On October 16, 1994, at 1341 central daylight time (cdt), a Piper PA-28-161, N9089U, operated by Northwest Flyers, Inc., of Schaumburg, Illinois, and piloted by a private instrument rated pilot, collided with the terrain in a corn field in Winfield, Illinois. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
The pilot flew from Schaumburg Air Park, Schaumburg, Illinois, to Bloomington on the evening of October 15, 1994, with two friends. He was returning to Schaumburg when the accident occurred.
There is no record that the pilot obtained a weather briefing or filed a flight plan for the flight to Schaumburg. Air Traffic Control (ATC) records from the Bloomington-Normal Airport, show N9089U departed Bloomington at 1255. At 1341, the pilot of N9089U contacted the Aurora Airport Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). During this transmission, the pilot stated he was "...going down east of the field ah twenty five to three thousand feet eight eight point two miles due north of the dupage vor." The controller asked the pilot to verify his position, to which he replied, "No eight nine uniform is going down." The controller then asked the pilot if he was declaring an emergency. The pilot replied, "Yes sir I am I'm dead." The controller once again attempted to verify the position of N9089U to no avail.
Several witnesses reported seeing N9089U just prior to the accident. A general summary of their statements is that N9089U was flying in a northerly direction. The airplane was in level flight at a low altitude when the nose suddenly pitched down between 35 and 45 degrees and the engine noise increased. The airplane held this attitude until it impacted the terrain. (See attached witness statements for more detail.)
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings issued on July 22, 1994. He began multi engine flight training on August 15, 1994. The pilot had a total flight time of 5.8 hours in PA-28-161 airplanes. Flight times listed on page 3 of this report are those totals up to the pilot's last logbook entry dated October 10, 1994.
The pilot held a first class medical certificate with no limitations dated January 13, 1993.
The accident airplane a Piper PA-28-161, was a four seat, single engine airplane. According to logbook entries the last inspection of the airframe and engine was a 100 hour inspection dated September 22, 1994. Total time on the tachometer at the accident site was 3562.7 hours; however, it is undetermined that this time is accurate. The tach time logged prior to the accident pilot flying the airplane on the evening of October 15, 1994, was 3554.9 hours.
According to fuel records and the pilot who flew N9089U earlier in the day on October 15, 1994, the airplane was topped off with 18.8 gallons of fuel prior to the accident pilot flying it to Bloomington. According to the fixed base operator at Bloomington, N9089U did not receive any services during the evening of October 15, 1994, or prior to its departure on October 16, 1994.
The only known communications between N9089U and any air traffic facility were those which occurred during departure from Bloomington and when the pilot of N9089U contacted the Aurora ATCT.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted the terrain in a field located north of Highlake and west of Winfield Road which contained 6 to 7 foot high corn stalks. The impact occurred roughly in the center of the field which was in excess of 2,500 feet in length and width. The descent path through the corn was measured between 30 and 35 degrees.
The propeller separated from the airplane and was found in the initial impact crater. With exception of the engine cowling, windshield frame, both main landing gears and other minor debris, the main wreckage came to rest 53 feet beyond the initial impact point on a heading of 015 degrees.
The propeller separated at its attach bolts. Both blades contained chordwise scratches and were torsionally twisted. The leading edge of one blade contained gouge marks. This blade also had the tip curled back 180 degrees.
The main wreckage came to rest inverted. The cockpit area sustained severe impact damage. Both wings were uniformly crushed backward beyond the main spar. The bottom surface of both wings sustained more crush damage than did the upper surfaces. Both fuel caps were found secured, although the left fuel cap, filler neck and surrounding skin had pulled out of the wing. Both wing flaps were found in the full up position. Aileron control cable continuity was established from the surfaces to the control yoke.
The empennage was partially attached to the main wreckage. The leading edge of the vertical stabilizer had been flattened almost to the rudder attach points by crush damage. The leading edge of the horizontal stabilator sustained crush damage and the stabilator was buckled. Stabilator and rudder control cable continuity was established up to the rudder pedals. Stabilator trim was found in the full nose down position.
The wreckage was removed from the accident site on October 17, 1994, and secured in a hangar at the Schaumburg Air Park. On October 18, 1994, the engine was inspected at the hangar. The inspection failed to reveal any failure/malfunction which would have prevented the engine from normal operation at the time of the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL
An autopsy examination of the pilot was performed by the DuPage County Coroner's Office, on October 17, 1994. A toxicological examination was performed by the Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory of the FAA. Results were negative for those substances screened.
On Thursday, October 13, the pilot rented a Piper Archer II from Northwest Flyers, Inc. He flew to Bloomington, Illinois, where he stayed until the early hours of Saturday, October 15, at which time he flew back to Schaumburg.
On Friday, October 14, the Normal Police Department received complaints of an aircraft flying very low over the Illinois State University (ISU) campus. The police subsequently accused the accident pilot of being the pilot of this airplane. The police questioned the pilot and three passengers of the airplane shortly after they landed. All denied having flown low over the campus area. The pilot spent the evening with friends and the following morning, around 0600, the pilot and two friends flew back to Schaumburg.
The pilot and his friends went their separate ways after returning to Schaumburg. The pilot took a multi engine flight lesson for which he had been scheduled from 1230 to 1400. Around 1815 the pilot picked up his two friends and shortly thereafter the three of them returned to Bloomington in N9089U, arriving there around 2030. The pilot's friends stated that shortly after they arrived at the dormitory room, they received a call from the police wanting to question them further regarding the flying incident.
According to one of the friends, the officer arrived at the dorm and using "vulgar language" made threats concerning their status of attending ISU. He told the pilot that the incident was going to be turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration. The police officer then left and contacted the parents of at least two of the passengers who were on the airplane during the reported incident. (The two passengers were the friends with whom the pilot was staying.) The pilot's parents were out of town for the weekend.
According to one of the friends, the pilot became very upset at this point, kept apologizing that he got everyone involved, and insisted on calling a lawyer. After the pilot spoke to the lawyer, the lawyer talked to the passengers and told them that the pilot was the only one with anything to worry about in that it might affect his flying status. One friend stated, "Matt continued to be very upset and apologetic and repeated over and over that any legal fees would be covered by his father/family/estate/parents." The friend continued to report that the pilot stated, "The only way you guys won't be bothered is if I don't land this plane."
During a telephone interview with both friends, they independently stated that the pilot was acting different on the morning of the accident flight. They stated he had worn old jeans and t-shirts the entire weekend, but just prior to the flight he changed into dress pants and shirt. They stated he also put on his class ring and an eagle necklace which they never saw him wear. In addition, they stated he cleaned out his wallet and put everything back in an orderly fashion.
One of the friends stated, "When we arrived at the airport, Matt made it a point to shake each of our hands and tell us that he had a great weekend." She stated she was concerned that he would do something "stupid" on his way home.
The DuPage County Sheriff's Police Report concludes, "Given the many variables from all sources I came in contact with during this investigation, it is my opinion that this incident was not accidental but probably suicidal in nature."