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On October 19, 2006, at 1545 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-46-310P, N9130N, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain during an approach to landing at Tipton Airport (FME), Odenton, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot/owner and the passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Tipton Airport about 1541, and was destined for Brookeridge Airpark (LL22), Downers Grove, Illinois. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), at 1436, the pilot contacted the Altoona Automated Flight Service Station to file an IFR flight plan from Tipton Airport to Brookeridge Airpark. Upon filing the flight plan, the briefer asked the pilot, "Now, you are aware that you are departing an ADIZ [Air Defense Identification Zone], right?" The pilot responded in the affirmative.
A review of recorded FAA radar and communication information revealed that a radar target, correlated to be the accident airplane, was observed at 1541 near the departure end of runway 28. At 1542, the pilot contacted the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility. He stated that he had just departed Tipton Airport, and that he would like to obtain an IFR clearance to Brookeridge Airpark. The controller then asked the pilot if his transponder was "squawking" 1200, to which the pilot replied in the affirmative. The controller then informed the pilot that he was violating the Washington D.C. ADIZ, that he needed to land at Tipton Airport immediately, and that he would provide him with a telephone number "for air defense" in a moment. The pilot responded that he would land at Tipton Airport immediately.
The airplane turned from an easterly track to a westerly track and climbed to a maximum altitude of 900 feet. The controller then stated that he was too busy, that the pilot should "just turn it off, land, and call us on the phone for your clearance." The pilot responded, "roger," and no further communications were received. The airplane then turned toward the runway and descended. The final radar target was at 300 feet, in the vicinity of the accident site.
Prior to departing on the accident flight, an airport employee spoke with the pilot. The pilot asked the employee about the procedures for departing Tipton Airport. The employee advised the pilot that he needed to contact Potomac TRACON facility via telephone in order to obtain his departure clearance, as the airport's ground communications outlet did not work reliably.
Another airport employee interacted with the pilot prior to the accident and witnessed the final moments of the accident flight. According to the employee, the pilot called 3 days before the accident and asked about the transient procedures at Tipton Airport. The pilot flew into the airport later that evening, and landed after business hours. The employee saw the pilot on the day of the accident when he and his passenger arrived at the airport. The pilot and his passenger embarked the airplane, and taxied to the fuel pump, where the pilot was assisted by another airport employee with fueling the airplane.
About 15 minutes later, the employee saw the accident airplane flying in the traffic pattern on the left downwind leg. He thought something was unusual because the airplane was traveling "very fast," and closer to the airport than airplanes in the traffic pattern normally were. He heard the engine running "very loud." The airplane then turned "very steeply" to the left, "almost vertical," and the witness could see the top's of both wings. As the airplane turned steeply to the left, it began descending. The airplane continued in the steep descending turn towards the runway but "overshot" the extended centerline, and disappeared from the witness's view behind trees.
A retired FAA inspector observed the airplane as it departed, and recounted observations similar to the airport employee's. According to the inspector, shortly after the airplane took off, it entered clouds. He next heard the airplane on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, and saw it descend out of the clouds. The airplane "had quite a bit of speed," and entered a steep, rapidly-descending left turn. As the airplane continued the turn onto the final approach, it was right of the runway centerline and "too low." The inspector then lost sight of the airplane behind trees, before hearing the sounds of impact. He further noted that on the day of the accident he did not see any other airplanes flying under visual flight rules, and that he estimated the ceiling was near the 1,100-foot traffic pattern altitude at the airport.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 39 degrees 05.106 minutes north latitude, 76 degrees 44.784 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane. He also held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on June 26, 2006, and on that date, he reported 3,800 total hours of flight experience.
A review of the pilot's FAA airman file revealed that on April 30, 2004, the pilot was sent a "Notice of Proposed Certificate Action." In the notice, the FAA stated that the pilot acted as pilot-in-command of a flight on November 20, 2003, which operated within the Washington, D.C. ADIZ without following the operating requirements and procedures specified at the time. The FAA then proposed to suspend the pilot's certificate for a period of 30 days. The proposed certificate action was subsequently withdrawn on August 19, 2004, and a settlement was reached. The pilot was ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $2,000. The settlement did not constitute an admission of any of the allegations set forth in the Notice of Proposed Certificate Action.
The accident airplane was a Piper PA-46-310P, manufactured in 1987. On March 27, 1996, the original Teledyne Continental TSIO-520 engine was replaced with a Teledyne Continental TSIO-550 engine. That engine was subsequently replaced on January 30, 2003, with a Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6-35 turboprop engine.
The weather conditions reported at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport (BWI), located about 6 nautical miles northeast, at 1546, included winds from 180 degrees at 4 knots, 5 statute miles visibility in mist, a broken ceiling at 1,200 feet, an overcast ceiling at 1,900 feet, temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.77 inches of mercury.
Tipton Airport was comprised of a single 3,000-foot-long by 75-foot-wide runway. The airport elevation was 150 feet. The airspace surrounding the airport was encompassed by the Washington D.C. ADIZ.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The initial impact point was a tree, about 50 feet above the ground. The tree was located about 2,200 feet southeast of the runway 28 threshold, and about 190 feet right of the extended runway centerline. The outboard portion of the left wing was lodged in the tree, and a majority of the left aileron was located in an adjacent tree. A wreckage path about 140 feet in length, oriented in a direction about 330 degrees magnetic, led up to the main wreckage. Numerous broken tree branches, the right portion of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and other small pieces of wreckage were located along the wreckage path. Further examination of freshly cut tree tops located along the wreckage revealed a swath, roughly the same size and shape as the accident airplane, was cut. The branch cuts were consistent with the airplane impacting the trees in a 45-degree, left wing down turn.
The main wreckage was consumed by a postimpact fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and elevator to the cockpit, and from the ailerons to the center section of the fuselage. The elevator trim jack screw was set to a position consistent with neutral trim. Measurement of the flap actuator revealed a position consistent with the flaps up. The right main landing gear was extended and the actuator was bent. The nose landing gear was folded into its well and was separated into two pieces. The left main landing gear was not recovered.
The four-bladed propeller remained attached to the engine gearbox. Two of the blades were burnt away, and only about 1/4 of their span remained. The remaining two blades were bent aft, and twisted toward the low pitch position. Examination of the engine revealed that the compressor turbine shroud displayed circumferential scoring, and the outer rim of the compressor turbine disc displayed circumferential rubbing. The compressor turbine disc hub was circumferentially machined as was the power turbine hub.
Neither the airframe nor the engine exhibited any signatures consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland.
The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot.
A NOTAM in effect at the time of the accident outlined the procedures for operating within the ADIZ. According to the NOTAM, "Before departing from an airport within the DC ADIZ or before entering the DC ADIZ, pilots must file and activate an IFR flight plan…" and "Before operating in the DC ADIZ, pilots must get a discrete transponder code from ATC and must continuously squawk that code until leaving the DC ADIZ." Additionally, "Pilots must establish and maintain two-way radio communications with the appropriate ATC facility before entering and while operating in the DC ADIZ."
FAA notice PCT N 7110.65, which was published by the Potomac TRACON and dated April 30, 2006, established procedures and phraseology for air traffic controllers handling aircraft operating in the Washington D.C. ADIZ. The notice advised controllers that, "In the event of a transponder and/or Mode C failure by an aircraft inside the ADIZ, instruct the aircraft to exit the ADIZ via the most direct route." No further or more explicit guidance on the topic was provided by the notice.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on October 25, 2006.