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On July 09, 2007, at 0808 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N5595J, lost control and broke up in-flight over Tyringham, Massachusetts. The airplane was substantially damaged, and the certificated private pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight from Wiscasset Airport, Wiscasset, Maine to Columbia County Airport (1B1), Hudson, New York. The airplane was registered to and operated by Hartley Marine Services Incorporated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.
Personnel at the Bridgeport federal contract facility (FCF) automated flight service station (AFSS) reported that on the afternoon prior to his departure, the pilot contacted them to request predicted flight weather conditions for a 0600 departure from Wiscasset, Maine, to Columbia, New York, and a 1800 return flight. Bridgeport AFSS reported that the pilot was advised of potential marginal weather along portions of his flight route, and suggested that an IFR flight plan would be appropriate.
According to personnel at the Bradley consolidated terminal radar approach control (TRACON), the pilot contacted a Bradley approach controller at 0748 to report that he was operating at 6,000 feet. At 0756, the controller asked the pilot "how's your ride at six?" The pilot responded, " the ride has been good, mostly light chop. We've had some light precipitation, but nothing at the moment. We may be getting back into here it's getting a little darker." The controller advised the pilot "extreme precipitations were off to the right side, about seven miles heading your way at thirty knots." At 0800, the controller then advised all aircraft that "hazardous weather information convective significant meteorological information (SIGMET) two nine eastern for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York is available on hazardous in-flight weather advisory service (HIWAS), flight watch, and flight service frequencies." At 0807, the pilot advised the controller that he was "getting into it pretty good over here," and asked to "divert to the south." The controller approved the diversion, and advised the pilot to contact him when he was back on course. At 0808, the controller asked the pilot to report his flight conditions, and the pilot advised "severe." The controller then asked the pilot if he was able to maintain altitude because his radar showed that he was descending. Shortly thereafter, radar contact and communications were lost.
A witness in the area at the time of the accident stated that he was outside in his yard when he heard an airplane engine "screaming." He recalled that it sounded like the airplane was coming straight down and ended with a "thud." He also said that at the time of the accident he heard very loud "thunder claps." He called 911, and first responders located the airplane across from the witness's home.
The pilot, age 54, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for instrument airplane and airplane single engine land. His pilot certificate was updated on April 28, 2003. He held a third-class medical certificate issued on September 20, 2006 with limitations for corrective lenses. Federal Aviation Administration medical records revealed that the pilot reported a total flight time of 3,350 hours on the application for his most recent medical certificate. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered for review.
The six-seat, low-wing, fixed gear airplane, serial number 32-1062, was manufactured in 1968. It was powered by a Lycoming O-540-E4B5, 260-horsepower engine and equipped with a two bladed McCauley propeller model HCC2YR1BF. Review of the aircraft maintenance logbook records showed that an annual inspection was completed on June 15, 2006, at a tachometer reading of 3,495.13 hours, and an airframe total time of 7,110.68 hours. The airplane was not equipped with weather radar.
A review of logbook records revealed that the last altimeter and airplane static system test, required by Title 14 CFR Part 91.411 for IFR flight, was performed on September 11, 2000. The regulation requires that the test be conducted every 24 calendar months in order for the airplane to be certified to operate in IFR conditions. Further review of the logbook records revealed that the last transponder system test, required by Title 14 CFR Part 91.413 for IFR flight, was performed on September 14, 2000. The regulation requires the test be conducted every 24 calendar months in order for the airplane to be certified to operate in IFR conditions.
The nearest weather reporting facility, Barnes Municipal Airport, in Westfield, Massachusetts, reported that on the day of the accident at 0853, winds were variable at 3 knots, 1 1/2 miles visibility in heavy rain and mist, few clouds at 700 feet, broken ceiling at 1,800 feet, overcast ceiling at 3,000 feet, altimeter setting 29.95 inches of mercury. Remarks peak wind 020 degrees at 27 knots. Thunderstorms began at 0837 and ended at 0848, and rain showers began 0838.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located off a private road in a wooded area, 20 nautical miles west of Springfield, Massachusetts. The debris field was approximately 3/4 mile in length, and 1,000 feet wide along a measured magnetic heading of 025 degrees. All flight control surfaces and airframe components were accounted for within the accident site area. The instrument panel and cockpit were destroyed and fragmented. The right wing was separated from the fuselage center section and the wing spar fracture surfaces exhibited signatures consistent with overload separation. The left wing was separated from the fuselage, and was located approximately 600 feet from the right wing. The wing spar fracture surfaces exhibited signatures consistent with an overload separation. The wing center section was located at the main crash site. Approximately 6 feet of the left and right wing upper and lower spar caps remained attached to the center section. The fracture surfaces on the spar caps exhibited signatures consistent with overload separations, with "S" bending.
Both wing tips were separated from their respective outboard wing assembly. Ten feet of the outboard left wing, with the left aileron attached, was located near the main crash site. The left flap was separated and located in several pieces. Four feet of the right wing was recovered in the debris path, and the right aileron was recovered separately. The entire right flap was separated and recovered as a unit. The vertical stabilizer was detached from the fuselage and located in the debris path in two portions. The top portion of the vertical stabilizer had approximately one-fourth of the rudder still attached. The left and right stabilator tips had separated from the inboard portions of the stabilator. The left inboard stabilator half was separated as a unit with the anti-servo tab attached. The right inboard stabilator half was recovered in several pieces and the right anti-servo tab was also separated and recovered. At the main crash site, the rudder horn and stabilator balance bar were in place at the aft fuselage. Rudder and stabilator cables were traced forward from the rudder horn and balance bar to the forward fuselage. One stabilator cable was detached from the balance bar at the welded tab. The aileron cables were attached to the aileron bell cranks, which were pulled from the wings when the outboard panels separated. Control continuity could not be established due to the fragmentation of the wreckage.
The engine was fragmented at the main accident site. All of the cylinders were separated from the case halves of the engine. The crankshaft was exposed and no signs of overheating or oil distress were noted on the bearing journals. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. Both blades exhibited "S" bending. All spark plugs were removed and the electrodes were gray-brown in appearance.
At the conclusion of the on-site examination, no mechanical or flight control anomalies were found.
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on July 13, 2007 by the Office of the Medical Examiner of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as authorized by the Chief forensic Investigator of Tyringham, Massachusetts. The cause of death was reported as "multiple injuries."
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected in the liver or muscle, and no drugs were detected in the liver.
At 0801, West Departure Radar Controller (AC#1) was relieved by (AC#2). During the position relief briefing, AC#1 advised AC#2, that the pilot of N5595J, "... chester victor two seventy looks like he's gonna have to turn here he's been skirting it all along, looks like it might get a little close as he knows its out there but as I don't think he has weather radar cuz he said it looks dark." AC#2 acknowledged with "OK." This was followed by AC#1 stating "looks like you need to turn him shortly..." For the next five minutes, AC#2 made five routine radio transmissions to three aircraft in his airspace, but no transmission to N5595J.
FAA order 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, paragraph 2-1-1, "ATC Service", which states:
"The primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system and to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide support for National Security and Homeland Defense. In addition to its primary function, the ATC system has the capability to provide (with certain limitations) additional services. The ability to provide additional services is limited by many factors, such as the volume of traffic, frequency congestion, quality of radar, controller workload, higher priority duties, and the pure physical inability to scan and detect those situations that fall in this category. It is recognized that these services cannot be provided in cases in which the provision of services is precluded by the above factors. Consistent with the aforementioned conditions, controllers shall provide additional service procedures to the extent permitted by higher priority duties and other circumstances. The provision of additional services is not optional on the part of the controller, but rather is required when the work situation permits."