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On March 7, 2002, at 2322 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N5246T, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed on impact with terrain approximately 1.4 statute miles (sm) southeast of Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport (3TR), Niles, Michigan. Night 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 pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated from 3TR en route to Vermillion County Airport, Danville (DNV), Illinois.
The pilot and an instrument rated pilot passenger departed DNV en route to 3TR so that the passenger could pick up his airplane, N61626. While en route, they encountered instrument flight rule (IFR) conditions in the South Bend, Indiana, area. They requested and obtained an IFR clearance to the South Bend Regional Airport (SBN), South Bend, Indiana, so as to land and obtain instrument approach chart for 3TR. They filed an IFR flight plan and departed SBN en route to 3TR during which time the passenger reported that he was acting as pilot-in-command of the flight. The passenger executed two instrument approaches before landing.
At 2205, N5246T was cleared for the VOR 3 approach to 3TR.
At 2214, N5246T reported a missed approach and requested the VOR 21 instrument approach. The passenger reported that the first approach ended in a missed approach because of a deer on the runway.
At 2221, N5246T was cleared for the VOR 21 approach.
At 2223, N5246T was recleared for the VOR 21 approach.
At 2225, N5246T was advised to switch to advisory frequency and cancel the flight's IFR clearance with Lansing Flight Service Station (FSS).
At 2247, Lansing FSS called South Bend Approach to report N5246T was on the ground at 3TR. The passenger reported that he went to get his airplane, and the pilot departed about 10 minutes prior his departure.
At 2316:52.600, a radar target with the same transponder code that N5246T had when it landed at 3TR appeared with a ground speed of 91 knots heading 155 degrees at a pressure altitude of 902 feet msl.
At 2317:47.800, the radar target had a ground speed of 117 knots, heading 213 degrees, and a pressure altitude of 702 feet. There was no further radar contact.
The passenger on the previous flight was asked several times by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide a written statement as to the events that took place but none was received.
The pilot, age 65, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine rating. He was not an instrument rated pilot. He reported a total flight time of 550 hours on his application for a third class medical certificate, which was issued on July 11, 2001, with the following limitation: "Holder must wear corrective lenses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision while exercising the privileges of his airman certificate."
The co owner of the airplane estimated that the pilot flew about 2 hours per month and had accumulated a total flight time of 300 hours in the make and model of the accident airplane.
The 1972 PA-28-140, serial number 28-7225370, was last inspected during an annual inspection on May 28, 2001, at a tachometer time of 1,562.16 hours or a total time of 4,320.61 hours. There were no further maintenance entries after this date recorded in the airplane logbook.
The airplane's Lycoming O-320-E3D engine, serial number L-37138-27A, was last inspected on May 28, 2001, at a tachometer time of 1562.16 hours or 953.81 hours since major overhaul. There were no further maintenance entries recorded in the engine logbook after this date.
The SBN automated surface observing system located, approximately 10 sm southwest of 3TR, recorded the following observations:
At 2254, wind from 110 at 14 knots; 1 1/2 sm visibility in mist; overcast sky condition at 300 feet above ground level; temperature 2 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 1 degree C; altimeter setting 30.12 inches of mercury; remarks include surface field condition visibility 1 3/4 sm.
At 2354, wind from 120 at 15 knots; 2 sm visibility in mist; overcast sky conditions at 300 feet agl; temperature 2 degrees C; dew point 2 degrees C; altimeter setting 30.09 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a snow covered wooded area located in a residential area of single family homes. The debris path extended for approximately 130 feet through trees on a magnetic heading of 320 degrees. The fuselage was oriented on a tail to nose magnetic heading of 160 degrees. The fuselage was consumed by fire from the cockpit to the aft cabin. Both wings and vertical stabilizer were separated from the fuselage and located along the debris path.
Both wings were separated at the wing root and destroyed by impact forces. Both flap control surfaces and mechanism were destroyed. The left and right wing aileron control cables were attached to their respective control surfaces. The left aileron control cable exhibited unwinding with a broom straw separation at the wing root. The right wing aileron cable exhibited unwinding with a broom straw separation near the inboard wing area. The rudder cables were attached to the rudder horn and were traced to the cockpit.
Both flaps were separated from their wings. The flap handle located in the cockpit was at the 40-degree flap position.
The cockpit instruments were damaged by impact forces and fire. The airspeed indicator needle was positioned approximately 116 knots, the altimeter's Kollsman was set at 30.12 inches of mercury. The tachometer and Hobbs meter were destroyed. The fuel selector was in the left tank position.
The engine was rotated by hand and valve train and engine continuity were established. Suction and compression of all cylinders was confirmed. Electrical continuity of both magnetos was confirmed.
The propeller displayed S-shaped bending.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Cass County Coroner on March 8, 2002.
FAA toxicological test results indicated 3.753 (ug/ml, ug/g) acetaminophen detected in blood.
The FAA, The New Piper Aircraft, Inc., and Textron Lycoming were parties to the investigation.