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On January 28, 2006, at 1339 central standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N38510, registered to Burton Brothers Management and operated by a commercial-rated pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with trees and crashed in a ravine while approaching to land at Camden Municipal Airport, Camden, Alabama. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed and activated. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The commercial-rated pilot received serious injuries, and the passenger was fatally injured. The flight originated from Hardy-Anders Field Airport, Natchez, Mississippi, on January 28, 2006, at 1210.
According to personnel at the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (AARTCC), at 1326, the pilot was advised to descend at his own discretion. At 1333, the pilot contacted AARTCC personnel and reported that he had "broke out of the clouds and was clear". The pilot reported to "go ahead and cancel IFR at this time". AARTCC advised the pilot that there was no one between him and Camden "squawk 1200, cancellation received and frequency change approved". No further radio contact was made with the pilot. The last recorded radar contact by AARTCC was at 1333:57. The flight was at an altitude of 3,300 feet and at coordinates of 31.57:29N, 087.36:28W. This position was 15 statute miles west of the Camden Airport and 4 statute miles west of the accident site.
At 1800, a family member of the passenger notified the Anniston Flight Service Station (FSS) that the airplane was overdue. Anniston FSS personnel contacted the Wilcox County Emergency 911 service to check to see if an airplane with white and green stripes, N38510, had landed at the Camden Airport. At 1818, the Wilcox County Emergency 911 informed Anniston FSS that N38510 was not at the airport. The Wilcox County Emergency 911 service contacted the Pine Hill police department to have them check at the Pine Hill Municipal Airport, Pine Hill, Alabama, to see if the airplane had landed there. The Pine Hill police department informed the Wilcox Emergency 911 that N38510 was not at that airport. Local pilots began searching the area for airplane but called off the search due to heavy rain. On January 29, 2006, the search resumed and at 0830, ground crews located the wreckage 11 miles west of the Camden Airport.
Review of the records on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a commercial certificate on June 20, 1975, with ratings for airplane single- and multi-engine land. FAA records revealed that the pilot had a total flight time of 2,337 hours. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered for review. The pilot held an FAA third-class airman medical certificate dated December 27, 2005, with restrictions for corrective lenses, and not valid for any class after.
The airplane was a 1977 Piper PA-32R-300, serial number 32R-7780436. It was a six-place, low-wing airplane, with a retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane was equipped with a 300-horsepower Lycoming IO-540-KIG5D engine, which was installed on March 11, 2004. The airplane was equipped with a Hartzell 3 bladed propeller which was installed on August 14, 2002, in accordance with STC (SA1791GL).
Review of the FAA form 8130-3 revealed that the last recorded altimeter, static, and transponder system checks were completed on October 29, 1998. Review of the aircraft maintenance records reveal that the last annual inspection was conducted on June 15, 2005. The airframe total time at the annual inspection was 6,262 hours, and the Hobbs time was 6,262 hours. The total time on the engine since overhaul at the annual inspection was 311.6 hours.
The nearest weather reporting facility, KGZH, in Evergreen, Alabama, reported at 1253, winds were from 150 degrees at 14 knots, greater than 10 miles visibility, sky clear, altimeter-setting 30.23.
The wreckage was located in a wooded area off the Mt. Andrews Cemetery Road and County Road 18 at position 31.57:384N, 087.32:048W, 11 miles west of the Camden Airport. Examination of the crash site revealed that the airplane collided with trees while on a 120-degree magnetic heading and then proceeded 225 feet down into a ravine. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft, and all three blades displayed impact damage. The engine was separated from the firewall, displaced to the left, and hanging over a stream. The engine cowling was separated from the airframe and pieces were scattered throughout the crash site.
The cockpit and the cabin section of the airplane were buckled. The instrument panel was buckled and damaged. The throttle control was impact damaged and full forward. The propeller control was impact damaged and in the full forward position. The mixture control was impact damaged and full forward.
