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On December 20, 2002, at 1957 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-300, N47420, registered to and operated by Alpha II Zulu Incorporated, flown by a private pilot, collided with trees during an emergency descent. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument fight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed, and the pilot and three passengers were fatally injured; one passenger received minor injuries. The flight originated from Columbus, Ohio, on December 20, 2002 at 1639 central standard time.
The pilot was on an instrument cross-country flight from Columbus, Ohio, and at 1937, initial contact was established with the Atlanta Approach Control. At 1949, the pilot declared he had an emergency. At 1950, approach control advised the pilot that the Macon Regional Airport was twelve o'clock and 15 miles. Approach control asked the pilot if he would be able to make it to the airport. The pilot advised that he could get to the airport, and requested a heading. Approach control gave the pilot a heading of 180 and asked for the nature of the emergency. The pilot advised that he thinks he just lost his engine and had smoke in the cockpit. Approach control advised the pilot to turn towards the Herbert Smart Airport at his eleven o'clock and 13 miles. Approach control advised the pilot that the airport was at his 12 to 11 o'clock position and ten miles. Approach control asked the pilot if he could hold attitude. The pilot responded negative and he would try to maintain 4,500 feet. At 1954, the pilot was advised that I-75 was off to his right side. The pilot responded that he was at 2,200 feet and not sure that he could hold altitude. At 1954, the pilot advised approach control that he had a "total lost of engine power", and advised approach control that he would not be able to make the airport and that he was at 1,600 feet. At 1956, approach control lost radar contact one mile north of the interstate interchange.
According to the passenger the engine stopped and the pilot attempted to restart the engine. After an unsuccessful attempt to restart the engine the airplane seemed as though it was "sailing down". The pilot told the passengers to brace themselves because they were going to hit some trees. The airplane collided with trees and came to rest in a heavily wooded area. The passenger attempted to pull one of the other passengers out of the airplane; but the airplane burst into flames. The passenger ran for help at a nearby store, and requested emergency assistance. On returning to the wreckage site the airplane had been fire damaged.
The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on June 28, 2000, with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. Review of records revealed the pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on August 15, 2001, valid when wearing corrective lenses. The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 426 total flight hours. The pilot's logbook was not recovered for review.
The last recorded annual inspection was conducted on September 20, 2002; the total tachometer time was 3271.94. The altimeter system, static pressure system, and transponder were inspected on August 21, 2001. No records were found concerning the last engine overhaul.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Macon, Georgia. The 1953 surface weather observation was: 800 feet broken, visibility 10 miles, temperature 19 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 13 degrees Celsius, wind direction 150-degrees at 13 knots gusting to 17 knots, and altimeter reading of 29.81.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site revealed the airplane was on a 160-degree heading. The wreckage path was 200 feet long. Located at the first freshly broken tree was the left wing approximately 30 feet above the ground. The right wing was located along the wreckage path behind the fuselage in a group of freshly broken trees heavily fire damaged. The cabin and fuselage was fire damage. The engine was still attached to the firewall and displayed fire damage.
Examination of the left wing assembly revealed it was separated at the wing root. The left aileron was still attached to the attachment points on the wing. The left flap was attached and in the retracted position. Flight control cables were attached to the bell cranks and displayed fraying at the separation. The left main landing gear was still attached to the wing. The left wing displayed crush damage along the leading edge of the wing mid-span from the wing root. The fuel tanks were breached and no fuel was present.
Examination of the right wing assembly revealed it was separated at the wing root. The right wing displayed leading edge crush damage. The right wing sustained fire damage. The flight control cables were attached to the bell cranks and displayed fraying at the separation. The right main landing gear was still attached to the wing. The right wing fuel tanks were breached and no fuel was present.
Examination of the fuselage revealed it was fire damaged. The vertical stabilizer was still attached to what remained of the empennage. The vertical stabilizer displayed sooting on the tailing edge of the rudder. The rudder control cables were traced to the cockpit control quadrants and rudder peddles.
Examination of the engine began on March 18, 2003. The engine crate was disassembled at Textron Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The engine was identified by the red NTSB tag 6120.18 as the engine involved in the accident of a Piper PA-32-300, N47420, and IO-540-K1G5 engine.
Examination of the engine began with the removal of the engine baffles and external wiring was removed to facilitate the external engine examination. The fuel servo sustained fire damaged. The fuel servo inlet screen was free of debris. The fuel divider sustained fire damage.
Examination of the engine accessory housing revealed it was fire damage. Both magnetos and their harnesses were fire damaged. The engine driven fuel pump sustained fire damage. The left side of the engine case, above cylinder number 6 had a 4-inch by 4-inch hole. On the left side of the case between the number 2 and 4 cylinder displayed a 1-inch crack. Between the number 2 rocker boss displayed a 1-inch crack.
Examination of the vacuum pump revealed all vanes were intact and the drive coupling was damaged. The oil filter was fire damage. The oil filter was opened for examination and there were no signs of metal contamination. The return oil lines on the engine were fire damaged. The number 4-bottom plug was saturated with oil and the number 6 cylinder plugs were oil saturated. The main crankshaft bearings displayed signs of bluing. The number 6 intake tappet bore was separated from the engine case.
Examination of the internal engine case revealed scoring damage. The internal connecting rods and pistons reveled signs of extreme heat. The number three and six connecting rod journals distressed and heat damaged. The number one rod bearing was extruded and revealed signs of scoring. The number two-rod end bearing was extruded and revealed signs of scoring. The number four-rod end bearing was extruded and revealed severe scoring. The number five-rod end bearing was extruded and revealed severe scoring. The oil coolers were fire damaged. Approximately ½ quart of engine oil was recovered from the 12-quart engine oil system. Metal debris was retrieved from the engine sump. The oil sump pick-up screen was clogged with pieces of metal debris. The right side internal case revealed a 3-inch by 2-inch hole under the number 3-cylinder journal. The engine crankshaft could not be rotated.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Division of Forensic Sciences, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, State of Georgia performed the pathological diagnoses of the pilot on December 21, 2002. The cause of death was "blunt force trauma". The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol.
The wreckage of N47420 was released to CTC Services Aviation (LAD Inc.) on December 3, 2003.
Review of maintenance records revealed that Custom Airmotive Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma removed the engine to repair a cracked crankcase on January 7, 1994. The total time on the engine was 2859.7 at the time of the repair. Review also revealed on November 21, 2002, an airwolf filter crankcase vent filter was installed.
In a telephone interview with a line mechanic at Lane Aviation, he recalled on December 20, 2003 during the servicing of a gear strut it was pointed out to the pilot-in-command that there was an oil leak coming from under the engine cowling onto the nose wheel pant. The pilot informed the mechanic that he would look into it later.