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On July 30, 2000, at 1426 Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA-24-250, N5271P, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain while on final approach for Runway 23 at Bluffton Airport (5G7), Bluffton, Ohio. The certificated private pilot/owner was fatally injured. The flight originated at Whittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at an undetermined time destined for 5G7. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
An airport employee was working at 5G7 when the pilot announced his approach to the airport. In a written statement, the employee said:
"Around 2:10 PM on July 30, 2000, an airplane approaching the Bluffton Airport made a radio call asking what runway was being used. I reported back to the pilot that we were using Runway 23 and the winds were directly out of the southwest at 10-15 knots. The pilot confirmed that we were using Runway 23. He ended with the call sign of his airplane, N5271P, and he did stutter when saying his call sign. Approximately 2:25 PM, a van pulled up to the front of the airport and the driver got out and told me that an airplane had just crashed north of the airport. He reported that there were people and cars around the crash. The pilot did not make a distress call of any kind and all radio transmissions made were perfectly normal (nothing out of the ordinary)."
In a written statement, a witness said:
"Observed plane making glide path to the airport. Plane abruptly banked right and into dive straight down. Altitude was 300-500 feet."
When a Hancock County Sheriff asked the witness as to what direction the airplane was flying, the witness responded, "southeast."
Interstate I-75, which was east of 5G7, ran north and south. Several witnesses were driving on I-75 when they observed the airplane. In a written statement, a second witness said:
"I was traveling south on I-75 at about 2:30 PM, when I took notice of a plane flying too low (my husband is a pilot), and banking sharply, just as I came toward exit 142. We watched him bank steeply and crash in a field. I got off the exit and called 911."
When interviewed by the Hancock County Sheriff as to what direction the airplane was flying, the witness said:
"Going southeast, he was too low. He banked to the right hard and steep. After the abrupt bank, he did a nose dive straight down into the field."
The witness was also asked if she saw any smoke or fire. In response to that question, she said, "no, there was nothing."
In a written statement, a third witness said:
"I was south on I-75, exit 144, when I saw a maroon and white small airplane heading southeast making a hard right bank (heading south towards small airport). He was in his right bank, the plane dropped out of sight. As I passed in my truck, I saw it [had] crashed."
An off-duty paramedic arrived at the scene just after the airplane crashed. In a written statement, he said:
"..I am a paramedic. I ran to [the] airplane to render aid. Found airplane after nose to ground impact. Gear was down; no odor of fuel, no leaking fuel...Airplane appear[ed] to have stalled after entering steep bank."
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed a Bluffton Airport employee who filled the airplane with fuel prior to departure from 5G7 on July 24, 2000. A fuel receipt found in the airplane revealed the pilot purchased 21.7 gallons of fuel on July 25, 2000, at Rock County Airport (JVL), Janesville, Wisconsin. The pilot attended the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In from July 27-29, 2000, at Whittman Regional Airport(OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin. According to the Hancock County Sheriff, the pilot told his wife on July 28, 2000, that he would fly home on the 30th instead of the 29th because of weather.
A Safety Board investigator interviewed an employee at Basler Flight Service in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. According to the investigator's record of conversation, the employee stated she had no record of fueling N5271P.
According to DynCorp Direct User Access Terminal System (DUATS), the distance from JVL to OSH was 94.9 nautical miles, and the distance from OSH to 5G7 was 314 nautical miles.
Examination of potential fuel stops along the intended route of flight between OSH and 5G7 revealed that none had serviced N5271P with fuel.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 40 degrees, 53 minutes north latitude, and 83 degrees, 51 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine land airplane. Examination of his logbook revealed that the last entry was made in June 2000. At that time, the pilot had accrued a total of 855.5 flight hours, of which 57.6 hours were in the accident airplane.
His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on October 29, 1998.
An annual inspection was completed on the airplane and engine on February 23, 2000, at a tachometer reading of 2,864.88.
The airplane was examined at the accident site on July 31, 2000, and later removed to a secured facility where the engine was examined on August 1, 2000. The on-scene examination revealed the airplane came to rest in a harvested wheat field 8/10 of a mile northeast of Runway 23 of 5GV, on a heading of 060 degrees. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene.
A thin treeline ran perpendicular to the final approach course, and was located between the wreckage and the end of the runway.
