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On November 15, 2009, about 1711 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N1723T, was substantially damaged following a collision with mountainous terrain near Newcomb, New York. The airplane was registered to How Y & ERR, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware. The certificated airline transport pilot (ATP) and one passenger were killed. Night, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated at Saratoga County Airport (5B2), Saratoga Springs, New York at 1625.
The ATP was also a certified flight instructor and a designated pilot examiner. According to a representative of the operator, the ATP was returning to Malone, New York (MAL) after conducting an oral and practical flight test for a sport pilot applicant. The passenger, who obtained a student pilot certificate in 2005, accompanied the ATP. The last known position of the airplane was approximately 42 nautical miles from the departure airport, on the V-203 airway at 4,200 feet mean sea level (msl). After the flight did not arrive as expected, an alert notice (ALNOT) was issued. The wreckage was located on the morning of November 17 in mountainous terrain north of Newcomb. The wreckage was located at an elevation of 4,025 feet global positioning system (GPS) altitude near airway V-203. The peak elevation on the mountain was 4,621 feet msl.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate, dated August 22, 2009. His ratings included airplane single-engine land and sea, and airplane multiengine land. He also held a flight instructor and designated pilot examiner certificate. On his most recent airman certificate application, dated August 22, 2009, he reported 14,750 hours of civilian flight time. His pilot logbook(s) were not recovered for examination. The pilot's most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on August 27, 2009.
The passenger held a student pilot and third-class medical certificate, dated February 8, 2005. On this application, he reported 205 hours of total civilian flight time. His personal pilot logbook was not recovered for examination. No evidence was found to indicate that he was receiving dual instruction during the accident flight.
Examination of the airplane maintenance records indicate that an annual inspection was performed on the airframe and engine on June 12, 2009. Total time on the airframe at the time of the inspection was 6,890.5 hours. A 100-hour inspection was performed on September 1, 2009, at a total airframe time of 6,989.4 hours. The engine was replaced with an overhauled engine on February 13, 2008, at a total airframe time of 6,518.3 hours.
The 1709 weather observation for Saranac Lake, New York (SLK), located approximately 19 nautical miles north-northwest of the accident site, included the following: winds calm, visibility 0.25 statute miles in fog, few clouds at 100 feet, scattered clouds at 2,100 feet, temperature 9 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 8 degrees C, altimeter setting 29.90 inches of mercury.
A helicopter pilot with the New York State Police was flying from Burlington, Vermont, to SLK on the evening of the accident. He reported that the general en route weather conditions consisted of a low haze layer with patches of low clouds, with cloud bases ranging from 800 feet up to 4,500 feet. He also stated that shortly after he arrived at SLK, about 1755, "the field went IMC due to fog."
According to data from the U.S. Naval Observatory, sunset at Saranac Lake, New York was at 1629, with the end of civil twilight at 1701. Moonset was at 1525.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located on the south side of Santanoni Mountain, about 47 nautical miles from the destination airport, on November 17, 2009. Due to the inaccessibility of the accident site, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors were unable to examine the wreckage on scene. On November 18, 2009, FAA inspectors met with a New York State forest ranger and an investigator from the New York State Police to review photographs taken on scene.
Initial ground impact was into a rock ledge, about 4 feet high, that was oriented southwest to northeast in steep terrain. The wreckage path was along the rock ledge, and broken trees were indicative of a northerly aircraft heading at impact. The nose cowling and propeller were found closest to the initial ground impact site. A majority of the cabin and fuselage was consumed by postcrash fire.
The wreckage was recovered by means of an external lift helicopter. Once recovered from the mountain, the wreckage was transported to a salvage facility in Clayton, Delaware, where an NTSB investigator performed an examination of the wreckage on December 9 and 10, 2009.
Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of preexisting mechanical anomalies. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the ailerons, stabilator, and rudder to the cockpit. The flight control cables in the cockpit were cut consistent with recovery. The flap selector was in the “flaps retracted” position.
The engine remained attached to the engine mount, which was still attached to the firewall. The crankshaft was fractured at the nose case. The carburetor was separated from the oil sump. The oil filter element was free of ferrous particles. The right magneto was heat damaged. The left magneto was placed on a test bench and a test set of ignition leads were installed. When rotated, the magneto produced spark on all leads and the impulse coupling operated normally. Due to impact damage, the engine could not be rotated by hand. No evidence of lack of lubrication was found. Examination of the spark plugs revealed moderate wear and dark coloration.
Both propeller blades exhibited heavy leading edge damage. One blade was bent aft with the leading edge twisted toward low pitch and heavy leading edge scrapes. The other blade was bent aft about 90 degrees with heavy chord-wise scratching on the cambered portion of the blade. A piece of the blade tip was missing.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Department of Pathology, Adirondack Medical Center, Saranac Lake, New York. The cause of death was listed as, “…multiple blunt force traumatic injuries due to the crash.”
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology report was negative for ethanol, cyanide, carbon monoxide, and drugs.
Postmortem examination of the passenger was performed by the Department of Pathology, Adirondack Medical Center, Saranac Lake, New York. The cause of death was listed as, “…multiple blunt force traumatic injuries due to aircraft accident….”
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the passenger by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology report was negative for ethanol, carbon monoxide, and drugs. Testing for cyanide was not performed.
A Garmin GPSMAP 96c portable GPS receiver, in undamaged, working condition, was recovered from the accident site and forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for analysis. The data contained in the receiver was downloaded and analyzed. The data included the accident flight and the flight leg prior to the accident flight.
Data corresponding to the accident flight began at 1621:31 with a latitude/longitude position fix corresponding to 5B2. The final GPS position location fix was recorded at N44 degrees, 04.574 minutes, W074 degrees, 07.870 minutes, at a GPS altitude of 4,025 feet. The last calculated velocity and direction of travel was 89 knots groundspeed with a course of 332 degrees true. During the final 68 seconds of recorded flight, the data indicated that the airplane was in a descent from 4,457 to 4,025 feet.