History of Flight

On January 10, 2005, about 2330 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N1266T, registered to several individuals in a partnership and operated by an individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, impacted into swampy terrain on approach to the Leesburg Regional Airport, Leesburg, Florida. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private-rated pilot received fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. The flight originated from the Ocala International Airport, Ocala, Florida, earlier that day, about 2305.

A witness stated he heard an airplane on final approach to the airport in poor visibility around 2330 pm. There was no unusual noise or observations before the airplane's engine went silent after the sound of an impact; no fire or explosion was seen at that time. Another witness stated he heard a loud explosion and went outside to see what had happened. His son told him he just heard an airplane fly over. Due to the fog at the time they could not see anything.

The Lake County Sheriff's office responded to the possible airplane crash report. A visual search of the area where the airplane may be located was conducted. A representative of the sheriffs office stated that due to the night time and the fog it was difficult to see more then than then a few feet a time. The sheriff's aviation department was notified about 2346 but would not be able to assist in the search until the weather cleared in the morning. At 0245 a representative of the Civil Air Patrol advised the sheriff's department an emergency locator transmitter signal was received in the area previously searched. At 0410, after gaining access through several dirt roads, the airplane was located in a swampy field along the flight path to the airport.

Personnel Information

The pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land privileges, issued on September 6, 2001. The pilot held an FAA third-class medical certificate issued on February 19, 2003, with no limitations. According to the pilot's logbook, at the time of the accident the pilot had accumulated about 399 total flight hours, with about 93 hours in the Piper PA-28-140.

Aircraft Information

The accident airplane was a 1972, Piper, PA-28-140, serial number 28-7225412. The airplane was equipped with a normal aspirating Lycoming O-320-E2D engines, serial number L-22288-27A with a Sensenich propellers, model 74DM6-0-58, hub serial number K33826.

According to the airplane's maintenance logbooks the last inspection was an annual inspection conducted on March 26, 2004, at total airframe time of 12,895 hours, which was accomplished 119 hours before the accident flight. The FAA inspector that responded to the accident stated that the last entry in the maintenance records for the altimeter test, in accordance with Title 14 CFR part 91.411, and transponder test, in accordance with Title 14 CFR part 91.413, was October 1999.

Meteorological Information

The Leesburg Regional Airport, 2353 automatic surface weather observation was wind from 070 at 3 knots, visibility 1 ¾ statue miles with mist, clouds overcast at 200 feet, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 17 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.24 inHg. The automatic surface weather observation site is located 1.5 miles, southeast of the accident site. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.


The accident flight was not on an instrument flight rule flight plan and was not in communication with any air traffic control center or facility. The Leesburg Regional Airport is a non-controlled airport.

Wreckage and Impact Information

The airplane came to rest in an upright position at location 28 degrees 50.277 minutes north latitude and 81 degrees 49.574 minutes west longitude, on a heading of 064 degrees. No impact marks were observed on the surrounding trees in the generally vicinity of the wreckage site. Adjacent to the airplane wreckage, trees were observed with impact damage. The damage incurred by the airplane and the surrounding vegetation was indicative of a nose low, left wing down attitude during a vertical descent at the time of impact. All components of the airplane, which are necessary for flight, were located on or around the airplane wreckage.

Examination of the wreckage showed the left wing was separated from the wing root and was located several feet aft from its attachment points. The leading edge was crush aft to the main spar with two circular impact deformations. The left main landing gear remained attached to the wing. The left fuel tank was breached and the fuel cap was in place. The pitot/static mass was separated, dirt of light brown color was observed in the pitot/static tubing system near the mass section. Part of the left aileron remained attached to the wing and was observed with impact marks, its balance weight was separated. The left flap was attached to the wing and was observed with impact marks. The left flap setting by flap mechanism measurement was consisted with a 25 degrees flap down position.

The right wing was separated at the forward and aft wing attachments and remained adjacent to their respectively attaching points. The leading edge was crushed aft to the main spar. The right main gear remained attached to the wing. The right fuel tank was breached and the fuel cap was in place. The right aileron was observed with impact marks and was attached to the wing; its balance weight was separated. The right flap was attached to the wing and was observed with impact marks. The right flap setting by flap mechanism measurement was consisted with a 25 degrees flap down position.

The empennage remained intact with the fuselage. The stabilator with its stops and balance weights remained attached. The measurement on the pitch trim drum was consistent with a 3 degrees tab deflection in a nose up attitude. The rudder with its stops and balance weight remain attached.

The fuselage incurred destructive forces. The firewall and instrument panel were observed crushed aft. The front windshield and side windows were broken and separated. The cabin door was separated and located several feet forward and to the left of the main wreckage. The center section of the fuselage was observed buckled toward the left of the airplane and crushed inward.

Continuity of the flight controls system was established. All separation points were consistent with over stress. Several cables were cut in the wreckage recovery process. No pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions to the flight control systems were noted during the examination.

The engine was partially separated from the airframe and submerged in the swamp water. Oil consistent to engine oil was observed throughout the engine section. The engine oil sump was breached. Manual crankshaft rotation was obtained. Valve train to rear accessory gears continuity was established. Compression was observed on the #1 and #4 cylinders. Cylinders #2 and #3 were observed contaminated with dirt and mud consistent with swamp terrain. The vacuum pump was removed and rotated by hand. The left and right magnetos produced sparks from the towers. The engine driven fuel pump had impact damage and was disassembled with a trace of fuel observed in the fuel pump. The carburetor was observed with impact damage. The carburetor was disassembled and the floats in the float bowl were intact and compressed. No pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions to the engine or its systems were noted during the examination.

The two bladed propeller was attached to the engine crankshaft flange. The spinner was crushed aft to the propeller attachment point. One of the blades was bent aft at mid span and bent forward at the outboard section. The other blade was bent aft at mid span.

The bulb for the red overhead cabin light was removed and observed with its filament stretched. The fuel selector was observed in the left tank position. Full travel of the selector valve was established and all valve ports were free of blockage. During the initial recovery process of the main wreckage a strong odor of aviation fuel was noted.

Medical and Pathological Information

Postmortem examination of the pilot was preformed by Medical Examiner's Office, Leesburg, Florida. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma of torso and extremities. No findings which could be considered causal to the accident were reported.

Postmortem toxicology studies on specimens obtained from the pilot were performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.

Test and Research

A Garmin 196 GPS was found partial attached to the left yoke of the accident airplane. One of the owners in the partnership of the accident airplane stated to the NTSB investigator that the accident pilot would not fly without the GPS and would on occasions practice instrument approach to the airport utilizing the Garmin 196 GPS. The Garmin 196 GPS was sent to the Garmin International, Inc. facility in Olathe, Kansas, for data extraction. No data was retrieved due to the damage incurred by the unit as a result of the accident.

Additional Information

The aircraft wreckage was released by NTSB to a representative of Sample International Aviation, Inc. on January 11, 2005. Components retained by NTSB for further examination were returned to the Sample International Aviation, Inc. on May 31, 2006.

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