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On February 22, 1998, about 1419 central standard time, a Piper PA-28-235, N9166W, collided with trees and the ground during an emergency descent, at Clinton, Mississippi. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and instrument flight rules (IFR). An IFR flight plan to San Antonio, Texas, was activated. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The private, instrument rated pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight departed Hawkins Field, Jackson, Mississippi, about 1407, on the same day.
According to the air traffic control accident report, the pilot of N9166W telephoned the Jackson, Tennessee, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 1135, requesting a visual flight rules (VFR) weather briefing from Jackson, Mississippi to San Antonio, Texas. Flight advisories were provided for turbulence, icing, and IFR conditions. The pilot indicated he was capable of IFR flight and would call back for an update. At 1259, N9166W called Jackson, Tennessee, for another VFR preflight briefing. The pilot was advised that VFR flight was not recommended. N9166W contacted the Greenwood, Mississippi, AFSS at 1324, requesting a visual flight rules weather briefing to San Antonio, Texas. He stated the weather did not appear to be cooperating. The planned departure time was 1400. The briefer responded that IFR conditions were expected along the route of flight until 1500, with moderate turbulence below 10,000 and light to moderate rime and mixed icing in clouds and precipitation to Flight Level 220, with the freezing level at 8,000 feet. An instrument flight plan was then filed by N9166W, and the briefing concluded at 1331.
At 1402, N9166W contacted the Hawkins air traffic control tower by radio, requesting taxi instructions and IFR clearance to San Antonio. According to Hawkins tower, taxi instructions to runway 34, altimeter setting of 29.53, and an IFR clearance were provided. The pilot acknowledged the clearance and requested the transponder code be repeated. N9166W then asked that the active runway be repeated. About three minutes later he again requested the altimeter setting. At 1407 N9166W advised he was ready to depart and was provided departure instructions. At 1408, the flight contacted Jackson departure control and was radar identified. A heading of 240 degrees, and climb to maintain 4,000 feet, were provided by departure control. The controller stated that he later asked N9166W to report reaching 4000. N9166W responded he would, and later reported at 4000 feet. The controller stated he noticed the heading appeared to be northwest and the altitude was indicating 2000. The controller asked about the heading to which the pilot responded, "uh right turning to two four zero six six whiskey." About 43 seconds later, at 1418:32, the controller requested the altitude for N9166W. No additional response was received from the airplane.
National Track Analysis Program radar data was obtained from the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center. The first radar depiction of N9166W was at 1410:19 and indicated the airplane was at 2000 feet. The last radar contact occurred at 1418:40 with no altitude recorded. The highest recorded altitude during the radar contact period was 2,300 feet. The radar data depicted the airplane moving to the southwest, then executing a 360 degree turn to the right, followed by a southwest track for about one minute. Subsequently, the airplane's target tracked northwest, for about 1.5 minutes, followed by an abrupt track toward the south. The last radio and radar contact occurred at 1417:49 and 1418:40, respectively.
Witnesses heard and saw the airplane with a sputtering engine, alternately diving and climbing, in the vicinity of the accident site. One witness went to the John Bell Williams Airport, located about three miles southeast of the accident site, and reported he had heard the crash. This occurred shortly after air traffic had asked the fixed base operator if the airplane had landed at Williams Airport. A deputy sheriff pilot departed in his Cessna 150 to look for the accident site. During his takeoff climb, about 300 feet, the sheriff's pilot encountered carburetor ice. Using the information provided by the witness, and an Emergency Locator Signal, he located the accident airplane minutes later.
The pilot obtained a private certificate with airplane single engine land rating on June 20, 1983. An instrument rating was added to his private certificate on October 31, 1989. He held a second class medical certificate that was issued on February 3, 1997, with the limitation that corrective lenses for near and distant vision must be worn. A lens for eyeglasses was found in the cockpit area of the wreckage.
Airman certification records for the pilot were obtained from the FAA. On his application for the instrument rating, the pilot listed his total flight hours as 457.2, with 305.3 hours as pilot in command, and 85.3 hours of instrument flight.
