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On February 11, 1995, at 1255 hours Pacific standard time, a Canadian registered Piper PA-28-180, CFCNW, crashed in an open field next to State Highway 108, shortly after departing from State Highway 108 and Green Springs Road, about 6 miles southwest of Jamestown, California. The pilot was beginning a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight to Columbia Airport, Columbia, California. The airplane, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed. The certificated private pilot (Canadian), the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Air Traffic Division, Western-Pacific Region, quality assurance specialist told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that the pilot contacted the Yuma Approach Control on February 10, 1995, at 0959 hours while flying at 10,500 feet mean sea level. The pilot requested and received VFR radar services and filed a VFR flight plan to Redding, California. The pilot canceled the VFR flight plan with Rancho Murietta (California) Flight Service Station at 1541 hours.
A Yuma Approach Control supervisor said that the airplane did not depart Yuma International Airport. Safety Board investigators were unable to determine where the flight to Redding, California, originated.
One witness told Safety Board investigators that she observed the accident airplane land on State Highway 108 on February 10, 1995.
She said that she was driving east on State Highway 108 when she observed the accident airplane flying very low over the westbound lanes. The airplane then turned and landed on the eastbound lanes in front of her. She called 911 and reported the incident.
After landing, the pilot taxied the airplane off the highway and she stopped to help him.
The pilot called the flight service station from her cellular telephone and canceled his flight plan. The pilot told her that he was embarrassed because the airplane was nearly out of fuel. She offered the pilot a ride to the Jamestown, California Highway Patrol office. While driving toward Jamestown, she called the CHP and the dispatcher told her to return the pilot to the airplane. While returning to the airplane, the pilot said he was worried that he would get in trouble for running low on fuel. A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer told Safety Board investigators in a telephone interview conducted on February 13, 1995, that he initially contacted the pilot on February 10, 1995, at 1530 hours. The pilot had executed a precautionary landing on State Highway 108. The pilot told the responding CHP officers that he was on a flight from Yuma, Arizona, to Redding, California, when he encountered fog near Stockton, California. The pilot diverted to Columbia Airport. The pilot again encountered fog and elected to land on State Highway 108 because the airplane was low on fuel. The pilot taxied the airplane off the highway onto a privately owned home on Green Springs Road. The CHP officer admonished the pilot not to takeoff until he contacted the CHP.
On February 11, 1995, at 1155 hours, the pilot called the CHP and told the dispatcher that he was planning to depart. The CHP officer and two other CHP officers met the pilot and discussed the pilot's intended departure at 1230 hours. The pilot told the CHP officer that he had 12 gallons of fuel in the airplane. The CHP officer discussed the prevailing visibility and the pilot said it was okay, as the prevailing fog was a localized condition. The pilot intended to fly to Columbia Airport and he was first going to circle the area. The CHP officer said the prevailing visibility was about 1,500 feet.
The CHP officer said the pilot took off in a northwesterly direction from the front of the home at 1244 hours. The airplane climbed moderately and then disappeared into the fog. The engine sounded " . . . strong . . . ." The CHP officer left the area and proceeded toward Sonora, California. The CHP dispatcher notified the officer that an airplane crashed between 8 and 10 minutes after he departed Green Springs Road.
A person fishing on the lake about 150 yards northwest of the accident site told CHP officers that he heard the airplane circling overhead. He said the airplane engine sounded as if the airplane was flying at a slow airspeed and that it flew toward the south and then returned.
The engine sound " . . . cut-out for about 2 seconds . . . ." The engine restarted and sounded normal between 2 and 3 seconds. The engine then " . . . revved up for 2 to 3 seconds and then he heard it (the airplane) crash . . . ."
The witness also said that he never saw the airplane because of the localized foggy conditions.
The owner of Bald Eagle Aviation, Columbia Airport, Columbia, California, said in a telephone interview conducted on February 16, 1995, that the pilot purchased 10 gallons of aviation fuel on February 11, 1995, at 1000 hours. The fuel was put into two 5-gallon plastic containers.
The pilot held a Canadian private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He also held a third-class medical certificate; the medical certificate contained a "must have glasses available limitation endorsement." The pilot's certificate was valid until July 1, 1995, according to Canadian Air Regulations.
Investigators did not recover the pilot's personal flight log. The Canadian Pilot's Licensing Department records show that as of August 4, 1994, the pilot accrued 4,000 flight hours. The Aircraft Journey Log (see Aircraft Information section) shows that between August 4, 1994, and February 4, 1995, (the last entry) the pilot logged 40.9 hours; between December 30, 1994, and February 4, 1995, the pilot logged 17.5 hours.
