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On August 3, 2002, at 1716 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N 7362J, registered to and operated by the pilot, collided with the ground and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from runway 5 at the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport, Spartanburg, South Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot, and one passenger received fatal injuries, two passengers sustained serious injuries. The airplane was destroyed and there was a post-crash fire. The flight departed Spartanburg, South Carolina, on August 3, 2002 at 1714.
According to friends of the pilot and passengers, the pilot had completed an earlier flight with three passengers, an returned he short flight, the pilot returned to the ramp and loaded the airplane with three different passengers. A witness stated that the pilot taxied out and took off from runway 5. The witness stated that the pilot raised the airplane several feet above the ground and held that attitude until he pulled back sharply into what seemed to be a high performance climb out from runway 5.
Other eyewitnesses at the airport stated that, as the airplane approached the departure end of runway 5, the airplane made a right climbing turn. According to a witness, the airplane did not seem to gain altitude or airspeed. The airplane was next seen in a descending right turn and subsequently collided with the ground. The airplane came to rest nose down on an approximate 45-degree embankment that was covered in brush and tall grass.
Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate October 26, 1999 he held an airplane single engine land rating. The review of the pilot's flight records showed that he had accumulated 460 hours of flight time. He had logged 23 hours within the last 90 days, and 6 hours within the last 30 days. The pilot completed a biannual flight review on September 10, 2001. The pilot was issued a third class medical certificate with limitations dated April 17, 2002.
The Piper PA-28-140, serial number 28-24715, was a four seat fixed wing airplane. The engine was a Lycoming O-320-E2A rated at 150 horsepower. The airplane was equipped with a Sensenich propeller, serial number K26547. The last annual inspection was completed on August 26, 2001. The maintenance records also showed that a Supplement Type Certificate was issued for the use of automotive gasoline on January 18,1999.
The review of weather data at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (KGSP) 21 minutes prior to the accident included winds from 100 degrees at 13 knots, and there were clear skies. The reported temperature was 92 degrees Fahrenheit and the dew point was 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit; the altimeter setting was 30.11inches. The field elevation at the airport was 801 feet. The density altitude was calculated to be approximately 3,162 feet mean sea level.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site found wreckage debris scattered over an area 75 feet long by 75 feet wide. The wreckage debris was oriented on a 160 degree magnetic heading. The airplane came to rest on the southeast side of a hill 210 feet from the departure end of the runway 5. The airframe from the cockpit to the vertical stabilizer was fire damaged.
The right wing had separated at the wing root from the fuselage and was located 50 feet south west of the main wreckage. The right wing displayed accordion crush damage from the wing cone to the wing root. The right aileron was damaged and was attached at the normally installed points. Aileron continuity was established from the bell crank to the aileron control chain. The right flap assembly was damaged and was separated from the wing assembly at the outboard attachment point. The right fuel tank was breached.
The left wing was found in the normally installed position attached to the airframe. There was deformation damage at the left wing aft wing attachment and was separated from the airframe. The left wing was deflected upward approximately 30 degrees. The left aileron was also damaged at the trailing edge of the outboard section and was attached to its attachment points. Aileron continuity was established from the aileron to the aileron control chain. The left wing flap was damaged and was found in the retracted position. The left fuel tank was in tact and contained approximately 13 gallons of fuel. The fuel had the color and smell consistent with automotive gasoline.
Rudder continuity was established from the rudder to the cockpit. The horizontal stabilator continuity was established from the stabilator to the 'T' bar in the cockpit. The stabilator balance weight had fire damage. The rudder and top stabilator stops were in place and intact. The fuselage was damaged, the main cabin area was fire damaged. The fuselage was buckled near the bulkhead. There was Plexiglas debris scattered along the wreckage path.
The two-bladed propeller assembly was separated from the crankshaft flange. Two crankshaft propeller bushings were pulled from the crankshaft flange and remained with the propeller. The propeller was found approximately fifteen feet to the front left of the wreckage. One blade displayed "S" bending. The blade had span wise and chord wise scratches on the chamber side.
The engine remained attached to the firewall and sustained fire damage to the accessory housing and associated parts. The right and left magnetos were fire damaged. Valve train and rear gear continuity was established. Compression was established on all cylinders except for the number one cylinder. Cylinder number one sustained crush damage to the front lower corner of the cylinder head/ exhaust rocker area.
The exhaust valve from the number one cylinder was broken approximately 1 3/8 inch down from the top of the valve stem and the lower half of the stem and tulip portion was located on top of the number one piston dome. Further examination revealed that there was severe crush damage to the exhaust valve upper spring seat and exhaust valve guide. There was no damage to the top of the piston dome or the cylinder head combustion chamber.
Upon examination of the carburetor it was noted that one of the two metal floats was separated from the carburetor float shaft and solider was observed in the carburetor bowl. The carburetor fuel inlet screen was free of debris. The oil filter element and oil suction screen were also free of debris.
All major airframe and engine components were examined and with no evidence of pre-impact airframe or engine anomalies found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The postmortem examination of the pilot was performed at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center on August 4, 2002. The examination indicated that the cause of death was thermal burns secondary to a light plane crash. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. There was no Carbon Monoxide or Cyanide detected in the blood. Quinine was detected in the pilot's urine.
Runway 5 at the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport is asphalt and in good condition. The runway is 5,202 feet long and 100 feet wide. By applying the density altitude of 3,162 feet to the takeoff distance chart the ground roll is approximately 1,100 feet, over a 50-foot obstacle is approximately 2,125 feet.
The wreckage of N7362J was released to Leading Edge Unlimited LLC. , on August 11, 2003.