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On March 20, 2006, at 1231 central standard time, a Piper PA34-200T Seneca II, N21RR, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with a residential power transmission wire, a storage building and terrain, and subsequent post-impact fire, in Branson, Missouri. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and three passengers sustained fatal injuries. The flight departed M. Graham Clark - Taney County Airport (PLK), Point Lookout, Missouri, about 1220. The intended destination was Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB), Lubbock, Texas.
According to the airport manager, the accident airplane arrived at PLK on March 16th, four days prior to the accident. On the fixed base operator (FBO) registration form, the pilot requested that the airplane be "topped off" with 100 low lead aviation fuel for a Sunday morning departure. The airport manager reported that the pilot had attempted to depart on Saturday but subsequently decided not to do so. He commented that the airplane remained parked on the ramp on Sunday and that it "rained all day."
The airport manager recalled that prior to departure on the morning of the accident, the accident pilot seemed "anxious" and "in a hurry." He commented that the pilot ran the engines for about 10 minutes before he shut down and returned to the terminal for a weather briefing. He reported he saw a portion of the takeoff, and that it appeared to be a normal takeoff, with the aircraft becoming airborne about mid-field.
The pilot of a second aircraft, N566JC, reported observing the accident pilot at PLK prior to departure. He stated that the accident pilot's demeanor was "professional." He noted that he and his passengers boarded their aircraft and taxied out about the same time as the accident flight. He noted that the accident pilot obtained his clearance via the aircraft radios prior to engine start-up. The accident pilot requested that the clearance be read "slowly" because it was complicated. The pilot of N566JC subsequently observed the accident flight takeoff, and noted that the airplane rotated about 2,000 feet down the runway.
At 0629 on the day of the accident, the pilot contacted the Forth Worth Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and informed the briefer that he was at PLK and interested in flying to LBB. The briefer provided the pilot with current and forecast conditions along the proposed route of flight.
At 1040, the pilot contacted the Forth Worth AFSS for an updated briefing. The pilot noted that they had been there for a "couple of days" and the weather had been "at the very best non cooperative." The briefer provided current and forecast conditions along the proposed route of flight. The pilot filed an IFR flight plan from PLK to LBB, with a proposed departure time of 1200.
At 1153, the pilot contacted the Columbia AFSS and requested updated weather conditions. The briefer provided the current conditions.
At 1212, the accident airplane contacted Springfield Approach Control and requested an IFR clearance. The controller provided an IFR clearance from PLK to LBB. The flight was subsequently released at 1219.
At 1222, the accident pilot informed Springfield approach that the flight was airborne. However, Springfield approach was unable establish clear communications with N21RR beginning with the initial radio call. The controller advised the pilot that transmissions were "extremely weak [and] almost unreadable." Communications were relayed through another aircraft, N566JC, during the flight. At 1225, N21RR declared an emergency, however, Springfield approach stated that transmissions were still "weak and unreadable." At 1226, N566JC relayed that N21RR was declaring an emergency and attempting to return to the airport. The pilot of the accident airplane did not state the nature of the emergency. No further communications were received from the accident airplane.
At 1231, the FBO informed Springfield Approach of a report of a "downed aircraft." The report was subsequently confirmed to be N21RR.
A Missouri State Trooper stated that he saw the accident airplane descend out of the clouds about 1 mile south of PLK. He commented he was stopped at a traffic light at the time. He noted that the airplane was "dropping hard and fast" as it exited the clouds. The flight path was initially southbound, however, the airplane was in a turn toward the west. He added that the airplane was steady and not erratic. The airplane subsequently descended behind a ridgeline.
A witness located about 2 miles south of PLK stated she saw the airplane come "straight down" out of the clouds. She noted that the airplane pitched from the near vertical attitude to an approximate 45-degree nose down attitude as she watched it. It subsequently descended behind a ridgeline. The flight path appeared to be westbound and the airplane was not turning.
Another witness reported seeing the airplane from her residence located on a ridge south of the airport. She stated the airplane was on a southerly course before it turned right at a point approximately over the highway in front of her house. She noted that the airplane was in a "gradual" descent at the time and that it proceeded in the direction of the City of Branson. The airplane descended below the ridgeline and into the valley over the College of the Ozarks. The airplane was "exceptionally low. She described the sound of the engines as at a "very high throttle" setting. Concerning the weather, she stated that it "was just like a big cloud over Branson" and she could not see the city.