The propeller was attached to the engine, which remained attached to the airframe. All three-propeller blades were intact and were tight in the hub. The #1 blade was bent aft under the engine; the #2 blade exhibited a slight twist, and the #3 blade was straight. The #2 and #3 blades had dried dirt smeared chordwise on the front face of both blades. The #1 blade was deformed from the weight of the engine, and exhibited spanwise scratches.
The spinner exhibited elongated impact marks from the tip of the spinner to the outer rim. A section of dirt found inside the impact crater conformed to the shape of the spinner.
To the right of the impact crater were impact marks where fragments of the navigational and strobe lights were found. The right wing tip was separated from the wing.
The right wing was resting on the ground and exhibited leading edge impact damage. The 4-foot outboard section of wing and aileron was partially separated and displaced forward. The flap was intact and deflected down.
The left wing was raised into the air and exhibited upward leading edge compression damage along the entire length of the wing. The flap was intact and in the up position. When manipulated, the flap moved easily. The left aileron was intact and was deflected in the full up position. The pitot tube was bent up and jammed with dirt.
Below the left wing were impact marks that paralleled the length of the wing. Below the pitot tube were two 4"x 3"x 3" deep holes. Below the wing tip were landing light fragments and a piece of wing tip skin.
Due to impact damage on both flaps, an accurate flap setting could not be determined. The nose wheel was pushed into the cabin area up against the flap handle. The flap handle was overextended beyond the full flap down position.
The cockpit was compressed aft and upward. The cabin overhead section was removed by rescue personnel. The instrument panel was compressed and buckled inward. The windshield was broken out.
The floor section of the airplane was torn circumferentially 180 degrees between the wings. The entire tail section was displaced to the right and came to rest on the inboard section of the right wing. Some skin wrinkling was noted along the fuselage. The vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilator, and the stabilator trim tab were intact. The trim tab was neutral. The landing gear was down. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to each flight control surface.
Examination of both wing fuel tanks revealed there was no evidence of fuel in either tank. Both tanks were intact and there was no odor of fuel noted around the accident site. There was no evidence of fuel streaking or staining around either fuel tank. The fuel lines from the wing tanks to the engine were intact and clear of blockages. The fuel selector valve was in the right tank position, and fuel finger screens were absent of debris. The fuel strainer bowl was easily removed from its mount. There was no fuel found in the bowl and the screen was absent of debris.
The two electric fuel pumps were disassembled. Approximately one tablespoon of clear light blue fuel was collected from both pumps. The carburetor was disassembled and there was no fuel found in the bowl or accelerator chamber. The carburetor fuel screen was absent of debris. All of the internal components of the carburetor were intact.
The engine driven fuel pump had separated from the engine. Examination of the pump revealed there was no fuel found in the pump, and the internal components were intact.
Compression and valve train continuity were established on each cylinder by manual rotation of the propeller flange. During the compression check, spark could not be produced on any of the ignition leads.
The spark plugs were removed and appeared light gray in color, except for the #4 bottom plug, which appeared dark and oily.
The internal section of the muffler and interior of each cylinder were examined using a bore scope. The examination revealed that the internal section of the muffler and each cylinder interior exhibited a white discoloration.
The vacuum pump produced suction when manually rotated. The oil filter and oil screen were absent of debris.
External examination of the magnetos revealed that both magnetos had sustained impact damage and were partially displaced from the mounting brackets. Both magnetos were removed from the engine, and bench tested at a local aviation maintenance facility. Spark could not be produced on any of the ignition leads. Both magneto cases were opened and the internal components were visually examined. Examination of the right magneto revealed that all internal components were intact, but the contact points would not open when the impulse coupling was rotated. The left magneto was also visually examined and all internal components were intact. However, the contact points would open when the impulse coupling was rotated, but spark could not be produced to the ignition leads. Both magnetos were sent to the manufacturer for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Deputy Coroner of the Lucas County Coroner's Office, Toledo, Ohio, performed an autopsy on the pilot on July 31, 2000.
The FAA Toxicological Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The magnetos were examined on March 20, 2001, at Unison Industries, Rockford, Illinois, under the supervision of the FAA. Both magnetos were bench tested, and spark could not be produced on either magneto. The magneto cases were opened, and internal examination revealed that the right magneto's contact points would not open. Examination of the left magneto revealed that the contact points would open, but it could not be determined as to why it was not producing spark when bench tested.
Weather at Lima Airport, Lima, Ohio, at 1353, was reported as wind from 200 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 76 degrees F, dewpoint 65 degrees F, and altimeter setting 29.92 inHG.
The airplane wreckage was released on August 3, 2000, to a representative of the pilot's insurance company.