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On March 26, 2005, about 0545 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N999SK, owned by Lafayette Aviation, piloted by a non-instrument rated private pilot, was destroyed on impact with trees and terrain during initial climbout from runway 10 at the Purdue University Airport (LAF), near West Lafayette, Indiana. The personal flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was on file. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The local flight originated from LAF about 0540.
The Purdue University Police Department interviewed witnesses. The police department report of their interview stated:
[Witnesses] advised they first saw [the pilot], [the passenger], and [the
pilot's aunt] at the Linwood Tavern in the early morning hours today
(3-26-05). [One of the witnesses] advised she spoke with [the pilot] at
the tavern and [the pilot] advised her that he just finished working at
the Spectator's bar where he was "getting a little tipsy". They advised
as they were preparing to leave the tavern at approximately 0336 hours
[the pilot] advised "Let's go to the Triple X." Upon arriving at the
Triple X Restaurant, they met with [the pilot's aunt], [the passenger],
and [the pilot] outside waiting in line to get inside. [The witnesses]
recalled [the pilot] stating "While I' m here at Purdue I m gonna fly
my plane." This was followed by [the pilot] displaying his pilot' s
license as well as a set of keys advising "I' ve got my license and I' ve
got the keys".
A witness stated:
I arrived at the Lafayette airport at 05:30am on Saturday March 26.
Around 5:40 or so, I noted a low-wing aircraft departing Runway10.
The weather conditions were wind 090 at 9 knots, 5 miles visibility,
mist, ceiling 600 feet overcast. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary
and I didn't hear or see anything else of the plane. Before I departed
from Runway 10 (around 06:10am), I was talking with Chicago Center,
requesting my clearance. They said that they had a plane crash reported
and asked if I would advise them if I saw anything. Both my passenger
and myself looked after we were airborne, but saw nothing before we
entered the clouds.
The Purdue University Police Department received a call of a low flying airplane. The police department report stated:
[The witness] advised he awoke at 0531 hours on 3-26-05 and heard
the engine of an airplane for approximately 10 to 15 seconds. [The
witness], a hot air balloon pilot, described the noise of the engine of
the airplane as having a "very high RPM, sounded like the engine
was running over full speed, like it was over revved." He went on
to advise that he and his wife have lived at the above location for 42
years and are very familiar with how the aircraft sound as they are
circling, and this was nothing like he has heard before. After listing
to the engine noise for the 10 to 15 seconds, he advised the engine
noise stopped, and then approximately 3 to 4 seconds later he heard
a loud boom. At this point [the witness] advised he felt that
something was amiss and dialed 911.
Officers from the police department responded to the report and found the airplane impacted in terrain in a wooded area about 1.5 miles north of LAF.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating issued on April 2, 2001. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate, dated March 18, 2004, with no limitations. The pilot received an endorsement for a flight review on March 28, 2004. The pilot's last recorded logbook entry was on August 20, 2004. The logbook showed the pilot's recorded flight time was 199.6 hours of total time and 8.4 hours of simulated instrument flight time. The pilot's logbook did not contain an endorsement for complex and high performance airplanes.
N999SK, a 1975 model Piper PA-28R-200, Arrow, serial number 28R-7535284, was a single-engine, propeller-driven, retractable landing gear, semi-monocoque design, four-seat, low-wing airplane. The engine was a 200 horsepower Lycoming IO-360-C1C engine, serial number L-16808-51A. The propeller was a constant speed, three-bladed, Hartzell HC-C3YR-1RF, serial number DY27118A. The propeller was overhauled on May 20, 2004 with F7282 model blades with serial numbers 59048, 59049, and 59054.
The airplane contained a standard airworthiness certificate dated June 3, 1975 and a registration certificate dated November 24, 1999. A review of the aircraft logbooks revealed an annual inspection was completed on March 4, 2005. The airframe logbook entry on that date indicated that the airplane had accumulated 7,197.24 hours of total time and its tachometer read the same. The airframe logbook indicated that the most recent altimeter, static, and transponder inspection was performed on December 23, 2004. The engine tachometer read 7206.23 prior to the accident flight.
