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On November 20, 1996, at 0531 central standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200 single engine airplane, N1394T, registered to a private individual, and operated by Delta Aeronautics of Fort Worth, Texas, was destroyed following impact with power lines and the ground during an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 16L at the Meacham Field Airport (FTW), near Fort Worth, Texas. The instrument rated commercial pilot, who also was a certified flight instructor (CFI), and the instrument rated private pilot were both fatally injured. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, for which an instrument flight plan was filed. The cross-country flight originated from Abilene, Texas, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes before the accident.
According to several friends of the pilots, who were interviewed after the accident, the general intent of the flight was for the pilots to "take advantage" of the prevailing low ceilings in the area to log some "actual" instrument flight time. The flight was not "instructional." The private pilot had rented the airplane to accumulate actual instrument flight time. According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) records, the airplane departed Meacham Field about 0200, and had an uneventful flight to Abilene, Texas, where it made several practice approaches and a full stop landing. Subsequently, the pilots planned the return flight to Meacham and departed Abilene about 0345.
At 0511, one of the pilots on board N1394T called a missed approach to Meacham Airport, and then requested to try the approach once more. At 0527, N1394T reported inbound on the ILS, and the controller cleared the aircraft to land and to report on the runway or missed approach. At 0531, Meacham Tower advised DFW TRACON that electrical power was lost in the tower facility and that N1394T would be transferred back to TRACON control. Meacham Tower then attempted to contact N1394T with no response. At 0532, DFW TRACON informed Meacham Tower that they had no primary or secondary radar indication for N1394T. At 0533, Meacham Tower dispatched an airport security vehicle to search the airport for N1394T. At 0537, the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department called the tower to advise them of an aircraft accident just north of the airport. Local emergency response personnel identified the aircraft as N1394T. The emergency response personnel also reported downed power lines about 300 feet north of the wreckage. Throughout the entire aforementioned sequence, no distress calls were received from the airplane.
Note: The private pilot occupied the left front seat of the airplane, and the commercial pilot (CFI) occupied the right front seat. It could not be determined which pilot was at the controls at the time of the accident. Review of recorded radio transmissions between the aircraft and ATC personnel prior to the accident revealed that both pilots made ATC acknowledgments prior to and during the final approach.
According to entries in the CFI's pilot logbook, he had accumulated a total of 328.4 flight hours, 61 hours of simulated instrument time, and 5.0 hours of actual instrument time. He had 316 total hours in single engine airplanes and had accumulated 10 hours as a certified flight instructor. His last biennial flight review was completed in August 21, 1996, in the same type of airplane as the accident airplane. A friend of the CFI reported that she had dinner with him late on the night prior to the accident. She stated that the CFI had worked all day and seemed tired. She also stated that he got a weather brief by telephone and told her that "the weather was going to be bad" and he was not sure if he wanted to go on the flight. It was her impression that he went on the flight to accommodate a request by the other pilot to practice in actual instrument meteorological weather conditions. The CFI left her apartment at about 0030, November 20th, to meet the other pilot at the airport.
The private pilot had accumulated a total of 325 flight hours, all in single-engine airplanes. He had accrued a total of 28 hours of simulated instrument time and 7 hours of actual instrument time. This pilot's roommate stated that the pilot took a "nap" in the afternoon on November 19th. After the nap, the pilot showered and ate dinner about 2200. He stated that the pilot told him that he was going to fly late that night because the ceilings were forecast to be "low" and he wanted to practice approaches in instrument meteorological conditions. He stated that the pilot seemed very relaxed and happy prior to leaving his apartment at about 2330, and told him that he would return home about 0530, the next morning after the flight.
The 1972 Piper PA-28R-200, serial number 28R-7238276, had accumulated a total of 6,602 hours. The engine, a Lycoming IO-360-C1C, serial number L-9314-51A, had accumulated 570 hours since it was last overhauled on December 18, 1993.
