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On August 10, 1994, about 1945 hours Pacific daylight time, N3555A, a Piper PA-22, operated by the owner/pilot, impacted a tree and was destroyed while maneuvering over Butte Falls, Oregon. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight departed from Prospect, Oregon, and was conducted under 14 CFR 91.
According to relatives of the pilot, the pilot decided to take a visiting friend for an airplane ride on the day of the accident. The airplane was kept at an airport in Prospect, Oregon, located about 10 nautical miles north of the accident site. The pilot and his passenger departed from Prospect at an unknown time.
According to the owner of a private grass strip located near the accident site, the airplane circled over the strip at least three times at an altitude of 500 feet above the ground just prior to the accident. After circling overhead, the airplane was observed flying away from the house at a lower altitude while banking to the right and descending into a valley. The engine noise sounded "clear and strong" according to the owner of the grass strip. Sight of the airplane was lost as it flew behind trees, and the sound of a loud "whack" was heard about three seconds later. The airplane impacted the top of a 100-foot tall tree, then impacted the ground and burned. The owner of the grass strip was an acquaintance of the pilot, and stated that the pilot had flown over his house on previous occasions.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 42 degrees, 36.54 minutes North and 122 degrees, 37.60 minutes West.
The pilot, seated in the left front seat, age 37, was granted a private pilot certificate with a rating for single engine land airplanes on May 20, 1994, less than three months prior to the date of the accident. According to FAA records, the pilot was issued a FAA Third Class Medical Certificate on June 22, 1993, with no limitations. The pilot's logbook was not recovered.
The aircraft, a 1953 Piper PA-22 "Pacer", was purchased by the pilot on June 8, 1993. The single-engine, four-place, high wing airplane received a conversion to a tail-wheel configuration. An examination of the airplane's engine and airframe logbooks did not reveal any unresolved discrepancies prior to departure the day of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 11, 1994. The accident site was located about one-half mile from a private grass strip owned by the witness. The examination revealed that the airplane was completely destroyed by a ground fire. A 100-foot tall fir tree was found about 250 feet from the wreckage. The top of this tree had been sheared off. Several branches were found lying on the ground between the fir tree and the aircraft wreckage. The branches had all been cleanly cut. One branch was measured to be 8 inches in diameter and was found 115 feet from the tree. A wing inspection plate was also found between the tree and the main aircraft wreckage. The magnetic bearing from the tree to the wreckage was 172 degrees.
The airplane came to rest in a nose-down attitude on level terrain. The magnetic bearing of the airplane's longitudinal axis was about 205 degrees. The entire airframe was found within the confines of its pre-impact dimensions. All primary and secondary flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. No evidence was found to indicate a flight control deficiency. The engine was crushed rearward into the cockpit area. The engine and propeller remained attached to the airframe and were embedded into the ground in a nose down attitude.
Both wing fuel tanks and associated fuel lines were compromised by heat and impact damage.
The instrument panel was destroyed by fire. No indications from the cockpit controls and instruments could be read.
The engine, a Lycoming O-290, and propeller were examined. No evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunctions were found. An examination of the two-bladed metal propeller revealed evidence of "S" bending about eight inches from the tip of one blade.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by Dr. James N. Olson, M.D., of the Jackson County Medical Examiners Office, Medford, Oregon, on August 8, 1994. A toxicological analysis (report attached) was performed by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C., on specimens taken from the pilot.
The aircraft wreckage was released to Ms. Louise Jones, Prospect, Oregon, on August 11, 1994. Ms. Jones is representing the estate of the registered owner of the airplane.