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On March 15, 1997, at 1447 central standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N6219J, registered to a private owner and operated under lease by Monarch Air of Dallas, Texas, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 flight, struck a transmission line while maneuvering near Westminster, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The private pilot received serious injuries, 1 passenger received serious injuries, and 2 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from McKinney, Texas, at approximately 1422.
The following information was revealed during interviews, conducted by the IIC, with local authorities, the operator, and witnesses, and on the enclosed written statements. The airplane was rented by the pilot at 1145 and subsequently the flight departed the Addison Airport, Dallas, Texas, on a personal flight. The airplane was observed flying in the vicinity of Anna, Texas. A witness, in his vehicle traveling south on Highway 5, at 1205 observed the airplane flying "with radical swoops back and forth and up and down at 100 feet AGL and at times low down below the tree line." At 1218 another witness observed the airplane at 400 feet AGL flying north to south along Highway 5 and about 2 minutes later observed the airplane "dive like a cropduster and then continue north along the railroad through town at 100 feet AGL." At 1220 this witness observed the aircraft flying northbound, straight and level, at an altitude of approximately 100 feet AGL and noted the registration number, N6219J. Two witnesses located near County Road 423 observed the airplane "flying low over their houses and then back and forth over a field at less than 100 feet AGL." One of these witnesses further reported observing the airplane "sweeping down to the ground, almost touching County Road 423, and going over a house like a spraying maneuver."
Two witnesses, who observed the airplane at approximately 1445 at 1,000 feet to 1,200 feet AGL, described "the engine RPM's as increasing and decreasing, and not operating on all cylinders." Another witness, observing the airplane in a 60 degree left bank, stated that the "motor lost power like possible fuel loss or other problem"; however, "think lost power but pure speculation."
FM 455 road runs east and west with houses and barns located along the road and witnesses observed the airplane maneuvering over the residences and barns located along FM455 road. The witnesses, at approximately 1500, observed the airplane dive toward a barn on the north side of FM455 road, gain speed, fly under the transmission line and strike the line tearing off part of the wing and the rudder. Subsequently the airplane rolled to the left, gained altitude, and went over transmission lines on the north side of FM455 road before impacting in an open field and sliding to a stop. One of the witnesses stated that the airplane was 4 to 5 feet above the road when it started to pull up and struck the wire. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Collin County Sheriff Department logged the 911 call at 1447. Local authorities and rescue personnel responded to the scene.
During an interview, conducted at Methodist Central Hospital at Dallas, Texas, on March 15, 1997, by the investigator-in-charge (IIC) and a police sergeant, the pilot stated that the flight departed Addison and flew at 8,000 feet toward Oklahoma for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The flight then landed at McKinney where the passenger's son got out of the airplane and his older brother got into the airplane for a local flight. The passenger wanted to photograph his house and the pilot flew the airplane at 400 to 500 feet AGL to the residential area and made a left descending turn to 350 to 375 feet AGL. The pilot did not recall any discrepancies with the airplane and stated that he did not recall the impact sequence.
On April 24, 1997, the IIC conducted a personal interview (summary enclosed) with the pilot and the surviving passenger (pilot's 9 year old son). The pilot confirmed that he performed a preflight and the flight departed Addison Airport, Dallas, Texas, at 1145 with 3 passengers (his 9 year old son in the left rear seat, his son's 10 year old friend in the right rear seat, and this friend's father in the right front seat) for the flight. The pilot maneuvered the airplane in the area of McKinney, Anna, Melissa, Van Alstyne, and Westminster, Texas, and then flew over Lake Texoma where he performed a couple of flight maneuvers. Subsequently, the flight landed at McKinney where the passenger in the right rear seat deplaned and this passenger's brother (15 years old) boarded the flight. The flight departed McKinney and flew toward Westminster where the right front seat passenger was going to video tape his residence. As the flight approached the area, the pilot descended the airplane to 600 feet AGL and performed 2 figure 8's around the passenger's house and then descended to 300 feet AGL in order to video tape the right front seat passenger's brother who was standing near his home. The pilot then climbed to 600 feet AGL made a left turn and descended to 500 feet AGL within the video tape range for the residence.
The pilot stated that at this time, the control yoke would pull to neutral; however, it would not go aft of neutral. The airplane descended 50 to 60 feet each time the pilot pushed the control yoke forward. The pilot tried to trim the nose up; however, he recalled the airplane descended at 500 to 600 fpm with full throttle and the left wing inches off the ground. The pilot stated that he performed the emergency procedures and "turned the fuel selector to the OFF position, the magneto switch to the OFF position and extended the landing gear." When the airplane suddenly rolled right, the pilot applied full left rudder and aileron. The airplane impacted the terrain with the right wing and windshield in an upside down attitude. The pilot's son, using a model, demonstrated the airplane descending toward the ground in an up and down motion.
The date and times on the video tape do not correspond with the date and time of the accident; however, the tape shows the airplane performing flight maneuvers and then approaching the McKinney Airport. Subsequently, the video shows the airplane performing maneuvers in the vicinity of FM455 then descending and flying east bound along FM455 toward the transmission lines that crossed FM455 (width of pavement 40 feet 4 inches). During this portion of the video, residences and barns bordering FM455 and the centerline stripes (10 feet 6 inches long and a stripe to stripe gap of 30 feet 9 inches) along FM455 are visible. Throughout the video, the sound of engine power is audible and there are no visible discrepancies noted with the flight controls.
