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On July 24, 1999, about 1653 Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA-22-135, N8937C, was substantially damaged while maneuvering near Palatine, New York. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated from Fulton County Airport (NY27), Johnstown, New York; destined for a private airstrip near Fort Plains, New York. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
One witness stated that he saw the airplane fly overhead, and enter a "sharp" left turn, followed by a left "tailspin." Another witness stated the airplane "...made a sharp turn and went straight down." A third witness stated that he observed the airplane make two complete circles, described as "loopty loop(s)," but he did not specify a direction. The witness further stated that during the third circle, the airplane was too low to recover.
The owner of the airplane stated that the pilot's brother lived near the accident site. He believed she may have been circling her brother's house. The owner further stated that the airplane was not equipped with a stall warning system.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 42 degrees, 54.67 minutes north latitude; and 74 degrees, 30.37 minutes west longitude.
The pilot obtained her private pilot license on April 30, 1999. At that time, she had approximately 144 hours of flight experience. According to her pilot logbook, at the time of the accident, she had approximately 152 hours of flight experience. Of the 152 hours, approximately 145 were in the accident airplane.
Her most recent Federal Aviation Administration Second Class Medical Certificate was issued on January 23, 1997, with no restrictions.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on July 25 and 26, 1999. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The elevation of the accident site was approximately 680 feet above mean sea level. The wreckage was intact, oriented on a heading of 240 degrees, in a field with small shrubbery.
The right wing exhibited impact damage along the leading edge. The wing fabric was torn at the rivet line. The right wing flap was in the retracted position. The aileron was partially separated, and deflected upward. Flight control continuity was established from the control surfaces to the wing root.
The left wing exhibited impact damage along the leading edge, however, the damage to the left wing was less severe than the right wing damage. The wing flap was observed in the retracted position. The aileron was partially separated, and deflected upward. Flight control continuity was established from the control surfaces to the wing root.
The aft section of fuselage and the empennage were buckled, displaced, and twisted to the right. Flight control continuity was established from the control surfaces to the cockpit area, approximately midway between the front and rear seats. Six threads were observed on the elevator trim jackscrew. According to a representative from New Piper Aircraft Company, eight visible threads corresponded to a neutral trim setting, and no visible threads corresponded to a full "nose up" trim setting.
Both fuel tanks were ruptured. Approximately 1 ounce of fuel was observed in the carburetor bowl. A slight smell of fuel was present during the first day of examination.
Both propeller blades exhibited chordwise scratching and slight "S" bending. The leading edge of one blade exhibited gouging. The top spark plugs and valve covers were removed from the engine for inspection. The spark plugs appeared light to dark brown in color. Oil was present on the spark plugs and valve covers. The propeller was rotated by hand. Crankshaft and camshaft continuity was confirmed. Valve train continuity was confirmed, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. The left magneto contained an impulse coupling, and produce a spark at the leads during propeller rotation. The right magneto was removed and rotated by hand. A spark was produced at all four towers.
The cockpit area was crushed, and part of the instrument panel was destroyed.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on July 25, 1999, by Dr. Charles Schwartz of the Saint Mary's Hospital Pathology Department, Amsterdam, New York.
Toxicological testing was conducted at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the toxicology report:
"0.187 (ug/ml, ug/g) COCAINE detected in Blood 0.131 (ug/ml, ug/g) BENZOYLECGONINE detected in Blood BENZOYLECGONINE detected in Liver BENZOYLECGONINE detected in Urine"
A witness at NY27 observed the pilot check the fuel quantity during preflight inspection. Using a dipstick, the pilot measured approximately 5 to 6 inches of fuel. The owner of the airplane stated that about 8 inches of fuel corresponded to full tanks. The witness also observed the pilot check all control surfaces and the cockpit area during the preflight inspection.
The wreckage was released to the owner on July 26, 1999.