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On August 8, 1999, about 1510 Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA-28R-180, N3892T, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees during the initial climb after takeoff from the Seven Springs Airport (7SP), Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed for the flight destined for the Bowman Field Airport (LOU), Louisville, Kentucky. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to witness interviews, the passenger flew to Louisville, Kentucky, on August 1, to install a new computer system at the pilot's salvage business. According to the passenger's supervisor, the passenger was scheduled to return to his home in California on August 7, and fly to another job site in Utah, on August 9; however, the passenger experienced some problems setting up the computer system which necessitated him to extend his stay through the weekend, and fly to Utah on August 9, from Louisville.
On August 7, the pilot and passenger flew from LOU to the Metcalf Field Airport (TDZ), Toledo, Ohio, and then to 7SP, where they spent the evening of August 7. The pilot's brother stated that the pilot had flown to 7SP on several previous occasions for recreational purposes.
According to records obtained from the Altoona Flight Service Station (FSS), the pilot of N3892T contacted the Altoona FSS on August 7, at 0854; and on August 8, at 0113, 0831, 1118, 1255, 1345, and 1440, to obtain weather briefings for the return flight to LOU. After the weather briefing that occurred at 1440, the pilot filed an IFR flight plan and was given an IFR clearance with a "clearance void time" of 1505, which was later changed, at the pilot's request to 1510.
The airplane departed Runway 28, a 3,045 foot long, 42 foot wide, asphalt runway. There were no known communications with the airplane.
An Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal was received by the Civil Air Patrol about 1510. The airplane wreckage was discovered about 1920.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 40 degrees, 0 minutes north latitude, and 79 degrees, 19 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land and instrument rating. On March 10, 1999, the pilot's airman certificate was suspended for 365 days for violation of FAR Part 61.15a; however, the suspension was retroactive for the period between January 1, 1990, and January 1, 1991.
Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that the last entry in the logbook was on June 23, 1998. At that time, the pilot reported 23.3 hours of flight time in actual instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and 39.1 hours of simulated IMC, all of which was with a flight instructor. According to records obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot received his instrument rating on August 26, 1998.
The pilot reported 499 hours of total flight experience on his most recent FAA third class medical certificate, which was issued on December 30, 1997. It was estimated that the pilot had operated the accident airplane for about 25 hours, within the 30 days prior to the accident, and about 90 hours, within the 6 months prior to accident.
In a telephone interview, the pilot's brother stated that the pilot was "aware of his capabilities," and had stated to him that he would not attempt an IFR flight unless visual flight rules (VFR) conditions were present at the departure and destination airports. The pilot's brother felt the weather conditions at the time of the accident exceeded the pilot's capabilities. Additionally, he stated that the pilot had "very little, if any" flight experience in actual IMC, and "maybe never" before attempted a takeoff under IMC.
Review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed the airplane had been operated for about 121 hours since it's most recent annual inspection, which was performed on November 20, 1998. Additionally, the most recent entry for a pitot static system check was on September 9, 1996.
Examination of the aircraft's usage log revealed the airplane had been operated for about 200 hours during the year prior to the accident.
The field elevation at 7SP was 2,907 feet. The airport did not have recorded weather information.
Surface weather observations recorded at the Johnstown-Cambria Airport, which had a field elevation of 2,284 and was located about 30 miles northeast of the accident site, were as follows:
At 1447: Wind 290 at 6 knots; Visibility 1 1/2 statue miles with light rain and mist; Ceiling 700 broken, 1,200 broken, 1,700 overcast; Temperature 68 degrees F; Dewpoint 66 degrees F; Altimeter 29.86.
At 1502: Wind 330 at 5 knots; Visibility 1/2 statute mile with rain and mist; Ceiling 700 broken, 900 overcast; Temperature 68 degrees F; Dewpoint 66 degrees F; Altimeter 29.86.
Additionally, a witness who was about 1/2 south of the airport stated that between 1300 and 1630, the "fog never lifted," and it rained "on and off."
On scene examination of the wreckage revealed the airplane impacted trees about 1/2 mile from the airport and came to rest on it's right side, on a magnetic bearing of 280 degrees. The terrain sloped downward from the airport. The majority of the trees were between 50 and 75 feet tall, and were located below the runway elevation.
All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. Both wings were separated at their attach points. The right wing was found about 25 feet north of the main wreckage. A 5 foot section of the left wing tip was found about 300 feet southeast of the main wreckage. The inboard portion of the left wing was found adjacent to the main wreckage, attached by an aileron cable. Additionally, the left horizontal stabilator was found about 30 feet east of the main wreckage. The leading edges of the separated control surfaces exhibited impact damage and compression in an aft direction.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from the aileron bell cranks to wing roots, and from the pilot's station back to the wing roots. Stabilator and rudder flight control continuity was confirmed from the pilot's station to the control surface.
The engine remained attached to the fuselage; however, the propeller separated at the crankshaft mounting flange and was found about 30 feet northwest of the main wreckage. The fracture at the point of the propeller separation exhibited torsional characteristics. Forty five degree angle cut marks were observed on a tree, and a tree branch at the accident site area. Both cut marks contained black paint transfer.
The engine was removed from the airplane and examined at an engine facility in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Examination of the engine revealed that the number two cylinder had sustained impact damage and was contacting the number four cylinder. After the number two cylinder was removed, the engine was rotated via an accessory drive. Thumb compression and valve train continuity was obtained on cylinders one, three, and four. Valve lifter action was noted on cylinder number two. Both magnetos were found separated from their respective flanges and produced spark on all towers when rotated. Additionally, all spark plugs produced spark when placed on a test stand, with the exception of the number four bottom spark plug which had sustained impact damage.
Fuel was found in the engine driven fuel pump, flow divider, and fuel servo.
Disassembly of the engine driven vacuum pump revealed that the internal rotor and vanes were not damaged. Additionally, the shear shaft remained intact.
The attitude indicator and directional gyro were also disassembled. The rotors of both instruments remained intact and attached to their respective mounting gimbals. No visual scoring was observed on either of the gyro rotors; however, some minor scoring was observed on the interior of the directional gyro housing.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot and passenger, on August 9, 1999, by the Fayette County Coroner's Office, Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On September 24, 1999, the propeller was examined at Hartzell Propeller Inc., Piqua, Ohio, under the supervision of an FAA Inspector. The examination revealed no pre-impact propeller or governor discrepancies. Additionally, the report stated, in part:
"The propeller blades had "S" bending and the engine flange was broken. Both conditions suggest power-on impact. All three blades had broken pitch change knobs (sheared from impact) which allowed the blades to rotate in the hub."
No fuel services were available at 7SP. The airplane's last known refueling was on August 7, 1999, at Toledo, Ohio, when it was refueled with 24 gallons of aviation gasoline.
The airplane wreckage was released on September 25, 1999, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.