ATL97FA118
ATL97FA118

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 11, 1997, at approximately 1845 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-24-250, N8213P, collided with the ground shortly after takeoff from runway 13 at the North County Airport, Palm Beach Garden, Florida. The instructional flight operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Witnesses at the airport reported that visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. An examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane had sustained impact damage. There was also a post impact fire. The certified flight instructor, the student pilot, and the rear seated passenger were fatally injured. According to a witness, the flight departed Palm Beach Garden, Florida, at approximately 1815.

At approximately 1730, a maintenance person, from the fixed base operator, stated that he had a conversation with the student pilot while the student pilot conducted the aircraft preflight inspection. During the conversation, the student pilot asked the maintenance person if he wanted to go flying with him? The maintenance person declined the offer. The student pilot also told the maintenance personnel that the airplane was about two and one half hours from having a full load. The maintenance person recalled that the flight departed at approximately 1815.

According to witnesses at the airport, the flight had made several touch and go landings and was on climb out when the accident occurred. One witness standing outside a hangar observed the airplane after the last touch and go landing. The eyewitness reported that the engine was operating normally. But, as the eyewitness returned to the hangar, he no longer heard the sound of the engine. He turned back and looked to the approximate position of the airplane, and noticed that the airplane had impacted the ground and burst into flames (see attached statement of interview) Another person working on the ramp reported that he heard a loud sound like a backfire just as the engine stopped. The airplane was at about 250 feet as it entered an abrupt steep left turn. The airplane turned almost 180 degrees and impacted the ground in a near vertical attitude. The airplane erupted into flames almost immediately.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The certified flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with a single engine land, and a multiengine land rating; the pilot was also instrument rated in airplanes. His last medical certificate, a first class, was dated December 12, 1996; there were no waivers or medical limitations on the pilot's medical certification. The pilot's fire damaged flight logs were recovered from the aircraft wreckage. A review of the pilot's logs revealed that he had accumulated a total of 856 hours.

The dual student held a student pilot certificate. His last medical certificate was dated October 9, 1996; there were no waivers or medical limitations on the student pilot's medical certificate. The student pilot had accumulated approximately 41 hours.

Additional personnel information is contained in this report on page 3 under "first Pilot Information".

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane maintenance logs were not recovered for examination.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

According to airport officials, visual weather conditions existed at the time of the accident. Additional information about the weather is contained on pages 3 and 4 under the section titled "Weather Information".

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane collided with the ground approximately 180 feet left of the centerline of runway 13 and 300 feet from the departure end of the runway. The on scene examination of the accident site disclosed that airplane debris was located in the immediate vicinity of the impact point. There was no obstruction at the end of runway 13. The terrain around the accident site consisted of low level everglade type landscape. The airplane rested on a 258 degree magnetic heading. The field elevation at the accident site was approximately 23 feet. A grassy area approximately 50 feet surrounding the airplane was fire damaged.

The on scene examination of the airplane wreckage disclosed that the fuselage sustained fire damage from the engine firewall aft to the rear of the baggage compartment. The cockpit floor material sustained fire damage. During the on scene examination of the cockpit and cabin areas, three seat belt buckles were recovered; two of the seat belt buckles were still buckle. The instrument panel flight instruments and engine gauges were fire damaged and unreadable. The on scene examination of the flight controls disclosed that control cable attach points for the rudder and stabilator assemblies were secured to the respective flight control system. The flight control surface balance weights were intact with the respective control surface.

The left and right wing assemblies sustained fire damage. The on scene examination disclosed the left wing remained attached to the fuselage at the wing root attach points. The left wing fuel tank upper and lower skin was melted and deformed. The left wing flap assembly was attached at all hinge points, but the control surface skin was heat damaged. The left aileron assembly also remained attached at the hinge points. The on scene examination also confirmed the security of the left aileron control cables to the cockpit.

The on scene examination of the airframe also disclosed that the right wing internal support structure and outer skin was heavily fire damaged (see attached photographs). The main spar, three feet of the outboard section of the aileron, and the aileron's control cable remained visible. The molten right wing material displayed, on the ground, an outline of the right wing shape. The right aileron flight control cable was connected between the aileron bell crank and the cockpit.

The on scene examination of the engine assembly disclosed that the engine remained partially attached to the mounts with the engine firewall wrapped over the rear of the accessory case. The engine also sustained extensive fire damage. The right magneto sustained fire damage. The left magneto was partially separated from the normally installed position. Other engine components, including the vacuum pump, installed on the accessory section of the engine were fire damaged. The engine oil sump was also fire damaged.

The off site examination of the engine included a complete teardown of the engine. The fire damage to the engine accessory section components prevented any functional testing of those components. The valve rocker arms and push rod stems showed normal wear. The spark plugs also showed normal wear. The pistons and cylinders also showed normal wear. The engine drive train, which included the crankshaft and camshaft, rotated through (see attached engine teardown examination).

The examination of the propeller assembly disclosed that the propeller blades remained attached to the hub assembly. The propeller spinner assembly was crushed into the hub assembly. The propeller blades had some bending and twisting near mid span.

The fuel selector was recovered from the cockpit area. The off scene examination of the fuel selector valve disclosed that it also had sustained fire damage, and no functional test was possible. The fuel selector position was not determined.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The post mortem examinations of both pilots were conducted by the Office of The District Medical Examiner West Palm Beach, Florida 33406-33005

The toxicological examinations of the pilots were conducted by the Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, FAA. The reports were negative for drugs and alcohol.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Kelly J. Bare, insurance adjuster, with Dale L. Bonnett and Associates in Plant City, Florida.

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