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On November 23, 2009, at 0234 eastern standard time (EST), a Piper PA-30, N8923Y, registered to and operated by a private owner, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees while descending in mountainous terrain in the vicinity of Rainelle, West Virginia. Night marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site, and no flight plan was filed. The certificated commercial pilot was killed. The flight departed, Kennett Memorial Airport (TKX), Kennett, Missouri, for Stafford Regional Airport (RMN), Stafford, Virginia, at 1727 Central Standard Time (CST). The airplane did not arrive at its destination and was reported as missing to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center on November 28, 2009. The airplane wreckage was located by the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol on December 1, 2009.
Review of Fort Worth Center radar data confirmed that the airplane initially departed Dalhart Municipal Airport (DHT), Dalhart, Texas DHT at 1727 CST. Radar data obtained from Memphis Center revealed the airplane landed at TKX at 2118 CST. After departing TKX, the airplane was observed on radar at 4,800 feet, northeast of the airport at 2248 CST. The airplane was last observed by Indianapolis Center in the vicinity of the accident site. Radar data also indicated that during the last 3 minutes of contact, the airplane flew a serpentine course, and that it climbed from 3,300 feet to 3,900 feet, before it descended to 3,300 feet and contact was lost.
The pilot, age 52, held a commercial pilot certificate issued on April 8, 2004, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, helicopter, and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot held a second-class medical certificate, issued on October 2, 2009, with no restrictions. The pilot indicated on his application for the medical certificate that he had 1,575 total flight hours.
According to the previous owner, who sold the airplane to the accident pilot on August 28, 2009, the pilot had accumulated 50 hours of multiengine time in Beech airplanes. The pilot did not have any flight time in the PA-30. The pilot obtained 1 hour 30 minutes of flight instruction from a certificated flight instructor (CFI) at DHT, before departing on the accident flight.
The pilot’s logbooks were located at the crash site. The pilot indicated he had accumulated 1,672.9 total flight hours; of which, 1336.1 hours were in airplane single-engine land, and 61.0 hours in airplane multiengine land. The pilot flew 7.3 hours in the PA-30 after his "check out" on November 22 and 23, 2009. The pilot logged 215 hours of night flight, and his last recorded night flight before the accident was on October 18, 2009. The pilot logged 179.2 hours of actual instrument flight, and his last recorded instrument flight was on December 29, 1991. The pilot logged 268.5 total hours of helicopter rotorcraft. The pilot logged 24.5 hours in the last 90 days and 14.7 hours in the last 30 days; of which, 8.8 hours were in the PA-30, including the accident flight. The pilot’s last flight review was on November 15, 2009.
The four-seat, multiengine, low-wing monoplane, serial number 30-1996, was manufactured in 1969. It was powered by two Lycoming IO-320-C1A, 160-horsepower engines and equipped with Hartzell model HC-E2YL-2RBS constant-speed propellers. A review of the airframe maintenance records revealed the last annual inspection was performed on November 20, 2009. At the time of the inspection, the tachometer time on the left engine was 810.8 hours and the right engine tachometer was 1,668.64 hours. The left tachometer was destroyed. The right tachometer at the accident site indicated 1,677.54 hours. The airplane had flown 8.75 hours since the last annual inspection. The total airframe hours at the time of the accident were 8,566.15 hours.
The left and right engines were overhauled on July 7, 1991. The left engine had accumulated 1,964.44 hours since overhaul, and the right engine had accumulated 1,945.58 hours since overhaul. All new cylinder assemblies were installed on both engines on November 12, 2008. The combustion air heater decay test was completed on April 3, 2008. The pitot static and transponder inspections were completed on March 21, 2008. The airplane was "topped off" with 61.7 gallons of 100 low lead fuel before the pilot departed TKX.
At 0934 CST, the pilot obtained a full Direct Users Access Terminal System (DUATS) weather briefing. The briefing included a Terminal Area Forecast (TAF) for Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO), Charlottesville, Virginia, located along the approximate direct route of flight, and about 110 nautical miles east of the accident site. According to the TAF, at 0100 EST, the ceiling was expected to be 700 feet overcast, with visibility 2 miles in mist. At 0400 EST, the ceiling was expected to be 500 feet overcast, with visibility 1 mile in rain and mist.
