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On October 20, 2002, approximately 1430 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32-301 single-engine airplane, N4353Y, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Paron, Arkansas. The airplane was registered to KEEMO LLC, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The non-instrument rated private pilot and his 5 passengers sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from the Memorial Field Airport (HOT), Hot Springs, Arkansas, at 1410, and was destined for the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (CGI), Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
The pilot called the Columbia Flight Service Station, Columbia, Missouri, at approximately 1000 CDT for a standard weather briefing, with the route of flight being from HOT to CGI. The Specialist advised the pilot there was an Airmet currently valid for instrument flight rule conditions (IFR) over the route of flight. The Specialist informed the pilot that conditions would be improving to marginal visual flight rule conditions (MVFR) from HOT to the Missouri border by 1500 CDT. The Specialist then advised the pilot that the current conditions at HOT were 700 feet overcast, ceiling variable from 500 feet to 1,000 feet, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 11 C, dew point 10 C, and winds easterly at 10 knots. The en route weather conditions at the time of the briefing included Little Rock (LIT) reporting overcast clouds at 1,400 feet, visibility 7 statute miles, northwest Arkansas overcast clouds at 5,000 feet, and Cape Girardeau indicating overcast clouds at 12,000 feet, visibility 9 statute miles, temperature 7 degrees C, dew point 4 degrees C, and wind 020 degrees at 8 knots. The Specialist then informed the pilot that the forecast for HOT from 1100 to 1700 was wind 060 degrees at 8 knots, visibility greater than 6 statute miles, overcast clouds at 1,000 feet, and overcast clouds at 2,000 feet. Until 1300, occasional visibility 5 statute miles, light rain and mist, broken clouds at 1,000 feet, and overcast clouds at 2,000 feet. The Specialist then advised the pilot that the LIT forecast from 1100 - 1700 was scattered clouds at 1,200 feet, overcast clouds at 2,000 feet, with occasional scattered clouds at 1,000 feet, overcast clouds at 2,000 feet, visibility 5 statute miles, light rain and mist. The Specialist also informed the pilot that after 1700 HOT would have broken clouds at 4,000 and 8,000 feet, Jonesboro would have overcast clouds at 6,000 feet, and Cape Girardeau would have broken clouds at 9,000 feet. The Specialist concluded the briefing by advising the pilot that the forecast across the route of flight after 1700 indicated visual flight rule conditions (VFR) would exist.
According to a lineman who worked for the local fixed based operator which provided services for the pilot, the pilot and his family arrived in Hot Springs on Friday evening to attend the weekend's Octoberfest activities. The lineman stated that on Saturday evening he fueled the airplane with 39 gallons of 100LL aviation gas. On Sunday morning the lineman reported the pilot and his family arrived at the airport for the return flight home. The lineman stated that while the children were loading the airplane he observed the pilot inside at the distance map trying to compute distance, ".....but his eyes were bloodshot and about half closed. I asked him if he was feeling alright and he said 'yes'. He went just outside the door and stood for a few minutes looking from his family, to the sky, and back again. He walked to his plane, loaded up without a preflight inspection, started up, and taxied out."
A witness, who lives approximately 1 mile north of the accident site, reported that he was inside his home when he heard a small engine plane flying over the top of his house. He went outside and noticed the airplane was too low, and also observed "changes in the rpms of the engine" as it turned over his house. The witness further stated that the plane did not sound like it was "cutting out." The witness reported, "It also sounded like it was getting lower, then I did not hear it at all just for a moment before I heard a loud boom." The witness reported the airplane came from the north flying southward, and that when they found the plane it was headed back to the north.
The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating on January 6, 1998. He was not instrument rated. According to FAA records, the pilot's last third class aviation medical examination was performed January 24, 2002. The only limitation to the medical certificate was that the pilot "must wear corrective lenses." Information provided by the pilot on his application for his airman's medical certificate indicated that he had a total flight time of 250 hours, with 50 hours flight time in the last six months.
N4353Y was a Piper PA-32-301, serial number 32-8406010. The most recent annual inspection was conducted on March 22, 2002, at which time both the engine and aircraft logbooks indicated a total time of 1,490.3 hours.
There were no official National Weather Service (NWS) weather reporting stations in Paron, Arkansas, therefore, the weather observations at surrounding area airports with federal observing systems were documented.
