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On April 12, 2002, about 1750 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N288CA, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Gardiner, New York. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight that originated from the Joseph Y. Resnik Airport (N89), Ellenville, New York, about 1730, destined for the Northampton Airport (7B2), Northampton, Massachusetts. No flight plan was filed, and the flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to several witnesses, earlier in the day, the pilot and passenger flew to the Wilkes Barre Scranton International Airport (AVP), Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, from Northampton, which was the airplane's home airport. After departing Wilkes Barre for the flight home, the pilot made an unscheduled stop at Ellenville.
According to a witness who talked with the pilot at Ellenville, the pilot had encountered some turbulence on the flight from Wilkes Barre, which was strong enough to cause the airplane to partially stall. The passenger reported to the witness that it felt like being hit from behind. After being on the ground for approximately 15 minutes, the witness saw the pilot and passenger reboard the airplane. The airplane taxied to runway 22, and departed. Once airborne, the airplane made a 180-degree right turn, and followed the valley to the north, maintaining an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet agl. The witness then boarded an ultra light airplane, along with a student, to do some training 6 to 8 miles to the southwest of the accident site.
The witness estimated that about the time of the accident, the base of the clouds were approximately 1,500 feet above the ridge where he was flying, visibility was about 15 miles in the valley, and the winds were from the northwest about 25 knots. The witness added that the ceiling and visibility reduced to the northeast, but since he was not planning on flying in that area, he did not recall the exact conditions.
According to the witness that discovered the wreckage, he parked his car about 1800, approximately 1 1/4 mile southwest of the accident site, and then went for a run, discovering the wreckage about 1815. The witness added that from the time he parked his car until he found the wreckage, the visibility was approximately 500 feet, and it felt like he was in a cloud. In addition, the witness stated that the weather did not improve, and when he left the site, which was about 2130, the restricted visibility prevented him from driving any faster than 30 mph.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located approximately 140 feet from the top of a ridgeline at 41 degrees, 44.919 minutes north latitude, 74 degrees, 10.649 minutes west longitude, and an elevation of 1,080 feet msl.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was manufactured in 1998. It was equipped with a 180-horsepower Lycoming IO-360-A4M engine, and a fixed pitch propeller.
Examination of the airframe logbooks revealed that an annual inspection was performed on April 12, 2001. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued 197.9 hours of flight time. Examination of the avionics logbook revealed that the attitude indicator was replaced on August 27, 1998, because the artificial horizon had tumbled. No other entries were identified in either the airframe or avionics logbooks that related to problems with the flight instruments or the pitot static system.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine-land rating. He did not hold an airplane instrument rating. On his last FAA third-class medical certificate, which was dated July 23, 2001, he reported a total flight experience of 450 hours. The pilot's logbook was not located at the accident site, and follow-on attempts to find it were unsuccessful.
A weather observation was taken about 3 minutes after the accident at the Dutchess County Airport (POU), Poughkeepsie, New York. The airport had a field elevation of 165 feet msl, and was located 17 miles to the southeast of the accident site. According to the observation, the wind was 140 degrees at 3 knots, visibility was 1 1/2 mile in mist, ceiling was 700 feet overcast, temperature was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter setting was 30.35 inches of mercury.
A weather observation was taken about 5 minutes before the accident at the Stewart International Airport (SWF), Newburgh, New York. The airport had a field elevation of 491 feet msl, and was located 30 miles to the south of the accident site. According to the observation, the wind was 160 degrees at 6 knots, visibility was 4 miles in drizzle and mist, ceiling was 500 feet overcast, temperature was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter setting was 30.36 inches of mercury.
A weather observation was taken about 4 minutes after the accident at the Orange County Airport (MGJ), Montgomery, New York. The airport had a field elevation of 365 feet, and was located 17 miles to the southwest of the accident site. According to the observation, the wind was 140 degrees at 3 knots, visibility was 7 miles, ceiling was 800 feet overcast, temperature was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter setting was 30.35 inches of mercury.
A weather observation was taken about 5 minutes after the accident at the Sullivan County International Airport (MSV), Monticello, New York. The airport had a field elevation of 1,403 feet msl, and was located 27 miles to the west of the accident site. According to the observation, the wind was 150 degrees at 10 knots, visibility was 2 miles, ceiling was 500 feet overcast, temperature was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter setting was 30.34 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted approximately 10 miles east of the departure airport, and near the top of a 1,220-foot ridge that ran southwest to northeast. The start of the debris path was marked by freshly broken tree branches at the top of a 60-foot tree. A path of freshly broken branches approximately 340 feet long connected the initial tree strikes to the main wreckage. The path was on a magnetic heading of 140 degrees, and had a down angle of approximately 2 degrees.
