On January 10, 2001, at 0930, central standard time, a Piper PA-23, N200WH, a public use airplane operated by the Crown Point Board of Commissioners, Crown Point, Indiana, was substantially damaged when it lost power during initial climb after takeoff and impacted into a frozen swamp 1/2 mile from the Griffith-Merrillville Airport (05C), Griffith, Indiana. The pilot was seriously injured and the passenger received minor injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 business flight had departed runway 26 (4,013 feet by 50 feet, asphalt) and was on a local flight. The airplane climbed about 200 feet above ground level (agl) when the airplane had a loss of engine power. The airplane turned about 120 degrees to the left to avoid powerlines and buildings prior to impacting the ground. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot reported he conducted a preflight on the airplane. The airplane's four fuel tanks were topped off with fuel and were subsequently checked for contamination. The pilot reported that during start-up he "switched fuel selectors from inboard tanks to outboard tanks and noted that the fuel gauges registered empty. I then made the statement to [the passenger] that the tanks were just topped off. I then recycled the fuel control valves, even though they were hard to move since they were setting out in the 15 degree weather, and got a full reading on both gauges." He reported he ran the engines up for 10 minutes and back taxied to runway 26. The pre-takeoff checks and run-up were performed prior to departure and everything checked normal.
The pilot reported that the takeoff procedure was normal and that all gauges were normal prior to rotation. He reported, "Within seconds of rotation, I experienced what I think was a loss of both engines. At that point, I turned on the cross feed and verified both auxiliary pumps were in the on position and at the same informed [the passenger] of the emergency. With no time to spare, since I was losing altitude, I initiated a turn to avoid damage to life and property in the vicinity of the take off path. The aircraft had a rapid descent to impact."
A witness reported to the Indiana State Police that, "… the plane was just above the trees climbing at a steep angle when the engines quit, then he heard them start again and then quit again. Then when the plane was approximately 300 to 400 feet high it turned to the left and came down below his view and crashed."
The pilot, who was the head of the aviation department, held a commercial pilot certificate with single engine land, multi-engine land, and helicopter ratings. He was not certified for instrument flight. He held a second class medical certificate. He had a total of about 3,973 hours of flight time. About 3,534 flight hours were flown in helicopters and 438 flight hours were flown in airplanes. All the pilot's multi-engine flight time, about 31 hours, were flown in the accident airplane. On November 8, 2000, the pilot conducted his multi-engine land checkride in the accident airplane and received his multi-engine rating. At the time of his checkride, the pilot had logged 22.7 hours in the airplane.
The passenger held a student pilot certificate that he received on October 24, 2000. He was acting as an observer on the flight and was not receiving flight instruction.
The aircraft was a twin engine Piper PA-23, Aztec, s/n 27-3482. The airplane seated six and had a maximum gross weight of 4,800 pounds. The engines were 250 horsepower Lycoming IO-540-C4B5 engines. The last annual inspection was conducted on July 15, 2000. The airplane had flown about 33 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of 6,978 hours.
The airplane had recently been purchased by the Crown Point, Indiana, Board of Commissioners. The primary purpose of the engine was for air searches over Lake Michigan. The airplane was also to be used for pilot training.
A witness, a lieutenant on the police force who had flown 15 hours in the airplane, reported he had flown the airplane the day prior to the accident for about three hours. He reported the airplane flew normally and he had not experienced any engine problems.
The inspection of the airplane revealed flight control continuity to all control surfaces. The left wing inboard and outboard fuel tanks had been compromised. No fuel was found in the left wing gascolator. Fuel was observed in the right wing inboard tank. The right outboard tank was compromised and contained no fuel. The right gascolator contained fuel and dirty brown water contamination.
The left and right propeller blades exhibited minor bending.
The left engine inspection revealed the crankshaft rotated freely. Engine continuity was confirmed to the accessory section. Thumb compression was observed on all cylinders. Spark was confirmed from all leads from both magnetos. The magnetos were timed to the engine and to each other. Fuel was observed coming out of the outlet hose of the engine driven fuel pump when the engine was rotated.
The right engine inspection revealed the crankshaft rotated freely. Engine continuity was confirmed to the accessory section. Thumb compression was observed on all cylinders. Spark was confirmed from all leads from both magnetos. The magnetos were timed to the engine and to each other. Fuel was observed coming out of the outlet hose of the engine driven fuel pump when the engine was rotated. No preexisting anomalies were observed from the left or right engine that would preclude normal operation.
Parties to the investigation included the Federal Aviation Administration, Textron Lycoming, and the New Piper Aircraft, Inc.
The aircraft wreckage was released to ACE USA, Chicago, Illinois.