On August 9, 2007, at 0707 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-22-160, N2731P, registered to and operated by a private owner as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight made a forced landing to an open field on initial take off climb. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. A post crash fire destroyed the airplane. The private pilot and one passenger reported minor injuries. The remaining passenger was transported to a local area hospital with serious injuries and died at 2115. The flight originated from ST. Mary's County Regional Airport, Leonardtown, Maryland, on August 9, 2007, at 0706. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot informed the Maryland State Police at the accident site that he was concerned about the weight of the airplane and the possible performance due to the hot weather. The pilot stated the airplane was slow to accelerate on the take off roll, which the pilot attributed to the hot and humid weather. The pilot stated the airplane became airborne 3,000 feet down the runway and his initial rate of climb was about 50 feet per minute well below normal. As the airplane approached the tree line located about 1,500 feet from the end of the runway, the airplane was not climbing and had started to descend. The pilot deployed 25-degrees of flaps allowing the airplane to clear the trees. The airplane continued to descend into a field located about 1,000 feet beyond the tree line. The airplane collided with the ground and collapsed the landing gear, slid about 66 feet, turned 90-degrees to the right and stopped. The airplane caught on fire and they exited the airplane.
The pilot stated in a telephone interview with the NTSB after the accident that the airplane was topped off with 17 gallons of 100 low lead fuel before departing. No formal performance planning was conducted except for mentally going over the weight and balance in his head. The maximum gross weight of the airplane was 2,000 pounds and he estimated his take off weight at 1,814 pounds. The pilot stated he considered the density altitude and pressure altitude but did not consider it a factor with the 4,000-foot departure airport. The pilot stated the airplane has a tendency to sit tail low due to the nose landing gear strut being extended for landings at his private airstrip. He started his take off roll from runway 29 and the ground roll was slower than normal down the 4,000-foot long runway. The pilot pushed the control wheel down in an effort to increase airspeed. The airplane was about 3,000 feet down the runway when he rotated the airplane at 80 mph. The airplane came off the runway; the airplane had a reduced rate of climb, and was basically flat. The airplane was at full power and the pilot was concerned about clearing the trees off the departure end of the runway and lowered one notch of flaps. Just before reaching the tree line, the pilot lowered the flaps to the full down position and the airplane skimmed the top of the tree. The airplane would not maintain altitude and was descending. The airplane touched down in an open field in a nose down right wing low attitude in an attempt to follow the contour of the open field. The nose wheel was either bent aft or separated. The airplane began sliding to the right and turned about 90-degrees before it came to a complete stop and caught fire. When the pilot was asked if the airplane had any mechanical problems on takeoff, the pilot replied no. "It was my fault, I made a bad choice, the airplane was heavy, it was hot, and very humid." When asked why he did not abort the take off the pilot stated, "I never thought about it and I do not know why. I just kept the nose on the runway. I knew we were heavy and it was hot." The initial statement was read back to the pilot and the pilot agreed with the initial statement.
A witness who is also a commercial pilot and a flight instructor observed the accident airplane taxi from the gas pump towards runway 29 for take off. As the airplane taxied by his location, the witness observed the tail of the airplane was low "as if the airplane was overloaded." The airplane started its take off roll and the winds were light and variable with a high-density altitude. The witness stated the runway at the airport is 4,150 feet long. The accident airplane takeoff roll was slow and long and there was no change in engine noise on the takeoff roll or climb out. The airplane used about 3,000 feet of the runway before the pilot "forced the airplane off the runway." Once the airplane became airborne the climb out was "flat" and the witness was not sure if the airplane would clear the trees off the departure end of the runway. The airplane cleared the trees by about 100 feet and disappeared from view behind another tree line. The witness stated he observed a plum of black smoke and knew the airplane had crashed.
Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on March 26, 2004, with ratings for airplane single engine land. The pilot holds a third-class medical certificate issued on March 21, 2007, with the restrictions, "must have available glasses for near vision, and not valid for night flying." The pilot indicated on the application for the third-class medical certificate that he had accumulated 600 total flight hours. The pilot's last biennial flight review was completed during the summer of 2006.
The post-crash fire destroyed the airplane logbooks. According to the pilot the airplane had about 1.958 total airframe hours, and the engine had about 600 total hours since major overhaul. The tachometer was destroyed and the exact total time on the airframe and engine could not be determined. The pilot stated the last annual inspection was conducted in January or February 2007, and the airplane had flown about 20 hours since the annual inspection.
