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On July 18, 2002, at 0740 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, N5164L, operated by Midwest Executive Aircraft, Inc., as a rental airplane, was destroyed when it impacted terrain and a single-family home after takeoff from runway 18 (4,015 feet by 75 feet, concrete) at Lee's Summit Municipal Airport (LXT), Lee's Summit, Missouri. A postcrash fire of the airplane and home ensued. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The non-instrument rated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. There were no ground injuries. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was en route to Miami, Oklahoma.
A witness stated, "Early on the morning of Thursday, July 18, 2002, I arrived at Lee's Summit Airport at approximately 6:30 a.m. intending to initiate a VFR flight to Jefferson City. I needed additional fuel so I brought my Skylane to the fuel pumps. It became obvious to me that a thick bank of fog was approaching the airport from the south. As my plane was being fueled, I checked the duats terminal and noticed that there was marginal VFR and 100-foot ceiling at Johnson Country Executive Airport. Also, at that time, a Cessna 150 in the pattern landed and taxied up; the instructor and student commented on the approaching fog. We were all taken a bit by surprise of the sudden arrival of the fog. It approached steadily from the south and soon the south end of the runway and trees on the horizon were obscured. The ceiling probably was a 100-feet, or less, and visibility under the fog was probably one-half of a mile to one-third of a mile. There was very limited light, and no blue sky was visible through it. This was probably a little after 7:00 a.m."
"After paying for my fuel I walked with the line boy towards my airplane. We were both shocked to hear an aircraft power up at the north end of the runway, and we walked towards the runway; I commented that this is not a day to be flying IFR or VFR. The aircraft in question was a Piper Cherokee, probably a 160 or 180. There were clearly two occupants in the front seats; both appeared to be large males. The plane rotated, in my estimation, a bit prematurely and then gained additional airspeed. It did not lose any altitude and took off smoothly at about midfield, climbed appropriately, and disappeared into the fog bank before reaching the end of the runway. This was probably at an altitude of 100 feet of so. I commented to the line boy, "I hope we are not seeing what I think we are going to see." I walked back to my airplane, approximately 30 to 40 feet. I was at the door of my craft probably 20 to 30 seconds after that craft took off, when I heard a plane in rapid decent, the engine accelerating. I looked up and he was making a very steep right hand turn directly over the airport and the terminal building, probably at an altitude of 150 to 200 feet. He was visible briefly as he came out of the fog. Basically, he made about one-half of a pattern, which would have been a right hand pattern, and came back over the field near the runway, and disappeared into the cloud bank again. The engine sounds were muffled by the clouds; I did not detect any decrease or increase in rpm."
"I actually approached the building fearing that this aircraft may come out right on top of the airport again. I then ventured about 20 steps to the east at which time we felt and heard a very significant impact and explosion..."
The homeowner whose house was hit by the airplane stated, "I was in the kitchen and did not hear anything unusual. Suddenly there was a couple of large 'thuds' and instant huge fire-ball all around the house. The south end of the house started completely on fire. We ran out of the house as a guy from the airport came to help. We saw that is was a plane, totally destroyed and on fire. We grabbed a garden hose and tried to knock down the flames, especially around the engine where we saw 2 people. After we could get closer it was evident that they were dead. The fire department soon arrived and put out the rest of the fire. The weather was foggy [and] hazy. The clouds were very close. We never heard anything until the explosion. We are used to the sound of small planes, but this one was totally quiet until it hit the house,"
The pilot, age 62, held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating issued on March 15, 1995. On March 29, 2001, he received his last biennial flight review, at a total flight time of 219.5 hours, which was accomplished in the accident airplane. His last recorded flight was on June 16, 2002 at a total flight time of 228 hours in the accident airplane. He accumulated a total flight time of 7.4 hours in the last year, of which 4.1 hours were in the last 90 days, and 0 hours were in the last 30 days.
He received a third class medical certificate on March 18, 2002, with the following limitations: "Holder must shall wear corrective lenses."
The 1967 Piper PA-28-180, serial number 28-4449, was operated as a flight instruction and rental airplane by Midwest Executive Aircraft, Inc, based at LXT. The airplane received its last inspection during an annual inspection on June 20, 2002, at a tachometer time of 880 hours; a new tachometer was installed on March 10, 2000, replacing the previous tachometer at 1,842 hours.
