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On October 15, 2005, at 0947 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N5FN, was destroyed due to impact with trees/terrain near Everett/Snohomish County Airport (Paine Field; PAE), Everett, Washington. The instrument rated private pilot and his two passengers were fatally injured. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight which had two Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Young Eagle participants on board. Event organizers said the airplane was scheduled to land at Paine Field to allow the two Young Eagle participants to exchange seats. After departure from Paine Field, the airplane was scheduled to return to Boeing Field (BOI); no flight plan had been filed.
Event organizers said that the airplane departed Boeing Field at approximately 0925; the Air Traffic Control (ATC) controller said that the airplane was cleared to land at Paine Field at 0942. A pilot, flying behind the accident airplane, reported seeing the accident airplane enter the traffic pattern, at Paine Field, 200 to 300 feet below the Airport/Facility Directory requested pattern altitude of 1600 feet MSL. Video cameras, at Paine Field, show the airplane crossing the threshold of runway 16L, the right wing rising up, and the airplane touching down approximately 200 feet from the end of the runway. A black skid mark was found on the left side of runway 16L, another skid mark parallel to and 10 feet left of the first mark, started 20 feet later, in the grass. The two parallel marks veered left until both marks were in the grass. The marks in the grass then proceeded parallel to the runway, and a third skid mark was observed between the first two. On taxiway F-2 [which was perpendicular to runway 16L and the skid marks], a 36 inch long silver score mark was found, which was parallel to the three skid marks in the grass. Approximately 20 feet off the F-2 taxiway, an airport breakaway sign [the back side of a sign marking the F-2 taxiway] was broken from its mounts, and a black tire mark was found in the center of it.
Next, the pilot transmitted to the ATC controller: "Paine Tower, Cherokee 5FN, something there happened, I don't know not sure what it doesn't feel right. Can you see my wheels?" Tower responded with: "Cherokee 5FN roger, we're looking, [your] wheels appear normal." The pilot said: "I'm at a steep angle at full power [and] hardly climbing." Tower asks: "Are your flaps up?" The pilot: "[The] flaps are up."
Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane depart on the runway heading, but at a very low altitude. One witness said that the airplane never got higher than 100 to 150 feet, and "he [the pilot] kept pulling the nose up at a very steep angle (about 45 degrees) and then push the nose down. I never saw him push the nose down enough to gain much air speed. I thought he was going to stall it at least once above the runway. I saw him go through this cycle 4 or 5 times before he went out of sight behind the hangar." Video cameras, at Paine Field, show the flight path of the airplane was consistent with this description.
Another witness said "he was not gaining altitude. The plane was pitching up and down. I watched it fly over some trees, then it started losing altitude and it disappeared behind the trees." Three witnesses working near the crash site reported hearing "a loud snap of breaking tree tops." One of these witnesses said he saw the airplane's right wing hit the trees, and the airplane spun right and went nose first to the ground. A postimpact fire ensued.
The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight medical exam (third class) was taken on July 19, 2005. FAA records indicate that he passed a single engine airplane instrument rating check ride, on January 28, 2005. The pilot's personal flight log-book indicated that as of September 5, 2005, he had 313 hours of flight experience.
The airplane was a single engine, propeller-driven, fixed landing gear, four seat airplane, which was manufactured by Piper Aircraft Corporation, in 1975. The airplane had a maximum takeoff gross weight of 2,150 pounds. It was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E3D, four cylinder, reciprocating, horizontally opposed, direct drive, air cooled, carbureted engine, which had a maximum takeoff rating of 150 horsepower at sea level. Maintenance records indicate that the last annual inspection was completed on June 30, 2005. The airplane's Hobbs meter read 6,984 hours of flight, at the time of the annual inspection. The owner/pilot purchased the airplane in November 2003.
The airplane was equipped with 25 gallon fuel tanks. On the morning of the accident, the co-owner of the airplane had both fuel tanks filled to the bottom of their filler necks, or 18 gallons per side. The airplane was equipped with wing vortex generators (VGs) to lower the stall speed and improve low speed handling.
At 0953, the weather conditions at Paine Field (elevation 606 feet), located 340 degrees for 1 nautical mile from the accident site, were as follows: wind 320 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 statue miles; broken clouds at 6,000 feet; temperature 53 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 50 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter setting 29.79 inches.
The airplane landed with an approximate 5 knot tailwind.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was found (N47 degrees, 53', 12"; W122 degrees, 16', 18"; elevation 541 feet) in a new residential cul-de-sac which was under construction (7,000 feet from the broken F-2 taxiway sign). Topped trees, branches, and airplane debris were found on a longitudinal axis 195 to 200 degrees leading to the wreckage (approximately 150 to 200 feet). All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The right wing was separated from the fuselage and was located approximately 35 feet further from it, on the 195 to 200 degree bearing. The left wing was bent and broken in several places and remained attached to the fuselage only by wires. All movable flight control surfaces remained attached at their respective attach fittings, and control continuity was established. The fuselage was found nearly inverted; it was substantially consumed by postimpact fire. The empennage was minimally damaged.
The engine remained partially attached to its mounts; the firewall was crushed onto and over the rear accessory area of the engine. The propeller was separated from the engine; both blades were bent, twisted and exhibited chord wise scorings. The propeller flange on the crankshaft was bent, and with some effort, the engine was rotated to confirm internal continuity. All the cylinders were inspected inside with a lighted boroscope, and no discrepancies were noted. Thumb compression of all the cylinders was confirmed. No preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified.
The bottom portion of the tailskid assembly had been ground down flat and exhibited a shiny metallic appearance.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office, Everett, Washington, performed an autopsy on the pilot on October 17, 2005. They determined that the cause of death was multiple blunt trauma.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#200500278001), his blood was tested for carbon monoxide and cyanide with negative results; his urine was tested for ethanol and drugs with negative results.
The airplane, including all components and logbooks, was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company, on November 30, 2005.