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On November 15, 2002, about 1759 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N8162N, registered to a private individual, crashed in a wooded area approximately .7 nautical mile north-northwest of Southeast Greensboro Airport, Climax, North Carolina. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal, local flight from the Southeast Greensboro Airport, Climax, North Carolina. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated about 1653, from the Southeast Greensboro Airport.
A witness reported seeing the lights of the airplane, and based on the movement of the lights, thought the airplane was flying slowly as if preparing to land. He then observed the lights descend below trees then observed the lights, "come up and went down sharply." Another witness reported seeing the airplane flying alongside a highway nearby the airport at a low altitude. The witness reported observing the airplane hit the tree tops; the airplane then crashed nose first.
The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on November 13, 2002, with no limitations. He was issued a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating on June 20, 1997. Review of his pilot logbook revealed his last logged flight was dated November 3, 2002. He logged a total flight time of approximately 429 hours, of which 360 were logged as pilot-in-command, 16 and 2 hours in the accident airplane in the last 90 and 30 days, respectively. His last logged night flight consisting of 1.6 hours duration occurred on October 22, 2002. The entire flight time during that flight was logged as "night" time during which four landings were recorded as occurring; the landings were either performed at the Siler City Airport, Siler City, North Carolina, or the accident airport.
The airplane was manufactured in 1968, and was designated model PA-28-140, and assigned serial number 28-25358. The airplane was certificated in the normal and utility categories and was equipped with a 160 horsepower Lycoming O-320-D3G engine that was installed on February 11, 1981, in accordance with Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) SA2706SW. A Sensenich Corporation model 74DM6-0-58 fixed pitch propeller was installed; no shoulder harnesses were installed in the airplane.
A review of the maintenance records revealed that the airplane was last inspected in accordance with an annual inspection that was signed off as being completed on July 18, 2002, at a tachometer time of 747.4 hours and an airframe total time of 1,752.4 hours. The airplane had accumulated 27.9 hours at the time of the accident, since the inspection.
A Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR) taken at the Piedmont Triad International Airport, Greensboro, North Carolina, on the day of the accident at 1754 hours (approximately 5 minutes after the accident), indicates the wind was from 190 degrees at 3 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, few clouds existed at 6,000 feet, overcast clouds existed at 25,000 feet, the temperature and dew point were 14 and 7 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.02 inHg. The accident site was located approximately 15 nautical miles and 114 degrees magnetic from the airport.
On the day of the accident near the accident site location, the sunset and end of civil twilight were calculated to have occurred at 1712 and 1739, respectively. As previously stated, the accident occurred at approximately 1759 hours.
The accident airport (Southeast Greensboro Airport) has one runway designated 17/35, which is 3,063 feet long by 30 feet wide. A homemade visual approach slope indicator (VASI) consisting of three boards was placed on the east side of runway 17 approximately 500 yards down from the approach end of the runway. A person on the field who owned a twin engine airplane installed the VASI to be used when flying the airplane. The airport facility directory (AFD) did not depict a VASI being installed.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed in a wooded area located east of the northbound lanes of highway 421. The accident site was located at approximately 35 degrees 57.122 minutes North latitude and 079 degrees 41.501 minutes West longitude, or approximately .7 nautical mile and 342 magnetic degrees from the center of the Southeast Greensboro Airport.
Examination of the accident site revealed no evidence of a gradual descending swath through the tree tops. A tree with damaged limbs was located north of where the main wreckage came to rest. The airplane came to rest with the empennage elevated, in a right wing low attitude approximately 180 feet from the initial tree impact location. There was no post crash fire. Tree trunks measuring approximately 7.0, 5.5, and 5.0 inches in diameter had 45-degree cuts completely through the diameter. Tree trunks measuring 6.0 and 5.5 inches in diameter exhibited parallel cut marks at a 45-degree angle at both ends completely through the diameter.
Examination of the airplane which came to rest on a magnetic heading of 232 degrees revealed all components necessary to sustain flight remained secured or partially secured to the airplane. The leading edge of the left wing exhibited numerous impact points, and the inboard portion of the fuel tank was compromised. No fuel was found in the left fuel tank. Damage to the fuselage in the area of the leading edge of the left wing root was noted. The bolt that secures the aft wing fitting to the aft fuselage fitting of the left wing was not in place; washers located in the immediate area of the left wing root were recovered and retained for further examination. Additionally, the aft wing and fuselage fittings from the left wing were cut and retained for further examination. The outer 7 feet of the leading edge of the right wing was displaced upwards; the right wing remained secured by the aileron flight control cables; the main spar and forward and aft fittings were fractured; no evidence of preexisting fracture was noted on the fracture surfaces. The aft wing and fuselage fittings from the right wing were retained for comparison purposes. The right fuel tank was drained and found to contain 19 quarts of fuel. Examination of the flight control cables for roll, pitch, and yaw revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction.
Examination of the cockpit revealed the landing light selector was in the "off" position, the fuel selector was on the "right" tank position, and the flap selector handle was in the fully extended position. The throttle control was in the full forward position, while the mixture control was near the full forward position. The primer was in and locked, and the carburetor heat was in the "on" position. Post accident testing of the landing light and the auxiliary fuel pump using the airplane's battery revealed both were operational.
Examination of the engine revealed crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity. Spark was noted at all spark plugs with rotation of the engine. Magneto to engine timing could not be determined due to a broken starter ring gear. No obstructions were noted of the air induction system. The engine driven fuel pump was disassembled with no discrepancies noted; a small amount of fuel was noted inside the pump during disassembly. Examination of the carburetor revealed the fuel inlet screen was clean; disassembly of the carburetor revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. A small amount of fuel was also found inside the carburetor during disassembly.
Examination of the propeller revealed one blade was slightly bent aft while the other blade was bent aft approximately 30 degrees beginning about 17 inches from the center of the propeller hub.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt traumatic injuries of neck and chest due to airplane crash. The Medical Examiner's Office also performed toxicological analysis for ethanol which was negative.
The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also performed toxicological analysis of specimens of the pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. Acetaminophen (16.51 ug/ml) was detected in the urine specimen.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Metallurgical examination of the aft wing and fuselage fittings from the left wing was performed by the NTSB Materials laboratory located in Washington, D.C. The examination revealed the holes of both fittings were elongated about .015 inch in the inboard to outboard direction. The damage to bolt holes was consistent with contact by the bolt shank.
The airplane was initially released with no components retained on November 17, 2002, to William Lee Allison, of the Southeast Fire Department. Additional components consisting of the aft attach fittings from both wings, and the securing hardware for the right aft attach fitting were retained on December 20, 2002. The retained components were released to Harry Brooks, of International Loss Management on January 29, 2003.