A review of FAA records and the pilot's logbook (# 2), by the IIC, revealed that the pilot obtained his private pilot certificate with the single engine land rating on January 12, 1990. The last third class medical was issued to the pilot on March 11, 1997. The flight time logged from October 1993 through August 1995 in a PA-28R-200 airplane was 10.5 hours. From August 1995 through March 1997 there were 10.0 flight hours logged including a biennial flight review that was satisfactorily completed in a PA-28-161 airplane on March 13, 1997. Total flight time in the logbook was 934.6 hours.
During interviews, conducted by the IIC, personnel at the fixed base operator (FBO) reported that the airplane was flown twice on March 13, 1997, for a total of 1.7 hours without any reported discrepancies. Following these flights, the airplane was fueled with 12.9 gallons and not flown until the March 15, 1997, flight.
The maintenance records were reviewed by the IIC. The 1976 Piper PA-28R-200, single engine land airplane, S/N 635322, was issued the FAA airworthiness certificate on June 9, 1976. The aircraft was registered to the current owner on April 25, 1978. Aircraft airframe, propeller, and engine logbooks did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects. Tachometer reading at the last annual inspection (February 10, 1997) was 5,226.3 hours.
On March 15, 1997, the aircraft rental sheet recorded a tachometer reading of 70.32. The tachometer reading at the site was 5,272.18.
The manufacturer's representative stated that the vertical height from the bottom of the fuselage to the top of the vertical stabilizer and rudder measured 5 feet 5 inches.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:
The airplane came to rest in an open field. An examination of the site revealed that a 9 foot section of the transmission line (23 feet 3 inches AGL) that extended across the FM455 road had been replaced by the electrical company. Portions of the vertical stabilizer and the portion of the rudder housing the navigation light were found along the south side of FM455. The right aileron was found on the south side of FM455 at 345 feet from the point where the transmission line had extended across FM455. The upper portion of the rudder, with a section of the transmission line entangled around it, and 8 feet 9 inches of the outboard right wing were found on FM455 at 375 feet from the point of impact with the transmission line.
The wreckage distribution path, from the outboard right wing section on FM455 to the final resting point of the airplane, extended 992 feet on a measured magnetic heading of 063 degrees. Portions of the airframe were distributed along the path. See the enclosed diagram for additional details.
The empennage was twisted and resting on its right side and the fuselage was inverted and crushed. The right horizontal stabilator was crushed and twisted toward the vertical stabilizer. Seat belts and shoulder harnesses were fastened at the right front seat and the 2 rear seats with the left front seat belt and shoulder harness unfastened. (Witnesses, who initially arrived on scene, reported that the pilot had freed himself and was outside the aircraft upon their arrival.) The left wing, left aileron, and engine were separated from the airframe; however, the propeller remained attached to the engine and both propeller blades were twisted and bent.
The engine exhaust system and oil filter were crushed and the #1 cylinder exhaust push rod was bent. The propeller was broken away from the crankshaft propeller flange and this precluded a full revolution of the crankshaft. Both magnetos were removed from the engine and produced spark when rotated by hand. Fuel was found in the fuel injector and the engine driven fuel pump, and the fuel filters were free of debris. The integrity of the fuel system fittings and lines was compromised and the right fuel tank was destroyed. Approximately 5 gallons remained in the left fuel tank. No pre-impact mechanical discrepancies were noted with the engine.
The left wing's main spar and aft attach points were separated at the fuselage with the forward attach point partially separated from the fuselage. The left wing tip was crushed aft into the aileron and the aileron was buckled in the outboard area; however, the aileron remained secured to the wing and the aileron counterweight was intact. The flap was separated from the left wing.
The outboard section of the right wing separated outboard of the fuel tank. The right aileron separated inboard of the outboard hinge point leaving the outboard end of the aileron and the counterweight in place at the wing. The center and inboard right wing section, with a portion of the flap, separated from the airframe.
The left main landing gear was found extended with its gear door intact. The right main landing gear and the nose gear were partially extended from their wheel wells and the right main gear door was intact. The manual flap handle in the cockpit was in the retracted position; however, structural damage precluded a measurement of the flap torque tube position.
The left aileron control cable was intact from the control wheel chain to the aileron. The left balance cable separated inboard of the wing attachment point with the separation point exhibiting deformation and elongation characteristic of tension overload. The right aileron control cable and balance cable were both separated at the wing root and displayed deformation and elongation consistent with tension overload.
The stabilator control cables were intact from the cockpit to the stabilator with the stabilator counterweight in place. There was rudder control cable continuity from the cockpit aft. The lower portion of the rudder remained with the fuselage. The rudder balance weight was found in the same area as the separated upper portion of the rudder, vertical stabilizer, and right wing on FM455. The upper portion of the rudder was crushed and exhibited striations consistent with the width of the wire bundles of the transmission line.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION:
Aviation toxicological testing was neither requested nor performed for the surviving pilot of the airplane.
Residents along FM455, arrived at the site, found the surviving pilot outside the airplane, and reported the accident. Local authorities and rescue personnel responded to the site. The pilot was airlifted to Methodist Central Hospital, Dallas, Texas. The surviving passenger was transported by ambulance to Columbia Medical Center Hospital, Plano, Texas.
TEST AND RESEARCH:
On July 22, 1997, the flight control cables were examined at Lancaster, Texas, under the surveillance of the IIC. Flight control continuity and movement was confirmed. The roller and turnbuckle chains, associated with the tee bar assembly, were intact. Bolts, washers, and pulleys were found to be secured.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative on July 30, 1997.