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On February 6, 2002, at 1402 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-300, N4105W, registered to C. A. Griffin, Inc., and operated by the pilot, collided with trees and the ground shortly after takeoff from Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, Atlanta, Georgia. The business flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument flight rules flight plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed, and the private pilot and three passengers received fatal injuries. The flight departed Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, at 1353.
At 1341:30, the pilot of N4105W contacted Dekalb-Peachtree ground control and received clearance for his instrument flight to Savannah International Airport in Savannah, Georgia. At 1343:19, the pilot advised ground control the airplane was ready to taxi. The pilot was given taxi instructions to runway 20L. At 1352:06, the Dekalb-Peachtree local controller advised the pilot to taxi into position and hold on runway 20L, and, at 1352:59, the flight was cleared for takeoff and was given a departure heading of 090 degrees. The pilot acknowledged and correctly read back the heading. Once airborne, the pilot was instructed to contact departure control, which the pilot acknowledged.
At 1354:19, the pilot contacted departure control and reported climbing through 1,500 feet. The departure controller advised the pilot of radar contact and instructed the pilot to climb and maintain 4,000 feet, which the pilot acknowledged. According to recorded radar data, the pilot initially flew a 089 degrees magnetic heading and continued eastbound. At 1355:21, the airplane began a right turn.
At 1356:19, the departure controller again instructed the pilot to fly a 090-degree heading, and the pilot repeated the assigned heading. Radar data between 1355:21 to 1356:49, showed the airplane flying a wide right arc back over the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and the VOR.
At 1357:05, the departure controller contacted the pilot and stated, "november zero five whiskey, you were given a ninety degrees off the runway, correct?" At 1357:10, the pilot replied, "yes sir, we're showing flying eastbound." Radar data at the time of the pilot's reply showed the airplane was on heading of 099 degrees. At 1357:14, the departure controller stated, "okay, just looked like you made a three-sixty out there for a minute." At 1357:19, the pilot replied, "yes sir, we gotcha now." In an interview conducted on February 26, 2002, the departure controller stated he asked the pilot if he had received a 090 heading because he wanted to verify the heading clearance without berating the pilot on the frequency, and he wanted to bring the heading discrepancy to the pilot's attention. The departure controller stated that he believed the pilot was OK, based upon the pilot's reply.
At 1357:25, the airplane began a right turn from a 105 heading and traveled in an arc back toward the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and VOR. At 1357:52, the departure controller began briefing a relief controller who was to assume the departure controller's duties. The departure controller stated to the relief controller, "four one zero five whiskey is supposed to be on a ninety heading climbing to four, still looks like he's heading south." The departure controller then contacted the pilot, "four one zero five whiskey, say your heading."
At 1358:13, the pilot replied, "zero five whiskey, two four zero." Radar data at the time of the pilot's reply showed the airplane on a 243 degree heading as it continued in a constant-rate right turn toward the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and VOR. The departure controller replied, "alright, you're supposed to be heading zero niner zero." The pilot replied, "Alright, zero five whiskey, is that right to zero nine zero?" At 1358:25, the departure controller instructed the pilot to turn left to 090 degrees, and the pilot replied. The departure controller stated he observed N4105W begin the left turn and start leveling off at 4,000 feet. The departure controller then resumed briefing the relief controller with the status of three other aircraft being handled. The departure controller made no further communications with any aircraft, and the relief controller assumed the departure controller's duties. In an interview conducted on February 26, 2002, the departure controller stated he did not believe the pilot was in danger, because the pilot could maintain altitude, and the pilot never sounded unsure of himself or under stress.
At 1358:24, the satellite handoff controller contacted the Dekalb-Peachtree local controller and stated, "remember that zero five whiskey that departed two airplanes ago? ... Did he look like he knew what was going on?" The local controller responded, "He seemed fine." At 1358:51, the satellite handoff controller stated, "... I think we're just going to kind of watch him for a minute here."
Between 1359:16 and 1400:07, radar data showed the airplane flying in a level left turn at 4,000 feet to a heading of about 060 degrees, the magnetic heading was fluctuating from 045 to 074 degrees.
At 1400:11, radar data showed N4105W began a right turn. At 1400:48, radar data showed the airplane descended to 3,500 feet. At 1400:53, the relief controller stated, "november zero five whiskey, you want to inform me about what you're trying to do?" The pilot replied, "zero five whiskey, trying to get out of a spin." The relief controller asked, "trying to get out of where?" At 1401:01, the pilot said, "got a problem here." No further transmissions were recorded from the pilot. At 1401:46, the last recorded radar data showed the airplane in a right spiral pattern with at an altitude of 2,200 feet. The relief controller stated the pilot sounded calm and in control. The relief controller said, after the pilot reported a spin, the controller chose not to say anything else, because he believed the pilot needed to concentrate on flying.
