ATL01FA048
ATL01FA048

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 6, 2001, at approximately 1045 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N31566, collided with trees on a mountain ridge near Jasper County, Georgia, during cruise while en route to St. Joseph, Missouri. The personal flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Recorded weather data from Dekalb Peachtree Airport showed visual meteorological conditions at the time of the accident. However, according to witnesses, the weather near the accident site was foggy with restricted visibility. The airplane was destroyed. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The flight originated from Athens/ Ben Epps Field, in Athens, Georgia, at 1000.

At 0900, eastern daylight time, a man who identified himself as the pilot of N31566, telephoned Macon Flight Service Station in Macon Georgia and requested a visual flight weather briefing from Athens, Georgia, to St. Joseph, Missouri. The pilot stated an intended departure time of 1000. The briefer advised the pilot of instrument weather conditions along the intended route of flight. and that visual flight was not recommended. Approximately 45 minutes after the first weather briefing the pilot telephoned Macon Flight Service Station again and requested weather information for the intended route of flight, again the pilot was informed of instrument weather conditions along the intended rout e of flight.

According to the Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, family members became concerned when the airplane did not arrive at the planned destination of St. Joseph, Missouri. The Rescue Coordination Center reported that the pilot initially received flight following assistance from Athens, Georgia, but canceled the service shortly after take off. Searchers in the surrounding states initiated a ground and air search operation for the missing airplane on April 7, 2001. On April 9, 2001, an emergency locator transmitter signal was received six miles northeast from the City of Jasper. The downed airplane was located on April 9, 2001, by the ground search party on the side of a ridge.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine land privileges. His total flight time was 830 hours of which 33 hours were flown in a PA-28-181 airplane. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate, dated October 9, 1999, valid with no limitations or waivers.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Piper PA-28-181, N31566, was owned and operated by the pilot, Mr. Reggie Simerly of St. Joseph, Missouri. N31566 was a low-wing airplane powered by one Lycoming O&VO-360 engine. A review of the airplane maintenance logbooks showed that the airplane was maintained in accordance with the applicable Federal Aviation Regulations. The last reported annual inspection was completed on October 2, 1999.

METEROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Dekalb Peachtree Airport (PDK), located 40 miles south of the accident site, weather observation at 0953 eastern daylight time reported 6 statute mile visibility with haze, broken ceiling at 1300 feet with another broken cloud layer at 2100 feet, wind 190 degrees at 6 knots, temperature 17 degrees, dew point 13 degrees, and altimeter setting 30.27 inches. A witness reported heavy fog earlier that morning with only 10-15 feet visibility. Another witness recalled that the weather condition at the time of the accident, was overcast, foggy with restricted visibility.

According to a briefer at the Macon Flight Service Station, " the pilot wanted to fly in Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions from Athens, Georgia, to St. Joseph, Missouri leaving within the hour. I advised the pilot of flight precautions for Instrument Flight Rules ( IFR) conditions along the route, particularly the first part of the route. I advised the pilot , Athens was IFR and that the pilot would probably not be able to get into Chattanooga, Tennessee, due to weather. I advised the pilot that VFR was not recommended along his route until after 1000 hours."

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site disclosed that airplane wreckage debris was scattered over an area approximately 200 feet long and 75 feet wide. Wreckage debris was orientated upslope on the mountain ridge on a 274 degrees magnetic heading. The field elevation at the accident site was 2195 feet above sea level. The airplane was broken into several pieces, and several large broken trees were discovered along the wreckage path.

The left wing had separated from the fuselage, and showed leading edge crush damage. Several trees were topped along the wreckage path and freshly broken tree branches were scattered throughout the wreckage path. Left wing leading edge damage was consistent with straight and level flight through trees. The aileron and flap assemblies remained in their respective positions. The aileron flight control cables were torn from the aileron control surface.

The right wing assembly also separated from the airframe but was located adjacent to the main wreckage at the accident site. However, the outboard section of the right wing assembly was lodged in a tree near the main wreckage. Examination of the aileron section showed that the control cables were attached to the outboard section. Approximately 10 gallons of aviation fuel were recovered from the right wing fuel system.

The entire empennage section had separated from the airframe and was located down slope from the main wreckage. Examination of the empennage disclosed that both rudder control cables attach points were secured at the respective attach points. The balance weight assembly separated from the airframe and was located along the wreckage path.

The engine separated from the airframe and was found inverted adjacent to the main fuselage. The propeller was separated from the engine assembly and the crankshaft flange was fractured through the lightning hole. The top section of the crankcase was fracture between the #2 and #4 cylinders. Residual fuel was observed in the fuel lines and the carburetor at the accident site. Both magnetos produced an ignition spark during the field functional test. The throttle control was found full open, the carburetor was intact and contained clean fuel. The mixture control arm on the carburetor was in the full rich position.

Examination of the airframe and the engine assemblies failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or a component failure.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by Dr. Krzysztof Podjaski at the office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Atlanta, Georgia. The Forensic toxicology was performed by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, drugs and alcohol.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Several witnesses reported seeing a low flying airplane in the vicinity of the accident site. One witness described an airplane as " passing in and out of clouds". Another witness observed a similar airplane that "just cleared the ridge" near his house between 1000 and 1100 eastern daylight time. The field elevation at the accident site was at 2854 feet above sea level.

The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. Gary C. Cobb of Kansas City Missouri.


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