Another witness reported that she was approximately 1 mile from the accident site when she saw the airplane fly over "very low." She stated that it turned toward the north as she watched it and that she did not perceive any trouble with the airplane in flight, with the exception that it was unusually low. The engines sounded normal, just loud. She estimated the airplane's altitude as 100 -150 feet agl.
An off-duty airport firefighter reported he saw the airplane flying northbound just before the accident. He stated that it appeared to be in normal flight, except that it was low. He added that he heard nothing unusual and that the propellers were turning. He recalled that the landing gear was up and he did not observe any smoke or flames at that time. He estimated that the airplane was about 40 - 50 feet agl. He stated that as he watched, the airplane appeared to "stop in mid air." The airplane "spun around" clockwise and "dropped straight down." He responded to the scene but was unable to assist the occupants. He added that a fire had started in the vicinity of the inboard leading edge of the wings and the cockpit.
The accident pilot held a private pilot certificate with single and multi-engine airplane ratings, and an instrument airplane rating. He held a third-class airman medical certificate issued on December 2, 2005. It included a limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses.
The pilot's logbook was not recovered. At the time of his most recent medical certificate application, the pilot reported a total flight time of 3,175 hours, with 20 hours acquired in the preceding 6 months.
The accident airplane was a Piper PA-34-200T, serial number 34-7770405. It was a low-wing, twin-engine airplane, with retractable tricycle landing gear. The standard airplane was configured to seat up to seven occupants, including the pilot.
The airplane was powered by two TSIO-360 series Continental six-cylinder, reciprocating engines. They were fuel injected and turbo-charged, and each was rated at 200 horsepower. The left engine was a Continental model number TSIO-360EB (3), serial number 265919-R. The right engine was a Continental model LTSIO-360EB (1), serial number 266460-R. The installed engines were counter-rotating, in that the left engine rotated clockwise as viewed from the pilot's seat, and the right engine rotated counter-clockwise.
A maintenance record was obtained related to the most recent annual inspection. The record indicated that an annual inspection was completed on June 8, 2005, at a total aircraft time of 3,050.6 hours. The airframe and engine maintenance logbooks were not recovered.
Weather reporting was not available at PLK. The airport manager stated that weather conditions at the time of the accident were: Winds at 15 knots, and an overcast ceiling between 200 and 400 feet above ground level (agl). He noted the air temperature was 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pilot of N566JC estimated that ceilings at PLK were approximately 800 feet agl at the time of the accident.
Conditions recorded at Boone County Airport (HRO), located 22.2 nm south of PLK, at 1253, were: Wind from 110 degrees at 14 knots; visibility 1 sm in light rain and mist; overcast clouds at 100 feet agl; temperature 3 degrees Celsius; dew point 2 degrees Celsius; and the altimeter setting was 29.75 inches of mercury.
Conditions recorded at Monett Airport (M58), located 41.6 nm northwest of PLK, at 1255, were: Wind from 120 degrees at 19 knots, gusting to 27 knots; visibility 4 sm; overcast clouds at 400 feet agl; temperature and dew point were 3 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius, respectively; and the altimeter setting was 29.65 inches of mercury.
Conditions recorded at Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), located 37.9 nm north of PLK, at 1250, were: Wind from 110 degrees at 18 knots, gusting to 27 knots; visibility 10 sm; overcast clouds at 900 feet agl; temperature and dew point were 4 degrees and 1 degree Celsius, respectively; altimeter setting was 29.72 inches of mercury. A remark noted the peak wind gust was 30 knots and was recorded at 1221.
The M. Graham Clark - Taney County Airport was located approximately 1 mile northeast of Point Lookout, and about 2 miles east of Branson, Missouri. The airport elevation was 938 feet. The airport consisted of a single hard-surface runway. Runway 11-29 was 3,739 feet long by 100 feet wide, and constructed of asphalt. A parallel taxiway and airport facilities were located south of the runway.
The airport was served by non-precision instrument approach procedures to both runway 11 and runway 29. The Global Positioning System (GPS) Runway 11 approach specified a minimum descent altitude (MDA) of 1,520 feet msl, which was 582 feet above the airport. The GPS Runway 29 approach specified an MDA of 1,800 feet msl, which was 862 feet above the airport.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest upright adjacent to the northwest corner of a single-story storage building located within the city limits of Branson, Missouri. The left wing extended within the perimeter of the building. A post impact fire consumed the airframe with the exception of a portion of the empennage. The fire also damaged the storage building, along with its contents. A residential power transmission line ran along the property line between the storage facility and a residence, about 15 feet west of the accident site. The transmission line was supported by wooden poles approximately 20 feet high. The section of the wire adjacent to the site was down. The support poles appeared undamaged. A municipal water tower was also located near the accident site.
