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On May 11, 1995, approximately 0150 central daylight time (cdt), a Piper PA-28-151 Warrior, N41329, operated by Donald Vancura of Elyria, Nebraska, impacted rolling terrain 2 1/2 miles west of North Loup, Nebraska, and was destroyed. The solo student pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight operated under 14 CFR Part 91 as a solo cross country instructional flight, and this final leg had originated from Garden City, Kansas, approximately 2145 cdt, with a destination of Sharp Municipal Airport (ODX), Ord, Nebraska. The accident site was 12 miles on a bearing of 125 degrees from ODX.
Visual meteorological conditions existed, the night was partially moonlit at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. A witness who observed an airplane fly over North Loup at approximately 0100 described clear skies and light wind. The airplane was discovered when the landowner came upon the wreckage at 0730 cdt on May 11, 1995.
The flight originated on May 9, 1995, approximately 1600 cdt, as a multi-leg, cross country instructional flight from ODX to Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona. The student and his instructor stopped to refuel at Cozad, Nebraska; Dalhart, Texas; then Roswell, New Mexico. They continued to Deming, New Mexico, where they stopped and rented a room between 0200 and 0300 cdt on May 10, 1995. The instructor stated that when he awoke, the pilot had moved to a separate room. The total rest period was estimated by the instructor as 4 hours. The instructor stated to Safety Board investigators that the student had said he was very excited about the trip, and had not slept much the night of May 8, 1995, as a result of his excitement.
They departed Deming approximately 0700 on May 10, 1995, and arrived at Marana, Arizona, about 1000. N41329 was refueled at 1030 cdt, on May 10, 1995.
The original plan was for the instructor to purchase a second airplane in Marana, and both airplanes to return to Ord, Nebraska, together. However, this airplane was not ready, so they decided the student would return on a solo cross country via the same route flown from Ord to Marana. The instructor stated he briefed the student to retrace the same route, but neglected to endorse his pilot logbook.
N41329 departed Marana at 1230 cdt and refueled at Roswell and Dalhart, Texas on May 10, 1995. The airplane was finally refueled with 17.3 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline at Garden City, Kansas, at 2123 cdt, on May 10, 1995. N41329 departed after making a telephone call to the instructors wife at 2130 cdt.
At 2333:28, the student placed a cellular telephone call to a relative while he was flying. During the conversation, he described climbing out of Cambridge, Nebraska, and crossing the I-80 highway en route to ODX at 5,500 feet. He stated he would fly over Mason City, but had not yet done so when he terminated his call at 2341:37.
Radar tracks by the Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center show a VFR target northbound departing the Cambridge, Nebraska airport at 2334 cdt. This corresponds with the profile and time of N41329. This same target disappears from radar at 0053 cdt, near the accident site.
The elapsed time from takeoff at Garden City to the loss of radar track is 3 hours 23 minutes. The estimated fuel consumption is 10 gallons per hour in cruise flight. The total fuel capacity of the airplane is 48 gallons useable, 24 gallons in each wing tank.
A witness in North Loup, Nebraska, reported seeing an airplane flying with its landing light on and crossing the highway in a northwesterly direction approximately 0100 cdt.
The 35 year old student pilot held a third class medical certificate with no restrictions issued on April 10, 1995. He had no prior flight experience before commencing lessons in April 1995.
The pilot had accumulated a total of 19 flight hours prior to departing on this cross country trip. Of these one was at night, and four were solo. His logbook contained an endorsement from his flight instructor for solo flight in the PA-28-151 and PA-28- 180 dated April 20, 1995.
The instructor stated that stalls had been practiced only in daylight visual conditions. None had been performed at night, and no work had been performed in simulated instrument conditions. A review of the student's logbook failed to show he had received any training in emergency procedures. He stated that on the trip to Marana, the student let the fuel tank run low prior to changing to the remaining fuel tank.
Several persons described the pilot as in a hurry most of the time, and as a person who pushed himself. He had several commitments at work when he was scheduled to return.
The airplane was certificated in both normal and utility categories, and maintained under an annual inspection program. The last inspection was performed on August 1, 1994, at a tachometer time of 1,628 hours, and total airframe time of 4,286 hours. The total airframe hours at the time of the accident are unknown.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in a soft, cultivated field, with the nose of the airplane oriented approximately north (360 degrees). A ground scar six inches deep, which contained green glass at the east end, extended 070 degrees from the crater containing the engine. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage and extended 280 degrees from the fuselage and engine crater. The right wing was located on the left side of the fuselage, and immediately north of the left wing. Both ground scars which corresponded to wing dimensions were 10 inches in width.
There were no ground scars leading to the wreckage, and no indication that the airplane traveled any horizontal distance after impact.
Three ground scars corresponding to the dimensions of the landing gear were on the south side of the fuselage. The left wheel and strut assembly was located 84 feet on a heading of 260 degrees from the fuselage, and a variety of lightweight debris was scattered between 90 and 115 feet northwest (between 270 and 320 degrees) of the fuselage. No debris was located to the northeast, southeast, or southwest of the fuselage.
The vertical and horizontal stabilizers were crushed directly aft to their respective main spars. The engine and cockpit area was crushed directly aft to the main wing spar, which corresponded to the aft end of the pilot seat.
Both wings exhibited direct aft crushing to the forward spar. This crushing was along the entire length of the wings, and both wet wing fuel tanks were ruptured. The right wing was devoid of fuel. No fuel was present in the left wing, but the vegetation surrounding the left wing exhibited a slight fuel blight. No fuel blight or stain was present on the vegetation surrounding the right wing scar.
The fuel selector valve could not be located.
No evidence of fuel was found in the engine, carburetor, or any fuel lines. Oil flowed from the engine when it was removed from the impact crater.
The propeller did not exhibit any indications of rotation at impact. Both blades were bent aft, around the engine. There was no elongation of any bolt holes in the spinner or propeller. Drive train continuity was established between the propeller and the accessory section of the engine. No pre-impact anomalies were detected with the engine.
The flap actuator drive sprocket, located on the flap torque tube, was found in the 10 degree (1 notch) of extension position.
The flaps themselves were separated from the tube.
All wreckage was returned to the owner on May 12, 1995.