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On August 9, 1998, at 2120 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N9350N, operated by Flight Training Center, Incorporated, Janesville, Wisconsin, was destroyed during an in-flight breakup near New Hampton, Iowa. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The non-instrument rated private pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries. The flight departed Airlake Airport (LVN), Minneapolis, Minnesota, exact time unknown, en route to Rock County Airport (JVL), Janesville, Wisconsin.
At 1928, a person, who identified himself as a private pilot, called the Princeton Flight Service Station for a VFR (visual flight rule) briefing or "window of opportunity" and stated that his aircraft was an Arrow 9350N. He reported that his route of flight was from LVN to JVL sometime that evening, and added that "we left this morning we came this route up and now were lookin to get back." The briefer reported that there was a Northeast Southwest orientated cold front moving through the area ahead of which was a huge area of thunderstorms and rain showers which started around Rochester and extended all the way over to about the Steven's Point area. The briefer reported that based upon a time lapse for the past hour, the coverage was decreasing a little bit between Rochester and Mason City with some cells still intense, but he could not guarantee anything. The briefer stated that everything was moving to the SE at around 15 knots and to definitely stay out of things as tops were around 55,000 feet. The frontal system was reported by the briefer to be expected to be moving through Janesville/Rockford tomorrow morning. The caller reported, during his weather briefing, that he was looking at the radar of convective activity on a screen in front of him.
A witness reported that at about 2110 to 2115, she heard an airplane that sounded low and near, as it was very loud inside the house. She added that it was loud, then got quiet, then loud again, then quiet. She reported that it was lightening and thundering and very windy outside at the time she heard the airplane.
While at a neighbor's house at 2130, a second witness reported, "all at once over the thunder I heard a plane engine speeded up at a high rpm then went silent." The witness then stated that he "headed for home and about one mile later it started to rain heavy and the wind picked up".
A third witness, stated that it was raining with the wind blowing and "rumbling from thunder". She reported that at approximately 2115, the engine was speeding up and down a few times and when she went to go look for the airplane she couldn't hear it anymore.
The pilot was 38 years old and the holder of a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. He was issued a third class medical with no restrictions on December 18, 1997. Medical certificate information shows that the pilot had reported a flight time of 120 hours. He had last recorded a 3.6 hour flight in the accident aircraft from JVL to MSP August 8, 1998. Prior to August 8, 1998, a flight from MSP to JVL was recorded with a flight time of 4 hours on June 29, 1998. No pilot logbooks were found with the wreckage or submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The 1969 Piper PA-28R-200, serial number 28R-35052, N9350N, was registered to Flight Training Center Incorporated. Based upon tachometer time, the aircraft had accumulated an approximate total airframe time of 3,375 hours. An aircraft annual inspection was performed on June 4, 1998 at an airframe time of approximately 3,341 hours. Logbook records indicate that Federal Aviation Regulation 91.411, "Altimeter System and Altitude Reporting Equipment Tests and Inspections", had been accomplished on January 27, 1998. The aircraft was not equipped with a storm scope or weather radar.
The Lycoming IO-360-C1C, serial number RL-11159-51A, is a four cylinder, direct drive, horizontally opposed fuel injected engine rated at 200 hp at 2,700 rpm. The engine had accumulated an estimated total time of 194 hours since overhaul, which was completed on May 1, 1997 at a total engine time of 2,184 hours.
The Charles City Airport Automated Weather Observing System, located approximately 20 nmi on a magnetic bearing of 255 degrees from the accident site, reported at:
1205, the wind 220 degrees at 3 knots, 7 statue mile visibility, sky conditions were 3,800 feet scattered, 4,600 feet broken, 8,500 feet overcast, temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit and dewpoint of 78 degrees F, an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches of Mercury (Hg).
1245, the wind 340 at 6 knots, 3-1/2 statue mile visibility, sky conditions were 1,800 feet scattered, 3,200 feet broken, 4,100 feet overcast, temperature of 76 degrees F and dewpoint of 76 degrees F, an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches Hg.
Archive III Composite Reflectivity images, provided by the National Weather Service, from WSR-88D radar at 1215, 1230 and 1245 on August 9, 1998 are attached to this report. The radar images show activity in the area of the accident site.
There were no radio communications with the accident aircraft and Flight Watch or Minneapolis Center.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft wreckage was found over a 1,350 foot by 1,030 foot agricultural area. The aircraft's fuselage was found lying on its right side between a North South gravel road and an agricultural field. The aircraft's tailcone, right stabilator and engine were attached to the fuselage, which was lying on a magnetic heading of 340 degrees at latitude 043 degrees 08.863'N longitude 092 degrees 09.602'. The fuselage exhibited crushing in the downward direction with top of the fuselage deformed approximately 30 degrees in the rearward direction or longitudinal direction. Both left and right wings were separated from the aircraft's fuselage at the wing root and at the outboard edge of their respective wings fuel tanks. The vertical stabilizer was separated from the fuselage at the root. Relative to the aircraft's fuselage, the wing sections, vertical and horizontal stabilizer were found at the following approximate distances and magnetic bearings:
Inboard Section of Left Wing 729 feet at 166 degrees Outboard Section of Left Wing 1,033 feet at 217 degrees Left 3 foot Section of Wing Skin 1,336 feet at 225 degrees
Inboard Section of Right Wing 972 feet at 156 degrees Outboard Section of Right Wing 1,033 feet at 204 degrees
Vertical Stabilizer 360 feet at 225 degrees
Left Horizontal Stabilator and Right Flap 1,458 feet at 224 degrees
Examination of the left and right wing roots revealed overload fractures and rearward deformation of the main spar to be present inboard of the wing attach points. All the wing to spar attachment bolts were found intact. The spar was separated from the spar box and was raised approximately 1 foot into the cabin area. Both outboard wing sections were separated from their respective wings at a point outboard from the wing fuel tanks. There was rearward deformation of the spar at the separation point of the wing's outboard section. The left and right inboard wing sections exhibited an outward tear of their wing skins. The tears extended approximately 2 feet from the wing root and approximately 1/2 foot aft of the main wing spar; a forward control cable, adjacent to the tearing, was protruding from each side of the fuselage.
The tailcone was separated at a point which was approximately 2-1/2 feet forward of the rear bulkhead. There was a c-shaped indentation on the left side of the fuselage which extended 20 degrees downward from the vertical stabilizer's aft spar to a point located below the midpoint of the vertical stabilizer. A similar shaped diagonal indentation was present of the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer 1/2 span above its root. The rudder torque tube was bent approximately 30 degrees rearward and 20 degrees towards the right. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer by the uppermost hinge. The rudder stops were in place and exhibited no hammering or deformation.
The stabilator's upper and lower skin had wrinkles orientated 45 degrees to the stabilator's longitudinal and lateral axes. The left half of the stabilator and the servo tab were separated from the right half of the stabilator which remained attached to the fuselage. The stabilator stops were intact and exhibited no hammering or deformation.
Blade "A" of the propeller exhibited scratches in the rotational direction from its tip to 1/8 span inboard on the its rear surface. Blade "B" exhibited scratches in the rotational direction from its tip to 1/4 span on its front surface.
The propeller was rotated and a thumb compression was obtained from all cylinders. A spark was obtained from each lead of the left and right magnetos. Fuel was found in the fuel hoses leading to the fuel divider and also on the outlet side of the engine driven fuel pump. The engine tachometer was indicating 2,100 rpm., the magnetos were in the "BOTH" position and the fuel selector was in the "LEFT TANK" position. The electric auxiliary fuel pump rocker switch was in the "OFF" position. The throttle, propeller and mixture controls were found in the midrange position.
The tachometer showed a time of 194.01 hours and a Hobbs or hour meter time of 824.9 hours.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by Chickasaw County on August 10, 1998.
Toxicological tests were negative for all substances tested.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration, Textron Lycoming, Inc., and The New Piper Aircraft, Inc..
Following the on-scene portion of the investigation, the wreckage was released to an insurance representative of the owner on August 11, 1998.