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On December 6, 2009, about 1037 eastern standard time, a turbocharged Piper PA-32R-301, N5319J, was substantially damaged during an aborted takeoff from Billy Mitchell Airport (HSE), Hatteras, North Carolina. The private pilot/owner was not injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.
According to the pilot, he flew the airplane from Norfolk, Virginia to HSE two days earlier, and the accident flight was to be his return trip. The airplane was equipped with an aftermarket alerting system that monitored several parameters. The system was designed to sound an alarm when any parameter limit was exceeded, and the alarm tone was the same for all parameters. The pilot conducted the preflight inspection, engine start, and engine run up; he reported that all were "normal." He obtained weather information from the HSE automated surface observation system (ASOS), and based on the reported winds, he selected runway 7 as the departure runway. He advanced the throttle, and initiated the takeoff roll; the pilot stated that the engine response and takeoff roll were "normal.'
At an indicated airspeed of approximately 85 to 90 knots, the pilot applied back pressure on the yoke to begin the liftoff. About the same time, he heard an aural alarm from the monitoring/alerting system. When the alarm sounded, the pilot glanced at some of the instrument indications, and he believed that the digital display of the manifold pressure indicated 39 inches of mercury, which was in excess of the allowable manifold pressure limit of 38 inches. The pilot decided to abort the takeoff, and he pushed the yoke forward and retarded the throttle. He then applied the toe brakes, and the airplane veered to the left, but remained on the runway. The pilot concluded that the right brake was not functioning properly, so he subsequently applied right rudder to correct the airplane's path, and used only the left brake to decelerate the airplane. As the speed decreased, the rudder effectiveness also decreased, and the pilot reduced his pressure on the left brake in order to maintain directional control. Several hundred feet before the end of the runway, the airplane departed the left side of the runway into the surrounding sand, and it continued to decelerate while paralleling to the runway. After the airplane had traveled approximately 200 to 300 feet across the sand, the left wing struck a sand dune, the airplane "rotated 90 degrees to the left," and came to rest against bushes and sand dunes. The pilot shut down the airplane and exited safely. There were no witnesses to the accident. The first responders to the accident were park rangers from the National Park Service (NPS) and personnel from the local volunteer fire department.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot reported that his most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in March 2009, and that he had 215 total hours of flight experience, including approximately 155 hours in the accident airplane. His practical test for the private pilot certificate, which was also his most recent flight review, was successfully completed in May 2009.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 2001, and it was equipped with a Lycoming TIO-540 series piston engine. In December 2006, while it was registered to a previous owner, the airplane was involved in a landing overrun accident in Crystal Beach, Texas. In June 2007 the airplane was sold to a salvage facility, and the current owner/pilot purchased it from the salvage facility in March 2009. According to the pilot, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed in March 2009, at which time the airplane had approximately 990 total hours in service. At the time of the accident, the airplane had approximately 1,141 total hours in service.
The 1020 recorded weather observation at HSE included winds from 010 degrees, variable from 330 to 040 degrees, at 8 knots, with gusts to 16 knots. The 1051 observation included winds from 010 degrees, variable from 340 to 050 degrees, at 11 knots, with gusts to 19 knots. Both observations indicated 10 miles visibility, temperature of approximately 7 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.32 inches of mercury.
FAA records indicated that HSE was equipped with a single asphalt runway, designated 07-25, that measured 3,000 feet by 75 feet. Airport elevation was listed as 17 feet above mean sea level.
The airport was owned by the NPS, but maintained and managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The airport was normally unattended, but NPS facilities and park rangers were based in the local area. In contrast, NCDOT offices and personnel were based approximately 260 miles away. Due to their proximity, NPS park rangers were the first responders to the accident, and they enlisted the assistance of the local volunteer fire department (VFD). However, at the time of the accident, neither the NPS nor the VFD had any established aircraft accident response protocols. This contributed to their inability to temporarily close the airport while the rescue and recovery operations were conducted.
As a direct result of the difficulties that NPS and VFD personnel encountered in their response to this accident, NCDOT and NPS jointly implemented multiple safety improvements at HSE. These included the development of NPS accident response protocols, the implementation of regularly scheduled training and coordination sessions for the affected agencies (NPS, NCDOT, FAA, first responders, etc), and the purchase and installation of safety-related equipment. These included fire extinguishers, runway closure signs, and land-line and radio communications devices. In addition, NCDOT established a new HSE website (www.billymitchellairport.com) that was intended to improve dissemination of safety-related information to pilots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to information provided by the FAA, the airplane came to rest several hundred feet from the point where it departed the paved surface, and approximately 200 feet prior to the runway end. The airplane remained upright, facing approximately north. Both wings, the cowl, the forward fuselage, and the nose landing gear incurred substantial impact damage. The reported failure of the right brake was not able to be confirmed, and no cause(s) for such a failure were observed.