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On April 5, 2005, at 2203 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-201, N36725, was destroyed when it collided with trees and terrain in Green Creek, New Jersey, during approach to the Cape May County Airport (WWD), Wildwood, New Jersey. The two certificated private pilots were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that departed the Millville Municipal Airport (MIV), Millville, New Jersey, at 2151. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The Ken Marson Flying Club at the South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey, operated the airplane. The pilots were both members of the club, and the purpose of the flight was to practice instrument approach procedures at night. The airplane departed South Jersey Regional on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan for the first flight of the evening, about 1700. The flight terminated at the Millville Municipal Airport, at 1858, after completing the ILS RWY 10 approach.
The pilots spent the next 2 hours and 53 minutes on the ground at Millville eating dinner, and preparing for the next flight. At 2143, during ground taxi, the crew contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Millville Flight Service Station (FSS), and requested NOTAMS for Cape May County Airport. At 2151, the airplane departed the Millville Municipal Airport under visual flight rules. There was no known communication with the airplane after departure.
Examination of radar data revealed that the airplane flew a southeasterly track and leveled about 1,500 feet mean sea level (msl) after departing Millville. The radar track was then superimposed over a topographic map with elements of the Cape May County Localizer Runway 19 approach procedure depicted.
Examination of the approach procedure revealed that one of the 4 initial approach fixes (IAF), LEEAH intersection, was about 12 miles north of Cape May Airport, and to the west of the 190-degree final approach course. The 153-degree procedure track from LEEAH was along the 333 degree radial from the Sea Isle VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) transmitter. The track was 3.7 miles long, intercepted the localizer final approach course, and formed KAGYS intersection. The distance from KAGYS intersection, to GRASY outer marker, the final approach fix, was 7.5 miles. The minimum descent altitude for that segment of the approach was 1,500 feet.
The distance from GRASY to the approach end of runway 19 was 4.2 miles, and the minimum descent altitude for that segment of the approach was 340 feet. Runway 19 had pilot-controlled Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lighting installed.
The airplane flew an approximate 153-degree track toward the Sea Isle VOR, and maintained that track after it over flew LEEAH intersection. At 21:57:56, the airplane flew through the Localizer 19 final approach course at KAGYS intersection, and continued on its southeasterly track for another 30 seconds before turning southwest, back toward the localizer course. The airplane then flew back and forth across the localizer centerline, and descended to 1,200 feet before it crossed abeam the GRASY final approach fix on the east side of the approach course.
Interpolation of radar data revealed that after crossing abeam GRASY, the airplane entered a continuous descent at an average rate of about 850 feet per minute, as it turned southwesterly toward the localizer centerline. At 22:03:51, the airplane crossed the localizer course centerline on a southwesterly heading, at 100 feet, about 2 miles north of the airport, before radar contact was lost.
About 2200 on the night of the accident, the owner of a campground in Green Creek heard an airplane "wind up, and then a crunching sound." The campground was in the vicinity of the final approach course for runway 19 at the Cape May County Airport, so he was accustomed to the sound of airplanes passing overhead on the approach. The engine sound was much closer to his home than usual, and the power setting was "high", with no interruption before the crunching sound. He went outside to investigate, but he did not see or hear anything, and he returned to his home.
On April 6, 2005, about 1000, the co-owner of the campground discovered the wreckage on their property.
The accident occurred during the hours of darkness approximately 39 degrees, 03 minutes north latitude, and 74 degrees, 54 minutes west longitude.
The pilot seated in the left front seat held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land, single engine sea, and instrument airplane. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed she had accrued 334 total hours of flight experience, 311 hours of which were in single engine airplanes. She logged 100 total hours of simulated instrument flight experience, and 9 hours of actual instrument flight experience. The pilot logged 14 hours of flight experience at night, 1.7 hours of which were in the 90 days prior to the accident.
The pilot was issued an FAA third class medical certificate on March 10, 2004.
The pilot seated in the right front seat, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, and single engine sea. He did not posses an instrument rating. A review of his logbook revealed that he had accrued 195 total hours of flight experience. He logged 17 hours of flight experience at night, and nine-tenths of an hour of instrument flight experience.