Weather along the pilot’s route of flight included visual meteorological conditions (VMC) until entering Kentucky and West Virginia, where the weather conditions changed to marginal VMC (MVMC) with low ceilings and rain showers. The closest weather reporting sites to the accident were Raleigh County Memorial Airport (BKW), Beckley, West Virginia, located 22 miles southwest of the accident site at an elevation of 2,504 feet mean sea level (msl) and Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB), Lewisburg, West Virginia, located 24 miles southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 2,302 feet msl. Both airports reported MVFR conditions in light to moderate rain, with broken to overcast ceilings between 1,300 feet to 1,500 feet above ground level (agl).
The BKW observation, at 0151, included winds from 120 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 20 knots, visibility 4 miles, moderate rain and mist, ceiling broken at 4,900 feet agl, overcast at 6,000 feet, temperature 5 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 4 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.15 inches of mercury. The remarks section indicated a peak winds of 29 knots within the hour, with .04 inches of rainfall. The next observation for BKW, at 0251, reported the rain ending at 0250 with a ceiling at 1,300 feet.
LBW reported weather, at 0223, included winds from 100 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 7 miles in light rain, ceiling overcast at 1,500 feet, temperature 7 degrees Celsius, dew point 5 degrees Celsius and altimeter 30.20 inches of mercury.
The closest National Weather Surface Weather Surveillance Radar (WSR-88D) located at Blacksburg, Virginia, depicted the accident site under an area of echoes of 25 to 30 dBz or light intensity echoes associated with light rain.
Astronomical conditions for Rainelle, West Virginia, indicated nighttime conditions with no illumination from the moon, which had set at 2120 on the previous day. Sunset was at 1707, and the end of twilight was at 1735. The phase of the moon was a waxing crescent with 30 percent of the moon’s visible disk illuminated.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in rising, mountainous terrain at an elevation of 2,400 feet msl, near the Greenbrier/Fayette County line, off of Russellville Road in a wooded area in the vicinity of Rainelle, West Virginia. Examination of the crash site revealed that the airplane initially collided with trees about 50 feet above the ground on a heading of 120 degrees magnetic. Twenty seven feet along a descending "crash debris line" (CDL), a tree exhibited impact marks consistent with where the left wing separated from the fuselage. A ground scar with left fuselage material in it commenced 87 feet along the CDL, and the airplane came to rest inverted on a heading of 010 degrees magnetic, 123 feet from the beginning of the CDL.
No fuel or odor of fuel was present at the crash site. The left and right main fuel tanks, auxiliary fuel tanks, and tip tanks were ruptured.
Examination of the airframe revealed no anomalies. Primary flight control continuity was confirmed to all flight control surfaces except for the right aileron. The right aileron cable had separated from the aileron bell crank and exhibited features consistent with overload.
The right propeller assembly was separated behind the propeller crankshaft flange, and the propeller dome and spinner were separated from the propeller. The spinner was crushed and fragmented. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub. One propeller blade was rotated about 80 degrees in the propeller hub leading edge forward. The propeller blade was bent and twisted. The outboard 4 inches of the propeller blade tip was missing and not located. The remaining propeller blade was rotated 80 degrees in the propeller hub leading edge aft. The propeller blade was bent and twisted 18 inches outboard of the propeller hub. Chord-wise scoring was present on the cambered side of the propeller blade. Gouges were present on the leading and trailing edge, and the propeller tip was partially separated 8 inches outboard of the propeller tip.
Examination of the right engine assembly and accessories revealed no anomalies. The left and right magnetos remained attached to the engine and were not damaged. Both magnetos were removed and spark was produced at all ignition towers when rotated by hand. The fuel injector servo inlet screen was removed and free of contaminants. All fuel nozzles were removed, examined, and was unobstructed. The engine driven fuel pump remained attached to the engine and was not damaged. The fuel pump was removed and fuel was present. The fuel pump was rotated by hand and produced pressure at the outlet port. The inlet and outlet fuel hoses remained attached to the engine driven fuel pump, and fuel was present between the engine driven fuel pump and the fuel injector servo. The fuel injector servo fuel inlet screen was removed and was free of contaminants. Fuel was present in the fuel injector servo. The fuel flow divider was removed and disassembled. Fuel was present in the flow divider. The vacuum pump remained attached to the engine.