The coordinates of the accident site were 36 degrees, 38.160 minutes north latitude, and 093 degrees, 17.048 minutes west longitude at an elevation of 951 feet. The airplane was oriented on a magnetic heading of approximately 240 degrees. The site was located about 2.7 nautical miles (nm) from PLK on a magnetic course of 280 degrees. The aircraft debris was contained within the immediate vicinity of the main wreckage.
The fuselage, including the cockpit and cabin areas, was destroyed by the post impact fire. The area affected by the fire extended from the nose of the airplane to the aft portion of the fuselage, approximately midway between the aft baggage area and the empennage.
The left and right wings were in place relative to the fuselage. The fire had consumed both wing assemblies. The outboard section of the right wing was separated and adjacent to the remainder of the wing. The inboard portion of the right flap remained attached to the wing. The right aileron was located with the outboard section of the right wing. The aileron hinges were intact, however, they had separated from the aileron. Aileron control cable continuity was confirmed from the bellcrank to the cockpit control column.
The left wing was lying in position adjacent to the fuselage. The fire destroyed the wing assembly, including the left flap and aileron. Components of the flap and aileron were located with the wing assembly. Aileron control cable continuity was confirmed from the bellcrank to the cockpit control column, with one exception. The cable was separated at one point near the wing root. The separation was consistent in appearance with an overload failure.
The empennage was intact. The rudder remained securely attached to the vertical stabilizer at the control surface hinges. The stabilator and control tab were securely attached to the airframe at the control surface hinges. Control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and stabilator to the cockpit.
The engines each remained attached to their respective engine mounts. Engine control cable continuity was confirmed between the throttle quadrant area and each engine assembly. The engine control levers had melted. Both propellers were separated from the engine crankshafts and were located adjacent to the airframe. Each crankshaft exhibited 45-degree shear planes, which was consistent with torsional overload failures. The left propeller blades were fractured and partially melted. The separated blade fragments were recovered at the accident site. The right propeller blades exhibited bending and twisting over the span of the blades. The right propeller blades appeared to be otherwise intact.
Both engines exhibited significant post impact fire damage. Examination of the left and right engine did not reveal any anomalies associated with a pre impact failure. Rotation of the crankshaft resulted in movement of the pistons and valves confirming internal continuity. Internal examination of the engine cylinders using a borescope did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a pre impact loss of engine power.
The magnetos exhibited fire damage and could not be operationally tested. Partial teardown of the magnetos did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a pre impact failure. Spark plug wear was consistent with normal operation. The turbocharger units exhibited damage consistent with impact forces and discoloration consistent with exposure to fire. The edges of the compressor and turbine blades were bent and gouged, but appeared otherwise intact.
The post impact fire consumed the left vacuum pump. The right vacuum pump exhibited thermal damage. The unit was disassembled. The rotor and vanes were intact and appeared to be otherwise undamaged. The airplane's flight instruments were destroyed by the fire. Examination of the instruments did not provide any useful information.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed on March 21, 2006. The FAA Civil Aero Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology report was negative for all tests performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar track data was provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and plotted by the National Transportation Safety Board. Although radar contact was not established with the accident airplane, the Springfield Approach Control facility recorded a total of seven radar track data points associated with the accident airplane. Of these, five were reinforced targets associated with the discrete transponder beacon code assigned to the accident airplane, and two were primary targets.
The initial target associated with the accident airplane was recorded at 1224:10 (HHMM:SS) and was located about 1.9 nm southeast PLK. The next data point was recorded at 1224:20 and corresponded to a reinforced beacon code. The mode-C transponder altitude associated with that data point was 3,100 feet pressure altitude. The track data suggested that the airplane proceeded in west-northwesterly direction. The data indicated that the airplane's pressure altitude was 3,000 feet at 1224:50 and 3,300 feet 5 seconds later at 1224:55. The final data point was recorded at 1225:04. It was located 1.05 nm south of PLK, at an altitude 2,700 feet pressure altitude. There was no further radar data associated with the accident airplane.
The wreckage was released at the conclusion of the investigation.
The FAA, Piper Aircraft, and Teledyne Continental Motors were parties to the investigation.