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On February 9, 1995, at 2028 central standard time (all times in this report will remain in central standard time), a Piper PA- 32R-300, N5373F, was destroyed during a VFR approach to the Montgomery County Airport, near Conroe, Texas. The instrument rated commercial pilot and four of his passengers were fatally injured; however, a 4-year old child received minor injuries. The aircraft was being operated under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed throughout the area for the personal flight.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot obtained a weather briefing and filed an instrument flight plan from the Point Lookout Airport, near Branson, Missouri, to Conroe, Texas. The flight departed at 1730 with five hours of fuel on board for the estimated three hour flight. The FAA records further indicate that the pilot was cleared to execute an ILS approach to runway 14 at the Montgomery County Airport, Conroe, Texas.
Witnesses at the fixed base operations (FBO) office reported that the aircraft called for "field conditions" at approximately 2020. One of these witnesses further reported that at "about 15 to 20 minutes after I talked to him, he came over the field, and he made a turn to the right."
There is a published missed approach procedure for this airport, physical evidence and witnesses established that the pilot elected not to execute this published procedure.
The owner of the airplane, who was not a certificated pilot, was seated on the left front seat. Friends and relatives of the owner stated that he had been taking flying lessons en route during his business flights. He was reported to have accumulated approximately 60 hours of flight time.
The pilots log book indicates that this was the first time for him to fly an instrument approach into Conroe or to land at Conroe.
The airplane was topped off with 8 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel prior to departure. An estimate of the weight of the airplane at the time of the accident places the airplane within its limits. A review of the airframe and engine records by the FAA inspector, did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects prior to the flight.
The weather at Houston Intercontinental Airport, at 1950, was a measured 300 overcast, light rain and fog, temperature was 63 and the dew point was 62, wind was from 150 degrees at 9 knots, and Runway 26 was reporting a visual range of 6000 feet plus. Conroe weather was provided to the pilot at 2000 was indefinite 100 feet overcast, sky obscured, visibility 1/2 mile with fog, temperature was 57 with a dew point of 57, calm wind, and the barometric pressure was 30.00 inches.
A witness driving past the approach end of the runway after 2000 noted the fog had decreased his forward visibility to "about 50 feet." Another witness driving past the approach end of the runway at about 2025 reported "barely" being able to see the dim threshold lights through the fog. One more witness reported that about 2010 the Flight Service Station at Conroe told him that the weather was 100 feet overcast with 1/4 mile visibility. The above three witness are all certified flight instructors.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
A flight check of the Montgomery County Airport ILS to runway 14 was requested and performed by a FAA Flight Inspection crew. All parameters were found within limits. See the enclosed copy of the published ILS approach to Runway 14 at Conroe.
The airport is equipped with a radio frequency activated runway/approach lighting system. The runway, taxiway, and threshold lights are on dim all the time at night. A pilot can control the approach lighting system and the intensity of all the runway/approach lights by activating a series (7) radio transmissions (depressing the press to talk button). Witnesses in the FBO office did not hear the radio transmitted "clicks" which they normally hear when a pilot activates the approach lighting system. Another witness, who was driving past the end of the runway 2 to 5 minutes before the accident, noted that the approach lighting system was not on.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Airplane debris was found on a heading of 085 degrees leading to the airplane wreckage. The trees along this debris path were missing limbs and branches starting at 50 feet above the ground to 20 feet above the ground which corresponded with the airplanes estimated flight path. The fuselage of the airplane came to rest on the shoulder of FM (farm road) 1484 in the inverted position, and approximately a half mile short and a quarter mile left of the centerline for Runway 14.
All flight controls surfaces were accounted for, and continuity established. Fuel was found in the fuel spider valve, and fresh oil was observed leaking from the propeller shaft. Both propeller shafts were found separated from the hub. One propeller blade was found near the point of initial impact, while the other one was found at the farthest point from the wreckage. Both propeller blades had evidence of S-type bending and striations.
During an examination of the engine at the accident site, continuity from the propeller to the aft section of the engine was established, including all accessory drives. The spark plugs displayed no abnormalities. The left and right magnetos were removed and sparks were observed at every post when the magnetos were rotated.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office in Houston, Texas, on February 10, 1995. Toxicological tests were negative.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative.