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On September 5, 2009, at 1042 central daylight time (CDT), a Piper PA-32R-300, N1228H, registered to a private owner, collided with a radio tower guy wire 10 minutes after departing the Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport (RVS), Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal regulations Part 91 personal flight to Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL), Dallas, Texas. The non-instrument certificated private pilot and four passengers were killed. The airplane was destroyed and a postcrash fire ensued. The flight originated from RVS at 1037.
Review of transcripts between the pilot of N1228H and RVS ground control (GC) revealed the pilot called GC at 10:29:43, ready to taxi and requested visual flight rules (VFR) flight following to DAL. The controller informed the pilot the airfield was IFR and to state his intentions. The pilot then requested an IFR clearance to DAL. At 10:34:09, N1228H was issued the IFR clearance and was informed to contact the tower. At 10:37, the local controller cleared N1228H for takeoff and instructed the pilot to turn left to 300 degrees climbing through 1,500 feet. The pilot departed at 10:37 and at 10:39:18, the controller reminded the pilot to begin his left turn and to contact Tulsa departure. The pilot acknowledged the transmission and contacted Tulsa approach. At 10:40:07, Tulsa approach informed the pilot he was 4 miles north of RVS at 1,500 feet. He instructed the pilot to climb and maintain 4,000 feet. At 10:41:27, the pilot was still at 1,500 feet and the controller again instructed him to turn to a heading of 190. The pilot acknowledges the transmission, but failed to turn. At 10:41:39, the controller told the pilot fly a heading of 090 degrees due to antennas just to the northwest. The controller also reminded the pilot that he was still at 1,500 feet and should be at 4,000 feet. The pilot responded that he was climbing; however the controller informed the pilot that he was in fact descending. There were no further radio communications with the pilot.
Review of Area Surveillance Radar 9, located 1.75 miles northwest of RSA, revealed N1228H was located at 1,100 feet at 10:38:49, on initial climb. At 10:39:26 N1228H was in a left turn at 1,500 feet. At 10:40:22, N1228H was at 1,600 feet. At 10:41:36, N1228H is at 1500 feet and began a left descending turn. The last radar return was at 10:42:08, when N1228H was at 1200 feet.
The pilot, age 47, held a private pilot certificate issued on May 20, 1987, with ratings for airplane single-engine land. The pilot’s logbook was partially consumed by fire. The logbook revealed the pilot had recorded 353 total flight hours. The pilot’s last flight review and total flight time in the PA-32 could not be determined. There was no simulated or actual flight time noted in the logbook. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on September 19, 2007, with no restrictions.
The Piper PA-32R-300 was a seven-place airplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear, serial number 32R-7780146, manufactured in 1976. A Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D, 300-horsepower, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine powered the airplane. Review of the airplane logbooks revealed the last annual inspection was conducted on August 29, 2008, at a recorded tachometer time of 2,749.8 hours. The tachometer time at the accident site was 2,843.0. The airplane had flown 93.2 hours since the most recent annual inspection. The total airframe hours at the time of the accident were 2,843 hours. The altimeter, transponder, and transponder automatic altitude reporting system were tested on October 18, 2007. Prior to departing RVS, 10 gallons of 100 low lead fuel was added to each wing fuel tank.
The RVS airport had an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) and reported the following condition at the approximate time of departure: wind from 040 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 4 miles in haze, ceiling overcast at 600 feet agl, temperature 22 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 19 degrees C, and altimeter 30.11 inches of mercury, remarks: ceiling 500 feet variable 1000 feet.
The pilot called the Fort Worth Automated Flight Service Station on September 5, 2011, at 0631 by telephone and received a standard weather briefing from RVS to DAL. The pilot was informed that the northern one-third of Oklahoma had Airmet Sierra in effect for IFR conditions and those conditions would likely expire between 1000 to 1300 and that VFR flight operations were not recommended. He informed the pilot that the current conditions at RVS showed a low pressure system over central Oklahoma, just west of Texoma. The RVS weather was calm winds, visibility 4 miles in mist, scattered clouds at 4,900 feet, temperature and dew point 21 degrees C. The briefing ended at 0635 with the pilot of N1228H indicating that they would probable wait until about 0900 to go and there was no further contact with the pilot.
A review of the National Weather Service (NWS) weather depiction chart at 1100 CDT depicted a large area of IFR conditions extending over Oklahoma and the accident site. The NWS radar summary chart for the same period depicted no significant weather echoes over the accident site, but an area of echoes east over Arkansas.
The crash site was located about 8 miles west of RVS within the confines of Chandler Park, located at 21st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The park elevation was about 250 feet higher than the RVS airport elevation. Several radio transmission towers were located in the immediate area of the park. The airplane collided with a guy wire on the 600-foot tall radio transmission tower that was located near the center of the park, at a terrain elevation of about 860 feet. A seven-strand, 5/8-inch steel guy wire supported the 600-foot tall tower on the west side of the tower and was attached about 150 feet from the base of the tower. The main wreckage of the airplane was located about 1,575 feet west of the tower.
