IAD99LA029
IAD99LA029

On February 7, 1999, about 1136 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32RT-300, N31975, was destroyed after colliding with trees then terrain on takeoff from the Medina Municipal Airport (1G5), Medina, Ohio. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers were seriously injured. The three occupants were agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the public use cross country flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight was destined for Scott Airport (0M1), Parsons, Tennessee.

The purpose of the flight was to fly from Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) to Alexandria, Louisiana (AEX), with intermediate stops in Grosse Isle, Michigan (ONZ), Medina, Ohio (IG5), and Parsons, Tennessee. The agents were to attend a training course in AEX.

The pilot flew to Medina to pick up a second passenger and refuel. According to the pilot's written statement, he reported:

"Conditions were snow flurries, visibility about 2 miles. I taxied the aircraft to the fuel pump area. I pumped approximately 40 gallons of fuel, which gave me just under full tanks. The conditions at Medina continued to be IFR, with snow flurries. [My other passenger arrived] and [my first passenger] assisted him in arranging the equipment in the aircraft. I had calculated an estimated weight and balance with the fuel, passengers, and gear using thumbnail estimates of the weights of the items, prior experience of the useful load, max gross weight and CG limits of the aircraft. I went inside to pay for fuel, and again contacted the Cleveland Flight Service Station via the telephone and obtained an updated weather information. I filed an IFR flight to Parsons, TN, where we planned to stop for food and fuel. I obtained an IFR clearance with a void time. At approximately 1120, I conducted a pre-flight of the aircraft and we prepared for departure. Light snow had accumulated on the wings of the aircraft. [A passenger] used a broom and swept the snow from the wings. I started the aircraft and taxied to runway 27 where I conducted a run-up. I announced my departure on the UNICOM frequency. The runway was clear with some small patches of snow. I have no recollections of the take-off roll, departure, subsequent crash, or any post crash events. The only recollection I have is that of [a passenger] advising me help was coming. I recall rescue workers carrying me from the crash site to the helicopter."

A flight instructor employed by Flight Services of Medina assisted the pilot on the ground after he landed at IG5 and observed his departure. In a written statement, he said:

"At approximately 1100 hours, Piper Lance N31975 landed at IG5. The pilot requested me to open the airport gate so that luggage and gear could be loaded onto the aircraft. The pilot then fueled his own aircraft with 39.5 gallons of 100 LL and came inside to pay for the fuel. Shortly after he fueled, a heavy snow squall began. The pilot requested a broom to brush off the snow that had begun to accumulate on the aircraft. While the pilot filed an IFR flight plan, one of the passengers brushed off the wings of the aircraft. I did not witness him remove any snow from the horizontal stabilizer of the aircraft. After obtaining a void time, the occupants brushed off the wings a second time and three of them taxied to runway 27. They requested a wind check and were told that the winds were out of the east at 8-10 knots, favoring runway 9. The aircraft then departed runway 27 into heavy snow. I would estimate visibility as 1/4 mile. I watched the aircraft until it disappeared and there was no indication of trouble. Another pilot said that he heard a 'bang' a short time later, so I tuned my hand held receiver to 121.5, but heard no ELT signal."

Another flight instructor, in a written statement said:

"I was up with a student pilot in the traffic pattern when weather conditions deteriorated with snow showers. When we landed and taxied to the hanger, an aircraft landed and taxied to the fuel pumps. I put two aircraft away, one in hanger, second under 'leanto.' The snow was coming down heavy enough that the second aircraft we put away had a coating of snow. The ramp/ground was snow covered. It was snowing heavy enough that the end of runway 18 wasn't visible from office building. Due to snow, could not see aircraft on climb-out."

An airport employee was working the UNICOM frequency at IG5 at the time of the accident. In a written statement, he said:

"Weather conditions at take-off were wind from ENE 8-10 MPH in snow squall. Runway conditions at most were 1/4 inch wet snow based on observations at fuel pumps. One of the passengers broomed the snow from the wings, but not the horizontal stabilator. Prior to take-off roll, I advised (the pilot) by UNICOM that winds were ENE 8-10 and he acknowledged. The plane then departed runway 27 on an IFR flight plan."

According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) transcripts, at 1101, the pilot called the Cleveland Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) by telephone and requested an update on current weather. He filed an IFR flight plan, and requested an IFR clearance from Medina, Ohio, to Parsons, Tennessee. At 1112, Cleveland AFSS called Cleveland Approach requesting the IFR flight plan for N31975, departing IG5, runway 27, in about 10 minutes. The flight plan was given with a clearance effective time of 1125, void time of 1130.

Reported weather at Cleveland, Ohio, 21 nautical miles north-northeast of IG5, at 1131, was wind 070 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 1/2 statute mile, snow, fog, ceiling 400 feet broken, 1200 feet overcast, temperature 32 degree Fahrenheit, dewpoint 32 degrees Fahrenheit, altimeter 29.76 inHG, with remarks of rain ending at 1059 and snow beginning at 1059. Also, it was remarked that the pressure was falling rapidly.

The aircraft collided with trees located 1/2 mile off the end of runway 27. An FAA Inspector interviewed a passenger by telephone. According to the Inspector's record of conversation:

"They took off from the Medina airport with heavy snow coming down at the time. He said there was no explosion prior to hitting the trees. He said they were having trouble gaining altitude during lift-off. The passenger said to his knowledge, there was no engine problem. He said they just clipped the top of the trees and crashed."

A witness who lives in the vicinity of the accident site, heard a noise coming from the airport area and recognized it was a plane in trouble. In a written statement, he said:

"I think I first heard an explosion and then trees breaking and then loud noise. I called 911 and then ran to the location about 1/4 to 1/2 miles from my house. The three men were on the opposite side of the plane from me and I made my way around the fire and dragged the men out of the line of fire and behind a couple of large trees."

FAA Inspectors, and a representative from the airframe and engine manufacturer examined the aircraft on site. According to the airframe representative, the initial impact point (IIP) was the top of a 60 foot tall tree. The airplane continued on a 260 degrees magnetic heading for approximately 218 feet, striking numerous branches and main trunks prior to ground impact. Several pieces of diagonally cut wood were found along the wreckage path.

The left wing, inboard left main fuel tank, horizontal stabilator, and rudder separated from the airplane. The main cabin came to rest in an upright position with the right wing root lodged against the base of a tree. The instrument panel along with the entire cabin area was consumed in the post crash fire.

The flap selector handle was damaged by impact and post impact fire. It was found in the flaps retracted position. The flap torque tube was found in the flaps fully extended position. The right landing gear was found down and locked and the left main landing gear was found in a down and partially locked position. The flight control cables were found fractured and appeared consistent with tensile overloading.

According to the engine representative, the propeller was broken from the crank shaft. One blade was bent aft, twisted, and missing 6 inches of the tip, which was found near the main wreckage. The other blade was bent aft at midpoint and then twisted forward. The rocker boxes were removed. The crank shaft was rotated, and there was valve action, compression on all six cylinders, and continuity through the accessory section. The ignition harness and dual magneto was destroyed by fire. The top spark plugs were removed with deposits consistent with normal engine operation.

A fuel sample from the fuel pumps at IG5 was tested and found to be within manufacturer's specifications.

The vacuum pump was disassembled and the vanes and rotor were intact. No pre-impact deficiencies were noted with the engine or airframe.

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