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On December 22, 1997, at 1851 central standard time (cst), a Piper PA-32-301, N2586Y, operated by a private pilot, was destroyed when while maneuvering south of Casa De Aero Airport (C38), Hampshire, Illinois, the airplane departed controlled flight and subsequently impacted the terrain. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. An IFR flight plan was on file. The pilot-in-command, pilot-rated passenger, and two other passengers on board were fatally injured. The cross-country flight originated at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, at approximately 1508 cst.
At 1356 cst, the pilot contacted the Anniston, Alabama, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) by telephone and received a weather briefing for his planned route of flight originating at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and proceeding to Hampshire, Illinois.
At 1407 cst, the pilot called Anniston AFSS by telephone again and filed an IFR flight plan from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to Hampshire, Illinois. The Air Traffic Control Specialist asked the pilot if he had the Airmen Meteorological Reports (AIRMETs) for turbulence and IFR conditions along his route of flight. The pilot responded, "Yeah, turbulence, icing and IFR, it's lovely."
At 1502 cst, the pilot contacted the Anniston AFSS by radio and requested his IFR clearance. At 1505, the Air Traffic Specialist issued the pilot an IFR clearance "to the charlie 38 aero park airport as filed, climb and maintain 4,000 feet MSL." The pilot read back the clearance. The Air Traffic Control Specialist then asked the pilot if he had or needed the AIRMETs or advisories for turbulence and icing. The pilot responded that he had already picked them up.
At 1734 cst, the pilot contacted the Kankakee, Illinois, AFSS, and requested and received a weather update for conditions at DuPage County Airport, West Chicago, Illinois, "one hour from now."
At 1824:21 cst, the pilot checked in with the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Sector 2 controller, and reported that he was level at 4,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The Sector 2 controller told the pilot to maintain 4,000 feet msl, confirmed that the Casa De Aero Airport was the pilot's destination, and told the pilot to make sure he had DuPage Airport weather information "hotel." The pilot responded, "We'll pick up hotel and maintain four thousand."
At 1835:14 cst, the Sector 2 controller directed the pilot to descend to 3,000 feet msl.
At 1838:04 cst, the Sector 2 controller cleared the pilot for the VOR alpha approach into Casa De Aero Airport, and told the pilot to "report cancellation of IFR with me in the air if at all practical. If unable in the air, [then] immediately after landing through flight service. No traffic observed." The pilot read back the clearance.
At 1838:26 cst, the Sector 2 controller told the pilot, "frequency change is approved, and be sure you get to me to cancel [the IFR flight plan] please. I'm protecting the airspace." The pilot responded, "We'll probably be back with you to exercise our alternate."
At 1848:48, the airplane, at an altitude of 1,700 feet msl, dropped below Chicago TRACON's radar coverage. The Sector 2 controller said that at 1849 cst, he placed the airplane's data block on his radar screen in "overflight handoff status," generating a flashing "O" symbol, representing the airplane. The controller said that he suspected that the airplane had landed.
Between 1854 and 1856 cst, the Sector 2 controller was relieved by another controller. The off-going controller briefed the on- coming controller of two airplanes going into Midway Airport. He made no mention of N2586Y.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot had 400 total flight hours in single engine airplanes. The pilot received his instrument rating on March 16, 1997.
According to his logbook, the pilot-rated passenger, also the owner of the airplane, had 544.7 total flight hours, 196.0 hours in the PA-32-301. As of September 6, 1997, the pilot-rated passenger had accumulated 20.3 hours of actual instrument time.
The pilot-rated passenger completed an instrument competency check on June 19, 1997.
The airplane underwent an annual inspection on January 1, 1997. The tachometer time at the annual inspection was 572.3 hours. The tachometer time observed at the accident site was 699.1 hours.