Several witnesses on the ground observed the airplane cross interstate 85 below the clouds at what appeared to be a wings-level, nose-low attitude, then it turned sharply to the right and collided with trees in a steep nose-low, right wing-low attitude.
The pilot held a private certificate issued on May 3, 2001, with an airplane single-engine land rating; an instrument rating was added on December 14, 2001. The pilot's flight time as recorded in the pilot logbook as of February 3, 2002, was 215.3 hours total time, 8.6 hours actual instrument time, and 46 hours simulated instrument time. The pilot held a third class medical certificate dated March 20, 2001, with no limitations or waivers.
The Piper PA-32-300, N4105W, was registered to C. A. Griffin, Inc. It was a low-wing airplane powered by a Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, six-cylinder, 300-horsepower engine. A review of the aircraft logbooks revealed the airplane received a 100 hour / annual inspection on June 12, 2001, and a 50-hour inspection on November 11, 2001. The clock, transponder, altimeter, and static system were inspected on August 17, 2001.
The Dekalb-Peachtree Airport 1355 weather observation reported winds110 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 2 statute miles, sky overcast at 400 feet with light rain and mist. Temperature was reported at 1 degree Celsius, dew point at minus 1 degree Celsius, and altimeter setting of 30.10. Remarks included ceiling variable between 300 feet and 900 feet. At 1320, the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport automatic terminal information service (ATIS) broadcast information golf (G). The broadcast included the following 1320 special weather information: wind 110 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 2 statute miles, rain, mist, ceiling 600 feet, overcast sky conditions, temperature 1 degree Celsius, dew point missing, altimeter setting 30.14. A review of air traffic control data revealed at 1359:39, a Learjet maneuvering near Dekalb-Peachtree Airport at 6,000 feet reported moderate turbulence.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was found 1.85 miles east of Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in a wooded, swampy area beside an access road off interstate 85. The wreckage debris covered an area approximately 200 feet by 80 feet along a heading of 055 degrees from a tree that was freshly broken 50 feet above ground level. A second tree, approximately 30 feet along the wreckage path, was freshly broken three feet above ground level.
The empennage, rudder, and partial cabin were located 70 feet from the initial impact point. All fuel tanks were found ruptured, and an odor of fuel was present at the accident site.
The engine was found separated from the airframe and inverted. The engine displayed impact damage on the left and top section. The case of the engine was cracked, and the pushrods showed impact damage. The number one and number six cylinders were removed to facilitate an internal inspection. Partial rotation of the crankshaft was established, and the fuel servo screen was clear of contamination. The oil suction screen and oil filter element were also clear of contamination.
The propeller was found attached to the crankshaft flange. The propeller displayed impact damage, and both blades displayed torsional bending and twisting.
The empennage displayed impact damage. The left side of the stabilator was found separated, and the left stabilator spar was bent aft approximately 55 degrees. The left outboard tip was not located.
The right wing aileron and flap displayed impact damage. The leading edge of the wing displayed circular impact deformation with tree bark found imbedded in the wing. The right main gear was separated. The primary cable was found separated at the cabin area. The balance cable was found separated near the bellcrank. The cable separation characteristics were consistent with tension overload.
The left wing aileron and flap displayed impact damage. The left wing was found separated at the wing root. The left main gear was separated. The aileron bellcrank was found attached to its attachment points, and the stops were in place and intact. Aileron cables were found separated at the wing root. The aileron cable separation characteristics were consistent with tension overload. The flap torque tube mechanism was found separated.
The right magneto was not located. The left magneto was found damaged and produced no spark when rotated by hand. The gascolator and fuel lines were not located. The fuel pump and oil cooler were impact damaged. The vacuum pump and vacuum gauge were not located. The vacuum regulator valve was found damaged. The standby vacuum system cockpit control knob was found in the full forward off position in a separated portion of cockpit panel. The standby vacuum system unit was not located.
The cockpit flight controls, panel, switches, communication and navigation radios, autopilot unit, engine controls, flight instruments, and engine instruments were found scattered along the wreckage path and damaged. Examination of the recovered directional gyro components revealed only the compass card, empty casing, and few internal gears were located. Examination of the attitude indicator revealed the internal rotor components displayed rotational scoring.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on February 7, 2002, at the DeKalb County Forensic Science Center by Dr. John B. Parker, Office of the Medical Examiner, DeKalb County, Georgia. The cause of death was listed as massive injuries. Forensic toxicology of specimens from the pilot was performed at the Federal Aviation Administration Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology revealed no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, nor drugs were detected.
The wreckage was released on July 29, 2002, to David E. Gourgues, Senior Surveyor, CTC Services Aviation, LAD, Inc., Orlando, Florida.
According to personnel at a fueling facility at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, the airplane had been topped off with 100LL aviation fuel before departure.