The airplanes Aircraft Journey logbook was recovered from the wreckage. This record is required by Canadian air regulations to be kept in the airplane. It is not the maintenance logbook, but maintenance entries are contained therein. The total Aircraft Journey logbook hours do not coincide with the airplanes tachometer hourmeter or the hobbsmeter reading. The last recorded entry was on February 4, 1995; the total flight time since manufacture column showed 1,669.0 hours.
The owner of Battleford Air Spray, North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, told investigators in a telephone interview conducted on February 17, 1995, that he maintained the airplane. He said that he accomplished the last annual inspection on the accident airplane on June 16, 1994, as noted in the Aircraft Journey Log and that he did not do any other maintenance since the annual inspection. The airplane accrued 1,612.2 hours at the time of the inspection.
He said under Canadian Air Regulations the actual maintenance records are not to be kept in the airplane. The Aircraft Journey Log is kept in the airplane and some maintenance entries are made in the log. He also said that neither the airplanes tachometer hourmeter nor the hobbsmeter hours are used to calculate the airplanes and/or engines total time. This time is taken from the Aircraft Journey Log.
At the time of the accident, the airplane tachometer hourmeter showed 1,945.32 hours; the hobbsmeter showed 1,580.5 hours.
Jamestown, California, does not have an official weather observation facility. The closest weather observation facility is at Columbia Airport, Columbia, California. Columbia Airport is 8 miles north of the accident site and is serviced by an automated weather observation station (AWOS); the AWOS observation is only retained for 36 hours.
A Columbia Airport senior technician called the Safety Board on February 17, 1995. He said that at the time of the accident the ceiling was about 900 feet broken clouds, temperature - 60 degree's F, and the surface winds were from the southwest between 5 and 8 miles per hour. He said that during the morning, the sky condition was clear with light and variable winds.
The weather data reflected on page 4 of this report were obtained from the CHP officer and responding Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department deputies.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed in an open field about 50 feet south of State Highway 108 eastbound lanes. The airplane came to rest on its left side about 145 feet north of the initial impact crater facing 048 degrees (all headings/bearings in this report are oriented toward magnetic north). Scattered airplane debris was found throughout the airplanes ground path. The ground scars and the wreckage examination showed the airplane struck the ground in a left wing-down, about a 45-degree nose-down and a 2.5-degree nose-right attitude; the top of the cabin was facing about 320 degrees.
All of the airplanes major components were found at the main wreckage area. Both wings separated from their respective attach points and their aileron control cables remained attached at their respective aileron controls. The left wing aileron cables separated at the cabin/cockpit area; the right wing remained attached to the airplane by its aileron control cables.
The left wing was found folded underneath the main wreckage with its leading edge facing the opposite direction of the fuselage. The leading edge of the wing exhibited extensive rearward crushing signatures. Investigators found fragments of the red navigation light lens at the left wings initial ground impact point.
Continuity of the rudder cables to the cockpit area was established. Both stabilators separated from their respective attach points. The stabilator jackscrew was found extended by seven threads. According to a Piper Aircraft Company engineer, this setting corresponds to a 2-degree nose-up (tab-down) trim setting.
Both flaps remained connected at their respective wing attach points and were found in the retracted position. The cockpit flap control handle was also found in the flaps up position. The engine was examined on February 12, 1995, at Bass Towing Service, Sonora, California. Continuity of the engine gear and valve train was established; thumb compression was noted on all cylinders during the rotation of the crankshaft.
Both magnetos produced a spark from each lead when their respective drive shafts were rotated; the left magneto impulse coupling operated normally.
The center electrodes of the top spark plugs exhibited normal operating signatures; no extensive ovaling signatures were
observed. The No. 4 top spark plug was found oil soaked; the engine was found inverted at the crash site.
The engine driven fuel pump inlet and outlet lines contained fuel. The pump operated normally.
The vacuum pump produced suction during rotation of its drive shaft.
The carburetor separated from its attach point. The throttle body contained extensive impacted dirt; the needle valve, however, was free of contaminates and operated normally. The accelerator also operated normally. The throttle plate was found fully open.
The propeller remained connected to the crankshaft. The crankshaft flange, however, was found broken at four points and was found twisted and bent. The broken sections of the crankshaft exhibited torsional overload characteristics. One propeller blade exhibited extensive "S" twisting and chordwise scoring. The leading edge of the blade had several gouge marks. The other blade exhibited minor "S" twisting and numerous spanwise scoring marks.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Stanislaus County Coroner's Office conducted the post mortem and toxicological examinations on the pilot. The pathologist did not report any findings which would have detracted from the pilot's ability to fly an airplane. The toxicological examinations were negative for alcohol or drugs.
The Safety Board released the airplane's wreckage and sent the Aircraft Journey Log to the pilot's daughter on February 22, 1995. The wreckage was located at Bass Towing Service, Sonora, California, when it was released.
The pilot's daughter did not return a signed copy of the wreckage release as requested.