At 1353, the weather observation facility located at the Memorial Field Airport, Hot Springs (HOT), Arkansas (located 20 miles southwest of the accident site) reported wind 080 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast clouds at 900 feet, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point 10 degrees C, and an altimeter of 30.06 inches of Mercury.
At 1353, the weather observation facility located at the Little Rock International Airport (LIT), Little Rock, Arkansas (located 25 miles east of the accident site) reported wind 050 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, overcast clouds at 1,200 feet, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, with an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of Mercury.
At 1310, the weather observation facility located at the Russellville Regional Airport (RUE), Russellville, Arkansas (located 38 nautical miles northwest of the accident site) issued a special weather observation of wind calm, visibility 4 statute miles, light rain, mist, broken clouds at 1,400 feet, overcast clouds at 2,300 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 10 degrees C, and an altimeter of 30.10 inches of Mercury.
At 1324, the RUE weather observation facility issued a second special weather observation with wind calm, visibility 9 statute miles, light rain, broken clouds at 1,600 feet, overcast clouds at 2,300 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, and an altimeter of 30.10 inches of Mercury.
At 1343, the RUE weather observation facility issued a third special weather observation reporting wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast clouds at 1,300 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, an altimeter of 30.09 inches of Mercury, and rain ended at 31 minutes past the hour.
At 1353, the RUE weather observation facility reported wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast clouds at 1,300 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, an altimeter of 30.08 inches of Mercury, and rain ended at 31 minutes past the hour.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located in a densely forested area at 34 degrees 47.51 minutes north latitude and 92 degrees 45.18 minutes west longitude, approximately 1.23 nautical miles north-northeast of Paron.
Examination of the accident site revealed the aircraft struck a 80-foot tree below its top at approximately 60 feet above the ground at an elevation of 651 feet. The aircraft traveled on a measured magnetic heading of 300 degrees before impacting the ground. The main impact crater, which contained the rudder and vertical stabilizer, measured 6 feet in width, 9 feet in length, and 18 inches in depth, and was located 100 feet from the beginning of the wreckage path. The wreckage distribution path continued 190 feet beyond the main impact crater on a magnetic heading of 300 degrees.
Examination of the airplane revealed the left wing's inboard main spar, aileron bell crank, and control cables were found wrapped around a 4-inch diameter pine tree at the 6-foot level in an inverted position. Cables were pulled apart at this location as a result of impact forces. The tree was located approximately 3 feet aft of the of main impact crater and 5 feet left of the wreckage distribution path. Pieces of the red position light lens and the left wingtip were located approximately 40 feet from the first impact point and 9 feet left of the energy path. The outboard section of the left wing was found with impact damage, partially burned along the debris path approximately 30 feet forward of the main impact crater. The left aileron was separated from the wing and located 2 feet forward of the impact crater. Fragmented sections of the left flap were noted.
The right wingtip was located approximately 40 feet from the initial impact point and 9 feet to the right of the energy path. The right outboard flap and aileron, both separated from the right wing, were located approximately 3 feet forward of the main impact crater and 3 feet right of the distribution path. The majority of the right wing was found with the main wreckage and was destroyed in the post-impact fire. The aileron bellcrank was noted with both control cables attached. The bellcrank was separated and bent. Both control cables were pulled apart at this location as a result of impact forces.
The main cabin area was located approximately 55 feet forward of the main impact crater on the primary distribution path. The cabin was destroyed by impact and thermal damage. All engine instruments were also destroyed as a result of impact and thermal damage.
The fuselage was destroyed by the impact of the post-impact fire. Control cables from the 'T' bar, aileron chains and rudder bar were evident and followed to the areas of separations. Cables were pulled apart from these locations as the result of impact forces. Seats and instruments were destroyed by the impact and post-impact fire.
The empennage section was fragmented and found mostly before the main wreckage. The aft fuselage bulkhead, where both the vertical and stabilator hinges mount, was found wrapped around a tree near the impact crater. Examination found their position was consistent with a right bank of approximately 135 degrees (near inverted) at the time of impact with the tree.
The vertical rudder and stabilator were fragmented and parts were found along the debris path. Both the rudder and stabilator control cables were separated. Examination of the cables found that they were pulled apart as a result of impact forces.
