HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On September 8, 2001, at 1554 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-301, N8398Z, experienced an in-flight break-up while maneuvering near a thunderstorm in Byhalia, Mississippi. The airplane was registered to Midwest Corporate Air, and operated by the private pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the cross country flight to Romeoville, Illinois. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from Panola County Airport in Batesville, Mississippi, at 1540.
According to witnesses, when they observed the airplane it was in level flight below the clouds. They said that as they observed the airplane they saw the left wing separate and strike the tail section. The main fuselage came to rest less then a half mile from their location in a bean field with debris falling and nearly striking the witnesses. The witnesses stated that there was lightning to the north and that the weather in their location was windy but there was no rain or thunderstorms in their area at the time of the accident.
Examination of radar data provided by the Memphis, Tennessee Air Traffic Control Tower revealed that between 15:42:02 and 15:53:01 the airplane made about seven altitude, airspeed and heading changes. The most significant occurred between 15:52:43 and 15:53:01. Within this 18 second time frame, the airplane descended from 7,700 feet above ground level (AGL) to 3,900 feed AGL and slowed to 41 knots airspeed.
The pilot was certificated as a private pilot for airplane single-engine land. The pilots logbook indicated that he had accumulated a total time of 154 hours in all airplanes, with 83 hours as pilot in command, and 51 hours in the PA-32R-301. The pilot's most recent third class medical was issued on June 7, 2001. The pilot's most recent flight review was dated September 21, 1999, when he was issued his private pilot certificate.
The Piper Saratoga, PA-32R-301, was a six place, single engine, low wing, retractable landing gear airplane. The airplane was registered to Midwest Corporate Air, and operated by the private pilot. A review of the airplane's log book showed the last annual inspection was completed on December 14, 2000, and the airplane had accumulated 65 hours since that inspection.
Weather conditions at the Memphis Airport, located 40 nautical miles northwest of the accident site at 1553, were reported to be clear, lowest clouds broken 3300 feet AGL, visibility ten statute miles, temperature 31 degrees Celsius, dew point 23 degrees Celsius and wind 150 degrees at nine knots. At 1448 the Jackson, Mississippi National Weather Service, issued a Hazardous Weather outlook which stated that scattered thunderstorms would develop with the heat of the day and primarily be concentrated in the afternoon and evening in the vicinity of the airplane's flight path.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The on-scene examination of the wreckage found the overall wreckage site confined to approximately a one-half mile radius. The left side of the horizontal stabilator was not found. The left wing was separated at the wing root and was found within 200 feet from the main wreckage site. The leading edge of the left wing displayed circular impact deformation seven feet outboard from the wing root. The deformation was approximately two feet wide and compressed aft approximately one and one half feet. The main landing gear was down and locked. The fuel cap was in-place and intact. The aileron was attached to both its attachment points. The bell crank had impact damage and was attached to its attachment points. The bell crank stops were in-place and intact. The aileron control rod to the aileron had impact damage and was broken and separated. The aileron cables were separated near the wing root. The separation area was broom-strawed and unwound. The flap was connected at the inboard and middle hinge, and the outboard hinge was separated.
Approximately seven feet of the inboard right wing was attached to the forward and main spar attachment. The outboard section of the wing including the attached aileron was found away from the main wreckage. The aileron was attached to both its attachment points. The bell crank was attached to its attachment points and had impact damage and was destroyed. The aileron cables were separated near the inboard section of the outboard wing. The separated area was broom-strawed and unwound. The flap was attached to the inboard hinge. The fuel cap was in-place and intact. Fuel was observed dripping from the right fuel tank. The landing gear had impact damage and was destroyed.
The vertical stabilizer and rudder were separated from their attachment points. The top right section of the tail cone displayed scratches in an area of one inch wide by 14 inches in length. The top section of the vertical stabilizer was not found. The bottom right section of the rudder displayed a circular impact deformation. The rudder horn had impact damage. Continuity was established from the rudder horn to the cabin area. The left side of the stabilator was not found. The middle section of the stabilator was located at its relative position. The stabilator stops were in-place. The right side of the stabilator was separated in three sections, and found away from the main wreckage site. The inboard leading edge on the right side of the stabilator displayed scratches in an area of one inch wide and 18 inches long. Inboard of the scratches, the leading edge was bent upward and downward. The fuselage, including the instrument panel, was destroyed and was found on its left side.
The engine and propeller assemblies were buried several inches into the ground. The engine was severely impact damaged, and no outward indication of pre-impact mechanical deficiencies were noted. The engine sustained heavy damage and complete crankshaft rotation was not possible. Partial rotation of the crankshaft established internal continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives. A lighted bore scope was used to inspect the top end components. Fuel system examination found the servo intact, and secured to the manifold. The fuel inlet screen was clean, and the induction air filter was intact. The servo controls were impact damaged, bent and distorted. The flow divider was opened for inspection, the diaphragm was intact. No fuel system leaks were observed. The top spark plugs were removed for inspection and exhibited medium gray color combustion deposits. The #2 top plug was oil soaked. Plug electrode wear was moderate, advanced, and or excessive. During the on scene recovery process, a residual amount of clean blue aviation fuel was found emanating from within the right wing fuel tank.
The propeller was secure on the engine. Two blades were undamaged; the third blade was bent aft, beneath the engine. No missing blade material was noted. The propeller governor was impact fractured from the mount pad, the drive spline was intact, the shaft coupling was not located or recovered. The governor rotated freely by hand, oil-pumping action was noted. The governor control arm was impact separated. At the conclusion of the engine examination no evidence of pre-impact mechanical failure or malfunction was found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A post mortem examination of the pilot and passenger was conducted by Steven T. Hayne, M.D., F.C.A.P. of the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office, in Pearl, Mississippi. The cause of death for the pilot was stated as; Immediate Cause of Death: Airplane crash. Underlying Cause of Death: Craniocerebral Trauma with fractures of the cranial vault and base of the skull, lacerations of the right and left cerebral hemispheres, and subdural hemorrhage.
On December 28, 2001, a toxicology examination of the pilot and passenger was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Research Laboratory, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of the pilot's and passengers toxicology examination was as follows: Ethanol and acetaldehyde was detected in both the muscle and kidney tissue, and N-Propanol was detected in the kidney. Additionally, Benzoylecgonine and Cocaine was detected in the Liver and kidney, and both Amphetamine and Methamphetamine was detected in the Liver and Methamphetamine was also detected in the Kidney.
Examination of radar data provided by the Memphis, Tennessee Air Traffic Control Tower revealed that at 15:42:02, the airplane was at an altitude of 2,100 feet, on a heading of 004 degrees and a speed of 130 knots. At 15:50:01, the airplane had climbed to an altitude of 7,200 feet, on a heading of 012 degrees and an airspeed of 119 knots. At 15:52:43, the airplane continued to climb to an altitude of 7,700 feet, on a heading of 142 degrees and a speed of 143 knots. At 15:53:01, the airplane had descended to 3, 900 feet on a heading of 147 degrees and a airspeed of 99 knots, and at 15:54:15, at an unknown altitude, the airplanes heading was 297 degrees with an airspeed of 41 knots. The radar data revealed that between 15:42:02, and 15:52:43, or the airplane had climbed 5,100 feet and had changed its heading from 004 degrees to 142 degrees. From 15:52:43, to 15:53:01, the airplane had descended 3,800 feet, and slowed from 143 knots to 41 knots. Following this occurrence the radar data went into coast, and no further altitude data was available.
The wreckage was released to the owner's insurance representative AIRCO, 10 Rue Grand Court, Lake St. Louis, MO. 63367.