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On February 17, 2010, at 0708 central standard time, a Piper PA-30 twin engine airplane, N8501Y, impacted terrain and a warehouse building at 505 Southwest 47th Street, Amarillo, Texas, shortly after takeoff from Tradewind Airport (TDW), Amarillo, Texas. The business flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident with Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport (ALM), Alamogordo, New Mexico as the intended destination. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
Radar data showed the airplane departed Runway 17 at TDW at 0706 with a transponder code of 1200. On departure the airplane reached an altitude of 900 feet above ground level (AGL) and initially headed to the southwest. About one minute after taking off the airplane began a right turn to the north and the altitude varied between 700 feet AGL and 900 feet AGL. The last radar contact occurred at 0708 at 900 feet AGL in the vicinity of the accident location. There were no recorded voice communications from the pilot.
One witness, who was in a parking lot two blocks west of the accident site, saw the airplane flying towards him on a northerly heading at an altitude he estimated to be less than one hundred feet. As the airplane flew over him the airplane pulled up into a steep climb, banked to the right (east), and then descended from his view in a steep descent.
The pilot, age 59, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land and airplane multi-engine land, issued March 10, 2007, and a second-class airman medical certificate, issued April 27, 2009, with limitations, "Must wear corrective lenses for near and intermediate vision." According to the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated 2,453 total hours and 432 hours in make and model of the accident airplane.
The four-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number 30-1660, was manufactured in 1969. It was powered by two Lycoming IO-320-B1A 160-hp engines, each equipped with a Hartzell model HC-E2YL-2BSF constant speed propeller. Review of maintenance logbook records showed an annual inspection was completed September 24, 2009, at a recorded tachometer reading of 3946.4 hours and airframe total time of 7751.5 hours. At the time of the last annual inspection, the left engine, S/N L-2985-55A, had accumulated 1338.5 hours since major overhaul, and the right engine, S/N L-3572-55A, had accumulated 1338.5 hours since major overhaul. The tachometer and the Hobbs hour-meter were observed at the accident site; however, damage precluded determining the current readings.
Weather at AMA at 0653 was reported 22 degrees F, 10 miles visibility with clear skies, and winds from 200 degrees at 8 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a warehouse building and came to rest at the base of the south facing building wall. A portion of the right wing, from the inboard edge of the aileron outboard, was located on the roof of the building. The airplane came to rest in a mostly upright position. There were gouges observed in the building wall descending on a measured 51 degree angle, from the roof to the fuselage of the aircraft. Both wings demonstrated accordion type compression and the fuselage exhibited crushing and tearing type damage. The tail section was partially separated from the fuselage aft of the rear seats. Pooled fuel was found underneath the airplane.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on February 18, 2010, by South Plains Forensic Pathology, P.A., Lubbock, Texas, as authorized by the Justice of the Peace, Randall County, Texas. The cause of death was attributed to blunt force injuries of the head, neck, torso, and extremities.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team CAMI, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol or drugs were detected.
The left engine was examined by investigators at a secure location on February 22, 2010. Both left engine propeller blades were bent aft approximately 45 degrees. The engine was rotated by hand using a turning tool inserted into the vacuum pump drive pad. Thumb suction, compression, crankshaft, camshaft, valve train continuity, and rotation of the accessory drive gears, were observed. Both magnetos were rotated by hand and spark was observed at all outlet points. The fuel pump, fuel servo, and fuel flow divider were disassembled. Fuel was observed in each component and was tested using Kolor Kut water disclosing paste. No water was observed. Both magnetos were rotated by hand and spark was observed at all outlet points. Nothing was observed during the course of the engine examination that would have precluded the engine from making power prior to impact.
The right engine was examined by investigators on February 23, 2010. The propeller and the propeller spinner were still attached to the engine. Propeller blade A was curled aft and had leading edge gouges. Propeller blade B was curled forward. The engine was rotated by hand and thumb suction and compression was verified on the number Two, Three, and Four cylinders. The number One cylinder was impact damaged in the combustion area and exhaust valve. Bore-scope inspection confirmed the exhaust valve was open. Crankshaft, camshaft, valve train continuity, and rotation of the accessory drive gears, was were observed. Both magnetos were rotated by hand and spark was observed at all outlet points. The fuel pump, fuel servo, and fuel flow divider were disassembled. Fuel recovered from each component contained visible water droplets and tested positive for water using Kolor Kut water disclosing paste.
Fuel was recovered from both the right (rear) and left (front) fuel sumps into separate containers. Approximately half of the liquid in each container tested positive for water using Kolor Kut water disclosing paste.
The fuel caps for both auxiliary tanks were located and examined. It was noted that both auxiliary tank fuel caps could be removed without releasing the expansion tab. The right main fuel tank cap was not recovered. The left main fuel tank cap could be removed without unscrewing the release mechanism.
The pilot had flown the airplane to Parker County Airport (WEA), Weatherford, Texas, on February 5, 2010. While at WEA the airplane had sat uncovered and had been exposed to accumulating snow. The pilot flew the airplane 2.2 hours from WEA on the flight prior to the accident on February 14, 2010, and the airplane had 44 gallons of fuel added to fill it up on February 15 at TDW. The TDW airport fuel was not tested following the accident. The TDW airport manager reported the airport fuel tank had been filled in January, 2010, and there had been no complaints or incidents regarding fuel contamination reported from any other pilots.
Piper Service Letter No. 851 states "When the aircraft has been exposed to below freezing temperatures or it is suspected that water may have entered the tanks, fuel should be drained..." from each tank through the strainer quick drain and examined for water contamination. According to the airplane's co-owner, the pilot regularly drained and examined the fuel during his preflight inspections. Investigators could not determine if the pilot had drained and examined the fuel prior to the flight.