On December 8, 2005, at 0044 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-34-200, N997BW, registered to Bellefonte Incorporated, operated by Package Express, as a 14 CFR Part 135 flight, had a loss of stabilator trim control during take-off, and collided with the runway and ground at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Columbia, South Carolina. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight plan was filed. The airplane received substantial damage. The commercial pilot reported no injuries. The flight was originating from Columbia, South Carolina, on December 8, 2005, at 0044.

According to the pilot, a preflight inspection of the airplane was completed, and no anomalies were noted. The pilot departed from runway 29, and during rotation the airplane pitched up violently and climbed to 200 feet. The pilot regained partial control of the airplane and made an emergency landing. The airplane touched down on the runway and veered off the right side of the runway.


Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate on July 8, 2003, with ratings for airplane single engine and multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot was issued a flight instructor certificate on October 31, 2005, with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. The pilot's last biennial flight review was conducted on July 12, 2005. The pilot held a first class medical certificate issued on April 29, 2005, with no restrictions. The pilot was hired by Package Express on May 2, 2005, and qualified as a line pilot on May 3, 2005. The pilot completed his 6-month IFR check on November 5, 2005, and the pilot had accumulated 2,010 total flight hours with 475 hours in the Piper PA-34.

A review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the A&P mechanic who preformed the repairs on the accident airplanes stabilator was issued an airframe and power plant certificate on August 28, 1999. Package Express hired the mechanic on October 17, 2003. The mechanic was issued an inspection authorization certificate on July 26, 2005.


Review of aircraft logbooks revealed the last inspection conducted on the airplane was a 100-hour inspection, completed on November 29, 2005. In addition to the 100-hour inspection a repair was preformed on the stabilator. Review of records showed the removal and replacement of the top left aft stabilator skin. The removal and replacement of the bottom right stabilator skin, and the checking of the stabilator balance in accordance with the Piper PA-34-200 service manual. At the time of the accident the airplane had flown 13 flight hours since the stabilator repair.


The 2356 surface weather observation at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Columbia, South Carolina was: wind 060 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 miles, 6,000 overcast, temperature 43 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 30.57.


The airplane came to rest 1,000 feet from the departure end of runway 29 at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Columbia, South Carolina. The airplane was recovered by Package Express and transported to their maintenance facility for further examination. Examination of the airplane by the FAA and Package Express maintenance personnel revealed the nose gear strut had punctured through the forward bulkhead, and cockpit instrument panel. Examination of the stabilator trim revealed one of the two required bolts on the stabilator trim tab arm was missing.


Toxicology testing of specimens taken from the pilot after the accident was forwarded to Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, San Diego, California for analysis on December 8, 2005. The results were negative for: Amphetamines, Cannabinoids, Cocaine, Opiates, and Phencyclidine in urine.


The Piper PA-34-200 inspection manual instructs the mechanics at the 100-hour inspection to inspect: aileron, rudder, rudder trim, stabilator, and stabilator trim cables, turnbuckles, fittings, guides and pulleys for safety, damage and operation." It also advises mechanics to inspect the "stabilator trim mechanism." The mechanic who performed the stabilator repair on the airplane stated "he visually checked the stabilator trim before signing off the logbook entry on November 29, 2005".

Review of the FAA Program Tracking Recording System revealed an Office Special Inspection was conducted on July 28, 2005, and an Operations Main Base Inspection was conducted on April 18, 2005. No en route inspections had been conducted by the District Office, Principal Operations Inspector, or Principal Maintenance Inspector one year before the accident.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page