The vacuum pump was removed and the drive coupling was fractured. The vacuum pump was disassembled and the carbon rotor and vanes were intact. The oil suction screen and the oil filter media were removed examined and free of contaminants. The engine was rotated by hand with a tool inserted in the vacuum pump drive. Compression and suction was obtained on all cylinders. The rocker arms and valves moved when the crankshaft was rotated. Continuity of the crankshaft was confirmed to the rear accessory gears and to the valve train. The interiors of all cylinders were examined using a lighted bore scope and no anomalies were noted. The turbo charger was partially separated from the engine. The compressor housing was fractured and the compressor wheel could not be rotated by hand. The exhaust by pass wheel was crushed.
The left propeller assembly was separated behind the propeller crankshaft flange. The propeller spinner was crushed around the propeller hub and partially separated. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub. One propeller blade was rotated about 90 degrees in the propeller hub leading edge forward. The inboard portion of the blade was bent aft and the outboard portion of the blade was bent forward. The remaining propeller blade was twisted 90 degrees in the hub leading edge aft. The propeller blade was curved aft, twisted, and exhibited leading and trailing edge gouging.
Examination of the left engine and accessories revealed no anomalies. The left and right magnetos remained attached to the engine and were not damaged. Both magnetos were removed and spark was produced at all ignition towers when rotated by hand. The fuel injector servo inlet screen was removed and free of contaminants. All fuel nozzles were removed, examined, and was unobstructed. The engine driven fuel pump remained attached to the engine and was not damaged. The fuel pump was removed and fuel was present. The fuel pump was rotated by hand and produced pressure at the outlet port. The inlet and outlet fuel hoses remained attached to the engine driven fuel pump, and fuel was present in both hoses. The fuel injector servo fuel inlet screen was removed and was free of contaminants. Fuel was present in the fuel injector servo. The fuel flow divider was removed and disassembled. Fuel was present in the flow divider.
The vacuum pump remained attached to the engine. The vacuum pump was removed and the drive coupling was intact. The vacuum pump was disassembled and the carbon rotor and vanes were intact. The oil suction screen and the oil filter media were removed examined and a small amount of black debris was present. The engine was rotated by hand with a tool inserted in the vacuum pump drive. Compression and suction was obtained on all cylinders. The rocker arms and valves moved when the crankshaft was rotated. Continuity of the crankshaft was confirmed to the rear accessory gears and to the valve train. The interiors of all cylinders were examined using a lighted bore scope and no anomalies were noted. The turbo charger remained attached to the engine. The compressor housing was intact and the compressor wheel was rotated freely by hand. Light brown exhaust deposits were noted on the turbine wheel. The exhaust by pass valve was not damaged, and the control cable was not attached to the bypass control arm.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Charleston West Virginia State Medical Examiner conducted a postmortem examination of the commercial pilot on December 2, 2009. The cause of death was multiple injuries. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The specimens were not tested for carbon monoxide or cyanide. Ethanol, 19 (mg/dl, mg/hg) was detected in the muscle and putrefaction was noted as yes. No ethanol or drugs were detected in the liver.
According to hotel records, the pilot checked into a hotel in Amarillo, Texas, on November 19, 2009, at 1620. He did not leave a wakeup call while staying at the hotel. The pilot checked out of the hotel on November 22, 2009, at 1234, drove to Amarillo International Airport AMA), Amarillo, Texas, and turned in his rental car.
According to the CFI, he picked the pilot up at AMA and they flew in the CFI's airplane to DHT where he conducted flight training with the accident pilot in the PA-30. Upon completion of the instructional flight, the pilot stated that he wanted to depart for Virginia. The CFI suggested that he stay overnight, but the pilot responded that if he "didn't get started, that weather would be too bad in the eastern part of his trip." The pilot later advised the CFI that he'd land and remain overnight in Missouri, but then informed a mechanic that he would fly the entire trip that night.