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On September 12, 2007, about 1845 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N6735J, registered to and operated by the private pilot, collided with the terrain near Alsea, Oregon. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 flight. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private pilot and pilot rated passenger/Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) were fatally injured. The airplane departed from Salem, Oregon, at 1732. An intermittent emergency locator transmission was picked up at 2250, however a search was not initiated until September 13, when the airplane was reported overdue to local authorities. The wreckage was located about 1400 on September 13, 2007.
Family members to both pilots reported that the CFI had been giving the private pilot flight instruction for an instrument rating. It was also reported that it was common practice that when the CFI returned home from working in another state, he would fly over his father's and grandparent's residences in the Alsea area which notified them that he was home. He would then go to the Eugene, Oregon, Airport where he kept a vehicle.
The accident site was across the road from the CFI's parents and grandparents homes. The family members reported that they heard a low flying airplane in the area and assumed that it was his flight. The airplane was not observed, but they did report hearing the sound of a collision. Family members searched around the area, but did not locate the accident site until the next day.
One resident in the area stated that he observed a low wing airplane flying about treetop height, down the canyon before it made a turn back up the canyon to the east and over the houses. He reported that the flaps were partially extended, but he could not get a registration number as the wings were raising and lowering. The airplane then turned to the north and descended. This witness stated that it did not appear that the airplane was having an emergency, but "He looked like he was trying to impress someone."
No one observed the collision which was located in a clear cut area behind a dense stand of trees which blocked the wreckage from a road. The family residence was on the opposite side of the road.
The private pilot in the left seat began flight training in April 2005. Logbook entries indicated that the private pilot received his primary flight training from the right seated CFI. The private pilot was issued his private pilot certificate in single-engine land aircraft in October 2006. The logbook also indicated in the remarks section for a flight on December 21, 2006, "Alsea and back."
The first flight in the accident airplane was on August 5, 2007, when the airplane was purchased. The private pilot and the right seated CFI flew the airplane from North Carolina to Oregon. The CFI endorsed the first 4 flights from August 5 to August 15 as "pilot-in-command, flight instruction." The private pilot logged the flights as "flight training, cross country". All remaining flights logged by the private pilot up to the time of the accident were in the accident airplane and the pilot logged those flights as pilot-in-command. At the time of the accident, the private pilot had accumulated a total flight time in all aircraft of 138 hours, with 69 hours as pilot-in-command. A total time of 43 hours had been accumulated in the accident airplane, with 21 hours as pilot-in-command.
The CFI seated in the right seat held certificates for commercial pilot and flight instructor in airplane single and multi-engine land aircraft. The CFI was also certified for instrument instruction. At the time of the accident, the CFI's flight logbook indicated that he had accumulated a total flight time in all aircraft of 1,557 hours. This logbook which began in April 2006, indicated a total flight time of 779 hours which had been forwarded from a previous logbook. From April 2006 to the time of the accident, the logbook indicated a total flight time in the make and model aircraft involved in the accident of 22 hours. These hours mirror the flight times as found in the private pilot's flight logbook when they flew together. The logbook indicated that the last flight in the accident airplane was on August 15, 2007, logged as an instrument instruction flight in Billings, Montana, with the private pilot. The CFI remained in Billings as he was employed as a pilot for a commercial flight operation flying a Beech 1900 as second-in-command.
The private pilot then flew the airplane solo, as pilot-in-command, the remaining distance to his home base at Stark's Twin Oaks, Hillsboro, Oregon.
Both pilots held current Federal Aviation Administration issued medical certificates.
It is unknown which of the two pilots was manipulating the flight controls at the time of the accident. The airplane was equipped with dual flight controls that both pilots had access to.
The airplane was manufactured by Piper Aircraft in 1968 as a low-wing aluminum alloy construction, with a 160 horsepower Lycoming O-320-E2A engine. At the time of the accident the airframe had accumulated a total flight time of approximately 4,910 hours. The engine had accumulated a total of 665 hours since overhaul in August 1998.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located on hilly terrain in a clear cut area at an elevation of about 300 feet mean sea level (msl) that was covered with tree stumps and piles of slash. One single dead tree about 40 feet in height, was at the top of the slope that rose in elevation about 100 feet above the main wreckage. No evidence of a collision to this tree was found.