Review of delivery documents obtained from the aircraft manufacturer revealed the accident airplane; serial number 22-3037 is a PA-22-150, and the empty weight is 1,135 pounds. The pilot stated the airplane is a PA-22-160 and the empty weight is 1,050 pounds. The maximum gross weight of the airplane is 2,000 pounds. The pilot estimated his weight at 240 pounds and the estimated weight for his son and his mother was 140 pounds each. In addition he informed the FAA in a statement that the airplane had less than 100 pounds of baggage, which was located in the right rear-facing seat. In addition, the pilot informed the FAA that10 pounds of tools were located in a storage compartment. The pilot informed the NTSB that he had 65 pounds of baggage in the right rear seat.
With an empty weight of 1050 pounds, 520 pound for the pilot and two passengers, 75 pounds of baggage and tools, and 216 pounds of fuel, the airplanes take off weight would be 1,861 pounds. With 100 pounds of baggage and 10 pounds of tools the takeoff weight would be 1,896 pounds.
With an empty weight of 1,135 pounds, 520 pounds for the pilot and two passengers, 75 pounds of baggage and tools, and 216 pounds of fuel the airplanes take off weight would be 1,946 pounds. With 100 pounds of baggage and 10 pounds of tools the takeoff weight would be 1,981 pounds.
The St. Mary's County Regional Airport, Leonardtown, Maryland, is located at an elevation of 142 feet. Runway 11 and runway 29 surface is asphalt and in good condition. Both runways are 4,150 feet in length and 75 feet wide. The airport has an Aviation Weather Observation Service (AWOS) available on frequency 119.575.
The St Mary's County Regional Airport, Leonardtown, Maryland, 0701 surface weather observation was wind calm, visibility 10 miles, clear, temperature 82-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 72-degrees Fahrenheit, and altimeter 29.88 The density altitude at the time of the accident was 1,755 feet and the pressure altitude was 180 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was located in an open field on private property in the vicinity of 23595 Lawrence Hayden Road, Leonardtown, Maryland. Examination of the crash site revealed the airplane had collided with the ground on a heading 290-degrees, and a post crash fire consumed the majority of the airplane.
Examination of the nose section revealed the engine assembly was fire damaged and displaced to the right. The nose wheel was bent aft and remained attached to the engine mount at the firewall. The upper and lower engine cowling was fire damaged. The propeller spinner remained attached to the propeller hub and was bent inward. The propeller assembly remained attached to the propeller crankshaft flange. One propeller blade was bent aft at mid span and the remaining propeller blade was not damaged.
The cabin area was consumed by fire from the engine compartment attending rearward to the empennage except for the steel tubes welded together to form the rigid structure. The instrument panel, flight instruments, radios, master switch, starter button, circuit breakers, panel lights, landing light switch, parking brake, and the front seats and rear seat were destroyed. An eight-gallon reserve fuel tank was not installed. The throttle, mixture, and fuel selector valve were destroyed by the post crash fire. The flap handle was in the extended position. The aircraft registration and airworthiness certificate was consumed by fire. The left main landing gear remained attached, and the right main landing gear was separated. Continuity of the flight controls assembly was confirmed from both control yokes rearward to the flight control surfaces.
The right wing was fire damaged, bent aft, and separated from the fuselage at the wing hinge fittings and lift strut. The right lift strut was fire damage. The right main fuel tank was ruptured and fire damaged. The right aileron and flap remained attached at their attachment point and were fire damage. The right flap was extended.
The empennage was consumed by fire except for the steel tubes welded together that form the fin, rudder, stabilizers, and elevators. The ELT was not located and presumed destroyed.
The left wing separated from the fuselage at the wing hinge fittings and lift strut and was almost totally consumed by fire. The left flap and left aileron were consumed by fire. The left main fuel tank was consumed by fire.
The engine assembly was separated from the airframe by the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, Hollywood, Maryland, and transported to ST. Mary's County Regional County Airport for further examination by the FAA.
Examination of the engine assembly on August 13, 2007, revealed the entire engine assembly and accessories were fire damaged. The left and right engine exhaust was fire damaged, and the engine oil sump was damaged. The oil cooler was damaged. The alternator and drive pulley remained attached to the engine assembly. The starter remained attached and was fire damaged. The magnetos were fire damaged and removed from the engine. The vacuum pump was fire damaged. The oil filter was fire damaged, removed, and free of contaminants. The cylinder intake push rod tubes were not damaged. The post crash fire consumed the carburetor. The muffler was intact and fire damaged. All fuel lines were consumed by fire.
