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On October 4, 1997, about 0840 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N7730J, was destroyed as it impacted the terrain during an aborted landing at the College Park Airport (CGS), College Park, Maryland. The certificated private pilot and two passengers received serious injuries, three other passengers received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the cross country flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The pilot and five passengers departed Lancaster, Pennsylvania, about 0750, destined for CGS. The pilot remarked that all systems on the airplane were fully operational and the flight to CGS went uneventfully. He recalled that he descended to 1,500 feet MSL and entered the traffic pattern on the downwind leg to runway 33 at CGS. The pilot wrote that he was the second airplane in the pattern behind a Cessna 172, being flown by his brother. He selected 10 degrees of flaps on base leg, and while crossing the 194 foot displaced threshold for the 2,610 foot runway, noticed that the airspeed was slow.
During the flair for landing, the pilot closed the throttle and impacted the runway hard. He remembered rolling out on the grass to the left of the runway. He kicked right rudder to parallel the runway, and proceeded to push full throttle to abort the landing. The pilot wrote that he attempted to get the nose wheel up and felt the tail (of the airplane) touch the ground twice. After raising the flaps, the airplane accelerated. Once airborne, the pilot made a right turn to get back over the runway. He stated that "the airplane did not seem to climb, and the engine sounded correct for full power."
Witnesses stated that the airplane bounced several times upon touch down and drifted left off the runway. Once in the grassy area between the runway and taxiway, they heard power being applied to the engine. The witnesses recalled seeing the airplane in a nose high attitude, wings rocking as it impacted a 20 foot high embankment at the departure end of runway 33. The witnesses stated that the airplane went through a wire mesh fence at the top of the embankment and then went out of sight. The next thing they could recall was a plume of smoke coming from the far side of the embankment.
The pilot and passengers reported that they were able to exit the airplane before it was engulfed in flames.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 58 minutes north latitude, and 76 degrees, 55 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot received two checkout flights in the PA-32-260 in April, 1997. The first flight, duration of 2 hours, was conducted on April 2, 1997, and the second flight, duration 3.1 hours, was conducted on April 10, 1997. On October 4, 1997, the pilot had a total of approximately 200 flight hours, with 5.1 hours in make and model when he took off for CGS.
His most recent Federal Aviation Administration Second Class Medical Certificate was issued on February 4, 1997.
The airframe and engine logbooks indicated that the annual inspection was completed on September 24, 1997. A recently overhauled engine was placed on the airplane on the same date. The airframe and engine had accumulated 15 flight hours prior to the accident.
The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on October 4, 1997. The examination revealed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene, and that the airplane came to rest upright, on an approximate magnetic heading of 040 degrees, at a ground elevation of about 45 feet above mean sea level (MSL).
No indications of braking were found on the runway or the south adjacent grassy area between the taxiway and runway. A 12 inch tall yellow taxi light, located at the second to last off ramp and positioned 10 feet in from the edge of the grass, was found shattered and lying on its side.
The vegetation on the embankment at the end of the runway contained scarring which aligned with the grassy strip between the runway and taxiway. Near the top of the embankment, the outboard portion of the right wing with the aileron attached were found entangled in the wire mesh fence. The left main landing gear was lying on top of the fence approximately 10 feet to the north. Located about 20 feet west/northwest, lying between two sets of subway tracks, was the remaining inboard portion of the right wing with the attached flap, along with the right main landing gear.
Located 30-40 feet west/northwest of the subway tracks were two sets of railroad tracks. Both magnetos, pieces of the cowling, and oil from the engine were spread throughout the tracks. The main portion of the wreckage, the left wing, the fuselage and the empennage, came to rest about 30 feet from the tracks in a 10 foot deep ravine. The cockpit and fuselage area were burnt, the vertical rudder and stabilator were intact, and the left wing, with aileron and flap attached, contained fire damage. The engine, separated from the fuselage, was found lying on its side about 15-20 feet to the north. Flight control continuity was traced throughout the wreckage.
The engine was examined at Alphin Aircraft Services, Hagerstown, Maryland, on October 9, 1997. The crankshaft rotated freely and compression was obtained from all cylinders. Continuity was established throughout the valve train and accessory gears. All damaged observed was consistent with impact forces.
The airplane wreckage was released on October 5, 1997, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.