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On February 28, 2002, at 0950 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-300, N33584, registered to E and F Flying Club LLC, operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with tree while attempting a forced landing following a loss of engine power in the vicinity of Hamilton, Georgia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The private pilot was fatally injured and one passenger sustained serious injuries. The flight originated from Clearwater, Florida, at 0700.
The review of communications transcripts between Atlanta Approach and the pilot of N33584 revealed that the pilot contacted approach in cruise flight at 4,500 feet enroute to Rome, Georgia. The pilot was issued a transponder code, an altimeter setting, and was asked to contact Atlanta Approach on a different frequency. At 09:14, the airplane was in radar contact 49 miles east south east of Columbus, Georgia. At 09:44:48, the pilot informed the controller that he was having engine problems. The controller asked the pilot what his intentions were and the pilot responded that he would like a vector to Pine Mountain or the nearest airport. The controller informed the pilot that Lennett County Airport was closer and asked the pilot if he needed any help. The controller issued a heading to the pilot and asked him what type of a problem he was experiencing. The pilot informed him that he had a complete engine failure. The controller asked the pilot how many people were on board and the fuel remaining. The pilot informed the controller that he had 40 gallons of fuel that he was not going to make the airport, and was going to land in a clearing. Radar contact was lost 8 miles north of the Columbus VOR.
Another pilot who had been handed off from Atlanta Center to Atlanta Approach stated he heard the pilot in distress on the radio, and asked if he could be of any assistance. The controller provided the pilot with a radar vector and distance to the airplane in distress. Upon arrival in the area, the pilot located the downed airplane, and informed Atlanta Approach that he had the airplane in sight. The controller asked if he had a cell phone and he replied that he did. He was given a telephone number and the pilot directed the Georgia Highway Patrol to the crash site.
Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on October 13, 1992, with ratings for airplane single engine land. Review of records on file with the FAA aero medical records revealed the pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on January 9, 2002, with the restriction, "holder shall possess glasses that correct for distant vision." The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 1,500 total flight hours. The review of the pilot's logbook revealed the last recorded biennial flight review was conducted on August 24, 2000. The last recorded entry in the pilot's logbook was on July 3, 1986, and showed his total recorded flight time was 748 hours. Review of E and F Flying Club LLC log sheets revealed the pilot had recorded as logged 93.8 hours in the PA-32-300. The pilot had flown 15.5 hours in the last 90 days, 10.9 hours in the last 30 days, and 4.3 hours in the last 24 hours.
Review of the airplane logbooks revealed the last recorded annual inspection was conducted on April 4, 2001. The engine was overhauled by G and N Aircraft Inc, in Griffin, Indiana, on January 8, 2002, was installed on N33584 on January 19, 2002, and had accumulated 24.9 hours since the overhaul.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Columbus, Georgia. The 0855 surface weather observation was: wind 010-degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear, temperature 36 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.38.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage of N33584 was located in an open field adjacent to a residence located on Lickskillet Road in the vicinity of Hamilton, Georgia.
Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane collided with trees. The right outboard wing tip collided with the top of a 50-foot tall tree. The auxiliary fuel tank was ruptured. The right wing collided with a tree about 45 feet above the base of the tree, and a segment of the wing, 8 feet 7 inches outboard of the wing root, was separated. The right main fuel tank was ruptured. There was no browning of vegetation present. The left wing collided with trees separating the outboard wing tip and the left auxiliary fuel tank, which were ruptured. There was no browning of vegetation present. The airplane collided with the ground, and came to rest on a heading of 088-degrees magnetic. The crash debris line extended 186 feet.
The engine assembly was displaced to the left with the propeller and crankshaft intact. The forward baggage compartment was compressed aft and upward. Accordion crushing was present on the left side of the fuselage extending aft from the firewall adjacent to the pilot side instrument panel. The nose wheel was broken and pushed aft. The left and right side of the fuselage was not damaged. The right side of the leading edge of the vertical fin sustained tree impact damage. The left inboard leading edge of the left stabilator sustained impact damage. The right leading edge of the right stabilator sustained damage. The left and right stabilator stops were intact. The rudder was attached to its attachment point and the rudder stops were in place.
The left wing was accelerated forward and the forward and aft left wing attachment bolts were separated. The leading edge of the left wing sustained multiple tree impacts outboard of the wing root. The leading edge of the left wing was buckled aft to the main spar. The left auxiliary fuel cap and the left main fuel cap were secure with a tight seal. The left flap was attached at the attachment points. The flap push pull tube was separated from the flap torque tube. The left aileron was attached to both aileron attachment points. The left aileron bell crank was attached to the aileron attachment points, and the bell crank stops were intact. The left main landing gear remained attached. There was no evidence of fuel streaking on the upper or lower surface of the left wing.
The right wing was compressed aft. The forward wing attachment bolt separated, and the leading edge of the right wing sustained multiple tree impacts outboard of the wing root. The leading edge of the right wing was buckled aft to the main spar. The right auxiliary fuel cap and the right main fuel cap were secure with a tight seal. The right flap was attached at its attachment point. The aileron was attached to the outboard attach point, and a segment of the right aileron remained attached to the inboard hinge. The right aileron bell crank separated from the aileron attachment point and the bell crank stops were intact. The right main landing gear remained attached. There was no evidence of fuel streaking on the upper or lower surface of the right wing.
The fuel line was disconnected after the accident at the engine to the flow divider and no fuel was present. The fuel strainer was manually turned on and about three ounces of fuel was collected. The fuel strainer was removed and about a ½ ounce of fuel was collected. The fuel filter was clear of contamination.
Examination of the airframe and flight controls revealed no evidence of a pre-crash mechanical failure or malfunction. All components necessary for flight were present at the crash site. Continuity of the flight control system was confirmed for pitch, roll, and yaw.