The wreckage distribution path was in a southwesterly direction. The first indication of ground impact was near a downed log where fragments of the left wing tip and the red anti-collision light were found. Just beyond this disturbance, evidence of impact damage to the downed log was noted where the nose landing gear and other debris were found. Just beyond the log, the propeller was found followed by two sections of the left wing. The inboard section of the left wing separated at the wing root. The outboard section displayed leading edge damage and separated at rivet lines outboard of the fuel tank rib at station 88.75, ran outboard along the spar and then ran aft along rib station 106.19. The left wing displayed a 45 degree aft traveling crush line at the tip. The flap and aileron remained attached to their respective hinges. The main wreckage was located about 100 feet from the initial ground disturbance and was upright with the right wing attached at the wing root. The outboard section of the wing was folded downward at wing stations 125.45 and 106.29. The flap and aileron remained attached to their respective hinges. The aft fuselage and empennage remained attached. The engine and cockpit instrument panel were positioned under the cabin area. All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site.
The wreckage was recovered from the accident site and follow-up inspection of the airframe and engine was performed. Flight control continuity was established throughout the airframe. All control cable separation points were either from cable cuts by recovery personnel, or separation points as a result of structure deformation.
Engine inspection and teardown found that the crankshaft rotated by hand and accessory gear and valve train continuity was established. Compression was established at all cylinders. Both magnetos when rotated by hand produced a spark from all leads. All spark plugs displayed normal operating signatures. Both fuel and oil screens were clear of contaminants. The oil pan was crushed inward, however, evidence of oil was present. The carburetor was damaged, however, an odor of fuel was present. Engine control continuity was established from the carburetor to the cockpit.
The propeller assembly separated from the crankshaft flange. All attach bolts were sheared flush with the propeller hub, however the safety wires securing the bolts were intact. The spinner was crushed aft, with wood fibers noted within the metal folds. Both propeller blades displayed slight "S" bending with minor to no leading edge nicks. One blade displayed chordwise brown transfer marks at the blade tip.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on both pilots by the Benton County Coroner, Clackamas, Oregon. The cause of death to the private pilot was due to "head injuries." The cause of death to the CFI was "blunt force head trauma with subdural hemorrhage."
The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from both pilots and no drugs of abuse were detected.
A Lowrance AirMap 2000c, battery operated hand-portable 12-channel mapping global positioning system (GPS) unit was found in the wreckage. The unit was sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory, Washington DC for inspection and download of data. The SD card that was removed from the unit contained 4 user defined waypoints, zero user defined routes, and 1 recorded trail containing 2,000 lat/long points. The data contained no date/time stamp and airplane groundspeed and altitude were not recorded.
The recorded 2,000 point trail began with the airplane orbiting in several different holding patterns located just north of Newburg, Oregon. The airplane then landed at Aurora State, Aurora, Oregon. The airplane then departed Aurora State and landed at Starks Twin Oaks Airpark, Hillsboro, Oregon (home base for the airplane). On September 8 and 9, 2007, the remarks section of the private pilot's flight logbook indicated, "Holding pattern practice over Newberg VOR." These were the last 2 entries in the logbook before the accident flight on September 12, 2007.
The tracking then indicated a departure from Stark's Twin Oaks and a flight to and landing at Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon. This flight is believed to be on the day of the accident and Portland is where the CFI was picked up. The flight then took off and the tracking continued to the Newberg area where similar orbits were conducted in what appeared to be a holding pattern. After several turns in holding, the tracking continued to proceed to and the airplane landed at McNary Field, Salem, Oregon. Receipts provided by a family member, indicated that the pilots ate dinner and fueled the airplane. Salem control tower records indicated that the flight was cleared for takeoff at 1732. The tracking indicated that the flight departed to the south and flew to a point near Corvallis, Oregon. The airplane executed what appeared to be three orbits in a holding pattern over an airstrip before over flying the Corvallis Municipal Airport on the way to another set of race track type holding patterns which were executed approximately 3.5 miles southwest of Alsea. The recorded trail stops near the peak of Digger Mountain. The last point was located approximately .9 miles southeast of the accident site. The airplane was traveling on a west-northwesterly course prior to the final trail update point.