The fixed base operator filled the airplane with fuel after its last flight prior to the accident flight.
At 0454, the LAF weather was: Wind 070 degrees at 8 knots; visibility 4 statute miles; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 600 feet; temperature 2 degrees C; dew point 2 degrees C; altimeter 30.03 inches of mercury.
At 0554, the LAF weather was: Wind 080 degrees at 9 knots; visibility 5 statute miles; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 600 feet; temperature 2 degrees C; dew point 1 degrees C; altimeter 30.05 inches of mercury.
At 0654, the LAF weather was: Wind 070 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 4 statute miles; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 600 feet; temperature 2 degrees C; dew point 2 degrees C; altimeter 30.07 inches of mercury.
The LAF Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control Tower was closed at the time of departure and no communications were recorded.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
An on-scene investigation was performed. The airplane's fuselage and empennage came to rest in an inverted nose down attitude in a wooded area about 1.5 miles north of LAF at latitude 40 degrees 26.219' N and longitude 86 degrees 56.025' W. The airplane was found with an outboard section of its left wing detached. The detached outboard section was found about five feet south of the fuselage. Tree branches about six inches in diameter were found with fresh breaks. Sections of the left wing were found curled around tree limbs near the breaks. The right wing's landing gear was found extended from its wheel well. The fuselage and empennage exhibited crushing in an accordion shape. The right wing exhibited rearward crushing and was found attached to the fuselage. The vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer, and rudder were found attached to the crushed empennage. The smell of avgas was present on-scene.
The engine was found impacted in muddy terrain below the fuselage about four and a half feet below grade. The propeller was found attached to the engine. All propeller blades were bent rearward. The blades exhibited chord wise polishing of their leading edges. One blade exhibited an s-shaped bend and leading edge nicks. Fuel was found in the intake manifold. Fuel was found in the distribution valve. A thumb compression was produced at all engine cylinders. Removed spark plugs exhibited a brown color. Both magnetos produced sparks when rotated by hand. The fuel servo was not recovered.
Flight control continuity was established from the flight controls to their flight control surfaces except for the rudders. Each rudder cable exhibited a broom straw shaped separation near the rudder bar. The throttle, propeller, and mixture controls were found in their forward positions. The tachometer read 7206.27 hours on-scene. The panel mounted clock stopped at 05:35. The Kollsman window had a setting of 30.06 inches of mercury. Examination of the engine driven vacuum pump revealed no preimpact anomalies. Rotational scoring was found on the directional gyro's rotor and its housing. The landing light switch was found in the on position. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the airframe and engine.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office arranged for an autopsy to be performed on the pilot. That autopsy was performed on March 28, 2005.
The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report on the pilot. The report, in part, stated:
132 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Blood
110 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Brain
196 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Heart
The CAMI report indicated that putrefaction had occurred.
The parties to the investigation included the FAA, Textron Lycoming, and The New Piper Aircraft, Inc.
The aircraft wreckage was released to a representative of the FBO.
The airplane was flown without prior arrangements with the management of the FBO. The pilot was a prior employee of the FBO and knew where the airplane keys were stored. The employee on duty at the time was not aware that the pilot did not make prior arrangements and was on the FBO's no-fly list.
Subsequent to the accident, a representative of the FBO reported that the FBO instituted additional procedures to secure the keys.
FAA regulation part 91.17 Alcohol or drugs, in part, stated:
(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil
(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic
(2) While under the influence of alcohol;
(3) While using any drug that affects the person's faculties in
any way contrary to safety; or
(4) While having .04 percent by weight or more alcohol in the
(b) Except in an emergency, no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a
person who appears to be intoxicated or who demonstrates by
manner or physical indications that the individual is under the
influence of drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be
carried in that aircraft.
FAA regulation part 61.57 Recent flight experience: Pilot in command, in part, stated:
(a) General experience. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of
this section, no person may act as a pilot in command of an aircraft
carrying passengers or of an aircraft certificated for more than one
pilot flight crewmember unless that person has made at least three
takeoffs and three landings within the preceding 90 days.