Review of entries in the airplane's maintenance records revealed no evidence of uncorrected discrepancies with the airplane's radios, navigational equipment, encoding transponder, or altimeter. Current calibration documentation for the VOR receiver and altimeter was present in the records.
At 0511, Meacham Airport was reporting wind from 180 degrees at 8 knots, visibility of one-eighth of a mile in fog, vertical visibility zero, temperature and dew point at sixteen degrees centigrade, with an altimeter setting of 29.68 inches of mercury. At 0521, approach control informed the pilots that the runway visual range (RVR) for runway 16L was reported at 1,800 feet, variable to 2,200 feet.
According to data obtained from the U.S. Naval Observatory, the sunrise occurred at 0702, on the morning of the accident.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
Following the aircraft accident, the ILS serving runway 16L at Meacham was evaluated by FAA facility technicians. All performance parameters were found to be in tolerance and no obstructions were found in the ILS critical area. Additionally, FAA Flight Inspections dispatched a facility check aircraft to functionally check the localizer, glide slope, middle marker, and outer marker of the approach. All ground and flight approach performance parameters were found in tolerance, and the system was re-certified for continued use.
The transcripts of all the recorded communications between the pilots and FAA ATC personnel are included in the public docket as supporting documentation to this report.
The published landing minimums for the straight-in ILS approach to runway 16L are 200 foot ceiling with a visibility of one-half mile. The airport elevation is 710 feet MSL. The decision height altitude for the approach is established at 910 feet MSL (RVR 2,400 feet).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located adjacent to a southbound entrance lane to Highway 820 West, Forth Worth, Texas, about 3/4 miles short of the threshold of runway 16L. Evidence at the site showed that the initial impact point was a high-tension power line running perpendicular to the flight path of the airplane. The airplane pulled the power lines for about 300 feet prior to coming to rest against a guardrail adjacent to the highway. The airplane sustained limited fire damage to the top of the right wing and the right side of the forward fuselage. The fire appeared to have originated due to arcing from the electrical power cable that was severed by the airplane during the accident sequence.
A portion of the left wing tip was found lodged in a support pole for an overhead road sign, and the left wing was found severed from the fuselage. The right wing remained attached to the airframe, and fuel was found in the right wing fuel cell. The cabin, empennage, and tail section were crushed and destroyed. The altimeter needle read 6,700 feet, and the Kollsman window was set to 29.69 inches. The Hobbs meter read 6,602 hours and the engine tachometer read 3,354.8 hours.
The lower portion of the right main landing gear door was found near the base of the high-tension power line tower, and the upper portion of the door was found about 300 feet forward, at the ground impact point. Control continuity was verified to flight control surfaces from the "T" bar, rudder, and control wheel chain to the stabilator, rudder and right aileron bell crank. The left aileron control was found severed near the left bell crank in the same area as the outboard wing and fuel tank separation. The landing gear selector was found in the down (extended) position. The landing gear was found in the extended position. The wing flaps were found to be extended to the "10-degrees" position. The landing lights, anti-collision light, and the navigation light switches were found in the "ON" position. The pitot heat switch was found in the "ON" position. The engine remained attached to the airframe. Fuel was found in all engine fuel lines, as well as in the fuel injector, the fuel pump, and the flow divider. The fuel selector was found in the right fuel tank position.
The 2-blade propeller was found still attached to the engine crankshaft. Both propeller blades displayed chordwise scratches along their spans on the camber side. A 4-inch section of one of the propeller tips had separated from the propeller and was recovered near the point of ground impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies and toxicological examinations were requested and performed on both occupants of the airplane. They were performed on November 20, 1996, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Tarrant County in Fort Worth, Texas. The toxicology report for the CFI (right seat) was negative. The toxicology report for the private pilot (left seat) was positive for marihuana. According to Dr. Canfield, of the Civil Aero Medical Institute (CAMI), the marihuana detected in blood and urine, may have caused impairment.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative.