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On December 10, 1993, at 1840 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-R-301T, N8340Y, collided with terrain following an in flight loss of aircraft control near Covington, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and fire. The aircraft was operated under 14 CFR Part 91 by the pilot. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was in effect for the personal flight to the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. The flight originated in Vero Beach, Florida, about 1553.
According to recorded air traffic control communications, the pilot of N8340Y reported at 1829:12 that he had lost his "instrument gyro" and was inquiring into areas of visual flight rules (VFR) weather. When queried if he was in VFR weather conditions, the pilot replied "Ah no sir I'm in the soup." At 1832:24, N8340Y stated that "Ah yeah they seem to be working now ah still got the warning light but the instruments are working properly." At 1839:31, N8340Y reported "I'm still in trouble here I need to go somewhere clear." Prior to a loss of radar contact by Air Traffic Control, the pilot reported "Yeah I'm in trouble here."
An Air Traffic Control Specialist who was working the flight reported that prior to losing radio contact with N8340Y, the aircraft was observed to be in a "rapid descent." A witness who lives adjacent to the accident site reported that he first saw the aircraft about 250 feet above the ground, in a steep, left bank, and descending rapidly. Prior to this, he had heard the airplane circling for about four minutes. When he saw the aircraft in the descent, he reported that the engine was "running wide open."
Information on the pilot is included in this report at the section titled "First Pilot Information." A pilot logbook was not located following the accident. Pilot flight time information was obtained from the pilot's insurance company and from the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot's flight instructor reported that, according to his records, the accident pilot had flown about 60 hours in N8340Y, therefore 50 hours were added to the hours shown on the insurance company pilot record to obtain the total time shown in the flight time matrix on page 3.
Mr. Dan Horton, Chief Pilot at Flight Level Aviation, Atlanta, Georgia, reported the following: He flew dual instruction with Mr. Edwards prior to Mr. Edwards obtaining his instrument rating in January of 1993. Mr. Edwards' performance allowed him to complete his training in minimum time. During the dual instruction prior to the instrument check ride, all areas of instrument flight were performed, including emergency procedures and partial panel procedures. He reported that Mr. Edwards' partial panel procedures were "flawless," and various scenarios were covered, including the loss of attitude and heading indicators. He recalled that Mr. Edwards was proficient in the use of the standby vacuum system, which is connected to the engine intake manifold. He commented that Mr. Edwards was not the type to panic in an emergency situation.
Information on the aircraft is contained in this report at the section titled "Aircraft Information."
The maintenance logbooks were found in the burned area of the wreckage, and recent logbook entries were destroyed. The following maintenance records were provided by the pilot's family and by maintenance personnel known to have serviced the aircraft.
As per work order dated June 22, 1993 (aircraft total time 1486 hours), the engine driven vacuum pump, Airborne Model 211CC, serial number 2AH1910, was removed from N8340Y as inoperative, and a new vacuum pump, serial number 8AH5332, was installed. This work was performed by Flight Level Aviation, Atlanta, Georgia. The inoperative pump was subsequently sent to Airborne for warranty consideration. After an inspection by Airborne, a letter was sent to Flight Level Aviation, dated July 28, 1993, stating that the pump failed due to oil ingestion. The letter explained the consequences of oil contamination to the pump, along with their recommendations for extended life of future applications.
As per work order dated June 30, 1993 (aircraft total time 1494 hours), the aircraft was repaired for an oil leak at Miracle Strip Aviation, Inc., in Destin, Florida. According to the maintenance personnel at Miracle Strip Aviation, the origin of the oil leak was determined to be from the engine pad drive seal, where the vacuum pump attaches to the engine. The oil seal was replaced, the vacuum pump was remounted, and the underside and cowling of the aircraft was washed.
The last maintenance record that contained aircraft time information was a work order dated October 1, 1993, from Flight Level Aviation (aircraft total time 1529 hours). This work order pertained to an engine oil and filter change.
The aircraft hour meter was not recovered from the wreckage, therefore the time of aircraft operation since October 1, 1993 is not known.
Instrument meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. Meteorological information is included in this report at the section titled "Weather Information."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft impacted trees and terrain in a rural, wooded area. The engine and propeller assembly was found in hard, red clay, about six feet below the surface of the ground, with the cockpit area located about two feet below the surface of the ground. The wings, fuselage, and empennage were found adjacent to the engine crater. The wing surfaces were compressed chordwise, from the leading edges aft, and the entire wing area was burned. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were found with the inboard sections of the stabilator. The outer tips of the stabilator were found adjacent to the main wreckage. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the stabilator and rudder to the cockpit area.
The propeller hub assembly was crushed aft, and one of the three blades remained attached to the hub. The other two blades were found at the lowest point inside the crater where the engine was found. All three blades were twisted toward low pitch, showed "s" bending, and chordwise scratching signatures. Several spark plugs were removed from the engine; all plugs were normal in color and wear when compared to a manufacturer's inspection chart. Fuel was found inside the fuel injector servo.
The engine driven vacuum pump was removed from the engine. The plastic drive shaft was fractured at the shear point, and the pump would not rotate. The seal on the engine accessory section for the vacuum pump drive showed no evidence of oil leakage, however the vacuum pump had oily residue on the drive section.
The vacuum-operated artificial horizon was disassembled and inspected. There was extensive crushing damage to the case and internal components. The rotor was removed from its' housing; there were several static marks on the inside surface of the rotor housing which matched the vanes on the rotor.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A post mortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Division of Forensic Sciences. Toxicological testing was negative for drugs and carbon monoxide. There was 58 mg/dL of ethanol found in the kidneys, however, the report states that the ethanol found in this case is most likely from postmortem ethanol production.
The engine driven vacuum pump was removed from the engine and shipped to the FAA Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) in Cleveland, Ohio, so that an inspection of the pump could be performed at the manufacturer's facility. According to Airborne/Parker Aerospace engineers, the pump failed due to oil ingestion over an extended period of time. A copy of the pump examination report is included as an attachment to this report.
The wreckage was released to:
Marshall Dean USAIG Insurance Co. Atlanta, Georgia.