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On March 10, 1994, at 1857 hours Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-32R-301T, N3562C, was destroyed during a collision with an electrical power cable and mountainous terrain near Napa, California. The private pilot and his two passengers received fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions were reported at the accident site. No flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight which had originated at the Sacramento Executive Airport at 1829 hours on the evening of the accident.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Service Station (FSS) facility records revealed that the pilot had obtained an abbreviated preflight weather briefing from the Rancho Murieta FSS prior to the flight.
After departure from Sacramento Executive Airport, the pilot contacted Sacramento departure control at 1834 hours and advised that he was climbing to 2,500 feet. The pilot was assigned a transponder code of 4242. At 1842:57, the pilot contacted Travis radar approach control (RAPCON) and advised that he was level at 2,500 feet. En route, the pilot was receiving VFR flight advisories without requesting minimum-safe-altitude warning (MSAW) monitoring from the Travis RAPCON.
The pilot had requested and been given a recommended heading of 240 degrees to the Napa Airport. About 3 minutes later at 1855:51, the pilot was advised that the Napa Airport was at 12 o'clock and 8 miles. The pilot acknowledged the transmission. Shortly thereafter, radio and radar contact was lost at a point 6 miles northeast of Napa, and an emergency locator transmitter signal was received by Oakland AFSS.
According to FAA radar data obtained using the National Track Analysis Program (NTAP), during the last 6 minutes of flight the airplane's mode C report descended from 1,800 feet mean sea level to 1,300 feet with no altitude information reported for the last five radar hits.
The wreckage was subsequently located by a United States Coast Guard (USCG) helicopter with the use of the Nightsun light system at 2315 hours. Solano County Sheriff's personnel arrived on scene at 0055 hours.
Two residents near the accident site observed an airplane flying low in the vicinity of the accident location. They reported in a statement given to a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) investigator that the airplane was observed by them to be flying towards the Napa Airport. They observed the airplane enter what they described as low clouds or a fog bank. Within about 5 seconds, the airplane reversed its course and reappeared. While it was maneuvering, they observed white and orange flashes of bright light. Upon arriving at their residence, they called the Napa County Sheriff's Office and reported a possible plane crash at 1900 hours.
According to information obtained from two pilot logbooks located at the accident site, the pilot had accumulated about 494 flight hours with about 209 hours in the accident airplane. A biennial flight review was recorded in a log and dated May 27, 1993. The last documented logbook entry was dated January 2, 1994.
The last recorded annual inspection was conducted on December 24, 1993, at a recording tachometer time of 2,079.08 hours. The last documented maintenance on the airplane was dated January 31, 1994, at a tachometer reading of 2,099.2 hours. At the accident site, the recording tachometer indicated 2,099.62 hours.
An attempt to obtain a refueling history was unsuccessful. The fuel quantity on board the airplane at the time of the accident is unknown. Unquantified residual fuel was found remaining in both damaged fuel tanks.
Local area residents who witnessed the crash reported that they had observed some fog or low stratus clouds obscuring the hilltops at the time of the accident.
The Napa County Airport weather at the time of the accident was reported to be: 3,000 feet scattered clouds; estimated 10,000 feet broken clouds; visibility 15 miles; winds 260 degrees at 9 knots; and the altimeter was 30.07 inches of mercury.
The USCG helicopter on scene at 2315 hours reported the weather as: clear; visibility 10 miles; and the wind was 240 degrees at 14 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located about 6 nautical miles east-northeast of the destination airport at an estimated elevation of 1,300 feet in an area known as Mason Ranch. The aircraft collided with a PG&E 60-KV power cable and hilly terrain. The PG&E system monitors recorded a loss of power on the lines at 1857:23 hours.
After the power cable strike, the median wreckage bearing was measured to be about 210-degrees magnetic for a total distance of about 270 feet.
The first ground strike was measured to be about 81 feet after the power cable. At that point, five fuselage centersection external structural "hat" sections from the underside were found imbedded into the ground.
The propeller and hub assembly was found about 73 feet from the first ground scars. Examination of the blades revealed chordwise striations, aft bending, and cable strike signatures.
Postcrash examination of the airframe and the powerplant failed to reveal any evidence of a preimpact failure or malfunction.
Examination of the cockpit area revealed that the cabin/cockpit light was turned to at or near maximum brilliance.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On March 11, 1994, the Solano County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot. Samples were obtained from the pilot for toxicological analysis by the Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of the analysis were negative for all screened drugs and alcohol.
According to the San Francisco sectional aeronautical chart recovered unfolded in the cockpit, the maximum elevation figure (MEF) for the accident site area is 3,200 feet.
The wreckage was released to the insurance company representative on March 12, 1994.