The fuselage was intact. The forward bottom right side floorboard at the rudder pedals had impact damage and was bent upwards. The forward left and right windshields were destroyed by impact. The flap handle was found in the 0-degree or "up" flap position. Flap control continuity was established from the flap handle to the torque tube bar and the left flap. The gear lever was found in the gear-down position. The right side fuselage skins were wrinkled. The forward baggage area was crushed aft. The nose gear was damaged and bent aft.
Examination of the right wing assembly revealed it was separated at the wing root. The right wing was impact damaged and separated approximately three feet from the wing root. The right wing tip was located 75 feet away from the main fuselage, and parts of the wing were scattered throughout the debris path. Both right wing fuel tanks were destroyed, and no fuel was found in the right wing. The aileron had impact damage and was separated from its attachment points. The aileron was found along the debris path. The bellcrank remained in place. Aileron control continuity was established from the right bellcrank to the aileron control chain in the cockpit, and the bellcrank stops were in place. The right flap was impact damaged and remained attached to the wing. The flap push-pull rod was bent and separated from the flap torque tube bar. The flap torque tube bar measurement revealed that the flap was in the up position.
The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. The wing outboard tip was resting against the left side of the ravine. The outboard tip was damaged. The left main landing gear was extended. Both fuel tanks remained intact and the fuel cap was secure. Blue fuel stains were noted around the fuel cap. Thirteen gallons of fuel was recovered from the left fuel tanks. The bottom of the wing exhibited brown and blue stains. The aileron was attached to the wing. Aileron continuity was established from the left aileron to the right bellcrank. The left flap was attached to the wing and found in the up position.
The rudder and vertical fin were attached to their attachment points. The right side of the vertical fin was damaged. The rudder balance weight was separated and found at the main wreckage site. The rudder stops were in place. Rudder control continuity was established from the rudder to the rudder pedals.
The stabilator and stabilator trim tab were attached to their attachment points. The right side of the stabilator had impact damage and was bent aft. The right outboard tip was separated and found on the left wing. The stabilator stops were in place. Stabilator control continuity was established from the stabilator to the cockpit "T" bar.
The fuel selector lever in the cockpit was damaged and found indicating between the left and right tank positions. The fuel selector valve was found in the left main fuel tank position. Approximately an ounce of fuel blue in color was drained from the fuel selector valve. The fuel selector valve was field tested by applying low-pressure air through its ports and was found to be unobstructed in all positions. The electric fuel pump was in the "off" position. The electric fuel pump was field tested by applying external battery power, and it operated with no anomalies noted. The fuel flow divider was absent of fuel, and the line from the servo to the flow divider was found absent of fuel. The fuel filter screen and bowl exhibited small amounts of ferrous particles.
Examination of the engine revealed the spark plugs all exhibited light gray color combustion deposits. The cylinders were bore scoped and no anomalies were noted. The crankshaft was rotated, and all six cylinders produced compression. Gear and valve train continuity was established. In preparation for a test run a club (test) propeller was installed. The impact damaged fuel pump was substituted with a serviceable pump. The damaged Nos. 1 and 2 rocker covers were replaced, and the damaged wire harness was repaired for test run purposes. An external battery and fuel source was used to start the engine. The engine was started an idled at 1,000 rpm. The engine was run to 2,300 rpm for ten minutes. A magneto check was performed at full throttle and the rpm drops were 200 rpm for each magneto. The 200-rpm drop was attributed to the damaged and repaired wire harness.
Examination of the spinner and propeller revealed frontal impact crush damage. All three blades had multiple bends, twisting, and rotational scoring consistent with rotation and power at the time of impact. Although the blades had indications of rotational energy, an accurate estimate of power output could not be determined.
The pilot was transported to the West Florida Hospital, Pensacola, Florida with serious injuries.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences conducted a postmortem examination of the passenger on January 30, 2006. The reported cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries."
According to an acquaintance of the pilot, because of his injuries, the pilot was unable to recall any details of the events leading up to the accident.
A review of fueling records revealed that on January 27, 2006, at Mobile Downtown Airport (KBFM), Mobile, Alabama, the airplane was topped off with 1.8 gallons of fuel.
The airplane wreckage was released to Atlanta Air Salvage on November 3, 2006.