On July 25, 2004, about 1620 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N38355, was destroyed when it collided with parked vehicles and a hangar at New Garden Airport (N57), Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight, conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to several witnesses, the pilot was conducting touch and go landings to runway 06. One witness stated that he heard the airplane's engine power up, then reduce power, then power up again. He looked toward the sound and saw the airplane in the grass, "fishtailing as would a wheelbarrow." The airplane then missed a group of fuel pumps, continued down a hill, hit parked cars and the hangar at what appeared to be a high rate of speed and full throttle, then exploded.
Another witness heard the pilot on the radio state, "new garden, warrior three eight three five five turning final for touch and go, new garden. The witness looked toward the runway and saw the airplane "sliding" through the grass, and it appeared to be heading toward the airport office. The airplane then "slid some more, [and] barely missed the gas pumps," struck another airplane, and "[went] right into the...hangar and blew up."
A third witness stated that he was standing on the ramp with a group of people, when they heard an airplane at "high power," then saw it on the ground and "out of control." The airplane missed the fuel pumps, but proceeded "down the taxiway until it impacted the hangar and immediately burst into flames."
A fourth witness reported that he heard the airplane "power up, then back to about idle, then full power." He did not see the airplane, but heard the crash, and subsequently responded to the scene.
The accident occurred during daylight hours, in the vicinity of 39 degrees, 50.08 minutes north latitude, 75 degrees, 45.94 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating, issued on the basis of a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) private pilot license. On an insurance form, completed on the day of the accident, the pilot stated that he had 140 hours of flight time.
The pilot also possessed a United Kingdom CAA second class medical certificate, dated January 20, 2002.
The airplane, which was rented to the pilot, was manufactured in 1977, and the latest annual inspection was completed on June 25, 2004, at 6,858.6 total hours of operation.
According to the airplane's maintenance log, the stabilator bearings were removed and replaced on July 16, 2004.
A flight instructor, who flew the airplane on the two flights previous to the accident, stated that he had flown it with a student pilot on July 19, 2004, and July 20, 2004. Since the student pilot had not flown for about 6 weeks, they performed "a fairly complete review of flight maneuvers during [those] two sessions." Maneuvers included slow flight, stall recoveries, ground reference maneuvers, simulated emergency procedures, power-off landings, and slips to landings. On July 20th, they flew to three different airports, where they completed short field, soft field, and cross wind takeoffs and landings.
The flight instructor further stated: "During our flights, the aircraft N38355 functioned perfectly. We detected no control or power difficulties."
The student pilot also provided a statement, and wrote, "the plane flew fine on both dates. Prior to departure, I performed the preflight inspection. I checked the oil, tire pressure, ailerons, flaps and did a walk-around inspection of the plane." "I tested the brakes before taxiing to runways for departure." The student pilot also noted that, "on both dates, the plane accelerated fine on take-off. The brakes, ailerons and flaps worked fine on all landings.... In short, the Warrior appeared to flying fine."
Runway 06 was 3,695 feet long and 50 feet wide, and field elevation was 436 feet. About 300 feet prior to the departure end of runway 06, and 150 feet north of it, there was a group of three fuel pumps. Just to the south of the fuel pumps, there was a taxiway, oriented in a generally east-west direction, which spilt towards two directions: to the south to join the runway, and to the east, into a hangar area. Between the fuel pumps and the hangar area, the elevation decreased by an estimated 25 feet. The first hangar in the hangar area was about two stories high, and was located approximately 50 feet beyond the departure end of runway 06, and 200 feet north of it.
At 1551, weather recorded at Wilmington International Airport (ILG), Wilmington, Delaware, 12 nautical miles to the southeast, included an overcast layer at 2,300 feet, winds from 070 degrees true, at 8 knots, and a barometric pressure of 30.22 inches of mercury.
At 1651, weather recorded at the same airport included an overcast layer at 2,300 feet, winds from 060 degrees true, at 7 knots, and a barometric pressure of 30.21 inches of mercury.
No definitive touchdown spot on runway 06 could be determined. There was also no evidence of any flight control surfaces or other airplane parts on or along the runway.
About 1,000 feet from the departure end of the runway, a set of three wheel tracks veered off the left side of the runway, at approximately a 20-degree angle. The two outside tracks approximated the 10-foot distance between the main landing gear of a PA-28. For the (estimated) first 300 feet, the middle track was closer to the left main track, drawing as close as about 3 feet to it. After that, the middle track centered, then eventually drew closer to the right track for about a hundred feet, then centered again. The tracks continued down a small hill, and S-bended slightly, first away from, then towards the accident site. In the midst of the S-bend, there was another PA-28, parked, and facing opposite the tracks' direction of travel, with impact marks to the back of the right wing. The distance from where the tracks veered off the runway, to the final location of the wreckage, was about 1,100 feet.
Further examination of the runway revealed nine slashes, consistent with propeller strikes, near the center of the runway, angled about 10 degrees to the right of centerline, that began about 235 feet prior to the beginning of the tracks in the grass. The slashes were increasingly closer together, with the distance between the first and second slashes being 2 feet, 8 inches apart, the fifth and sixth slashes 2 feet, 1 1/2 inches apart, and the eighth and ninth slashes 1 foot, 10 1/2 inches apart. Slash widths varied from about 2 inches at the beginning of the marks, to about 8 inches at the end. It could not be determined if the slashes were recent, and none of the witnesses reported hearing propeller strikes at the time of the accident.
Except for the left wing and a portion of the left cabin area, the airframe was completely consumed by fire. The only flight control surfaces that could be accounted for were the left wing flap and aileron; however, all of the flight control cables were found, and continuity was confirmed to where the cables would have joined their corresponding surfaces.
The flap handle was found in the down (flaps up) detent; however, the actual flap position could not be confirmed due to the actuator chain being broken. Threads on the pitch trim actuator corresponded to an approximately "slightly nose down" trim position.
The remains of the engine and the cockpit instruments came to rest upside down. The instruments were blackened, and removal of the glass revealed indications that were unreliable, except for a heading indication of about 060 degrees, and an altimeter setting of 30.21.
An examination of the engine revealed no catastrophic failures. Crankshaft continuity was confirmed, as was cylinder compression to the left side. Fire damage precluded right side compression testing. There was also severe fire damage to the engine's accessory section.
Both propeller blades were fractured, one about 8 inches from the hub and the other about 12 inches from the hub, both in a direction opposite rotation. Only one of the two blade remnants were located, and that one had severe leading edge damage to the blade tip, along with chordwise scratching and fire damage, including melted blade material.
On August 10, 2004, FAA inspectors conducted an airworthiness inspection of the wreckage at the storage facility. The horizontal stabilizer section behind the stabilator attach fitting was identified, and observed to be "severely melted and deformed." The inspectors were unable to determine if the stabilator fitting was attached. A left fitting assembly was found, but other fitting parts could not be identified. A subsequent inspection of the wreckage, along with the automobiles involved in the collision, did not reveal any additional parts.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On July 26, 2005, an autopsy was performed on the pilot at The Chester County Hospital, West Chester, Pennsylvania. The autopsy did not list any significant pre-accident pathology. Toxicological testing, which revealed atenolol in the pilot's blood and urine, was subsequently performed at the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
On July 27, 2004, the wreckage release was acknowledged by a representative of the owner's insurance company.