The upper engine cowling was separated and located along the crash debris line. The lower engine cowling remained attached. The nose landing gear was intact and in the retracted position. The engine assembly remained attached to the engine mounts. The engine mounts separated from the firewall and were displaced to the right and downward. The firewall was charred and melted. A witness mark consistent with a wire strike was present on the forward part of the No. 1 engine cylinder. The starter ring gear was broken and the alternator belt was missing. Rotational scarring was noted on the ring gear and on the front of the engine case assembly. The propeller assembly remained attached to the propeller crankshaft flange. One propeller blade was bent forward 90 degrees at mid-span. A witness mark, consistent with a wire strike, was present about 1/2 inch outboard of the propeller hub. The remaining propeller blade exhibited “S” bending and witness marks consistent with a wire strike 14 inches outboard of the propeller hub. The propeller governor also sustained impact damage. The gasket screen was free of contaminants and oil was present in the propeller and the governor.
The crash debris line extended 282 feet from the initial ground impact and the airplane came to rest on a heading of 350 degrees magnetic. A 300-foot long section of cable from the guy wire was wound around the cabin area and empennage. The forward cabin windscreen was separated and fragmented. The left and right cabin door posts were separated and the forward cabin area sustained fire damage. The cabin roof was bent aft and twisted to the left. The instrument panel was separated and fragmented. The artificial horizon, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, and turn and slip indicator were destroyed. The fuel selector valve was in the left main fuel tank position. The forward cabin floor was bent downward. Continuity of the flight controls was confirmed aft to all flight control surfaces.
The two front cabin seats separated from the floor rails. The seatbelt for the left front seat was unbuckled and the outboard end was fire damaged and melted. The right front seatbelt was buckled and ripped near the buckle. The outboard attachment was separated from its attachment point. Neither shoulder harness was in use at the time of the accident. The right center seat was pushed upward to almost a straight position and the lap belt had been cut. The left center seat was located outside of the cabin and the lap belt was unbuckled. Further examination of the lap belt revealed it had been installed without a steel insert inside the seatbelt attachment fitting. Both rear seats were secure. The left seatbelt inboard attachment bolt had failed. The inboard portion of the seatbelt was located along the crash debris line. The left and right rear seats inboard portion of the seat belts had been installed without the steel insert. The aft cabin area and baggage area were intact.
The right wing was fire damaged, and the wing separated in two sections. The inboard section was broken upward and aft at the wing root and aft along the rivet section, just outboard of the landing gear wheel. The right main landing gear was partially extended and the wing section was fire damaged and melted. The right aileron was bent, fire damaged, and located next to the inboard section of the wing. The right outboard section of the wing and fuel tank was crushed aft along the full span of the leading edge of the wing. The fuel tank was ruptured and no fuel was present. Flight control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed. The aileron control and balance cables were secure to the bell crank, which had been pulled inboard from its mount. The ends of both cables exhibited evidence consistent with overload. The aileron control cable was separated at the wing root inboard end and exhibited features consistent with overload. The balance cable included the center section of the cable with a portion of the roll bridal cable. The cable was separated near the left wing root and exhibited features consistent with overload. The right flap was separated, bent downward at mid-span and fire damaged. The position of the flap torque tube was consistent with the flaps being in the retracted position.
The aft fuselage was damaged. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were intact. The vertical stabilizer top cap, rotating beacon, and the rudder counter weight separated. The inboard left and right horizontal stabilizer separated. The outboard sections of the left and right horizontal stabilizers had separated and were located along the crash debris line near the radio transmission tower. A 300-foot long section of guy wire was found entangled in a cut made through a cut in the left stabilator and trailed aft and to the left of the main wreckage.
The left wing was fire damaged, separated from the wing root and was located about 11 feet from the main wreckage. The leading edge of the wing was broken and bent aft along its entire span. The top and bottom of the wing was fire damaged. The left main fuel tank was ruptured and fuel was present. The left flap remained attached to its attachment point at the inboard hinge. The flap was bent and fire damaged. The left aileron was damaged and remained attached to its attachment points. Flight control continuity was confirmed to the left aileron. The aileron control and balance cables were secure to the bell crank and had been pulled inboard from their mount. Both inboard cables exhibited features consistence with overload. The left main landing gear was retracted and fire damaged.
The engine assembly was transported to a salvage company and examined. The engine had been removed from the airframe and placed on a rolling table for examination. The aft rear crankcase engine accessories were removed and examined. The induction system and ignition harness were destroyed by post crash fire.
The dual magneto and engine driven fuel pump were destroyed. The vacuum pump housing was recovered but the drive was melted. The vacuum pump rotor and blades were not recovered. The fuel servo inlet screen was removed and no fuel was present and no contaminants were observed. The fuel flow divider was intact, disassembled and the internal diaphragm was intact. The fuel nozzles were examined and unobstructed. All cylinders were examined with a lighted bore scope and no anomalies were noted. The top spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal combustion deposits when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug-Chart. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange. Compression and suction was obtained at all cylinders. The rocker arms and valves moved when the crankshaft was rotated.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Medical Examiner, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. No traces of carbon monoxide, cyanide, or ethanol were detected. Citalopram was detected in the liver and the blood. N-Desmethylcitalopram was detected in the liver and the blood. The drugs are normally used to treat depression and other conditions.
Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 60-4A states the attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface, if neither horizon or surface references exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. However, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen, when this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of disorientation may vary considerably with individual pilots, Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is up.
Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above visual flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or surface reference is common on over water flights, at night, and especially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas or in low visibility conditions. Therefore, the use of flight instruments is essential to maintain proper attitude when encountering any of the elements which may result in spatial disorientation.