The engine was partially disassembled. The starter ring gear was not damaged. The crankshaft and crankshaft flange were not damaged. The top and bottom ignition harness were damaged. The top and bottom spark plugs were removed and exhibited worn out normal when compared to the Champion Check A Plug chart. The engine was rotated using the propeller assembly. Compression and suction was obtained at all cylinders. The rocker arms and valves moved when the crankshaft was rotated.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The rear seat passenger was transported to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland with serious injuries. The passenger expired at 2115 in the evening. According to the Maryland Division of Vital Records the reported cause of death was severe traumatic brain injury.
TEST AND RESEARCH
Review of FAA Advisory Circular AC 61-84B, ROLE OF PREFLIGHT PREPARATION, Para 3. BACKGROUND, "a. One of the most often neglected acts of a pilot contemplating flight in an aircraft is that of proper preflight planning. While the reasons remain obscure, the facts are well supported by aircraft accident statistics. Although the number of general aviation accidents has shown a downward trend in recent years, the accident and fatality/serious injury statistics indicate an increase in the percentage of accidents during takeoff. Paragraph 4. ELEMENTS OF PREFLIGHT PLANNING, (d.) Density Altitude states,
(1) Aircraft instruments are calibrated to be correct under one set of conditions. Standard conditions represent theoretical sea level conditions, 59 degrees Fahrenheit and 29.92 inHg. As higher elevations are reached, both temperature and pressure normally decrease. Thus, density altitude is determined by compensating for pressure and temperature variances from the standard conditions…. A pilot must remember that as density altitude increases, there is a corresponding decrease in the power delivered by the engine and the propellers or rotor blades. For airplanes, this may cause the required takeoff roll to increase by up to 25 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation above sea level. The most critical conditions of takeoff performance are the result of a combination of heavy loads, unfavorable runway conditions, winds, high temperatures, high airport elevations, and high humidity.
(2) The proper accounting for the pressure altitude (field elevation is a poor substitute) and temperature is mandatory for accurate prediction of takeoff data. The required information will be listed in the aircraft manual and should be consulted before each takeoff, especially if operating at a high-density altitude or with a heavily loaded aircraft."
The Owners Handbook does not include charts for takeoff roll or landing roll distance, and was not required by the FAA for certification when the airplane was manufactured. Section 1 of The Piper Tri-Pacer Design Features, 1. Specifications, states with flaps extended the performance figures are for standard airplanes flown at gross weight under standard conditions at sea level. The takeoff run is 1,220 feet and the take off over a 50-foot barrier is 1,600 feet. With a density altitude of 1,755 feet the takeoff run will increase approximately 25 percent for every 1,000 feet increase in density altitude. The take off run would have been approximately 43 percent longer or 1,745 feet and 2, 288 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle.
The NTSB sent a copy of the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report to the pilot on August 9, 2007, and a copy of the pilot's initial statement was forwarded to the pilot on August 11, 2007, for review. On August 16, 2007, another copy of the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report and a copy of the pilot's initial statement was sent to the pilot in an e-mail in advance of a follow up telephone interview conducted on August 17, 2007. The pilot was informed in the e-mail, that they would go over the NTSB Pilot/Operator Report and make changes that may be required to the initial telephonic pilot statement. In addition, the pilot was informed that he could write a separate statement or use the initial telephonic statement that was provided for his review. Several changes were made to the initial pilot statement on August 17, 2007. The pilot requested that the quotes in the initial telephonic statement be removed. The NTSB declined to remove the quotes from the statement, and e-mailed a copy of the corrected statement after the interview on August 17, 2007. The pilot submitted the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report to the NTSB on August 20, 2007. The pilot stated in a separate statement included with the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report that the initial statement provided to the NTSB on August 9, 2007, was incomplete and misleading. The pilot stated, "Some of the objections I have to your draft of my statement are as follows:… 3. The second paragraph on page 2 of the statement is incomplete and is not correct to the extent that it implies that I believe that there is no other possible cause for the accident. It was a statement made immediately after the accident when I was naturally blaming myself for everything. I was under great stress because of the accident and my mother's death. I requested that this statement in particular be removed from your draft, but you have declined to do so. I am in fact unsure of the actual causative factors of this accident, so I can only speculate at this point. 4. It is not true that I agreed with your draft statement, primarily because of the second paragraph on page 2, which I asked you to delete."
The airplane wreckage was released by the FAA to the registered owner on August 12, 2007. The engine assembly was released by the FAA on August 13, 2007, to Chesapeake Aviation Service on behalf of the registered owner.