CHI01LA221
CHI01LA221

On July 20, 2001, at 2309 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-30, N7382Y, operated by a commercial pilot, sustained substantial damage when the airplane struck a tree and impacted terrain 1 1/8 miles north of the Bowman Municipal Airport (BPP), Bowman, North Dakota, during initial climb after take off. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The cloud seeding flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot and copilot reported no injuries. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

In his written statement, the pilot said they were dispatched on a routine cloud-seeding mission at 2250. All flight operations through takeoff were normal. The pilot said that after passing through 50 feet above ground level (agl), the airplane would not climb. The pilot said he verified power on both engines and airspeed of 120 miles per hour (mph). He brought the gear up and the climb performance improved slightly. The pilot said, "The maximum altitude achieved was just below 3,100 feet MSL (mean sea level) (100 feet AGL), as the rapidly increasing downdrafts from the invisible microburst soon overpowered any climb performance, and quickly pushed the aircraft downward as the VSI (vertical speed indicator) indication transitioned from slightly positive to 150+ fpm (feet per minute) negative." The pilot said the airplane's engines were at maximum power when they struck a tree approximately 1 mile from the departure end of the runway. The pilot said he pitched the nose up in preparation for the ground impact. The airplane broke free of the tree. The pilot said he leveled the wings, lowered the nose slightly to keep his speed up, and reduced the throttles to idle. The airplane touched down about 3 to 5 seconds after their collision with the tree. The pilot said that 1 minute after the crash, heavy rain from a thunderstorm occurred.

In his written statement, the copilot said that the pilot used the maximum power take off procedure to help with the cross wind from the right. At about 40 to 50 feet agl, the climb performance began to diminish. "Engines sounded normal and systems were all within normal range." The copilot said, "When we were out of usable runway, the gear were brought up. Drag from the retracting gear leveled us out momentarily, then our climb performance increased slightly, and we were gradually climbed to our highest altitude of approx.[imately] 3,080 feet [msl]." The copilot said he had scanned the instruments and verified the airspeed at 120 mph and the wings level. "Our climb performance was much less than normal; it was being degraded by downdraft and wind shear; possibly from a microburst. We were climbing only approx.[imately] 50 (fpm)." The copilot sensed they were in trouble. He said that they saw a flash of something in the left landing light. "The pilot pulled back in an attempt to avoid the object. We struck the tree in a slightly nose-high attitude and heard a very loud 'bang'. Immediately after the impact, I saw the airplane's banked, nose-high condition on the attitude indicator, and the airspeed decreasing below 100 mph. The copilot said he got on the controls to level the wings and push the nose over. "The pilot pulled the throttles to idle, because we knew ground impact was inevitable." The copilot said, " When the airspeed was above 110 and increasing, I slowly began pulling back on the control wheel to slow the impact with the ground, which I knew must be soon."

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the airplane at the accident site. The airplane was resting upright in a field. The nose of the airplane was bent and crushed to the right and aft. The bottom forward fuselage was crushed upward. The left and right wings were bent aft at the wing roots. The engine nacelles were bent downward. The bottom forward cowlings were crushed upward and aft. Both propeller blades showed torsional bending and chordwise scratches. Flight control continuity was confirmed. An examination of the engines, engine controls, and other airplane systems showed no anomalies.

At 2253, the weather reported at Hettinger, North Dakota (HEI), 34 miles east of BPP, was few clouds at 8,000 feet agl, a broken ceiling of 12,000 feet agl, 10 miles visibility with light rain, winds 100 degrees at 9 knots, temperature 75 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 70 degrees F, altimeter 29.80 inches of Mercury, and remarks, lighting in the distance west and northwest, rain began at 2245. At 2301, the weather reported at HEI was scattered clouds at 9,000 feet agl, a broken ceiling of 12,000 feet agl, 10 miles visibility with light thunderstorms and rain, winds 330 variable 030 at 8 knots, and remarks, lighting in the distance west to north, thunderstorms began at 2255. At 2322, the weather reported at HEI was 3,500 scattered, 10,000 broken, 12,000 overcast, 10 miles visibility with light thunderstorms and rain, winds 030 degrees at 32 knots, gusts to 41 knots, and remarks, peak wind 030 degrees at 41 knots recorded at 2317, wind shift at 2302, lightning in the distance all quadrants.



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