The second pilot was issued an FAA third class medical certificate on January 6, 2005.
The airplane was manufactured in 1978, and had accrued approximately 3,360 total aircraft hours. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed November 1, 2004, at 3,242 aircraft hours. It's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed March 11, 2005, at 3,338 aircraft hours.
At 2155, the weather reported at Cape May County Airport included clear skies, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 190 degrees at 4 knots. The temperature was 48 degrees, and the dewpoint was 37 degrees. The altimeter setting was 30.19 inches of mercury.
On April 5, 2005, 13% of the moon's visible disk was illuminated, and moonset was at 1600. At the time of the accident, the moon was below the horizon.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
The FAA performed flight inspections of the Localizer Runway 19 approach at Cape May County Airport approximately 1 year prior to, and 8 months after the accident. On both occasions, the tested elements of the approach were found to be "satisfactory."
The Cape May County Airport was comprised of two intersecting runways oriented 010 and 190 degrees, and 100 and 280 degrees, respectively. The runways intersected at the southeast corner of the airport, near the approach ends of runways 01 and 28.
The airport was situated near the tip of a peninsula that jutted southwesterly into the Atlantic Ocean.
The airplane was examined at the site on April 6 and 7, 2005, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage site was 2 nautical miles from the Cape May County Airport. The course from the wreckage to the airport was 187 degrees.
The wreckage path was oriented about 259 degrees, and was about 520 feet long. The initial impact point was in the top of trees about 60 feet tall. Several pieces of angularly cut wood, and small pieces of Plexiglas and fiberglass were found along the wreckage path. The wood pieces were cut cleanly, at sharp angles, with black paint transfers on the exposed wood. The right wing tip was found 337 feet beyond the initial tree strike.
The airplane came to rest lodged between two trees, and leaning against a camp trailer. The fuselage came to rest on its right side, in a nose-up attitude of about 45 degrees. The main wreckage was oriented about 110 degrees. Fuel was visible in both wing tanks, and about 20 gallons of fuel was recovered from the airplane during the examination.
The right wing, empennage, and tail section were separated from the airframe, but still connected by cables. The left wing was still attached. Control cable continuity was established from the flight control quadrant and the rudder pedals to the flight control surfaces. All three landing gear were in the down and locked position, and the flaps were retracted.
The engine was separated from the airframe, with the propeller assembly still attached. The propeller blades displayed similar twisting, bending, leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching. The tips of both propeller blades were curled. The starter bendix housing displayed rotational scoring.
The engine air inlet filter housing was opened, and examination revealed several small, uniformly cut twigs stuck to the filter and loose in the housing.
The engine was lifted from the ground and placed on a table. The propeller assembly was removed, and the engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange. Continuity was established through the power train, the valve train, and the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The magnetos were rotated and they each produced spark at all terminal lead ends. The vacuum pump was rotated and produced pressures at both ports. The alternator was impact damaged, and would not rotate.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Southern Regional Medical Examiner's Office, Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey, performed autopsies on both pilots.
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed toxicological testing on both pilots.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On April 7, 2005, the airplane was recovered from the site, and moved to a facility in Clayton, Delaware. On April 8, 2005, a power source was applied to the emergency avionics bus, and the selected frequencies on the communication and navigation radios were read from their associated digital displays. The NAV 1 radio was tuned to 108.9, which was the frequency for the Localizer Runway 19 approach. The NAV 2 radio was tuned to 114.8, which was the frequency for the Sea Isle VOR. Sea Isle VOR was used to fix GRASY INT/OM, and was the holding fix for the missed approach procedure.
The COM 1 radio was tuned to 112.7, which was the published frequency for common traffic advisories and pilot-controlled lighting.
At that time, a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver was discovered in the wreckage, and was forwarded to the manufacturer for data retrieval.
The data extracted from the GPS unit depicted ground track information, but no altitude information was recorded. The track was plotted over the same topographic map as the radar data, and each course track coincided with the other, with only marginal differences.
The airplane wreckage was released on April 8, 2005, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.