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On November 9, 1995, at 1126 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-24-180, N7734P, was destroyed when it collided with terrain near Hartford, Vermont. The commercial pilot and both passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight that originated at Lebanon, New Hampshire, at 1123. A visual flight rules flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to employees of the Lebanon Municipal Airport (LEB) fixed base operator, the airplane arrived at LEB the evening of November 7, 1995. The airplane was refueled on November 8, and the pilot and two passengers returned on November 9, for a flight to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to a statement from a lineman, the pilot arrived about 1045. When the pilot attempted to start the engine, it would not start, and the pilot requested the lineman to pre-heat the engine.
The lineman further stated:
...5 minutes later his passengers showed up...He asked me 2 minutes later...if I had a broom to clean the light snow off his wings...While I was brushing the snow off, the pilot asked me, 'If it still doesn't start, what do I do?' I did not answer... When he asked me this, we were standing behind the aircraft...We both could see light icing on the left inboard wing and left inboard horizontal stabilizer. I did not mention anything about it, because he was looking at it...Later while waiting for his passenger to pay, he looked and appeared nervous...
The passengers were then boarded, the engine was started, and the airplane taxied from the ramp. A flight instructor on the ground, observed the airplane during its initial climb after takeoff. He stated that except for a slow rate of climb, the airplane's pitch attitude appeared normal. He also stated that the landing gear did not retract while he watched the airplane.
A flight instructor flying an airplane in the LEB traffic pattern also observed N7734P. He stated that he was flying behind N7734P, and observed it climb to the west.
The flight instructor also stated:
...Following our touch and go landing...and within seconds of completing the climb to...1,000 feet AGL, I observed the Piper ahead, and about the same altitude. It was in a climb attitude as I could see the top of the fuselage. I was surprised that he was not at a higher altitude...I was also surprised he was not further along his route...I continued to watch the aircraft, as his speed relative to a nearby hill appeared slow. The aircraft was then observed to pitch up, and enter a very tight almost perpendicular two turn spin, into a dense stand of trees. I believe the spin was left, but the rate of descent and turning was very high speed. No recovery attempt was observed and I believe not possible...
In a telephone interview, the flight instructor stated that the airplane entered the trees in an approximate 85 degree nose down attitude, with the landing gear extended.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 43 degrees, 38 minutes north latitude, and 72 degrees, 20 minutes west longitude.
The pilot, Mr. Gustin Pantellas, held a Commercial Pilot Certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a Flight Instructor Certificate for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane.
His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) First Class Medical Certificate was issued on June 2, 1995.
Mr. Pantellas' pilot log book revealed that his total flight experience was about 896 hours, of which approximately 200 hours were in this make and model.
The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on November 9 and 10, 1995. The examination revealed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene, and the airplane came to rest nose down on an approximate magnetic bearing of 080 degrees.
Initial tree impact scars started approximately 74 feet northeast of the wreckage. The tree impact scars became progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the wreckage. The tree scars indicate a magnetic bearing of 226 degrees to the wreckage.
A 9-inch-diameter tree, about 5 feet east of the wreckage, was cut off about 6 feet above the ground, at a 55 degree angle. The propeller and hub were separated from the engine, and a propeller blade was lodged in the base of the tree. Both propeller blades displayed chord wise twisting and scratches.
Control continuity was established from the fuselage to the rudder, elevator, and ailerons. The stabilator trim was measured at .42 inches, about 6 degrees nose up trim. The flaps were retracted, and the landing gear was extended. The fuel pump switch was on, and the fuel selector was selecting the left tank. The primer was found unlocked; however, the primer was broken free of the dash panel. The yellow gear-up indicator light bulb filament was intact. The green gear-down indicator light bulb filament was stretched and broken.
Sections of broken ice, about 1 inch thick, were found in the aft fuselage of the airplane. One side of the ice sections was curved similar to the bottom of the fuselage. The total area of the ice was about 1.5 square feet. A bird nest, about 36 inches long by 14 inches wide, filled a section of the left wing.
The engine was rotated by hand, and valve train continuity was established. Compression was developed on the number two, three and four cylinders, by use of the thumb method. Compression was not developed on the number one cylinder due to an impact crack on the forward side of the cylinder barrel, and air was heard escaping from the crack.
The magneto and vacuum pump drive gears turned when the engine was rotated. All spark plugs were light gray in color, and absent of debris. When the fuel pump was tested by hand, it pumped, and both magnetos sparked at all towers when rotated by hand. The oil suction and carburetor screens were absent of debris. The spark plug wires, alternator, and starter were intact. The carburetor was separated from the engine and damaged.
The baggage removed from the airplane was transported to the police station and weighed. The total weight of the baggage was 159 pounds.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on Mr. Gustin Pantellas, on November 10, 1995, by Dr. Paul L. Morrow, Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.
Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Mr. Gustin Pantellas.
During an interview with the airplane's owner, he stated that the airplane originated from Hammonton, New Jersey, on October 31, 1995, with a destination of Lebanon, New Hampshire; however, the pilot landed at Manchester, New Hampshire, due to weather. The pilot and passenger then drove a rental car to Lebanon. When they returned on November 3, the airplane's engine ran rough when it was started, and the airplane was left at Manchester while they drove back to Lebanon. On November 6, the pilot drove back to Manchester to pick up the airplane.
According to a mechanic, he informed the pilot that he had found the primer unlocked, and when locked in, the engine ran smooth. The pilot stated to the mechanic that a non-experienced person had started the engine, and that was why he did not notice the primer out. No maintenance was performed on the airplane.
The Piper Owner's Manual identified the left seat to be the pilot seat due to instrument and control locations. At the accident scene, a passenger occupied the left seat, and the pilot occupied the right seat. The airplane's owner stated that the pilot had given flight instruction on some previous flights to the passenger. The passenger did not possess a student pilot certificate or medical.
An estimated weight and balance was computed for the airplane's takeoff condition, based upon a supplemental weight and balance data/equipment list, dated August 9, 1993.
ITEM WEIGHT ARM MOMENT Empty Weight-----1,623------86.32--140,093.35 Pilot--------------210------84.8----17,808.00 Passenger (front)--157------84.8----13,313.60 Passenger (rear)---150-----118.5----17,775.00 Baggage------------159-----142.0----22,578.00 Fuel---------------360------90.0----32,400.00 Oil-----------------15------24.0-------360.00
Estimated takeoff Weight, 2,674 pounds. Estimated takeoff Center of Gravity, 91.37 inches.
According to the Piper Owner's Manual, the maximum certified takeoff gross weight was 2,550 pounds, and the most rearward allowable center of gravity was 92.2 inches, at 2,550 pounds.
The airplane wreckage was released on November 10, 1995, to Mr. Allen A. Ryan, a representative of the owners insurance company.