The pilot's flight log indicated a total of 551.7 flight hours, with entries dated between June 3, 1974, and February 1, 1998. An entry dated March 28, 1997, stated a flight review had been conducted, for 1.0 hours, in a Mooney 20C. The log book contained entries reflecting a total of 107 hours simulated instrument flight, and 8 hours actual instrument flight. The last entry that recorded instrument flight hours was dated December 1, 1997, and indicated three hours of actual instrument flight. The pilot's flight log did not depict any other instrument flight hours since the pilot obtained his instrument rating. Additional information regarding the pilot is contained in this report on page 3, under the heading First Pilot Information.
N9166W, a Piper PA 28-235, serial number 28-10845, was certificated in the Normal category. It was registered to Sequin Flyers, Inc, a corporation. The airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-540-B4B5 engine, serial number L-11052. It was fitted with a Hartzell Propeller model HC-C2YK-1B, hub serial number CH2261.
The aircraft log contained an entry dated May 9, 1997, indicating an annual inspection had been conducted at a tachometer time of 268.85 hours. The tachometer reading at the accident site was 352.78 hours. The engine time since major overhaul, according to the engine log and the tachometer reading, was 352.78 hours. An entry in the aircraft log dated November 11, 1997, indicated that the transponder, altimeter, and the pitot static system had been inspected. Additionally, the aircraft log contained an airworthiness approval form, indicating that an overhauled attitude gyro had been installed in the airplane on November 13, 1997.
An FAA Form 337 was found in the airplane dated November 20, 1990, indicating that the airplane was modified to operate on automotive gasoline as per STC SA1964CE and STC SE1909CE. A fuel receipt was found in the wreckage indicating that on February 21, 1998, the pilot purchased 32 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline for the airplane, in New Braunfels, Texas. A fuel and charge ticket was obtained from Bert Welch, Inc., fixed base operator at Hawkins Field, Jackson, Mississippi, indicating that the pilot had purchased 59.3 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline for the airplane on February 21, 1998. The airplane fuel capacity was 84 gallons. Additional information about the airplane is contained in this report on page 2, under the heading Aircraft Information.
The Aviation Routine Weather Report for Jackson, Mississippi, at 1420 was as follows: wind three four zero at eleven knots, visibility ten statute miles, light rain, ceiling eight hundred overcast, temperature zero nine, dew point zero eight, altimeter two nine five two. Additional weather information is contained in this report on page 4, under the heading Weather Information.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was found about 7.5 miles west southwest of Hawkins Airport, which is located at Jackson, Mississippi. It was located in a wooded area about 40 feet east of the Natchez Trace and about 300 yards south of the Interstate 20 south service road. Broken trees and wreckage debris led to the main wreckage along a magnetic heading of about 102 degrees. Global Positioning System coordinates were North 32.20.28 and West 90.21.27, at an elevation of 357 feet. Trees were broken off about 48 feet above the surface, approximately 160 feet west of the main wreckage. A second set of trees had broken limbs about 30 feet above the terrain, about 20 feet closer to the main wreckage.
Pieces of both wings, including sections of the fiberglass tip tanks and the main wing tank sections, and the nose wheel fairing were found along the debris path, west of the main wreckage. The right flap was separated from the airplane and lay at the west end of a ground crater that was about 16 feet long, and elliptically shaped toward the east. The nose landing gear was also separated from the airplane and found in the crater. Mud was scattered east of the main wreckage for about 70 feet.
The main wreckage consisted of the engine, fuselage, empennage, and left wing, with the tip tank and main fuel tanks absent. The main wreckage was found about ten feet east of the ground crater, previously described.
The propeller spinner was absent from the propeller. One propeller blade was bent aft conforming to the shape of the cowling. The opposing blade was straight, except for the tip four inches that was curled aft. There were no leading edge nicks or gouges in the propeller blades. The propeller flange was bent about 45 degrees, and the crankshaft was visibly cracked at the crankcase. The lower portion of the engine cowling was found forward of the main wreckage. The engine had mud caked between the propeller and the case front, as well as between the cylinders and cylinder cooling fins. The engine mounting braces and the firewall were compressed, bent, and displaced aft. There was disruption of the cockpit area with the instrument panel displaced aft, and the cockpit floor displaced up, into the occupied area of the cockpit. The cabin was also separated, along a lateral line, between the front seats and the rear bench seat. The left front seat was separated from the cabin and found forward of the main wreckage. There was separation of the outboard seat belt attachment from the airframe, with the seatbelt buckled. The top half of the cabin door was found about 75 feet forward of the main wreckage.
