HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On December 10, 1994, approximately 1915 Pacific standard time (PST), a Piper PA-28-235, N2VZ, ditched in the waters of Puget Sound, Seattle, Washington. The body of the commercial pilot was recovered one day after the ditching, and his passenger, who was never found, is presumed to have drowned. The aircraft sank in the waters of Elliot Bay, and was not able to be located. The personal pleasure flight, which was being undertaken in order to deliver the aircraft to its new owner, departed Oakland International Airport, Oakland, California, at 1407 PST, and was being vectored to the ILS final approach to Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, at the time of the accident. The flight, which was operating in an area where visual meteorological conditions prevailed, had not been on a flight plan until picking up an IFR clearance near Eugene, Oregon. The ELT, which was activated by the impact, was heard by aircraft in the area for only about 30 seconds.
According to the previous owner, the aircraft had about 15 gallons of fuel in the tanks when the pilot who was going to make the delivery flight removed it from its hangar on the day of the accident. Records show that prior to departure, 69.3 gallons of additional fuel was put in the tanks. This brought the fuel quantity to or near the 85 gallon maximum capacity of the aircraft. In addition to the two individuals on board, the aircraft was carrying a ground towing tug, a case of oil, aircraft paper work and manuals, and a significant amount of equipment associated with the aircraft sale.
The total gross weight of the aircraft at the time of departure was unable to be determined, but it is significant to note that an individual conducting a ramp patrol at the airport noticed that the aircraft appeared to be heavily loaded while taxiing for departure.
In a post-accident interview, this individual said that while the aircraft was taxiing, it appeared to her that the fuselage was setting unusually close to the ground. She also said that the tail tiedown skid appeared to scrape the ground two or three times while she was watching the aircraft taxi. Because she became concerned that the aircraft might crash on departure, she took a photograph of it, and contacted the tower to ask them to take a look at the aircraft. According to this witness, tower personnel acknowledged that the aircraft looked like it was heavily loaded, and asked her if she would like to talk to the pilot. Not being pilot rated, she elected not to talk to the pilot on the radio, and because the aircraft made a successful departure, she threw the developed photograph away.
After departure, the pilot established contact with Bay TRACON, and then terminated their service at 1416. There was no further ATC contact until the pilot contacted McMinville Radio for a weather update at 1648 PST.
At 1657, the pilot contacted Seattle Center, reported he was north of Rogue Valley, Oregon, and asked for an IFR clearance to Boeing Field (BFI). The pilot was requested to climb to 11,000 feet, and then issued his clearance to BFI. The flight remained at 11,000 feet until 1738, and then was cleared to descend to 8,000 feet. The aircraft was at 8,000 feet for about one hour, and then began its approach sequence after contacting Seattle Approach about 1837. During this sequence, the pilot was given vectors to the ILS final approach course for runway 13 right at Boeing Field, and was cleared for the approach at 1904 PST.
About two minutes after being cleared for the approach, the pilot was advised by the controller that the aircraft was about a mile and a half to the right of course, and diverging at about 20 degrees. The pilot told the controller he was beginning a left turn, but the controller canceled the clearance, and issued instructions for a right turn in order to initiate a new approach. About three minutes later, just after being cleared for the second approach, and being asked to say his altitude, the pilot advised the controller that, "We're low, with fuel problems..." About 10 seconds later, the pilot transmitted, "Two Victor Zulu having fuel problems, engine coughing." About seven seconds after that call, the pilot transmitted a "Mayday" call, and about 10 seconds later advised Approach that he was "switching" and waiting for the fuel pump to kick in. As the aircraft descended, the pilot transmitted that, "...we're just waiting here," and that he was gliding without power.
The last transmission from the pilot was at 1911:58, when he stated that they were going in the water, and requested that approach "...please respond."
According to the previous owner, who had kept performance figures on this aircraft for a number of years, the aircraft normally had an average fuel burn of 14 to 15 gallons per hour when cruised between 5,000 and 10,000 feet MSL. He said that if the aircraft were right at maximum gross weight, he would figure about 15.5 gallons per hour. During this flight, the aircraft was in the air for 5.1 hours, and according to the previous owner's figures, would have burned just over 79 gallons. This would have left less than five gallons of fuel spread between four tanks.
An autopsy was performed by the King County Medical Examiner, and the pilot's death was attributed to asphyxia due to salt water drowning. No significant internal or external injuries were identified.
A toxicological examination of the pilot was completed by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory. No cyanide, drugs or carboxyhemoglobin were detected in the blood, and no ethanol was detected in the vitreous fluids.