The debris path was comprised of four major structural items, one ground scar, and the main wreckage. The first item was approximately 120 feet from the initial tree strikes, and was a 3-foot section from the inboard part of the right wing, along with the entire right flap. The second item was approximately 180 from the initial tree strikes, and comprised of the outboard half of the left wing, and the majority of the left aileron. The third item was approximately 220 feet from the initial tree strikes, and was the rest of the right wing, along with the right aileron and right fuel tank. The fuel tank was compromised, and contained approximately 1/2 gallon of fuel. The fuel was bluish in color and consistent with 100 low lead aviation gasoline.
The fourth item was approximately 270 feet from the initial tree strikes, and was composed of the inboard half of the left wing and flap, along with the left main landing gear. The right main landing gear had separated from the right wing and was located with the main wreckage. The left fuel tank was compromised, and no fuel was identified in the remnants of the tank.
The ground scar was approximately 310 feet past the initial tree strikes and measured about 4 feet wide, 2 feet deep, 8 feet long, and terminated at the main wreckage. The main wreckage came to rest partially on its left side, on a magnetic heading of 135 degrees. It was comprised of the engine, fuselage, vertical stabilizer, rudder, and the majority of the stabilator. The missing stabilator sections were located in the debris path prior to the main wreckage.
Examination of the flight control system revealed that the left aileron push-pull rod had separated at the aileron. The fracture surface was grayish in color and had a 45-degree shear lip, consistent with overload. The right aileron bellcrank was intact and both stops were in place. The balance and aileron cables were attached to the bellcrank, and both cables had separated near the wing root. The end of the cables were broomstrawed, and consistent with overload.
The right aileron push-pull rod was connected to the aileron, but had separated about 1/2 inch from the rod-end bearing, which was still connected to the right aileron bellcrank. The fracture surface on the push-pull rod was grayish in color, had a 45-degree shear lip, and consistent with overload. The bellcrank was intact and both stops were in place. The balance and aileron cables were attached to the bellcrank, and both cables had separated near the wing root. The ends of the cables were broomstrawed, and consistent with overload.
The push-pull rod for the left flap was connected to the flap-torque tube, but had separated from the flap. The mounting bracket on the flap was deformed consistent with overload. Examination of the push-pull rod revealed that the flap side of the rod-end bearing had separated from the linkage. The fracture surface was grayish in color, had a 45-degree shear lip, and consistent with overload. The rod-end bearing was not located in the debris path.
The push-pull rod for the right flap was connected to the flap, but had separated from the flap-torque tube. Examination of the torque tube revealed that the mount for the push-pull rod was deformed consistent with overload. The flap torque-tube displayed some impact damage, but was intact. Also intact was the chain and cables that connected the torque tube to the flap handle. The flap handle was in the flaps retracted position at its base, and the handle was bent up approximately 30 degrees.
Rudder and stabilator control continuity was confirmed to the pilot controls. Both rudder stops and all four stabilator stops were present. Examination of the stops revealed no repetitive impact marks. In addition, the stabilator counter weight was in place. Stabilator trim continuity was confirmed from the stabilator through the autopilot trim motor to the trim wheel. The stabilator trim drum had approximately three wraps of trim cable on it, which corresponded to neutral or a slight nose down condition. Rudder trim continuity was confirmed from the rudder trim knob to the rudder bar. The airplane was not equipped with aileron trim.
The portion of the aileron balance cable that ran through the fuselage was examined. The right side of the cable had separated approximately 22 inches outboard of the right autopilot bridle bracket. The facture surface was broomstrawed, and consistent with overload. The left side of the cable had separated about 2 inches outboard of the left bridle cable bracket. That fracture surface was also broomstrawed, and consistent with overload. Right aileron cable continuity was verified from the right wing root to the pilot's controls. Left aileron cable continuity was verified from the left wing root to the pilot's controls.
The fuel selector had three positions, which were "LEFT," "OFF," and "RIGHT." The selector was in the "LEFT" position, and rotated freely between all the positions. With the selector in the "OFF" position, air pressure was applied to the left feed port. No air was identified coming from the engine outflow or the right feed port. The valve was then moved to the "LEFT" position. Air started to flow from the engine outflow, but not the right feed port. Air pressure was then applied to the right feed port. The selector was set to the "RIGHT" position, and air was identified coming from the engine outflow, but not the left feed port.
The gascolator displayed impact damage and was fractured. The fuel screen was removed and found partially covered with organic and inorganic material similar to that located at the accident site. To test the electric-driven boost pump, one end of a plastic hose was connected to the inflow port, and the other was submerged in water. The battery from the airplane was then connected to the pump. The pump activated, sucked in water, and expelled it via its outflow port.
