main cabin and the right engine; the size of the indentation corresponded to the radial dimensions of the wood communications pole. The left wing sustained crush damage along its entire leading edge. The outboard wing had become folded aft, and the left engine, along with its associated firewall, had become separated and was located underneath the wing.
All four wing mounted fuel tanks contained fuel up to their respective filler necks. The tanks were not breached, and no indications of fire were observed throughout the airplane. The fuel selector valves for the left and right engine were observed set to the main tanks. All sections of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.
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