At 0845 cst, the National Weather Service issued AIRMET Zulu, Update 3 for ice and freezing level, valid until 1500 cst, for an area beginning at Marquette, Michigan, east to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, south to Detroit, Michigan, southwest to Fort Wayne, Indiana, south to Cincinnati, Ohio, northwest to Decatur, Illinois, north to Chicago, Illinois, and north to Marquette, Michigan. The AIRMET reported occasional moderate rime/mixed icing between the freezing level and 16,000 feel MSL; freezing level at 600 to 800 feet agl, in Illinois and Indiana. Between 1200 cst and 1400 cst, isolated severe icing in southern Michigan with extreme icing in Indiana. Conditions continuing through 2100 cst. The forecast conditions beginning at 1500 cst, and continuing through 2100 cst, called for light occasional to moderate rime/mixed ice in precipitation, between the freezing level and 14,000 feet MSL; freezing level 1,000 to 7,500 feet agl, north two-thirds of Illinois.
At 1356, the Air Traffic Control Specialist at Anniston AFSS informed the pilot that there was a low pressure area associated with a front over Illinois and Indiana, and that weather conditions taken from AIRMETs called for "IFR conditions and turbulence below 12,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), then once you get up into the Chicago [Illinois] area, occasional moderate rime and mixed icing below 14,000 feet [MSL]. The pilot asked about the weather conditions for the DuPage Airport, West Chicago, Illinois, and Rockford, Illinois. The Air Traffic Control Specialist said that Rockford was 700 feet above ground level (agl) overcast, four miles visibility in mist, and DuPage was 600 feet agl overcast, four miles visibility in light rain and mist.
At 1734 cst, the Air Traffic Control Specialist at Kankakee AFSS told the pilot that a new forecast for DuPage was due any time, but was not in their system yet. The Air Traffic Control Specialist gave the pilot the DuPage forecast issued at 1200 cst, which called for ceilings of 800 feet agl scattered, 1,500 feet agl broken, visibility better than six miles, and light rain. The Air Traffic Control Specialist then gave the pilot a special surface observation for DuPage which came out at 1704 cst, stating the conditions were 400 feet agl overcast, five miles visibility and mist, with the temperature and dew point both at one degree Celsius. He also told the pilot that the weather conditions at Rockford, Illinois were an overcast ceiling of 500 feet agl, three miles visibility, and mist.
The pilot asked the Air Traffic Control Specialist if there were any icing reports in that area. The Air Traffic Control Specialist said that there were reports of light rime icing at the higher altitudes, but no reports within a fifty mile radius at the lower altitudes.
The pilot then asked the Air Traffic Control Specialist about the current weather conditions at Madison, Wisconsin. The Air Traffic Control Specialist told the pilot that the weather conditions at Madison had just went to a broken ceiling of 800 feet agl, visibility of one and one-half mile, with light freezing drizzle, and a temperature of minus one degree Celsius.
At 1704 cst, DuPage Airport's Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) began broadcasting information "Hotel," 400 feet agl overcast, 5 miles visibility and mist, temperature 34 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 29.90 inches of Mercury.
The National Weather Service surface observation at Rockford, Illinois, at 1854 cst, was a 700 feet agl overcast ceiling, visibility of 3 miles with drizzle and/or mist. The temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the dew point was 31 degrees Fahrenheit.
The National Weather Service surface observation at DuPage Airport, West Chicago, Illinois, at 1853 cst, was a 400 feet agl overcast ceiling and a visibility of 4 miles. The temperature was 33 degrees Fahrenheit and the dew point was 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
The airplane was equipped with a VOR receiver and Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).
Casa De Aero Airport has a published VOR-A approach. Its distribution is limited to the airport's residents. The circling minimums required for a category "A" aircraft to fly the approach are a ceiling of 600 feet agl and a visibility of 1 mile.
Casa De Aero Airport is a private, residential airfield. Its use is intended for its residents only. The 3,000 X 50 foot, asphalt runway has runway edge lighting only. The airport's residents operate on an advisory frequency of 122.9 megahertz. The airport is maintained by the residents through a local association.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on-scene investigation began on December 23, 1997, at 0930 cst.
The accident site was located in the center of a recently cultivated corn field, 2,650 feet west of Walker Road, a north- south running paved road, 6 miles west-northwest of Hampshire, Illinois. The field was rough and muddy. Patches of melting snow were observed covering plowed north-south running furrows throughout the field.
