CEN10FA322
CEN10FA322

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 16, 2010, about 2352 central daylight time, a Piper PA-23, N7SE, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain about 1.2 nautical miles north-northwest of the Rochester International Airport (RST), Rochester, Minnesota. The pilot had reported engine trouble to air traffic controllers and was attempting to land at RST. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions and was not on a flight plan. The flight departed from the Stanton Airfield, Stanton, Minnesota, about 2315.

At 2303:55, the pilot contacted the Minneapolis Approach Control and received flight following assistance from the Flying Cloud Airport, Minneapolis, Minnesota, to the Stanton Airfield (SYN), Stanton, Minnesota. At 2312:04, radar service was terminated and a frequency change approved when after the pilot reported having SYN in sight. The airplane is presumed to have landed at SYN.

Aircraft radar track data showed that, at 2321:22, the airplane was airborne about 5.5 nautical miles (nm) west-southwest of SYN heading in an east-southeast direction. At 2337:17, the pilot contacted Minneapolis Approach Control and reported engine problems. He requested assistance locating the nearest airport. At this time, radar track data indicated that the airplane was about 18 nm north-northwest of RST at 5,400 feet pressure altitude and was heading south. The controller suggested the Red Wing Regional Airport, about 26 nautical miles north. However, the pilot elected to continue to RST which was closer to his current position.

At 2339:47, the controller informed the pilot that RST was now the closest airport. Radar data indicated that RST was about 14.3 nm and 160 degrees from the airplane's position at that time; however, the Dodge Center Airport (TOB), Dodge Center, Minnesota, was about 10.9 nm and 230 degrees from the airplane's position. The airplane continued on a track toward RST. The pilot reported that the airplane had lost partial power on the left engine.

At 2343:19, the pilot confirmed having RST in sight and stated that he was trying to maintain altitude. At that time, the airplane was at 3,500 feet pressure altitude and 10 nm from RST. At 2346:26, the pilot stated that he was unsure if he would have sufficient altitude to make it to RST. At 2346:39, the pilot again stated that he was unsure if he would make RST. At this time the airplane was at 2,500 feet pressure altitude and 6 nm from RST. No further communications were received from the pilot. Another pilot approaching RST reported seeing a fireball at 2351:45.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 29, held a private pilot certificate with single engine, and multi-engine land airplane ratings. He was issued a second-class airman medical certificate with no limitations on May 19, 2008. The pilot had satisfied the flight review requirements of 14 CFR 61.56 when he successfully completed the practical test for his multi-engine rating on October 3, 2009.

The pilot's logbook was not recovered during the investigation. However, the pilot reported having 259 hours of total flight experience on the application for his multi-engine practical test. The pilot reported having 4.0 hours flight experience in a Piper PA-44-180 (Seminole) on that application. No further information was found regarding the pilot's flight experience in multi-engine airplanes.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The accident airplane was a 1957 Piper model PA-23 (Apache), production serial number 23-1127. At the time of the accident, it was owned by the pilot, and registered as N7SE. The airplane was a four-place, twin-engine aircraft, with a retractable tricycle landing gear configuration.

The airplane was powered by two Lycoming O-320-A1A engines. The left and right engine serial numbers were L-7318-27 and L-7321-27, respectively. The engines were four cylinder, reciprocating engines rated to develop 150 horsepower each.

The aircraft maintenance records were not recovered during the investigation.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 2354, the weather conditions recorded at RST were: Wind from 120 degrees at 7 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 18 degrees Celsius, dew point 16 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane came to rest in a hilly wooded area about 0.8 nautical miles north of the approach end of runway 13 at RST. The cabin, nose and left wing of the airplane exhibited significant fire damage. The cabin section and left wing were almost completely burned.

On scene examination of the airplane confirmed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for in the immediate area of the main wreckage. The airplane had sustained impact and fire damage. The wreckage path was oriented on about a 165 degree magnetic heading.

The right wing was mostly intact with impact and fire damage. Most of the fire damage was to the inboard section of the wing from the engine nacelle inboard. The engine was separated from the wing. The propeller remained attached to the engine. The aft engine accessories were consumed by fire. The aileron and flap remained attached at all hinge points.

The remains of the left wing consisted of the top skin which was lying on the ground. The rest of the wing had been consumed by fire. The left engine still had the propeller attached. The propeller was in the feathered position. The engine was still attached to the mounts and had fire damage to the aft accessories.

The remains of the fuselage structure were lying on top of the right wing. The fuselage aft of the baggage compartment was predominately intact and the tail surfaces remained attached. All of the tail control surfaces remained attached at all hinge locations. The forward fuselage was consumed by fire.

The rudder control system was intact except for one cut in the right side cable that was made by first responders for occupant extrication and a broken horn on the rudder bar near the cockpit rudder pedals.

The elevator control system was intact except for a portion of the aluminum pushrod in the cabin section that was missing and presumed to be consumed by fire. About 4 inches of the pushrod at the control yoke assembly remained attached and had fire damage to the free end. The pushrod from the aft fuselage to about the aft end of the baggage compartment was intact with evidence of bending and fire damage. The portion of the elevator pushrod between these locations was not found.

The right aileron pushrod was broken at the rod end fitting at the aileron and at the forward end by the bellcrank at the leading edge of the wing. The bellcrank was intact with impact damage and the cables remained attached. One cable was intact from the bellcrank to its fitting by the yoke assembly except for a separation that exhibited evidence of overload failure. The aileron balance cable was intact from the bellcrank through the fuselage where it had been cut by first responders. It remained attached by swage fittings to the rudder interconnect cable.

The left aileron cable was separated at the turnbuckle by the yoke assembly and its other end was cut by first responders. Beyond the cut evidence of overload failure was found. The balance cable also had evidence of overload failure. From these breaks, both the aileron and balance cables continued to the left aileron bellcrank assembly where they remained attached. The left aileron pushrod was broken into three pieces. One break was in the aluminum tubing and the second break was in the end fitting at the aileron.

No anomalies were detected with respect to the airframe or the flight control system.

The left propeller remained attached to the engine as did most of the engine accessories. The propeller was in the feather position. The engine was rotated, and crankshaft and valve train continuity was confirmed. The engine produced compression when rotated. One magneto produced spark when rotated. The other magneto did not produce spark but had evidence of impact damage. The carburetor was fire damaged and was broken loose from its mounting flange. No anomalies were detected with respect to the left engine that could be attributed to a pre-impact condition.

The right propeller remained attached to the engine. Most of the engine accessories were consumed by fire. The magnetos were fire damaged and consisted of the forward gearcase section of each magneto. The aft end of both magnetos was consumed by fire. The engine was rotated and compression was evident on 3 cylinders. The 4th cylinder had sustained impact and fire damage. No anomalies were detected with respect to the right engine that could be attributed to a pre-impact condition.

The fuel system within the cabin section was consumed by the post-impact fire.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. The cause of death was attributed to multiple blunt-force injuries and evidence of fire/smoke inhalation.

The Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology report for the pilot was negative for all tests performed.

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