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On August 24, 2006, at 1232 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N9714W, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during impact with a slough near Kulm, North Dakota. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS), Bismarck, North Dakota, at 1123 and was en route to Fergus Falls Municipal Airport (FFM), Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
According to Automated Flight Service Station data, the pilot did not request, nor was he provided any weather briefing services prior to or during the accident flight. Additionally, no flight plan information was filed for the accident airplane within 24 hours of the accident. At 1120, the pilot contacted Bismarck ground control requesting an eastbound departure. At 1123, he was cleared for takeoff on runway 13 and told to proceed on course toward FFM. At 1126, the pilot was cleared to change radio frequencies and he replied "good day, one four whiskey." No additional communications were received from the accident airplane.
According to aircraft radar track data, the accident airplane was cruising 200 - 500 feet above ground level (agl) while en route toward FFM. Weather radar data for the area showed a mixture of thunderstorms and rain showers scattered along the planned route of flight. The aircraft radar track data was plotted on a weather radar image for the corresponding time period. This composite image showed the last two aircraft beacon returns were 3 to 5 miles northwest of a level-three thunderstorm. The accident site was located about 1.5 miles southeast of the last recorded aircraft beacon return.
The flight was reported overdue on August 24, 2006, and the pilot and airplane were subsequently located on October 3, 2006, during a ground search.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot of N9714W, age 60, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. The pilot's last aviation medical examination was completed on May 20, 2005, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate with the limitation "Not valid for any class after May 31, 2007."
The pilot's most recent logbook entry was dated August 16, 2006, at which time he had accumulated 471.3 hours total flight time. Of that total, 395.3 hours were as pilot-in-command in single-engine land airplanes. He had accumulated 36.6 hours at night and 5.3 hours in simulated instrument conditions. His last flight review was completed on January 7, 2006, in a Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee.
During the previous 90-days, 30-days, and 24-hours, the pilot had flown 19.6 hours, 6.5 hours, and 1.2 hours total flight time, respectively. All of the flight time accumulated during those periods was completed in the accident airplane.
The accident airplane was a 1967 Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, serial number 28-23190. The airplane incorporated a low-wing design with a fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane had a certified maximum gross weight of 2,150 pounds and could accommodate four occupants. A Lycoming O-320-E2A reciprocating engine, serial number L-18899-27A, powered the airplane. The 150-horsepower engine provided power through a Sensenich 74DM6-0-58, fixed-pitch, two-bladed propeller.
According to the maintenance logbooks, the most recent inspection was completed on August 17, 2005, at 4,717.12 total airframe hours. The engine was overhauled during this inspection. At the time of the accident, the airframe and engine had accumulated 63.82 hours since the annual inspection.
A review of the airframe, engine and propeller records found no history of unresolved airworthiness issues.
The departure airport (BIS) was equipped with an automated surface observing system (ASOS). The BIS ASOS reported the following weather conditions:
At 1052, wind 100 degrees true at 12 knots; visibility 10 miles; overcast ceiling at 1,000 feet agl; temperature 22 degrees Celsius; dew point 19 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 29.68 inches of mercury; remark - lightning distant west to northeast.
At 1129, wind 040 degrees true at 8 knots; visibility 10 miles; thunderstorm activity in the area; broken ceiling at 1,600 feet agl; temperature 22 degrees Celsius; dew point 18 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 29.71 inches of mercury; remarks - lightning distant north, thunderstorm began at 1127.
The closest weather station to the accident site was at Jamestown Regional Airport (JMS), Jamestown, North Dakota, located about 40 miles north-northeast of the accident site.
At 1256, the JMS ASOS reported the following weather conditions: Wind 100 degrees true at 13 knots; visibility 5 miles with light rain and mist; overcast ceiling at 500 feet agl; temperature 19 degrees Celsius; dew point 18 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 29.70 inches of mercury.
The accident location was within the boundaries of an advisory for instrument meteorological conditions. Instrument meteorological conditions were forecast along the route of flight, with widely scattered thunderstorms, rain, fog and mist. Weather Surveillance Radar data from Bismarck, North Dakota, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, indicated that the accident site was 3 to 5 miles northwest of a level-three thunderstorm when the accident occurred. The data indicated that the convective cell was moving toward the northeast and intensifying around the accident time. Instrument meteorological conditions with light to moderate turbulence were associated with the convective cell.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was found submerged in a slough about 10 miles northwest of Kulm, North Dakota. The wreckage was recovered prior to the arrival of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigator-in-charge and was examined at a nearby farmstead.
The forward section of the fuselage was recovered with the engine and propeller. The center fuselage was recovered with the right wing attached. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage by flight control cables, which were cut to facilitate recovery. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft. Both fuel tanks were ruptured and splayed open. Both ailerons remained attached to their respective wings. The flaps were fully retracted. The main landing gear remained attached to each wing. The nose landing gear remained attached to the forward fuselage. The empennage was separated from the fuselage just forward of the vertical stabilizer. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and horizontal stabilator exhibited minor impact damage. The horizontal stabilator and rudder cables were cut to facilitate recovery.
The engine was removed from the firewall for examination. The engine cylinders were contaminated with mud and water. Crankshaft continuity was confirmed to all pistons, rear gear assemblies, and the valve train. The crankshaft was rotated and thumb compression was observed at all cylinders. Both magnetos were water damaged and did not provide spark when rotated. The upper spark plugs were contaminated with water and mud. The propeller remained attached to the engine and was removed during the engine examination. Both propeller blades exhibited S-shape bending and abrasion of both the cambered and non-cambered sides. One blade was bent aft about 45-degrees and twisted toward low pitch. The blade tip was bent forward about 10 degrees. The second blade was bent aft about 75 degrees and twisted toward low pitch. The outboard 12 inches was bent forward about 25 degrees.
The vacuum pump was dissembled, and its rotor and vanes were intact. The directional gyro and attitude indicator were dissembled and no rotational scoring was noted on their pendulous vanes. The altimeter Kollsman pressure setting was 29.64 inches of mercury.
Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed no evidence of a pre-impact mechanical malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On October 5, 2006, an autopsy was performed on the pilot at the North Dakota Forensic Examiner's Office, Bismarck, North Dakota. The cause of death was listed as "multiple blunt force injuries due to aircraft accident."
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, the specimens were received in a state of putrefaction. The report noted that no carbon monoxide or cyanide was detected in blood samples. Muscle tissue contained concentrations of 73 mg/dL ethanol, 10 mg/dL N-butanol, and 5 mg/dL N-propanol. Brain tissue contained concentrations of 56 mg/dL ethanol, 7 mg/dL N-butanol, 3 mg/dL N-propanol. Amlodipine was present in liver samples, but not detected in blood. The pilot had been prescribed Amlodipine for the treatment of hypertension. The use of Amlodipine was disclosed to the FAA during the pilot's most recent medical certificate application.