A 23 foot long, 5 foot wide north-south running ground scar was observed in the north-central part of the corn field. The scar was 18 inches deep near the center. A 30-inch piece of the airplane's bottom cowling was found embedded in the ground near the scar's south end. The aft half of the airplane's left wing tip was found resting approximately 5 feet west of the ground scar. It was broken longitudinally along the rivet line and laterally just forward of the position light. The position light was broken out. The dirt at the south end of the ground scar was pushed up into a 45-degree lip. A spray of dirt fanned out southward from the lip in a 30-degree arc for approximately 30 feet. Small pieces of the airplane's left wing tip and lower left cowling were found spread across the field along a predominate heading of 180-degrees for approximately 57 feet from the south end of the ground scar. At the end of this area, a 20-inch long wing stringer was found.
Large pieces of the airplane's windscreen were found resting 100 feet south of the ground scar. The airplane's air filter and pieces of the engine's exhaust manifold were resting nearby. Pieces of cabin interior, insulation, and some personal effects were also found in this area.
The airplane's left wing was found resting 100 feet south of the ground scar, and 30 feet west of the north-south line running between the ground scar and the main wreckage. The left wing was broken off at the wing root, and was broken into two main pieces along a longitudinal rivet line, at the outboard edge of the left flap. The inboard section of the left wing was crushed inward beginning at the root fracture, aft to the main spar. The area extended outboard approximately 30 inches. The main spar showed aft bending, elongation and shear fracture. The left wing inboard section bottom wing skin was bent down and aft.
The left main landing gear was broken out, but remained attached by the brake line. The left tire and brake assembly showed no damage. The landing gear pant was bent aft. The left wing flap was bent downward approximately 30 degrees at the inboard edge. The flap was buckled upward in the middle and bent upward slightly at the outboard edge. The flap actuator arm was broken at the wing root and indicated being in the retracted position.
The left outboard wing section was broken at the left main fuel tank and bent back on itself. The bottom wing skin was torn out, bent and resting next to the inboard wing section. The left main fuel tank bladder was torn. The smell of fuel was prevalent. The upper wing skin was bent downward and buckled. The left aileron was broken into two pieces. The outboard section of the aileron remained attached to the left outboard wing section. It was bent upward and twisted inboard. The inboard section of the left aileron was broken out and found resting just east of the left outboard wing section. Left aileron control cables showed fraying where they broke. Individual cable strands showed necking and shear fracturing.
The airplane's nose wheel was located 200 feet south of the ground scar. The wheel strut where it joined the engine mount was twisted to the right, bent aft, necked, and broken. The wheel was undamaged.
The remainder of the bottom engine cowling, the pilot's seat, the right front cabin door and frame, a right side rudder pedal, pieces of interior cabin, charts, flight manual pages and personal effects were found scattered along a 180-degree heading, between the airplane's nose gear and the main wreckage.
The airplane's main wreckage included the engine, propeller, right wing, fuselage, and empennage. It was resting upright, approximately 368 feet south of the ground scar, and oriented on a magnetic heading of 090-degrees.
The airplane's engine, mounts, firewall, and propeller had broken off the forward fuselage of the airplane and were resting 18 feet south of the fuselage. The firewall and engine mounts were bent upward and to the right. The propeller and spinner remained attached to the flange. The three propeller blades showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches, and tip curling. The spinner was crushed inward and twisted clockwise.
The airplane's upper forward fuselage skin was bent inward, aft and twisted to the right. The airplane's forward cabin was broken open. The instrument panel was bent down and twisted to the left. The left side of the instrument panel was bent upward.
The forward cabin floor and rudder pedals were pushed upward into the lower instrument panel. The right forward cabin wall was bent outward 40 degrees. The right side forward cabin window was broken out. The left forward cabin wall was bent outward and down. The left aft cabin passenger door and left aft baggage door were buckled outward. The aft cabin floor was broken and separated behind the right front seat. The aft cabin was twisted right and bent upward. The fuselage aft of the cabin and baggage compartment was bent upward and twisted to the right approximately 40 degrees. The left side of the aft fuselage was broken open behind the left aft baggage door. The bottom left side of the aft fuselage was crushed upward and twisted to the right. The left side and top of the fuselage showed right twisting, bends and wrinkles running aft to the tail cone. The right side of the fuselage, aft of the cabin, was crushed inward.