The fuselage was bent in a vertical serpentine fashion, between the empennage and the cabin area. The vertical stabilizer was compressed onto the fuselage. There was hyperextension of the rudder, trailing edge left. The skin of the right horizontal stabilizer exhibited 45 degree shear buckling, consistent with aft movement of the tip. The left side of the horizontal stabilizer had a leading edge concave indentation. Pitch trim was approximately neutral, as indicated by the extension of the pitch trim jackscrew (six threads exposed, five exposed threads equivalent to neutral trim according to the manufacturer).
The left wing was with the main wreckage and separated at the root. It was attached by the flap and aileron cables. The left aileron cable was connected to the cockpit with the aileron actuator rod end fractured. There was chordwise collapse of the left wing from root to tip. About eight feet of the right wing spar was bent aft along side the fuselage. The leading edge of the right wing, the flap, and the aileron were found along the debris path.
There was continuity of the flight control cables to the empennage, and the left wing aileron actuator. The flap mechanism was found in the retracted position.
An overhaul tag was found on the attitude indicator, Edo Aire Model 5000B-20 serial number 99925H, that matched the airworthiness approval form, referenced earlier in this report, that was found in the aircraft log. Similarly, a maintenance release was found on the altimeter, Aerosonic Corp serial number 184840, that corresponded to the inspection entry found in the aircraft log.
Disassembly of the attitude indicator gyroscope was done at the accident site. Rotational gouges were found on the interior wall of the gyroscope housing.
At the site, mechanical continuity of the engine was established by using a wrench to rotate the governor drive spline and observing the vacuum pump drive gear rotate. Thumb compression, and suction, was established at each cylinder except the number 5 cylinder that had visible impact damage to the rocker arm cover. The spark plugs were Champion REM 40E. The plugs exhibited moderately worn electrodes, when compared to a manufacturer's inspection chart, and varied in coloration from gray to lightly sooted. The engine was taken to the Hawkins Airport for further examination. Magneto timing was found to be 25 degrees before top dead center, and both magnetos fired at all towers when rotated by hand.
The carburetor, which was separated from the engine was examined. The throttle valve was closed, with the throttle arm jammed in the idle position. The mixture lever was just off the rich stop. When the drain plug was removed, mud was found that matched the color of the dirt at the accident site. The drain plug also exhibited rust. Fluid drained from the line between the fuel pump and carburetor inlet was cloudy, with an odor of aviation gasoline. The carburetor heat valve was found trapped in an intermediate position. The airbox was disassembled revealing bright, shiny witness marks on the interior of the airbox consistent with the carburetor heat valve having been forced toward the heated position. The airbox was crushed upward, also consistent with the forced movement of the heat valve. When the carburetor bowl was opened, the brass float was found hydraulically crushed, and there was corrosion around the drain plug recess. The fuel boost pump was operational when attached to a battery, and corrosion was present when the pump was opened. Th engine driven fuel pump also exhibited white powdery corrosion when opened. The engine oil filter was opened with no evidence of metal particles found. The muffler was split open and found to be open for exhaust flow. The fuel selector was found in the off position. Its position was not reliable because of impact to the control mechanism.
It was noted that all of the instrument navigation and approach charts found in the wreckage had expired dates.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A post mortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office, Pearl Mississippi.
Toxicological examinations of the pilot were conducted by the FAA Toxicology and Accident research Laboratory, Oklahoma City Oklahoma. The report of the examinations indicated that no ethanol or other drugs were found.
The airplane wreckage and aircraft records were released to the registered owner's insurance representative Pat Brown with Baton Rouge/Brown Claims Service, Inc. P.O.Box 15213, 9404 Interline Ave. Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70895-5213. The pilot's log was returned to Ella Schindel 1810 Poppy Peak Street San Antonio, Texas 78232.