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On November 14, 2004, about 1220 central standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N56960, registered to, and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed in the town of Dubbs, in Tunica County, Mississippi. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The private-rated pilot and two passengers received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from the Louisiana Regional Airport, Gonzales, Louisiana, the same day, about 1030.
According to an official at FAA Memphis Approach Control, the pilot had initiated contact with Memphis Approach Control, requesting permission to transit through the Memphis Class B airspace. The official further stated that the controller assigned the pilot a beacon code of 0306, radar identified the flight at 7,500 feet, and instructed the pilot to contact Memphis Approach on a radio communications frequency of 119.1, but no subsequent reply was received.
Three witnesses stated that they observed the airplane just prior to impact. Two of the witnesses stated that they observed the airplane flying above them from south to north, the engine was making a "funny" noise, and all of a sudden the airplane spiraled downward with parts coming off of it. The third witness stated that he saw the accident airplane pass overhead and it initially made a loud "popping" noise, followed by a noise as if the engine was accelerating to a higher RPM setting. It then spun out of control and he heard it impact the ground.
Radar data obtained from the FAA showed that at 1223, the airplane was at an altitude of 6,000 feet proceeding on a northerly heading, about 12 nautical miles south of the main wreckage site. At 1225, while at 7,100 feet, the airplane was observed in a turn to the northeast. At 1226, the airplane descended from 7,300 feet, and there were varying heading changes from the northeast to the northwest. The last radar return occurred at 1228, while the airplane was at 6,700 feet, 0.5 nautical miles southeast from the main wreckage site.
Records obtained from the FAA showed that the pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate, with airplane single engine land rating, issued on August 30, 1997. He also held an FAA third-class medical certificate, issued on September 19, 2003, with the stated limitation that the holder must "wear lenses that correct for distant vision and possess for near/intermediate."
A pilot's logbook labeled as "Book No. 2" was located at the accident scene. Entries in the logbook began on November 17, 2002 at which time 387.2 total flight hours had been forwarded, of which 264.9 were stated to be pilot-in-command time.
From the information provided in logbook No. 2 forward to the date of the accident, showed that the pilot had flown only in the accident airplane. He had recorded having a total of about 715 total flight hours, all of which were in single engine airplanes.
Records did not indicate that the pilot possessed an instrument rating. His last biennial flight review had been conducted on September 27, 2003.
N56960 was a 1973 Piper PA-28R-200, serial number 28R-7435064. Information obtained from the aircraft's maintenance records showed that the PA-28R-200 had received an annual inspection on August 24, 2004 and at that time it had accumulated a total flight time of about 3,952 hours.
The airplane's records indicated that its altimeter, static system, and transponder had last been tested and inspected on August 22, 2003.
The engine installed in N56960 was a 200 horsepower Lycoming IO-360-C1C, serial number L-12611-51A. According to maintenance records, it was installed on August 3, 2003. An annual inspection was last performed on the engine on August 24, 2004, at which time it had been in service for 3,870 hours, 252 of which were since major overhaul.
The airplane was equipped with a three-bladed constant speed Hartzell propeller, serial number DY5830B. According to the aircraft's propeller logbook, the propeller was installed on August 03, 2003.
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The Memphis International Airport, Memphis, Tennessee, 1153, surface weather observation was: wind from 130 at 9 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition few clouds at 5,000 feet, scattered at 8,000 feet, broken at 25,000 feet; temperature 17 degrees Celsius; dewpoint temperature 7 degrees Celsius; and altimeter setting 30.50 inHg. Memphis, Tennessee, is located about 34 nautical miles north-northeast of the last air traffic control secondary radar return from N56960.
The West Memphis Airport, West Memphis, Arkansas, 1153, surface weather observation was: wind from 090 at 8 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition broken at 3,900 feet, overcast at 5,000 feet; temperature 15 degrees Celsius; dewpoint temperature 8 degrees Celsius; and altimeter setting 30.50 inHg. West Memphis, Arkansas, is located about 36 nautical miles north from the last air traffic control secondary radar return from N56960.