The horizontal stabilator showed minor upward crushing to the bottom right side skin, inboard of the tip lateral rivet line. The elevator showed no damage. An area of rime ice, approximately 1/4 inch in thickness, was observed adhering to the leading edge of the left horizontal stabilator, beginning at the root and running outboard along the leading edge for approximately 15 inches. Rime ice of 1/4 inch thickness was also observed adhering to the leading edge of the right horizontal stabilator beginning at the root and running along the leading edge to the tip. Rime ice was also observed on the ground at the leading edge tip of the right horizontal stabilator.
The vertical stabilizer and rudder showed minor damage. The rotating beacon cover was broken off, but remained attached to the vertical stabilizer by an electrical wire. The fiberglass fin running along the bottom of the vertical stabilizer forward along the top of the fuselage was broken downward. An area of rime ice, approximately 1/4 inch in thickness, and 30 inches in length, was observed adhering to the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer beginning just below the rotating beacon and running downward along the leading edge.
The airplane's right wing remained attached to the fuselage through the aft cabin. The right wing flap was bent down and forward underneath the wing. The right aileron was bent down and buckled inward along the inboard trailing edge. The right forward wing tip was broken off laterally and broken along the longitudinal rivet line. The outboard leading edge from the tip, inboard approximately 40 inches, was crushed inward 12 inches. A 24 inch long section of the leading edge was broken outward and bent inward toward the fuselage. The bottom wing skin showed minor wrinkling. The upper wing surface showed no damage. The right main fuel tank remained intact. Fuel was observed in the tank. The right main landing gear was intact and showed no damage. An area of rime ice, approximately 1/4 inch in thickness, was observed along a 30-inch section of the leading edge of the right wing at mid-span. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the control surfaces. Examination of the engine and engine accessories revealed no anomalies.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot-in-command was conducted by the Kane County, Illinois, Medical Examiner, on December 24, 1997, at Geneva, Illinois. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
An autopsy of the pilot-rated passenger was conducted by the Kane County, Illinois, Medical Examiner, on December 24, 1997, at Geneva, Illinois. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot-rated passenger were negative for all tests conducted.
At 2200 cst, the Mission Control Center (MCC) at Suitland, Maryland began picking up the airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal through one of the four Search And Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) satellites in near-polar orbit over the Earth. This information was relayed to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), at Langley, Virginia. At 2245 cst, the AFRCC notified the Illinois Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) of an ELT distress signal in the Walker Road area, between Allen and Helms Road, in northern Kane County, Illinois. The Wing Commander of the Illinois CAP said that his ground teams were assembled and began a search of the area at 0100 cst, on December 23, 1997. They did not engage in an air search due to the poor weather conditions at the time. He said that they were called out, based on the ELT signal only. There were no reports from the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) or Flight Service of an overdue or missing airplane. At approximately 0230 cst, a CAP ground team narrowed the location of the ELT signal to a field behind a rural residence at 17N540 Walker Road. The CAP elected to wait until daylight to search the area. The weather conditions were foggy and the team had a difficult time seeing the terrain. The Kane County Sheriff's department was contacted at 0730 cst to assist in the search. The airplane was located at 0813 cst.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Interviews of the Chicago TRACON's Air Traffic Control (ATC) Specialists and Quality Assurance (QA) Manager were conducted on January 21, 1998, at 0930 cst.
The Chicago TRACON is responsible for controlling air traffic operating within the airspace surrounding Chicago O'Hare Airport, Illinois, for a 40 mile radius. This airspace is divided up into several sectors. Each sector is assigned to an ATC specialist who controls and monitors air traffic in his/her assigned sector.
The area is divided by an east-west line running through Chicago O'Hare Airport. The area south of this line is divided into four sectors. The boundaries change, based on the active runway configuration in use at Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway airports. The area southwest of O'Hare and extending west from the Midway Airport is worked by the sector 3 controller. The area defined by a line that extends southwest from Midway Airport's runway 22L extended centerline, and continuing to the TRACON airspace boundary is worked by the sector 2 controller.