On April 14, 2002, the engine was examined at the accident site. To facilitate the exam, the engine was separated from the airframe, and raised approximately 3 feet off the ground.
The No. 2 cylinder displayed impact damage. The push rods had separated from the cylinder, the intake and exhaust valves were exposed, and the rocker arm pin and pin bosses were missing. Only minimal impact damage was observed on the remaining three cylinders. The oil suction screen was removed, and was absent of debris. The engine oil filter was opened, and found absent of debris.
A rotational force was applied to the engine crankshaft. The shaft rotated about 270 degrees and then stopped. Additional force was applied, and the shaft rotated through 360 degrees. The push rods for the No. 3 and No. 4 cylinders were removed, and the through bolts and case bolts at the front of the engine were loosened. Once again, a rotational force was applied, and the crankshaft rotated through 360 degrees, with less additional force being required at the 270-degree mark. When the crankshaft was rotated, compression was obtained on all four cylinders, and valve train continuity was verified. In addition, both magneto drive gears rotated, the engine-driven fuel pump piston actuated, and the drive pad for the vacuum pump rotated.
The propeller was composed of two fixed pitch blades, which were designated No. 1 and No. 2 for accident investigation purposes. Blade No.1 displayed chordwise scratches, leading edge gouges, and "S" bends. In addition, a section of the blade tip approximately 7 inches long had separated from the blade. The fracture surface on the propeller blade and blade tip were grayish in color, had a 45-degree shear lip, and consistent with overload. The tip displayed chordwise scratches and a leading edge gouge that measured approximately 3 1/2 inches long and 1 1/3 inches deep. The No. 2 propeller blade was intact and displayed chordwise scratches, leading edge gouges, and "S" bends. In addition, three pieces of cut wood were recovered from the debris path. Each piece was more than 2 inches in diameter and displayed a 45-degree cut in relation to its longitudinal axis.
Continuity of the fuel line that connected the electric-driven boost pump to the carburetor could not be verified because of impact damage. The carburetor had broken away from its mount, and the carburetor bowl had separated from the throttle assembly. Engine control continuity could not be verified because of impact damage. In the cockpit, the throttle was full open, mixture was full rich, and carburetor heat was in the "ON" position. At the carburetor, the throttle plate was in the wide-open position, the mixture control was approximately full rich, and carburetor heat could not be determined because of impact damage. The throttle arm on the carburetor was moved towards the closed position. The throttle plate rotated about 20 degrees and then stopped. Examination of the throttle-plate shaft revealed it was bent. The induction system tubing that connected the carburetor to each cylinder displayed impact damage, and continuity could only be established for approximately 98 percent of the system.
A rotational force was applied to the input drives of both magnetos, and both produced spark on all their associated towers. Continuity of the ignition leads could not be verified because of impact damage. All the sparkplugs were removed, except the No. 4 bottom because of impact damage, and the electrodes were examined. The No.1 top and bottom sparkplugs were grayish in color and absent of debris. The No. 2 top and bottom sparkplugs were covered in oil and debris. The No. 3 top and bottom sparkplugs were grayish in color and absent of debris. The No.4 top sparkplug was covered with oil and debris.
The engine-driven fuel pump case was compromised, and a section of its housing was missing. The pump was removed from the engine and disassembled. When opened, about 2 teaspoons of fluid was observed. The fluid had a slight bluish tint to it, and an aroma consistent with 100 low lead aviation gasoline. The inflow and out flow valves were intact, along with the diaphragm.
The vacuum pump was removed and a rotational force was applied to the pump's driveshaft. The pump spun freely and produced suction and pressure. In addition, the airplane was equipped with an electric standby vacuum system. The battery from the airplane was connected to the electric motor that drove the standby vacuum pump. The motor activated, and the associated vacuum pump produced suction and pressure. Continuity of the vacuum system plumbing could not be verified because of impact damage.
The attitude indicator was removed and the vertical gyro was opened. No rotational scarring was observed on either the rotor or the gyro housing. The heading indicator was removed and the horizontal gyro was opened. The gyro rotor and inner housing wall displayed rotational scarring. Continuity of the pitot static system could also not be verified because of impact damage. Air pressure was applied to the pitot tube, and no obstructions were identified.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at Kingston City Hospital, Kingston, New York, on April 13, 2002.
The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed a toxicological test on the pilot on July 29, 2002.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative on April 14, 2002, minus a yoke mounted GPS, which was retained for further examination. No pertinent information was extracted from the GPS, and it was released to the owner's representative on June 6, 2002.