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On August 20, 2008, at 1028 mountain standard time, a Piper Cherokee PA-28-180, N5316L, sustained substantial damage subsequent to a collision with terrain shortly after takeoff approximately one mile north of the Springerville Municipal Airport, Springerville, Arizona. The two occupants, a private pilot and passenger, were killed. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot's planned destination was the Quemado Airport, Quemado, New Mexico.
Witnesses reported that after landing at Springerville, the pilot and passenger borrowed the airport courtesy car and drove to a local grocery store. The two returned to the airport a short time later and loaded an unspecified amount of grocery items, which included multiple cases of beer, into the airplane. The pilot and passenger returned to town via the courtesy car to pickup additional grocery items. After the pilot returned to the airport, the airplane was "topped" with the addition of 24.8 gallons of aviation gasoline (100 low lead). The pilot then taxied the airplane to the active runway.
Witnesses reported that they observed the airplane "porpoise" during the takeoff roll; however, it became airborne about midfield of runway 03. Another witness stated that shortly after liftoff the airplane appeared to be flying "sideways" when it suddenly rolled to the right, pitched to a nose-low attitude, and impacted terrain.
A witness reported that about 20 minutes prior to the accident flight the pilot aborted a takeoff from runway 21. Following the takeoff attempt, the pilot taxied back to the parking area and reported that the airplane had a flat tire(s). Inspection of the tires, by the pilot, revealed that they were not flat, and the pilot taxied the airplane to runway 03 for takeoff.
The pilot, age 64, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. The pilot certificate was issued on May 24, 1977. The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on October 11, 2007, with the limitation "must wear corrective lenses."
A review of FAA medical records revealed that the pilot listed 1,670 total flight hours on his most recent (October 11, 2007) airman medical application form. Pilot flight time logbook records were located at the accident site; however, the logs were fire damaged and detailed flight time records were not obtained.
The pilot's most recent flight review was completed on December 4, 2007.
The 1968-model Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee, serial number 24-4618, was a low wing, fixed landing gear airplane, and was configured for four occupants. The airplane was powered by a horizontally opposed, conventionally aspirated, four-cylinder engine. The engine was rated at 180 horsepower, and was equipped with a two-blade fixed pitch propeller.
According to the airframe logbook, the airplane's most recent inspection was completed on October 15, 2007, at an airframe total time of 3,555 hours.
The engine logbook revealed that the engine had been inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's checklist on October 15, 2007. The engine total time at inspection was 3,555 hours, with 1,561 hours since overhaul.
No known maintenance discrepancies or open maintenance actions were noted during the review of the maintenance records.
The approved "Airplane Flight Manual" for the accident airplane does not contain information detailing and outlining specific altitude performance parameters.
At 1028, the recorded weather observation at the Springerville Airport was, in part, winds from 340 degrees at 7 knots gusting to 14 knots; temperature 24 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.25 inches Hg.
The airport is located at an elevation of 7,055 feet. Using the reported temperature and altimeter setting, 24 degrees Celsius and 30.25 inches respectively, the calculated density altitude was approximately 9,476 feet.
The Springerville Municipal Airport is located in a mountainous region at an elevation of 7,055 feet. The airport has two hard-surfaced runways, 03 and 21 magnetic and runways 11 and 29 magnetic, respectively. Runway 03/21 is 8,422 feet long, and 75 feet wide.
The Springerville Airport is a non towered/uncontrolled facility. There were no known communications between the accident airplane and ground facilities and or other aircraft during the timeframe of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT
The wreckage was located in an open field approximately 150-feet beyond the departure end of runway 03. The surrounding terrain was relatively flat with areas of grass and scrub brush. All major airframe, engine and system components were located in the immediate area of the main wreckage and burn area. Extensive postimpact fire and impact damage was noted.
The cockpit and passenger seating area was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The fuselage door was separated and found adjacent to the initial impact point. Control continuity was established to all flight controls and no cables had been cut or broken. The flap torque tube was displaced but its position, relative to the fuselage, was consistent with a retracted flap position. The flap handle was loose from the latch mechanism, and as such its position could not be determined. The fuel selector valve was recovered and its position was consistent with the right tank being selected.
The left wing was located in the immediate area of the main wreckage. Fire and impact related damage was noted along the full span of the wing. The fuel tank was bulged and split. The fuel cap was in place and secure. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing and thermal related damage was noted to both. The aileron control cable was continuous to the aileron control chain. The landing gear was broken and separated at the strut.
The right wing was located in the immediate area of the main wreckage. Fire and impact related damage was noted along the full span of the wing. The fuel tank was bulged and split. The fuel cap was in place and secure. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing and thermal related damage was noted to both. The aileron control cable was continuous to the aileron control chain. The landing gear remained attached and fire damage was noted to the assembly.
The empennage was intact with fire and impact damage noted. The assembly separated from the fuselage just forward of the vertical stabilizer. The rudder and stabilator were in place, attached to their respective hinge points, and both were observed to move freely. The stabilator balance weight was in place and both control cables were secure and continuous to the cockpit. The rudder cables were in place and continuous to the cockpit. The stabilator pitch trim drum was fire damaged and partially separated from the fuselage. About 10 of the inner shaft threads were exposed on the upper side of the drum. According to a representative from the manufacturer, this is consistent with a setting of approximately 50 percent or 6-degrees, of the available 12-degrees of nose up trim.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on August 25, as authorized by the Apache County Medical Examiner's Office. The postmortem report attributed the cause of death to "multiple injuries due to blunt force trauma."
The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensics toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot and no drugs of abuse were detected.
Onsite engine examination
Rocker arm, valve train, and accessory gear continuity was established by rotating the engine's crankshaft by hand. The four engine cylinders developed pressure and suction when the crankshaft was manually rotated. Internal examination of the cylinder bores, utilizing a lighted bore scope, revealed no evidence of foreign debris or mechanical deformation. Oil was present in the engine when it was partially disassembled. The oil filter media was charred but no metallic debris was noted. No metallic debris was found in the oil suction screen. Fire and impact damage was noted to both magnetos (both were found separated from the engine assembly) and associated ignition harness. The carburetor remained attached to the oil sump. The mixture control was fractured. The throttle control remained attached and sustained impact and thermal related damaged. The carburetor fuel inlet screen was removed and no debris was noted.
The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange. Both propeller blades exhibited "S" type bending, twisting and leading edge gouges. The outboard 5-6 inches (tip) of propeller blade "A" was separated and found in the main wreckage burn area.
Examination of the airframe, engine and propeller assembly revealed no evidence of a preimpact failure or anomaly.
A majority of the combustible materials associated with the airplane and its contents was consumed by postcrash fire. A comprehensive weight and balance for the airplane was not obtained.