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On February 14, 1996, at 1900 eastern standard time (est), a Piper, PA-28-140, N4612F, operated by a private pilot, was destroyed when it impacted the terrain near Brookston, Indiana. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. A flight plan was not on file. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at Lafayette, Indiana, at 1830 est, and was en route to Gary, Indiana.
The pilot arrived at Aretz Flying Service, Inc., Lafayette, Indiana, at approximately 1700 est. He informed the scheduler, as he signed out the airplane, that he was going to fly to Gary, Indiana, to see his girlfriend for Valentine's Day. He said that he would return the following morning.
At 1718 est, the pilot called Terre Haute Flight Service Station by telephone and requested an abbreviated briefing for his route of flight.
The pilot's girlfriend reported that at 1820 est, the pilot called her by phone, from Lafayette, Indiana, and asked her to pick him up at Gary Municipal Airport, Gary, Indiana, in one hour.
At 1847 est, the pilot contacted the Lafayette Air Traffic Control Tower and stated that he had just departed Aretz Airport and was proceeding direct to Gary, Indiana, at 2,000 feet above ground level (AGL). The local controller issued approval to transition through the Delta surface area and issued the current Lafayette altimeter setting. The pilot read back the altimeter setting. This was the last known transmission made by the pilot. At 2015 est, the pilot's girlfriend became worried and contacted the Gary Air Traffic Control Tower, who advised her that they had neither heard nor seen anything of the pilot. The girlfriend went home and contacted a friend of the pilot's in Lafayette, Indiana. The friend went to Aretz Airport and confirmed that the pilot's automobile was there. The friend notified local authorities.
The wreckage was discovered three miles west-northwest of Brookston, Indiana, by a newspaper delivery person on February 15, 1996, at 0330 est.
The pilot had 163.9 total flying hours, 54.2 hours of simulated instrument time, and 2.8 hours of actual instrument time. The pilot's last flight prior to the accident was on February 6, 1996. This was his flight test for his instrument rating.
The pilot's certified flight instructor, who gave the pilot instrument instruction, stated that the first time the pilot encountered actual instrument conditions, he became disoriented.
The pilot's designated flight examiner for his instrument check flight stated that throughout the examination the pilot demonstrated good knowledge and skills. The check flight was conducted in visual meteorological conditions.
The airplane was owned and operated by Aretz Flying Service, Inc., Lafayette, Indiana. It was used for flight training and rental. The airplane had an annual inspection performed on January 3, 1996.
According to the owner's records, the airplane had been flown four previous times on February 14, 1996, logging 3.7 hours.
A flight instructor for Aretz Flying Service, Inc., received a phone call from the pilot, mid-afternoon on February 14, 1996, requesting the "airplane be fueled up to the tabs." The flight instructor put 23.9 gallons of 100LL fuel in the airplane's fuel tanks.
The pilot received a telephone weather briefing from the Flight Service Station at Terre Haute, Indiana, at 1718 est. The briefer told the pilot that there were snow showers across most of Illinois and moving into Indiana. The briefer also informed the pilot that the forecast across the northern two-thirds of Indiana called for broken ceilings of 2,000 feet, to overcast, layered to 18,000 feet, and occasional light snow showers in the Lafayette, Indiana area between 1600 and 0400 cst.
At 1754 est, weather recorded at the Purdue University Airport was: 1,700 feet scattered, measured 2,700 feet broken, measured 3,500 overcast, 8 miles visibility with occasional snow showers.
At 1849 est, weather recorded at the Purdue University Airport was: measured ceiling of 1,500 feet broken, 2,900 feet broken and 4,000 feet overcast, 5 miles visibility with snow showers and fog.
A local news reporter stated that she observed "fast-moving snow showers" in West Lafayette, Indiana, between 1900 and 1930 est.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on scene investigation began February 15, 1996, at 1100 eastern standard time.
The first ground scar was identified approximately 120 feet north of White County Road 700 South, an east-west running gravel road, on a bearing of 345 degrees. The terrain was a level, plowed, semi-frozen, corn field. The wreckage path followed a magnetic course of 165 degrees. Fragments of the green position light lens and right wing tip were found in the first ground scar. Ten feet from the first ground scar was a second ground scar approximately eighteen feet long, and six feet wide. Pieces of the right wing fuel tank, cowling and seat rails were found in the second ground scar. Adjacent to the second ground scar was the rudder counterweight. Next were pieces of the cabin door, cabin interior, instrument panel, flight instruments, radios, engine instruments, and engine components. The main wreckage was located 75 feet from the second ground scar oriented on a heading of 045 degrees. Just adjacent to the main wreckage was the outboard section of the right wing and right aileron. Approximately 40 feet beyond the main wreckage, along side the road, was the right main landing gear, part of the right wheel pant and the remainder of the battery. The left main landing gear, left wheel pant and heading gyro were located in a corn field, across the road, approximately 90 feet beyond the main wreckage, on a 175 degree heading. The smell of fuel was evident all along the wreckage path.
Scattered just north of the main wreckage were assorted articles of clothing, flight manuals, charts and assorted papers.
The main wreckage contained the majority of the fuselage, the left wing, inboard section of the right wing, empennage, engine, nose wheel and propeller.
The left wing was separated at the wing root and was crushed from the leading edge aft to the flap and aileron. The wingtip had been broken off. The wing skin was torn open underneath, just outboard and forward of the flap. A portion of the wing skin, inboard from the wing root to the first rivet line was torn away and found lying five feet in front of the left wing. The left aileron was buckled in the middle. The flap was bent in several places.
The inboard section of the right wing and right flap were separated at the wing root, crushed and bent aft. The outboard section of the right wing had separated just outboard of the main wing spar. The flap was bent in several places.
The fuselage, forward of the cabin, was separated, twisted and broken into numerous pieces. The cabin section and fuselage aft of the cabin exhibited severe right twisting and bending throughout.
The vertical stabilizer and rudder were intact and exhibited skin buckling and right twisting. They were bent forward, separating them from the horizontal stabilator. The left horizontal stabilator exhibited a large dent along the leading edge and showed skin buckling across the upper surface. The right horizontal stabilator was crushed and twisted upward and aft, from the root, outward. The right outer one-third of the elevator was bent downward. The elevator trim tab jackscrew revealed a neutral tab setting.
The engine was attached to the mount and enveloped in the wreckage from the forward fuselage. The propeller was attached to the flange, and was also enveloped in the wreckage from the forward fuselage. The spinner had bent to conform to the propeller. Subsequent examination of the propeller revealed torsional bending and chordwise scratching. Subsequent engine examination revealed no evidence of preimpact malfunction.
Flight control continuity was confirmed. Examination of the vacuum pump and flight instrument gyros revealed no preimpact anomalies. The position light bulb from the tail was removed and examined. It exhibited filament stretching.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted on February 15, 1996, by the White County Medical Examiner, in Montecello, Indiana.
The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot revealed 4.000 (mg/dl) Acetaldehyde detected in the blood. A national resource specialist in the Federal Aviation Administration Toxicology and Accident Research laboratory determined that this volatile concentration was the result of post mortem putrefaction.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Indianapolis, Indiana, The New Piper Aircraft Company, Vero Beach, Florida and Textron Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Following the on-scene portion of the investigation, the wreckage was released to the Vice President of Aretz Flying Service, Inc.