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On October 31, 2000, about 1406 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, registered to, and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed while attempting a forced landing to an open pasture in Zolfo Springs, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane incurred substantial damage, and the commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, received fatal injuries. The flight originated from Bartow, Florida, the same day, about 1349.
According to a controller at Bartow Municipal Airport's Air Traffic Control Tower, the pilot had been in radio communications contact with the tower, and at 1404, he communicated to the tower stating, "bartow tower N8603E, 26 south my engine quit and I can see Wauchula Airport but I can't make it." According to the controller, the pilot further indicated that he was going to attempt a forced landing in an open field. The controller stated that he then declared an emergency for the pilot of N8603E, notifying Hardee County Emergency Services. The Bartow Municipal Airport Air Traffic Control Tower did not have radio communications recording capability at the time of the accident.
At 1536,deputies with the Hardee County Sheriff's Office discovered the accident aircraft at the extreme southern end of an open cow pasture. The pilot had been fatally injured, and there were no witnesses to the accident.
According to records obtained from the FAA, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings, issued on May 27, 1976. The pilot also held an FAA second class medical certificate, last issued on May 10, 2002, with the restriction that, "holder shall possess corrective glasses for near vision." According to the pilot's logbook, as well as an aircraft usage log, the pilot had accumulated about 2,163 total flight hours, with about 2,063 in single engine airplanes. The pilot had received a biennial flight review on February 4, 2000, and had flown about 9 hours in the past 90 days.
N8603E is a 1976 Piper Cherokee Archer II, serial number 28-7690179, and it was registered to the pilot/occupant. Records revealed that all required maintenance checks had been performed, and the aircraft had received an annual inspection on March 23, 2000, at a tachometer time of 2,116.55 hours. At the time of the accident, the tachometer reading was 2,137.39, about 21 hours after the annual inspection. The aircraft was equipped with a Textron Lycoming O-360-A4M, 180 horsepower engine, which maintenance records showed had been removed from the aircraft, was overhauled by Zephyr Engines, and then reinstalled into the aircraft on October 28, 2000. At the time of the accident the engine had accumulated about 2 flight hours. The aircraft was also equipped with a 2-bladed propeller, manufactured by Sensenich.
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and the Bartow Municipal Airport, 1353, surface weather observation was, sky clear, visibility 15 miles, winds variable at 6 knots, temperature 81 degrees F, dew point temperature 57 degrees F, altimeter setting 30.00 inHg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
N8603E crashed about 0.5 mile west of highway 17, and about 3 miles south of the town of Zolfo Springs, in an open cow pasture, in position 27 degrees, 27 minutes, 35.6 seconds north latitude, 081 degrees, 48 minutes, 46.7 seconds west longitude. The pasture where the aircraft crashed was relatively level, consisting of short grass, and no obstacles except for sparse trees and shrubbery at the perimeter of the pasture.
N8603E touched down close to the extreme southern edge of the pasture, with about 0.5 miles of open, flat pasture behind the apparent touchdown point. Two sets of tire tracks were present, indicative of the point where the aircraft had touched down, and the tire tracks were oriented along a heading of about 165 degrees magnetic. The tracks then continued for about 66 feet, to the point where scarring was found on a pine tree, indicative of the left wing having impacted the tree at about the 5 to 6-foot level. The aircraft then traveled for about another 34 feet, and was found, having penetrated a fence, and having collided with a 12-inch pine tree, hitting the center, with the propeller's spinner. The total distance from the position where the tire tracks commenced, to the aft end of the main aircraft wreckage, at it final resting position of the accident aircraft, was about 100 feet.
The aircraft had come to rest with the fuselage upright, and oriented along a direction of about 132 degrees magnetic. There were small pieces of aircraft wreckage thrown over the general area, with most of the wreckage being largely localized from the point where the aircraft had apparently impacted the tree with the left wing, along the direction of travel, to the vicinity of the main wreckage.
On scene examination of the main aircraft wreckage revealed that all components of the aircraft which were necessary to sustain flight were located in the immediate vicinity. Flight control continuity was established for all flight controls through their respective bellcranks, control rods, and pulleys, for roll, pitch, and yaw. The flap torque tube as well as the flap selector handle showed that the flaps had been fully extended to 40 degrees. The stabilator trim actuator reading was 0.8 inches, which equated to a neutral trim position. The impact had compressed the engine rearward against the firewall, and the aircraft instrument panel had also been pushed rearward into the cockpit.
Examination of the engine compartment revealed that the engine control cables had been bent, but there was no visible evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunction. The aircraft had impacted the tree at the spinner, but the propeller had remained attached to the engine flange, and it displayed no rotational damage. The left wing had mostly separated, and had remained attached to the fuselage only by the aileron cables. The left wing lay alongside the left side of the cowling, parallel with the fuselage, extending forward beyond the aircraft's nose. The right wing had been partially fractured, but it had remained attached to the fuselage at the attach points. About 12 gallons of fuel was found inside the left fuel tank. The right wing had been in an elevated position, and the right fuel tank had been breached, and contained only trace amounts of fuel. During the initial wreckage examination, emergency response personnel who had discovered the wreckage confirmed to the NTSB that when they arrived at the scene of the accident, they found significant amounts of fuel leaking from underneath the engine cowling. The aft fuselage had incurred some minor buckling on the left side, but it had been largely undamaged. There was little damage to the empennage, except for the left side of the stabilator.
The right wing was removed, and the aircraft was recovered from the pasture, and taken to Aviation Consulting Services in Wimauma, Florida, for a detailed examination. During the detailed examination, the propeller was removed from the engine, and the engine removed from the remainder of the aircraft to facilitate the engine examination. The initial examination revealed that there was residual fuel within the gascolator and fuel lines. When tests were conducted on the fuel tanks and associated fuel lines in the aircraft structure to check fuel system integrity, impact related leaks were found. The aircraft fuel selector switch had been found positioned between the left and right fuel tank positions, but favoring the right tank, and a test of the switch in the position in which it had been found, using compressed air, showed that there was a flow of air from the right fuel tank inlet line to the engine fuel line. No similar continuity was found to exist from the left fuel inlet line to the engine fuel line.
Spark plugs were removed and examined, and they displayed a coloration consistent with that of normal operation. The magnetos had remained intact, but the ignition harness had been damaged. When the engine crankshaft was rotated, internal continuity was established for the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives. All four cylinders developed compression during engine rotation. The carburetor was found to be intact, with the carburetor bowl containing about 6 ounces of fuel, and the fuel inlet screen was clean. The oil cooler and oil filter adapter had suffered impact damage, but the oil filter element and oil suction screen were clean and no lubrication anomalies were found. The engine-driven fuel pump also had incurred impact damage.
After engine components were examined, they were reinstalled, and a substitute ignition harness was used to configure the engine for a test run. The engine was then tested, utilizing fuel that had been salvaged from the left wing fuel tank, and routing the fuel directly to the carburetor. During the test, the engine operated throughout the full range of operation, and no anomalies were noted.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Dr. Alexander Melamud, Associate Medical Examiner, Medical Examiner's Office, District Ten, Bartow, Florida performed the postmortem examination on the pilot, and the cause of death was attributed to multiple injuries. No findings, which could be considered causal to the accident, were reported.
Wuesthoff Reference Laboratory, Melbourne, Florida, as well as the FAA Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological studies on specimens obtained from the pilot. Tests were conducted for drugs, carbon dioxide, cyanide, and volatiles, and all results were negative.
On November 2, 2000, the NTSB released the wreckage of N8603E to Mr. Al Sharp, owner/operator of Aviation Consulting Services, Wimauma, Florida.