The National Weather Service area forecast issued by the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 14, 2004 at 0635 and valid until November 14, 2004 at 1700, for the Northern Mississippi area was: sky condition broken ceiling at 2,000 to 3,000 feet, overcast ceiling at 5,000 feet, and cloud tops at 6,000 feet.
In addition, the NTSB conducted a weather study that showed at about the time of the accident that: multiple cloud layers were present, cloud bases were near 3,000 feet and cloud tops were above 7,500 feet, and projected visibilities of 0 miles in clouds and greater than 3 miles below the lowest cloud layer.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The main wreckage of N56960 was located in a rural farm area, about 9 miles south of Tunica, Mississippi, in a harvested cotton field, and about 37 miles from Memphis, Tennessee. The path of aircraft-related debris was spread over a length of 0.83 nautical miles, oriented from north-northwest to south-southeast. The debris field began with the right aileron, followed by the left stabilator tip, the right wing, the right stabilator, the left wing, the left aileron, the left stabilator, the rudder, and ending with the remaining fuselage/main wreckage. Outboard portions of both wings had separated from the airplane at the wing splice, and the stabilator and vertical stabilizer/rudder had detached from the airplane at their attach points. There was no evidence of a fire having occurred.
The fuselage came to rest inverted and was oriented on heading of about 090 degrees at position 34 degrees 34.058 North latitude and 90 degrees 18.893 West longitude. The upper portion of the cabin area was crushed downwards. To facilitate the examination, after initial observations, the fuselage was turned over to permit a detailed examination.
In the cockpit the front seats were attached to the seat rails, the seat backs were broken and bent aft, and the rear bench seat was crushed. Recovery personnel had cut both front lap belts. The fuel selector was on the left tank position. The flap handle was observed in the 10-degree down position and the autopilot was in the on position. The master switch was in the on position and the propeller, mixture, and throttle controls were full aft. The carburetor heat control was closed.
The gauges had incurred impact damage. The airspeed indicator displayed 64 knots, the rate of climb indicator indicated plus 250, the Kollsman window indicated 30.45, and the directional gyro indicated 120, The altimeter, artificial horizon, turn and bank indicator, suction gauge had sustained severe impact damage. The tachometer had also incurred impact damage and it displayed 1415 hours. The pitch and roll servo pulleys rotated freely. The nose and main landing gear were in the retracted position.
The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. The outboard section of the wing was separated at the main spar splice approximately 8 feet from the wing root and was found .38 nautical miles northwest from the main wreckage in position 34 degrees 34.370 North latitude 90 degrees 19.229 West longitude. The leading edge of the wing displayed areas of impact damage and chordwise scoring. The fuel tank received impact damage and was compressed downward. Recovery crew drained approximately 1/2 gallon of fuel from the tank.
The left aileron had separated from the wing, and was located along the flight path. Upon examination, a 12-inch section of the left aileron was noted to have torn, and the push pull rod had also separated and the aileron was bent in the area corresponding to the separation. The bell crank remained attached and the stops were in place. Continuity was established from the bell crank to the control column and balance cable continuity was established from the left bell crank to the right bell crank. The left flap was in the up position and had remained attached to the inboard and middle attachment points. The outboard attachment was broken and separated.
The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. The outboard section of the wing was separated at the main spar splice approximately 8 feet from the wing root and was found .5 nautical miles northwest from the main wreckage in position 34 degrees 34.462 North latitude 90 degrees 19.323 West longitude. The upper skin of the wing at the separation area was curled upwards. Fuel remained in the fuel tank and the fuel tank skin exhibited wrinkling.
The right aileron was separated from the wing and was located at the extreme northwest end of the debris path. The aileron displayed impact damage and the inboard 6-inch section was torn and separated. The push pull rod was separated and the aileron was bent in the area corresponding to the separation. The bell crank remained attached, the stops were in place, and continuity was established from the bell crank to the control column. The right flap was in the up position and had remained attached to the inboard and middle attachment points. The outboard attachment was broken and separated.
