On June 2, 2001, about 0809 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, N4848L, collided with trees near Cameron Park, California. The private pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot sustained serious injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed Cameron Park at an estimated time of 0745, en route to Lodi, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot was going to Lodi to go skydiving. A friend of the pilot reported that the airplane was overdue. He called the pilot's home about 0900 and again at 1230. A ramp search did not locate the airplane. The Civil Air Patrol initiated a search about 1400, and located the wreckage about 1730. The pilot sustained head injuries and did not recall the circumstances leading to the accident.

The recovery agent submitted photographs and approximate global positioning system (GPS) coordinates of the debris field. The first identified point of contact was a tree whose top branches were on the ground along with an outboard section of the right wing. A piece of right wing flap was near the first identified ground scar. The ground scar continued to the main wreckage, and various pieces of the airplane were in the debris field.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge examined a plot of recorded radar data and converted universal coordinated time to Pacific daylight time.

The airport at Cameron Park had an elevation of 1,286 feet. A target appears northwest of Cameron Park at 08:02:52 PDT at a mode C reported altitude of 1,700 feet mean sea level (msl). The target continues to the northwest before turning to the southwest at a mode C altitude varying from 2,300 to 2,500 feet. The target maintains a relatively straight track, and indicates a mode C altitude of 2,200 feet at 08:07:04; 2,100 feet at 08:07:40; and 1,800 feet at 08:07:52. The target shifts to the left at 08:08:05, at a mode C altitude of 1,200 feet, and maintains a course nearly parallel to the original course. The next (last) target occurred at 08:08:41, at a mode C altitude of 600 feet, and at coordinates 38 degrees 36 minutes 14.6 seconds north latitude and 121 degrees 5 minutes 19.9 seconds west longitude. The coordinates of the first identified point of contact were 38 degrees 35 minutes 6.1 seconds north latitude and 121 degrees 5 minutes 45.5 seconds west. This was in a relatively straight line with the last two targets. Examination of a topographical map provided an estimated elevation at the accident site of 425 feet.

The nearest official weather reporting station was Mather Field at 230 degrees and 15 nautical miles. At 0748, Mather reported scattered clouds at 25,000 feet; visibility 20 miles; winds from 180 degrees at 9 knots; temperature 57 degrees Fahrenheit; and altimeter 29.86 inches of mercury.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Textron Lycoming, and New Piper Aircraft were parties to the investigation. Representatives from Lycoming and New Piper examined the wreckage under the supervision of the FAA at Plain Parts, Sacramento, California, on June 13, 2001.

The Lycoming representative submitted a written report. He observed no evidence of premishap catastrophic mechanical malfunction or fire. He removed the spark plugs. All top spark plugs, and the bottom plug for cylinder no. 3, were clean with no mechanical deformation. The bottom plugs for cylinders no. 1, 2, and 4 were oil soaked, which he attributed to the position of the engine after the mishap and post accident recovery. The spark plug electrodes were gray, which corresponded to normal operation according to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 Chart.

A borescope inspection revealed no mechanical deformation on the valves, cylinder walls, or internal cylinder head.

The representative manually rotated the crankshaft with a tool in an accessory drive gear. The crankshaft rotated freely, and the valves moved approximately the same amount of lift in firing order. The gears in the accessory case turned freely. He obtained thumb compression on all cylinders in firing order. He manually rotated the magnetos, and both magnetos produced spark at all spark plug leads.

The oil suction screen was clean and uncontaminated. The oil filter was clean, and the oil cooler was secure.

The fuel pump was secure at its mounting pad, and the fuel lines remained secure at their respective fittings. Disassembly of the fuel pump revealed no obstructions to flow or evidence of mechanical malfunction. It contained a fluid similar in appearance and odor to aviation gasoline.

The carburetor was undamaged and remained securely attached at it mounting flange. The throttle and mixture controls remained attached to their respective control arms. The carburetor discharged fuel at the accelerator discharge tube upon activation of the throttle lever. The fuel inlet screen was clean and free of contamination. The fuel bowl was free of visible contaminates; the float was undamaged and secure at its mounting.

The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft. The blades displayed leading edge gouging, torsional twisting, chordwise striations across the cambered surface, and trailing edge S-bending.

The New Piper representative noted that the airplane's estimated weight and balance computed values were within the manufacturer's specified limits. He observed five threads on the horizontal stabilizer trim tab actuator, which he equated to a neutral position. He noted that the left front seat and seat belt remained attached to the airframe. There was no shoulder harness. The right wing separated into two pieces, and the outboard section exhibited impact damage, which he attributed to a tree. The right side of the fuselage sustained extensive damage where the wing attached. The right aileron control cables remained attached to the bellcrank, but separated at the wing root area. He noted that the cable ends were frayed and twisted, which he felt was consistent with overload failure. The left wing and landing gear assembly remained attached, and sustained little damage. The tail section sustained impact damage, but the control surfaces remained attached. He established flight control continuity to the stabilators and rudder.

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