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On February 22, 1994, about 2009 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N44899, registered to Gulfcoast Aircraft Sales, operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed in the vicinity of Inverness, Florida, while maneuvering in a descent. The airplane was destroyed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a VFR flight plan was filed. The noninstrument- rated private pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated from Savannah, Georgia, about 2 hours 20 minutes before the accident.
Transcripts of recorded communication between Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, and N44899 revealed that N44899 requested VFR flight following with Jacksonville Center at 0018:41, 10 miles northeast of Gainesville Airport at 8,500 feet. N44899 requested permission to descend to 4,500 feet at 0055:19. Jacksonville Center approved the request at 0055:26, and instructed the pilot to maintain VFR, which was acknowledged by the pilot at 0055:30. Review of the Discrete Area Radar Tracking System, National Track Analysis Program (NTAP), indicates N44899 initiated a descent to the south-southwest at 0056:32. At 0057:14, the airplane was observed in a left turn with a noticeable decrease in groundspeed. At 0059:32, the airplane was observed in a right turn descending with a further reduction of groundspeed. The airplane descended through 4,500 feet at 0100:32. Radar data indicates N44899 was at 2,300 feet at 0103:26, when radar contact was lost. Jacksonville Center attempted to establish radio contact N44899 at 0104:10, which was uneventful.
A witness who was fishing on the Withlacoochee River, observed the airplane at about 2008 descending through the clouds. The airplane made a hard right turn estimated at about 45 degrees with the engine running, and disappeared from view below the tree line. An increase in engine rpm was heard followed by an impact, and total silence at about 2009.
Review of the pilot's logbook revealed the pilot had recorded as logged 144 total flight hours. The pilot had recorded as logged 1.9 hours of hooded flight with the last recorded flight being conducted on September 8, 1988. The pilot had recorded .6 hours of actual instrument flight with the last recorded flight being conducted on October 14, 1993. The pilot had recorded 6.7 hours of night flight with the last recorded flight being conducted on February 20, 1994. Additional information pertaining to the pilot, Edward F. Greene, Jr., is contained in NTSB Form 6120.1/2 and NTSB Form 6120.4.
Information pertaining to aircraft information is contained in NTSB Form 6120.4.
Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Official sunset was at 1825 hours with the end of twilight at 1849 hours. Witnesses stated it was very dark with very little ambient light, and no natural horizon except for the tree line. The ceiling was solid overcast estimated below 500 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage of N44899 was located in an open field about 7.9 miles north of Inverness Airport. Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane collided with the terrain in a nose down, right wing low attitude. The airplane wreckage was scattered along the debris field on a magnetic heading of 092 degrees. The propeller separated from the propeller flange. Torsional twisting and "s" bending was present on both propeller blades. The left and right wing separated and both fuel tanks were ruptured. The engine and firewall assembly was compressed aft to the passenger seat. The fuselage came to rest on a heading of 272 degrees magnetic about 238 feet 8 inches from the initial point of impact.
Examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly and accessories revealed no evidence to indicate a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot, Edward F. Greene Jr., was conducted by Dr. Janet R. Pellow, Associate Medical Examiner, District Five, Leesburg, Florida, on February 24, 1994. The cause of death was multiple extensive disfiguring injuries to all body areas. Postmortem toxicology studies of specimens from the pilot was forwarded to the Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. These specimens were unsuitable for analysis. Postmortem toxicology studies of specimens from the pilot conducted by Smith Kline Beechman Clinical Laboratories, Leesburg, Florida, were negative for neutral, acidic, and basic drugs.
TEST AND RESEARCH
Advisory Circular 60-4 states in part, "The attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface. If neither horizon or surface reference exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Sight supported by other senses, allow the pilot to maintain orientation. However during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of orientation may vary considerably with individual pilots. Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is "up."...Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or such reference is common on overwater flights, at night, and specially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas, or in low visibility conditions....The disoriented pilot may place the aircraft in a dangerous attitude....Therefore, the use of flight instruments is essential to maintain proper attitude when encountering any of the elements which may result in spatial disorientation."
The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. Al E. Sharpe, Aviation Consultant Services, Wimauma, Florida, on February 25, 1994.