HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On December 23, 1997, about 1814 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, N8074Z, collided with power lines and trees while on an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to runway 36, at the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Tallahassee, Florida. The airplane was operated by the commercial pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and instrument flight rules. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an IFR flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from Columbus, Georgia at 1640.
According to Air Traffic Control (ATC), the airplane had requested clearance to land and was vectored to runway 36. The ATC controller cleared the airplane for the ILS runway 36 approach at 1813:23. The last radio contact with the airplane occurred at 1814:53, when the airplane was cleared to land. Minutes later, the ATC Tower experienced a power outage. When power was restored about 9 seconds later, the airplane had disappeared from the radar. ATC attempted to contact the airplane but was unsuccessful. The airplane was located about 2.5 miles south of runway 36.
The pilot held a airline transport pilot certificate with a multiengine rating and had commercial pilot privileges for airplane single engine land. He was also a certified flight instructor with airplane single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. His certificate was issued July 21, 1996. His last medical certificate, a second class, was issued December 5, 1995. It contained the limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses in order to exercise the privileges of the airman's certificate. The first pilot also had a Statement of Demonstrated Ability for his vision which was issued November 6, 1974. The pilot had a biennial flight review on July 21, 1996. No pilot logbooks were recovered to determine the pilot's instrument competency.
Additional information about the pilot is contained on page 3 under the title First Pilot Information.
The airplane and engine were both annually inspected on July 7, 1997. The pitot-static system was last certified on October 21, 1996. According to the aircraft logbooks, the last certification of the transponder occurred October 25, 1994. All Airworthiness Directives were complied with, according to the airplane records.
Additional information about the aircraft is contained on page 2 under the section titled Aircraft Information and in the report from Textron Lycoming.
The conditions at the time of the accident were instrument meteorological conditions. According to the METAR report, rain ended 19 minutes prior to the accident, with no accumulation on the ground. The ceiling was 500 feet at the time of the accident, but it was only 300 feet 20 minutes prior to and subsequent to the accident. There was also mist reported at the time of the accident. According to the local controller, the conditions were rapidly changing.
Additional information about the weather is contained on pages 3 and 4 under the section titled Weather Information.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft impacted a 150 foot high-tension wire and subsequently a tree line on a 270 degree heading. The wreckage extended, from the tree line 243 feet. The high-tension wire broke and was found draped along the wreckage path partially wrapped around the propeller. The left wing had separated from the fuselage at the wing root. There was a large circular indentation in the leading edge of the left wing. The fuel tank was breached and crushed aft nine inches. The aileron was found in two pieces, one of which was found separated from the airframe. The other piece, the outboard section, remained attached to the outboard hinge. The aileron control cables were separated and showed damage consistent with tension overload. The left flap was separated from the wing.
The right wing was separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The upper inboard leading edge wing skin was torn aft to the main spar, starting 34 inches outboard of the wing root. The main spar was bent aft approximately 45 degrees at 39 inches outboard of the wing root. The fuel tank was separated from the wing and found breached. The right aileron was separated from the wing. The aileron control cables were found separated, with damage consistent with a tension overload condition. The right flap's inboard 28 inches were found attached to the wing, and the remainder of the flap separated from the wing and bent aft.
The left side of the fuselage was crushed inboard at the pilot's seat. All cockpit windows were broken. The instrument panel and rudder pedals were separated from the fuselage.
The empennage was separated from the fuselage 4 feet forward of the stinger. The vertical fin was torn and separated from the forward attachment of the tail cone and bent aft 90 degrees to the right. The upper 18 inches of the leading edge vertical fin skin was crushed aft. The right side of the stabilator was attached to the spar and bulkhead. The left side of the stabilator was attached to the spar, and there was a circular indentation in the leading edge at this point. The control cables to the tail were all separated, with damage consistent with a tension overload.
Following the recovery of the wreckage, the engine was disassembled at Atlanta Air Salvage in Griffin, Georgia. In attendance were representatives from the FAA, NTSB, Textron Lycoming and Piper Aircraft. Examination of the engine revealed the following; the ignition harness was intact with all leads attached to their respective spark plugs. The carburetor, engine driven fuel pump, alternator, and alternator drive belt were separated from their mounts. The magnetos produced a spark. Rotation of the crankshaft established continuity to the valve train and all accessories. According to the Lycoming representative, there was no pre-existing engine deficiencies noted, and the examination did not produce any evidence that the engine was not capable of operating and producing power prior to the crash.
Examination of the propeller found one blade bent 90 degrees aft while the other blade exhibited serrated markings on the leading edge and a slight aft bend. A piece of steel cable similar to that found broken on the high-tension tower was found wrapped around the propeller.
Examination of the altimeter found it was not functioning, with damage similar to the other instruments on the pilot's side of the cockpit. Examination of the transponder, # 1 communications radio, #2 communications radio, #1 navigation radio, and # 2 navigation radio found them functional, but damaged. Examination of the glide slope indicator found it damaged.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A post mortem examination of the pilot was completed December 24, 1997 by the Leon County Medical Examiner's Office. A toxicological examination was completed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory on March 11, 1998. It showed the pilot was negative for carboxyhemoglobin, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.
The ILS 36 has a minimum approach altitude of 376 feet above ground level (AGL). The cloud ceiling was at 500 feet AGL. After the accident, the ILS 36 was taken out of service to be tested. It was flight checked on December 24, 1997, with no anomalies found.
According to the Air Traffic Control Group Chairman's Report, the local controller stated that shortly after clearing the accident airplane to land, the tower had a power interruption which caused the radar to blink and get skewed. She then noticed the airplane's data block disappeared. Prior to the power outage, she had been looking out the window to check the weather conditions, and did not notice any problems with the airplane. The approach controller stated he did not notice anything unusual with the airplane after handing it off to the tower. He stated the airplane's altitude appeared normal, and he did not see it deviate from the localizer. According to the supervisor, he saw a low altitude alert for the airplane, which was followed shortly by the interruption of power to the building. He did not see the airplane make any lateral deviations from the localizer. National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) data was requested, but because of the long distance from the antenna, the last return from the airplane showed it at 3,000 feet and being vectored for the approach.