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On January 4, 2009, at 1805 eastern standard time, a Piper, PA-28-160, N5212W, collided with trees while on a go around at the Indiana County Airport (IDI), Indiana, Pennsylvania. The pilot and one of the two passengers received serious injuries, the other passenger died from injuries four days after the accident. Instrumental meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was operated by a private individual, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight.
The pilot stated that he had called the airport earlier in the day to inquire about the weather. After being told the weather “wasn’t too bad” he requested fuel and drove to the airport with the two passengers. They observed the poor weather conditions on their way to the field, which led to a discussion about flying another day. They arrived at the airport with the intent to simply pay for the fuel and leave. The pilot stated that one of the passengers asked if “a go in the pattern was possible.” Against his better judgment, the pilot agreed. The pilot stated that the weather “wasn’t too bad” after takeoff, but the flight later encountered fog that obscured his view of the runway.
The pilot contacted line services at IDI fixed base operations via radio and repeatedly asked whether the line services personnel could see the airplane, and if it was over the runway. A line service personnel from the fixed base operator stated that he was in radio contact with the pilot during at least five attempted approaches to runway 28 at IDI. The pilot repeatedly inquired whether the line service person could see the aircraft or whether the airplane was over the runway. The line service person stated that he advised the pilot to climb, declare an emergency, and contact Cleveland Center for assistance; the repeated approaches were attempted with the airport environment obscured in heavy fog, in twilight, and after full darkness. The pilot did not heed this advice, and after at least five unsuccessful approaches, the pilot stated that he could see the lights on Runway 28, which was mostly behind the airplane. The pilot elected to make one more go around and attempt to land on the runway. At 1805, a sound of impact was heard by the line service person and radio contact was lost.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. He was issued a third class medical certificate on May 16, 2008, with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses. The pilot’s flight logbook showed he logged a total of 113 hours at the time of the accident.
The airplane was a Piper, PA-28-160, built in 1961 with serial number 28-248 and operated in the normal category. The airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-320-B2B, 160 horsepower engine. The airplane’s maintenance records showed the last annual inspection was performed on June 8, 2008, at a total time of 3,568 hours. The airplane was not equipped for instrument flight.
The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector stated that the weather was reported by the IDI automatic weather observation system (AWOS) as steadily deteriorating throughout the time the flight was planned, initiated, and terminated. Basic visual flight rules (VFR) conditions were last reported at 1255. At 1355, the weather was reported at 800 feet overcast and 10 miles visibility with temperature of 4 degrees Celsius (C) and dew point of -1 degree C. Prior to the estimated time of departure, the weather was reported at ceiling as 200 feet overcast and visibility 1/4 mile with temperature and dew point both at 3 degrees C. At, 1801 the weather was reported at 200 feet overcast, 1/4 mile visibility, and temperature and dew point both at 5 degrees C.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage debris field was located near the top of a forested area 100 feet higher than the field elevation at IDI. The airplane came to rest about 1,200 feet northwest of the threshold of runway 10 at IDI. The right wing impacted a tree about 50 feet about the terrain. The outer 1/3 of the wing was separated on impact and fell 40 feet from the majority of the wreckage. The right wing forward spar detached from the fuselage and the wing had a large, ragged hole in its lower skin. The tail of the airplane showed evidence of impacting several tree limbs and was torn from the fuselage forward of the vertical stabilizer. The left wing was also impacted by trees and the outer 1/3 of it bent at an angle about perpendicular to the fuselage. The aircraft came to rest inverted with its main fuselage, engine, forward cowling, and propeller spinner crushed. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) did not activate.
A wreckage examination was conducted by the airframe and engine manufacturer with FAA over sight. There were no discrepancies noted with the airplane, engine, and systems that would have prevented normal operational of the airplane.
TEST AND RESEARCH
A damage hand held global positioning system (GPS) unit was recovered from within the wreckage and sent to the National Transportation Safety Boards Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for further evaluation. The data retrieved depicts the accident flight’s route and attempts to land at the IDI airport.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The cause of death for the passenger was multiple blunt force trauma as per the Cambria County Coroner’s Office in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, January 8, 2009 report.