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On August 26, 2009, about 1950 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-15, N4585H, piloted by a student pilot was destroyed by impact forces and fire when it struck the ground near the Lakeview Airport-Griffith Field (13C), Lakeview, Michigan. The student pilot was reportedly practicing takeoffs and landings on runway 09 (3,500 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) when the accident occurred. The 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions and was not on a flight plan. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The local flight originated about 1945.
A witness to the accident reported that the airplane was flying east from the airport and it then banked to the left. The witness reported that the airplane then dove “as if it was dusting crops”. The airplane then impacted the ground and burst into flames.
The 47 year old pilot held a student pilot certificate. He had been receiving flight instruction in the accident airplane, which he owned. The pilot’s flight instructor reported that his most recent endorsement for solo flight operations was on August 8, 2009. No further information regarding the pilot’s flight experience was available during the investigation. The pilot also held a third class medical certificate issued June 16, 2008. The medical certificate stated that the pilot wear corrective lenses, and have glasses available for near vision while exercising the privileges of his student pilot certificate.
The airplane was a 1948 Piper PA-15 Vagabond, serial number 15-356. It was a propeller driven single-engine airplane with a strut braced high wing. The airplane had a conventional (tail dragger) landing gear arrangement. The wings were constructed predominately of aluminum with a fabric covering. The fuselage and tail surfaces were constructed predominately of steel tubing with a fabric covering. A Continental A-65 engine powered the airplane. The engine was rated to produce 65 horsepower.
At 1956, the recorded weather conditions at the Roben-Hood Airport, Big Rapids, Michigan, about 19 nautical miles northwest of the accident site were: Calm winds; visibility 10 statute miles; clear skies; temperature 20 degrees Celsius; dew point 15 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.13 inches of mercury.
The airport was a publicly owned airport about one mile northeast of Lakeview, Michigan. The airport was open to the public and had one runway. Runway 09/27 was 3,500 feet long and 75 feet wide and had an asphalt surface.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest about 0.7 miles and 070 degrees from the departure end of runway 09 at 13C. The wreckage path was in a northerly direction. The initial impact point was about 50 feet south of the main wreckage and was about 1 foot deep and 6 feet wide. A second ground scar was located about 10 feet north of the initial impact point. The width of the second ground scar was consistent with the wingspan of the airplane.
The main wreckage was upright and the fabric covering had burned off of the airplane’s entire structure. Both wing leading edges exhibited rearward crushing along the entire span of the wings. The fuselage tube structure was crushed with the tail surfaces folded underneath the remainder of the fuselage. The forward fuselage was partially separated and was found beneath the main fuselage. Examination of the airplane control cables revealed cable continuity from the surfaces to the cockpit.
The engine was located under the forward and main fuselage. The engine's propeller remained attached to the engine. The propeller blades exhibited chordwise scratching and polishing of the cambered face. One propeller blade was bent aft around the underside of the engine. The other propeller blade appeared straight except for a slight forward bend toward the tip. Thermal damage was evident to the engine accessories and the aft portion of the engine. The carburetor body was fractured and separated from the engine. The engine could not be rotated due to the physical damage to the propeller.
No pre-impact deficiencies were found with respect to the airframe, engine, or control system.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted at the Carson City Hospital, Carson City, Michigan, on August 27, 2009. The autopsy listed the cause of death as massive trauma secondary to a light plane crash.
A Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration listed the following findings:
>> 12 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Vitreous
>> NO ETHANOL detected in Urine
>> NO ETHANOL detected in Muscle
>> NO ETHANOL detected in Brain
>> NO ETHANOL detected in Blood
The report noted that the ethanol found in this case was from sources other than ingestion.