The engine was separated from the fuselage. The propeller assembly remained attached to the engine, coming to rest in an inverted position 10 feet forward of the main impact crater, and oriented 80 degrees to the right of the distribution path. The engine displayed impact damage and all accessories were separated. Parts of the exhaust and intake systems were impact separated and pushrods were damaged.
The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange and was removed to facilitate the engine examination. The spinner was separated and found to display rotational crushing. The internal pitch change mechanism was impact damaged and broken. The hub was impact damaged and bent. One propeller blade had a gentle aft bend, torsional twisting, and waves along the leading edge. A second blade displayed torsional twisting and forward tip curl. The third blade also displayed torsional twisting.
The fuel selector valve was separated and located 290 feet beyond the initial impact point in line with the energy path. The fuel screen was not restricted and no contamination was noted. The fuel selector lever was found positioned on the left tank.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory's Office, Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 22, 2002. The cause of death was determined to be from multiple injuries.
Toxicological tests on the pilot were performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report indicated the following results:
Carbon monoxide not performed.
Cyanide not performed.
Ethanol detected in kidney.
40 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in muscle.
46 (mg/dL, mg/hg) methanol detected in kidney.
TEST AND RESEARCH
On October 21, 2002, under the supervision of the NTSB IIC, a preliminary examination of the aircraft's engine was conducted at the accident site by a representative from Textron Lycoming.
The engine was separated from the airframe structure and displayed impact damage on all sides. Impact damage was more severe on the lower side of the engine. All accessory components were impact separated from the respective mount pads. The #2 cylinder and rocker box area sustained impact damage and were separated from the engine. The #2 intake pipe was stripped off.
The exhaust system on the left side of the engine was stripped off, while the right side exhaust system was crushed. The topside of the engine #1 exhaust pushrod was not located. The #1 intake pushrod was impact damaged, the #2 intake and exhaust pushrods were impact damaged, and the #3 intake and exhaust pushrods were intact. The #4 intake and exhaust pushrods were also intact, while the #5 intake pushrod was crushed by impact forces. The #6 intake and exhaust pushrods sustained impact damage.
On October 22, 2002, the NTSB IIC supervised a post-accident recovery examination of the engine which was conducted at the facilities of Dawson Aircraft Inc., Clinton, Arkansas. The engine was documented and a partial disassembly examination was accomplished.
The propeller, spark plugs, and valve covers were removed. A light bore scope was used to inspect the engine internally, which revealed no anomalies. The crankshaft was rotated. Rotation of the crankshaft established internal gear and undamaged valve train continuity. All six cylinders produced compression. The rear accessory section was removed and the internal gears were intact and internal timing was normal. The crankshaft gear was intact. The crankshaft gear bolt was removed for inspection and the bolt was found intact and secure. The oil suction screen and oil filter were inspected and found clean.
With the exception of the fuel nozzles, all fuel system components were separated as a result of impact damage. Evidence of fuel was noted. The carburetor/injector inlet and aircraft main fuel strainer were clean. The injector servo was damaged and the controls were broken. The throttle was open one-quarter of an inch. The mixture control was destroyed, and the mixture valve/body was damaged. The inlet fuel screen was clean, while the fuel pump sustained impact damage. The pump was opened for inspection, revealing the internal parts appeared normal. No pre-impact anomalies were noted.
The propeller remained attached to the engine. It was removed from the engine to facilitate examination. One blade exhibited torsional bending and tip curl, while the second blade was fractured at the inboard butt area. The third blade exhibited torsional bending and the internal pitch change mechanism was broken. The spinner exhibited signs of rotational crushing folds of the aluminum. The governor was separated and the control arm/shaft was broken. The unit rotated freely by hand and pumping action of oil was noted.
The spark plugs exhibited medium gray color combustion deposits, the electrodes were dry, and the wear was moderate. Undamaged gap settings were normal.
The left magneto was separated with the mount clamps remaining in place. The left magneto produced spark from all towers. The right magneto was separated with the mount clamps remaining in place. The extent of damage to the right magneto precluded a spark examination.
The vacuum pump drive coupling was intact, the internal rotor was broken, and the stand-by pump was destroyed. The oil suction screen and oil filter were clear.
No evidence of any pre-impact mechanical failure or malfunction was identified.
The aircraft was released to the owner's representative on February 27, 2003.