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On December 31, 2002, at 1736 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N5118G, registered to and operated by the United States Army Fort Meade Flying Activity, collided with trees and the ground in a residential area during emergency descent in Austell, Georgia. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The private pilot and passenger received serious injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The flight departed Danville Regional Airport Danville, Virginia, on December 31, 2002 at 1335.
At 0820, the pilot telephoned Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station (DCA AFSS) to confirm that his instrument flight rules flight plan was on file and to check the Notice To Airmen along his route and Temporary Flight Restrictions. The pilot telephoned DCA AFSS to file an instrument flight rules flight plan from Danville Airport, Virginia to Fulton County Airport-Brown Field, Georgia at 1320. The pilot preflight the airplane and performed a run up.
At 1328, the pilot radioed Leesburg Radio to request his instrument clearance for the flight. The flight departed runway 13 and contacted air traffic control during climb at 1337. The pilot continued along his planned route of flight for 3 hours and 53 minutes. The pilot attempted to fly nonstop to his intended destination.
According to air traffic control records, the flight was en route to Fulton County Airport-Brown Field, Atlanta, Georgia. At 1730, the pilot contacted Atlanta Center air traffic control on 121.0 and reported that he was low on fuel. The air traffic controller declared an emergency for the flight and vectored the flight to Fulton County Airport-Brown Field. The pilot stated the airplane lost engine power about 12 miles north of Fulton County Airport-Brown Field. According to the air traffic controller the pilot informed him that there was a field to the left and he would attempt to land, this was the pilot's last radio transmission. Air traffic controllers lost radar and radio contact with the flight at 1736.
A review of the information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on December 10, 2001 with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument privileges. The FAA aero medical records revealed the pilot held a third class medical certificate issued on February 5, 2002 with restrictions and waivers.
A review of the pilot's logbook showed that he accumulated 458 total flight hours, of which 136 hours were in a PA-28-180. The logbook disclosed the pilot had completed a biennial flight review on February 2, 2001.
The Piper PA-28-180 is a four seat low wing all metal single engine airplane. The PA-28-180 is equipped with a four cylinder Lycoming O-360-A4A 180 hp reciprocating engine. According to the pilot's operating handbook the airplane has two 25-gallon fuel tanks with a cruising range of 725 nautical miles at 75 percent power at optimum altitude. A review of the airplane logbooks revealed the last annual inspection was completed on April 16, 2002. At the time of the inspection the airplane's total time in service was 5417.2.
Aviation surface weather from Fulton County Airport-Brown Field, Atlanta, Georgia at 1653 local standard time recorded winds calm, five statute miles of visibility, light rain, mist few at 1,400 feet, broken at 6,500 feet and overcast at 8,000 feet. Temperature was reported at 59 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.82.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Initial examination revealed the wreckage came to rest in a residential area between two homes 5.4 nautical miles northwest of Fulton County Airport. The wreckage distribution of the airplane covered an area of 78 feet long and 42 feet wide along a magnetic path of 107 degrees. The initial impact point consisted of freshly broken trees. The trees were broken approximately 60 feet above the ground.
The outboard six feet of the left wing was found separated at the root and resting on the ground near the base of the trees. The left wing was buckled inward, and showed no evidence of hydraulic ballooning. The left fuel tank was breached.
Both fuel caps were in place and locked on the fuel port of the wings. Once the fuel caps were removed there was a faint odor of fuel inside the bladder.
Six ounces of clean aviation fuel was recovered from the right fuel tank, and one ounce of clean aviation fuel was recovered from the carburetor bowl. There was a trace amount of fuel found between the fuel pump and the carburetor. The fuel pump was tested and was found to be operational. The fuel pump screen and gascolator screen were clear of blockage.
During the on scene examination of the airplane no signs of fuel leaks or stains were observed. The four-cylinder Lycoming engine was attached to the engine mount. The engine was displaced to the right. The engine sustained crush damage. Oil was observed leaking onto the ground from a hole in the oil sump. The spark plug electrodes were white in color. The pilot stated there were no anomalies with the airplane prior to running out of fuel.
The airplane was released to United States Aircraft Insurance Group on February 23, 2004.