HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On August 4, 2004, at approximately 1130 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3352W, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when it departed controlled flight, and impacted power lines and terrain 1 mile northwest of Mineral Wells Municipal Airport (MWL), Mineral Wells, Texas. A post crash fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The test flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The commercial certificated pilot and private pilot certificated passenger sustained fatal injuries. The local flight originated at approximately 1000.
According to several witnesses, the accident airplane was observed flying from south to north over runway 31. One witness stated that the airplane was approximately 150 feet agl and flying rather slow. The airplane then "pulled-up hard" and banked to the right. Another witness stated that the airplane was in an 80 to 90 degree bank turn to the right. The airplane was then observed to descend below the tree line.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, glider, and instrument ratings, dated April 28, 1994. He also held a certified flight instructor certificate for single engine airplanes and gliders. The pilot was employed by Century Flight Systems, Inc., for approximately 12 years as a test pilot.
The pilot held a second class airman's medical certificate, dated June 23, 2004. The certificate contained the limitation "Must wear lenses for distant - Possess glasses for near vision."
At the time of the medical examination, the pilot reported he had logged 4,450 total flight hours. According to Century Flight Systems records, his last flight review was conducted on June 23, 2003.
The pilot rated passenger held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating, dated July 22, 2004. He held a third class airman's medical certificate, dated December 1, 2003. The certificate contained the limitation "Must wear corrective lenses." At the time of the examination, the pilot reported 50 hours of flight time.
The airplane, serial number 32-194, was manufactured in 1965. The airplane was owned by a private pilot and used for pleasure. In May of 2004, the owner of the airplane flew it to Mineral Wells, Texas, from Seymour, Indiana, for maintenance. Century Flight Systems, Inc., installed a Garmin GMA 340 Audio Panel, a Garmin GTX tm 330 Mode S Transponder, and a Garmin GNS 530 Global Positioning System.
According to the maintenance records, an annual inspection was conducted on January 19, 2004. The total airframe time recorded at the annual inspection was 3272.3 hours. The last entry in the airframe logbook was on July 23, 2004. At that time, the airplane had 3,297.6 hours. The airplane's tachometer and Hobbs meter were destroyed in the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board began its on scene investigation at approximately 1920 on August 4, 2004.
The accident site was located in an open newly plowed hay field, beneath a set of east-west running powerlines, at the coordinates of 32 degrees, 48.004 minutes north latitude, and 98 degrees, 04.230 minutes west longitude. The accident site was at an elevation of 973 feet msl. The area surrounding the main wreckage sustained extensive fire damage.
A severed power line rested next to the main wreckage. A power pole, located 430 feet west of the main wreckage was broken at the base. The northern power line was resting on the ground. The line carried 138,000 kilovolts of electricity and was composed of seven ply steel cable. The power poles were 65 feet tall, with approximately 8 to 10 feet of the pole buried underground.
The main wreckage was located directly below the power lines and consisted of the airplane's fuselage, empennage, right wing, and charred remains of the inboard left wing, engine, propeller, main landing gear and nose gear.
A debris field extended approximately 45 feet north of the main wreckage. This debris field contained the transponder, autopilot controller, broken clear Plexiglas, the aircraft tow bar, approach plates, personal effects, and the outboard section of the left wing.
A second debris area extended south of the main wreckage for approximately 51 feet. Within this area were the engine, propeller, pilot's seat, broken clear Plexiglas, various instruments, and personal effects.
The main wreckage was inverted and oriented on an approximate heading of 270 degrees. The fuselage and empennage, to include the baggage compartment, horizontal, and vertical stabilizer, and trim tab were charred, melted, and consumed by fire. The vertical stabilizer was crushed to the right at the base. Control continuity for the right aileron, rudder, and stabilator was confirmed. The trim screw was at seven threads indicating 2 degrees nose up.
The right wing, to include the right aileron, right main gear, and flap, was charred, melted, and consumed by fire. It remained attached to the fuselage at the wing root.
The inboard section of the left wing, including the left main landing gear, gear wheel pant, and flap, were charred. The outboard 5 feet of the left wing was torn aft longitudinally from the left wing and found north of the main wreckage. The remaining inboard section of the wing had separated longitudinally at the wing root. Witness marks consistent with wire strand signatures were found on the main spar and external wing skin. The flaps were measured to be approximately 40 degrees down.
The instrument panel and radios were broken out, charred, and consumed by fire.
The engine came to rest on its right side and was crushed, charred and melted. The engine cowling was crushed, melted and consumed by fire. The engine and propeller were burned, charred and melted. The propeller blades were labeled "A" and "B" for identification purposes only. The outer 14 inches of blade A had severed longitudinally, melted and was bent aft approximately 3 degrees. Blade B displayed torsional bending and had nicks and gouges on the trailing edge of the blade.
The engine accessory housing was charred, melted and consumed by fire. The carburetor, starter, alternator and vacuum pump were crushed and consumed by fire. The number 3 and number 5 pistons were damaged by fire.
An examination of the fuel selector valve revealed it was on the left main tank.
A burned area extended approximately 1,000 feet east to west and 2,500 feet north to south and was divided by a barbed wire fence.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on the pilot and the pilot rated passenger by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, Texas, on August 5, 2004. The autopsies revealed no evidence of physical incapacitation or impairment that would have been causal to the accident.
FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot showed no volatile concentrations.
Toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot certificated passenger showed Diphenhydramine in the liver and kidney. According to the FAA, "diphenhydramine is used in the treatment of allergic symptoms. Because it causes drowsiness, use by pilots within 12 hours of flying is not recommended."
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The engine was recovered to Dallas Air Salvage for further inspection. On August 16, 2004, the engine was examined under the auspices of the NTSB. No anomalies were noted that would have precluded the engine from operating normally.
In an interview with the Chief Financing Officer for Century Flight, he stated that both the pilot and the pilot rated passenger had flown together before. The normal procedure was for the pilot to fly and the passenger to test the equipment for functionality. It was expressed that the pilot was preparing to retire and the pilot rated passenger was being conditioned to assume the flight responsibilities. It was standard company procedure to send two individuals to perform these tests.
According to the Chief Mechanic for Century Flight, during the functionality test, the airplane would be flown with flaps down and as slow as possible so that the system could accurately gather data. He stated that these checks were normally performed between 500 and 700 feet agl.
The airplane wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company on September 1, 2004.
Parties to the investigation include the FAA, The New Piper Aircraft Company, and Lycoming Engines.