The airplane was powered by a Textron Lycoming O-360-A4A, serial number L-24664-36A, 180-horsepower engine was last inspected during an annual inspection on June 20, 2002, at 880 hours. The engine was installed on February 28, 1999, at a tachometer time of 1,503 hours.
The LXT automated surface observing system recorded, at 0743: winds 210 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 1 3/4 statute miles mist; ceiling overcast 300 feet above ground level (agl); temperature 22 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 22 degrees C; altimeter setting 30.02 inches of mercury. The remarks section of the report stated that the ceiling was variable from 100-600 feet agl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a power line over a residential road and a single family home before coming to rest about 0.3 nautical miles and 259 degrees from LXT. The wreckage path was about 205 feet in length and oriented on a heading of 320 degrees from the power line to the main wreckage. The engine, empennage, and left wing were attached to the fuselage. The left wing tip and right wing were located along the wreckage path.
There was a series of parallel scrapes in the road oriented along the wreckage path heading about 50 feet from the power lines, which were about 30 feet in height. The scrapes extended about 15 feet outward from two slash marks that were forward from these scrapes. The slash marks were separated by a distance of about 3 feet 7 inches. The propeller exhibited S-shaped bending and twisting with chordwise gouging of the tips.
The cockpit and instrument panel were destroyed by fire. The fuel selector was in the left fuel tank position.
Left aileron control continuity was confirmed from the control chain to the bellcrank. Control continuity of from the empennage to the rudder pedals was confirmed. The flap handle was in the 0 degree flap position. The horizontal stabilizer trim jack screw was extended about 1 1/8 inches which equates to a nose up trim of about 4.5 degrees.
Borescope examination of each cylinder revealed no anomalies. The spark plugs were removed and the engine was then rotated by hand. Continuity of the engine valve train and rear gears was noted. The suction and expulsion of air from each cylinder was noted when the engine was rotated. The engine driven vacuum pump drive shaft was intact. No anomalies were noted when the vacuum pump was rotated by hand and then disassembled. The oil suction screen and oil filter element did not contain metallic debris. Electrical continuity of both magnetos was confirmed. Examination of the carburetor reveled the presence of a liquid consistent with aviation fuel in the fuel bowl and that the fuel screen was free of debris.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report for the pilot states:
Dextromethorphan detected in blood
Dextromethorphan detected in liver
Dextrorphan detected in blood
Dextrorphan detected in liver
1.4 (ug/mL, ug/g) tramadol detected in blood
Tramadol detected in liver
Tramadol is a prescription narcotic-like painkiller used for the management of moderate to severe pain. Common side effects of tramadol include dizziness and sleepiness, and at least one study has noted a decrease in complex task performance with the use of the drug (European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 1996; 51:31-38). In addition, seizures have been reported in patients receiving tramadol within the recommended dosage range. Seizure risk may be increased in patients who have other risk factors for seizure (e.g. head trauma, alcohol withdrawal, previous history of seizures, etc.). A significant risk of abuse and dependence has been reported. Overdosage has been reported to result in depression, lethargy, coma, seizure, cardiac arrest and death.
Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter cough suppressant, available in a large number of preparations, including many multi-symptom cold relievers. Dextrorphan is a metabolite of dextromethorphan.
The pilot's medical records, maintained by the pilot's personal physician and obtained by subpoena, had the following documented diagnoses between 1998 and 2002: hypercholesterolemia, fibromyalgia, fatigue, sclerodactyly, scleroderma, gastroesophageal reflux, CREST syndrome, chronic neuropathy ... secondary to previous back injury and surgeries and lumbar stenosis, chronic anxiety and depression, panic attacks, OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy). His documented medications between 1998 and 2002 include: Lipitor [atorvastatin], Flomax [tamsulosin], Restoril [temazepam], Serzone [nefazodone], Ultram [tramadol], Buspar [buspirone], Prozac [fluoxetine], Wellbutrin [bupropion], Remeron [mirtazapine], Pepcid [famotidine]. Records dated 5 months prior to the accident indicate that the prescribed dose of tramadol was 50 mg four times a day.
From 1998 to 2002, the pilot did not report any of these diagnoses on his FAA airman medical certificate application nor did he report his use of these medications except for the following: Lipitor, Pepcid, Flomax.
The FAA, The New Piper Aircraft, Inc., and Textron Lycoming were parties to the investigation.
The wreckage was released to the registered owner's insurance representative.