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On March 30, 1996, at 1245 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N57012, lost engine power and collided with an automobile occupied by three passengers during the forced landing near Wareham, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot and the private pilot rated passenger in the airplane were fatally injured. Two of the three automobile occupants received fatal injuries. The airplane and the automobile were destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions existed and no flight plan had been filed. The Visual Flight Rules flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from Norwood Memorial Airport, Norwood, Massachusetts, with a planned stop at Plymouth Municipal Airport, Plymouth, Massachusetts, to pick up the pilot rated passenger.
The flight departed Plymouth at approximately 1233, with an intended destination of Block Island State Airport, Block Island, Rhode Island. During the initial climb out from Plymouth, the engine lost power. There was no recorded communication with the pilot until his request for assistance for an engine out emergency on the air traffic controller's radio frequency. The Air Traffic Control radar tape showed the transponder at an altitude of 4300 feet mean sea level at the time of the pilot's request.
The ATC tape showed that prior to the pilot's request for assistance, the airplane had climbed to 5300 feet on a heading of approximately 220 degrees magnetic, then, made a right turn to approximately 040 degrees magnetic. When the controller stated that it appeared that New Bedford Airport appeared to be the closest airport, the pilot stated, and the ATC tapes showed that the pilot executed a right 180 degree turn back towards New Bedford Airport. At approximately 1743 Zulu on the ATC tapes, a left 180 degree turn is made and the pilot stated that he would use Interstate 495 as his emergency landing area. There were no further radio communications from the accident aircraft.
Highway 495 is lined with trees on both sides. The highway also has trees in the median which separates the north and south bound lanes throughout most of the area, except for a gap where the accident occurred. Large water filled cranberry bogs are on the other side of the trees. At that spot on the highway, there is approximately 100 to 150 yard gap of no trees and a small grass covered gully separating the highway. As the airplane descended, it clipped the top of trees on the east side of northbound 495, and impacted the highway at approximately 50 to 60 degree angle. The airplane continued across the gully to the south bound lanes of highway 495, where it struck a south bound vehicle and burst into flames.
The pilot in command of the airplane received his private pilot license on May 1, 1995 and had accumulated approximately 106 hours of total flight time. The pilot had approximately 13 hours total in complex/high performance airplanes and his logbook was endorsed for utilization of such airplanes on July 20, 1995. In the 90 days preceding the accident, the pilot had flown 13 hours, including four hours in complex/high performance airplanes. The pilot possessed a current third class medical certificate with the limitation that the holder shall wear corrective lenses.
The pilot rated passenger was also a private pilot for single engine land and aero tow airplanes. The passenger's total time was not known but estimated to be close to the same amount as the pilot in command.
The airplane was a PA-28R-200, Serial number 28R-7435073, manufactured in 1973 by the Piper Aircraft Corporation. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 61.31 (e) this airplane is considered complex/high performance because of its retractable landing gear, flaps, and controllable pitch propeller. The 200 horsepower engine was an IO-360-C1C, S/N RL-8407-51A. According to the airplane's maintenance records, the engine was removed from the airplane and disassembled in order to replace a crankcase which was believed to be the cause of an oil leak. The engine and airplane were returned to service on March 27, 1996. The airplane was flown approximately 5.9 hours since the crankcase had been replaced. Pilots who had flown the airplane after it had returned to service stated that they did not noticed anything unusual about the engine. One pilot who had flown it the morning of the accident stated that "the engine felt strong" and indicated that he did not notice any leakage of oil.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The trees on the east side of the northbound lanes showed impact damage as the airplane descended to the highway. The airplane impacted the highway on the high speed lane. The impact marks showed that the airplane's path intersected the highway at approximately a fifty to sixty degree angle. The momentum of the airplane carried it down the gully and up the far side into the flow of the south bound traffic. The main landing gear and the nose gear were separated from the main wreckage. The left wing of the airplane struck a south bound vehicle in the inside lane and the airplane rotated to the left. The airplane come to a stop in the middle of the two lane southbound highway. A witness stated that the airplane burst into flames shortly after coming to a stop.
The airplane was destroyed by post crash fire. The wreckage was removed from the highway and taken to a hangar located on Plymouth Municipal Airport, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Flight control continuity was confirmed. The engine was separated from the wreckage and disassembled at the hangar. An exterior examination of the engine showed a crack in the crank case at or near the number four cylinder. After opening the crankcase, severe heat damage was found isolated in the number four connecting rod and crankshaft area. Oil was found in the system and all oil passages were found to be open. Parts from the engine, the crankshaft, pieces from the number four connecting rod, including rod cap, bolts and bearing shells, chips from the governor screen, debris from the crankcase and oil cooler and the oil cooler were sent for further examination at the Office of Research and Engineering, Materials Laboratory Division at the National Transportation Safety Board.
The results on parts submitted for examination by the Office of Research and Engineering, Materials Laboratory Division of the National Transportation Safety Board showed the crankshaft end of the No. 4 connecting rod was darkly discolored, as if severely overheated. A portion of one of the bearing arms on the rod broke into several pieces, the other arm was heavily deformed. The No. 4 rod cap was also broken and discolored dark. A close up view of the separated pieces of the rod and rod cap show heat and post separation damage destroyed most of the fracture features on these pieces. However, examination of relatively undamaged areas on the fracture faces revealed no evidence of progressive cracking. The debris submitted in a plastic bag with the other components appeared to be severely deformed and heat damaged small pieces of bearing inserts. The examination stated that evidence of gross overheating was noted on the No. 4 connecting rod journal and the nearby portions of the crankcheeks. No heat damage or any discoloration was found on other connecting rod or main bearing journal surfaces. During the examination, a energy dispersive X-ray analysis of chips collected from the governor screen generated spectra containing a high aluminum peak with minor peaks of tin and lead. The spectra was reportedly consistent with the chemical composition of bearing inserts.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were conducted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Pocasset, Massachusetts by William Zane, M.D., on April 1, 1996.