The left and right sides of the stabilator were separated approximately 9 inches from the center. Equal twisting and buckling deformation were noted to both sides. The left side of the stabilator was located at position 34 degrees 34.334 North latitude 90 degrees 19.164 West longitude with its outboard section separated and located .16 nautical miles to the northwest. The right side of the stabilator was separated and located .47 nautical miles northwest from the main wreckage of at position 34 degrees 34.421 North latitude and 90 degrees 19.295 West longitude. The stabilator stops were observed in place.
The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer, had separated from the fuselage, and was located along the debris path. Rudder continuity was established from the rudder horn to the rudder pedals and the rudder stops were in place.
The NTSB Materials Laboratory, Washington DC, conducted materials analyses of sections of the airplane to include the forward spar of the right wing, approximately 18 inches outboard of the tie down fitting, the forward spar of the left wing, at a position closely corresponding to the fracture in the right forward spar, aft spars of right and left wings, the left and right forward spars of the horizontal stabilator, the aft spar of right horizontal stabilator, and the lower portion of the vertical stabilizer.
All fractures were consistent with overstress, and no areas of fatigue were observed. On both wings, the webs of the forward spars exhibited creases and had buckled consistent with shear loads. The upper spar caps fractured under compression, and there was upward bending associated with the lower spar caps, all indicative of upward loading of the wings at the time of fracture. The fractures and deformations associated with the right side of the horizontal stabilator were also consistent with of upward loading, while fracture features and deformation on the left side of the horizontal stabilator were consistent with downward loading.
The engine was attached to the airframe, and had been inverted and partially embedded into the soil. A crane was used to lift the aircraft and turn it over to facilitate the engine examination. The engine had remained intact, and was rotated by turning the propeller. There was continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and valve action, to the rear gears and accessory drives. Suction and compression were confirmed on all four cylinders. The cylinders were inspected using a lighted borescope and no anomalies were noted. No evidence of any precrash anomalies were found to exist with the engine or any of its accessories.
No damage was noted to the starter and alternator. Fuel was found in the fuel pump, the fuel servo and the flow divider, and the fuel screen was found to be free of obstruction. The flow divider was disassembled and no holes were found in the diaphragm. Examination of the vacuum pump revealed that the drive coupling was intact and the vanes were undamaged. The rotor exhibited a fracture consistent with impact damage and a small amount of carbon dust was observed in the rotor cavity.
The left magneto had about a fifth of its flange separated due to impact damage and the right magneto's flange had separated at both attach points to the engine. The magnetos were removed and rotated by hand at which time sparks were observed from all towers. All of the spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal wear and coloring. The ignition harness had incurred impact damage in several places.
Oil was found on the lower left portion of the engine and on the belly of the airplane, and when examined the lubrication system was found to be intact. The oil cooler was secure, the hoses were tight, and the oil filter and suction screen were both clean.
The propeller had remained attached to the hub. Two of the propeller blades were embedded in the soil and displayed forward bending. The third blade was intact. No leading edge damage or chordwise scarring were observed to any of the blades.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examinations of the pilot and passengers were performed by a pathologist with the Tunica County Medical Examiner's Office, Tunica County, Mississippi. The causes of death were attributed to blunt force trauma. No findings that could be considered causal to the accident were reported.
Postmortem toxicology testing on specimens obtained from the pilot was performed by the FAA Toxicological Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tests were conducted for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs, and none were found to be present.
Postmortem toxicology testing on specimens obtained from the passengers was preformed by ExperTox Inc. Analytical Laboratory, Deer Park, Texas. Tests were conducted for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs, and none were found to be present.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The Garmin GPS map model 196, serial number 65408892, was retained and sent to Garmin International for further examination. The front case and lens had incurred impact damage and the display was fractured in many places.
The data was extracted from the unit using a serial interface cable with external power. The unit contained 450 track points in the log named "Active Log 011" from November 14, 2004. The location of these points begins near the Louisiana Regional Airport and terminate near Dubbs, Mississippi.
On December 21, 2004, the NTSB released the wreckage of N56960 to Mr. E. W. Ted Green, Claims Manager of Phoenix Aviation Managers, Inc.