The engine assembly was transported to Atlanta Air Salvage for further analysis. An independent power supply was connected to the fuel boost pump and the fuel pump operated. With the fuel supply line to the engine at the firewall disconnected no fuel was present. Shop air was applied to the fuel supply line from the firewall and blown backward to a breach at the wing spar with no obstructions noted. The fuel selector valve was field-tested and was operational in all positions.
The engine was removed from the firewall. Damaged components were repaired or replaced as required. The propeller governor was removed. The drive shaft was rotated by hand and pumping action (oil) was noted. The governor gasket screen was free of contaminants. The governor was replaced in preparation of an engine run. The oil filter adapter was removed. The filter was opened and was free of contaminants. The oil suction screen was examined and was free of contaminants. All spark plugs were removed and exhibited light brown combustion deposits. The cylinder combustion chambers were examined and no anomalies were noted. The crankshaft was rotated by hand; valve and drive train continuity was confirmed. A field check of compression was conducted and compression was noted on all cylinders. The magneto gear index timing was checked and found normal at the 20-degrees before top dead center position. Both magnetos produced spark through all leads while the engine was rotated.
The induction air box was damaged and the filter element was intact. The alternate air door was in the closed position. All fuel hoses were found tight. Droplets of fuel were found in the pump to the fuel servo hose and the engine driven fuel pump was intact and the pump screws were tight. The flow divider was disassembled and no fuel was present. The flow divider was reassembled for engine run. The muffler sustained impact damage. The muffler was removed and the internal baffles were intact.
The propeller assembly was removed and a test club propeller was installed, and the engine was secured. With fuel and battery power furnished the engine started and operated for 5 minutes at low power settings. The propeller club was unsuitable for high power operations. The engine was shut down, removed from the test set up, and all replaced components were removed. The engine with all accident components was shipped to Textron Lycoming in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for further analysis. Examination of the engine was conducted at Textron Lycoming, on June 11, 2002. During the functional check, the engine was started without any problems, and was run at various test points for approximately 25 minutes. The engine maximum-recorded speed was 2714 rpm. The engine as tested, was within new engine fuel flow limits. There were no discrepancies or anomalies noted during the functional test.
Examination of the propeller assembly revealed the spinner dome was crushed with numerous bends and tears. The propeller was removed from the engine shaft and forwarded to Hartzell Propellers Inc., for further examination. The cylinder attachment flange and mounting flange were intact and there was evidence of gouges. The No.1 and No. 2 preload plates exhibited witness marks from contact with the opposing blade pitch change knob. The mark on the No. 1 preload plate measured 37-degrees from the split line or about 9-degrees blade angle. The mark on the No.2 preload plate measured 33-degrees from the split line or about 13-degrees blade angle. Both propeller blades were bent aft and twisted towards low pitch. Rotational scoring was present in the paint and on the camber side. There were no discrepancies noted that would have precluded normal operation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Georgia Bureau Investigation, State Medical Examiners Office, Decatur, Georgia, conducted postmortem examination of the pilot, on March 1, 2002. The cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma. Postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot was performed by the Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. Doxylamine an over the counter sedating antihistamine, and pseudoephedrine an over the counter decongestant was detected in the blood and urine. Dextrorphan a metabolite of dextromethorphan an over the counter cough suppressant was detected in the urine.
TEST AND RESEARCH
A check of airports along the pilots route from Pontiac, Michigan, revealed that he stopped in Rome, Georgia, at the Richard B. Russell Airport on February 22, 2002, and purchased 39.8 gallons of fuel. He departed Rome for Clearwater and landed at Dunnellon, Florida, and purchased 44.28 gallons of fuel. He subsequently landed at Clearwater, Florida and 10.2 gallons of fuel was added on February 24, 2002, at Clearwater Airpark Inc. He departed Clearwater on February 25, 2002, for Opa Locka, Florida, and obtained 26.6 gallons of fuel and an oil change. He departed Opa Locka, Florida, on February 27, 2002, enroute to Clearwater. The hour meter was 2217.8 when he departed. He landed at Clearwater; the hour meter was 2219.3, for a total of 1.5 flight hours. The refueler topped off the airplane with 32.3 gallons of fuel. The fuel burn rate for the flight from Opa Locka to Clearwater was calculated to be 21.5 gallons per hour. Review of the E and F Flying Club, LLC flight log revealed the block time on departure from Clearwater on the accident flight was 2219.3. The hour meter at the crash site was 2221.9 hours.
Review of the Pilot's Operating Handbook for the Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six 300, Section 9 Performance, revealed that 2 gallons of fuel was required to climb to 4,500 feet at 5-degrees Celsius. Two gallons of fuel was estimated for taxi and run up. The total fuel capacity for the Cherokee Six 300 is 84 gallons of fuel. According to Section 9 at 16 gallons of fuel per hour burn rate, 45.3 gallons of fuel is needed for the flight time of 2 hours 50 minutes (time based on witness at takeoff and ATC transcript) at an altitude of 4,500 feet. According to Section 9 at 16 gallons per hour burn rate, 41.3 gallons of fuel is needed for the flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes (time based on hour meter) at an altitude of 4,500 feet.
The Garmin GPS III Pilot was forwarded to the FAA Flight Standards District Office in Kansas City, Missouri for data extraction by the manufacturer. The unit was received by Garmin in good condition. Data was extracted from the display of the unit through a serial port download with Garmin's Map Source program. Review of the data revealed N33584 departed Florida at 0709 central standard time and the last recorded data was at 0947.
The total airplane wreckage was released to the General Manager, Atlanta Air Salvage on June 14, 2002. The airplane logbooks were released to E and F Flying Club LLC on March 13, 2002.