There is also a block of airspace lying predominately west-northwest of Chicago O'Hare, called the "north satellite." The ATC controller assigned to this airspace is responsible for air traffic operating in and out of DuPage and Palwaukee Airports. Sector 3's northern border lies flush with the southern border of the north satellite airspace, west of O'Hare. Casa De Aero Airport lies on the western edge of the north satellite airspace. The VOR-A approach to Casa De Aero Airport originates in sector 3's airspace and terminates in the north satellite airspace.
The Area Supervisor who was on-duty at the time of the accident said that air traffic control sectors 2 and 3 were combined for most of that evening due to the light volume of traffic west of Chicago. One controller [Sector 2] was controlling the combined airspace.
The Sector 2 controller said that when he accepted the handoff on N2586Y, he was working another airplane, a few miles ahead of N2586Y, which was going into Dupage Airport. The sector 2 controller coordinated with the north satellite controller so that he could give N2586Y clearance for the approach into the Casa De Aero Airport. He also coordinated with the north satellite controller to protect the airspace around the Casa De Aero Airport, in the event that the pilot executed a missed approach. The sector 2 controller checked with the DuPage Airport Air Traffic Control Tower to verify that the preceding airplane was in the process of landing. At that time, N2586Y was just over the Dupage VOR at 3,000 feet msl. The Sector 2 controller issued the airplane its approach clearance. This was the last communication the Sector 2 controller had with the pilot of N2586Y.
Each ATC specialist tracks each aircraft assigned to his/her sector on a strip of paper called a Flight Progress Strip. The information on the strip is usually hand written. Most controllers separate these Flight Progress Strips into groups with each group representing a different activity an aircraft is in (i.e. being vectored, on approach, landed/flight plan closed, etc.). The Sector 2 controller said that he had a group of strips in front of him representing aircraft being actively controlled by him.
The Sector 2 controller said that sometime after he cleared N2586Y for the VOR-A approach, he must have moved the hand- written Flight Progress Strip, which held the information on N2586Y, to his right-hand pile where he kept those strips which were closed out. He said that every hour a controller from Flight Data picks them up. The strips for that hour are bundled and the time frame that they cover is annotated on the bundle. The Quality Assurance Manager at Chicago TRACON confirmed that the Flight Progress Strip on N2586Y was collected by Flight Data.
The Sector 2 controller said that after he cleared the pilot for the approach, he placed the airplane's data block on his radar screen in "overflight handoff status." This prevents a target from disappearing from the radar screen entirely, once the airplane goes below the radar's coverage. This symbol will remain on the radar screen until the controller selects it. When selected, if there is no aircraft transponder to interrogate, the computer will eliminate the symbol from the radar screen, after three sweeps [rotations] of the radar antennae.
The Sector 2 controller said that he saw the target stop and blink [flashing alpha-numerics] in "CST (Coast)," about 3 miles southeast of Casa De Aero Airport. He watched it blink for about three or four minutes.
When the Sector 2 controller briefed his replacement, he had two active Flight Data Strips in front of him. Both strips represented airplanes which were en route to Midway Airport.
The on-coming Sector 2 controller recalled no mention of N2586Y, nor did he see a Flight Data Strip on the airplane. The on- coming Sector 2 controller focused his attention on the two airplanes going into Midway Airport.
The QA Manager said that at 1948:48, an ATC Specialist working at the north satellite position, selected the flashing "CST" data block just southeast of Casa De Aero Airport. The data block subsequently disappeared.
Chicago TRACON was informed of the airplane accident by the Federal Aviation Administration Great Lakes Region Communications Center, on December 23, 1998, at 0850 cst.
According to 14 CFR Part 91.169 (d), when operating on an IFR flight plan, the pilot-in-command, is responsible for canceling the flight plan, on completing the flight. The pilot must do this through an ATC facility or a Flight Service Station. If an IFR flight plan has not been cancelled within 30 minutes following the expected time of arrival (ETA) on the flight plan, the last ATC facility controlling the aircraft must begin an inquiry.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, West Chicago, Illinois; Textron, Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, The New Piper Aircraft, Incorporated, Vero Beach, Florida, The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Uniontown, Ohio, and the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, Kankakee, Illinois.
All wreckage was released and returned to the Great American Insurance Company, Dallas, Texas.