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On January 16, 1997, about 0755 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-235, N712DB, registered to a private owner, operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed while maneuvering in the vicinity of Okeechobee, Florida. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The noninstrument-rated private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by postcrash fire. The flight originated from Okeechobee County Airport about 2 minutes before the accident.
A witness at a local high school observed the airplane come out of the fog heading towards the north-northeast. The airplane was observed to pull up in order to avoid colliding with a light pole. The airplane continued to the north-northeast until it was obscured from view by the ground fog.
Two additional witnesses located northeast of the high school, and about 2 miles northeast of Okeechobee County Airport, heard the airplane coming towards their location; however, they could not see the airplane due to the weather conditions. A short time later, the airplane was observed flying up a creek about 25 feet below the tree line. Before reaching an intersection with the creek and a levee, the airplane was observed to pitch up in about a 45-degree nose-high attitude. The airplane made a steep right turn estimated at a 90-degree angle of bank. The right wing tip collided with a tree separating the right wing tip. The airplane cartwheeled about its longitudinal axis to the left colliding with trees and terrain.
Review of airman records on file with the FAA Airmen Certification Branch, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. The pilot did not have an instrument rating. According to a certified flight instructor, the pilot had received about 20 hours of dual instrument instruction in 1994, in an attempt to obtain an instrument rating. The training was terminated, and the pilot was advised that he should fly VFR only until he had more experience. The pilot contacted the flight instructor in January 1995, and requested additional instruction. The instruction was terminated on June 1, 1995, with the recommendation that he not pursue an instrument rating. The wife of the deceased pilot stated her husband's pilot logbook was located in his flight bag which was kept in the airplane. Additional information pertaining to the pilot is contained on page 3 of this report.
Review of airframe maintenance records revealed the altimeter system, altitude reporting equipment, and transponder were inspected on April 4, 1995. For additional aircraft information see page 2 of this report.
Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Witnesses in the vicinity of the crash site stated the weather at the time of the accident was overcast sky, estimated at about 200 feet, patchy ground fog, with limited forward visibility. A witness at the destination airport stated the ceiling was sky indefinite obscured, and visibility was 1/8 of a mile. For additional information see page 3 of this report.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage of N712DB was located in a wooded area about 2 miles northeast of Okeechobee County Airport, Okeechobee, Florida.
Examination of the crash site revealed the right wing collided with a tree about 48 feet above the base of the tree, in a 90-degree angle of bank to the right on a heading of 168 degrees magnetic. The right auxiliary fuel tank was ruptured and separated from the airplane. The airplane rotated around its longitudinal axis to the left colliding inverted with trees and terrain, coming to rest on a heading of 280 degrees magnetic. Numerous tree branches were located along the crash debris line with 45-degree cuts present on the separated branches. The engine assembly and components were buried about 3 feet below the surface of the ground. The main fuel tanks and the left auxiliary fuel tanks were ruptured. The airplane was consumed by a post crashfire.
Examination of the airframe and flight control assembly revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. Continuity of the flight control system was confirmed for pitch, roll, and yaw.
Examination of the engine assembly and accessories revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. Torsional twisting and "s" bending was present on both propeller blades. Both propeller blade tips are curled forward. One propeller blade is missing a 3 1/2 inch section of the propeller blade on the trailing edge 13 inches inboard from the propeller tip.
Examination of the airborne vacuum pump revealed the drive rotated freely by hand. The rotor was not damaged, and the vanes were worn.
The altimeter was destroyed. Examination of the gyro horizon, and the directional gyro revealed no evidence of rotational scarring on the gyro, rotor, or gyro housing.
Examination of the vertical speed indicator revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. The sector gear was disengaged from the pointer gear shaft, and the diaphragm was not damaged.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Dr. Charles A. Diggs, Associate Medical Examiner, Medical Examiner's Office, District 19, Fort Pierce, Florida, on January 17, 1997. The cause of death was multiple injuries due to blunt trauma. Postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot was performed by the Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. These studies were negative for alcohol, neutral, acidic, and basic drugs.
The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. David C. Young, Air Sea Recovery Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, on January 17, 1997. The gyro instruments and vertical speed indicator were released to Mr. Steve Smalley, Air Sea Recovery Inc, on January 22, 1997.