WPR10FA449
WPR10FA449

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 6, 2010, about 0815 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-32RT-300, N36072, was substantially damaged when it impacted a tree and light pole within a residential neighborhood shortly after takeoff from the Henderson Executive Airport (HND), near Las Vegas, Nevada. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and one passenger were killed, and two passengers sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident with an intended destination of Roswell, New Mexico.

A controller at the HND Air Traffic Control Tower reported that after clearing the accident airplane for takeoff on runway 35L with a right turn departure, he observed the airplane initiate the takeoff roll. The controller noticed that the airplane remained on the runway until just after the 4,000-foot point of the runway. The controller stated that as the airplane lifted off, it did not appear to be climbing. He estimated that as the airplane crossed over the departure end of the runway, it was about 50 feet above ground level (agl). As the controller watched the airplane continue on a northerly heading, the airplane appeared to be very low. The controller then issued a clearance for a left turn out in order for the pilot to gain altitude due to rising terrain to the east. The controller asked the pilot if he was making a left downwind departure, and noted that the pilot responded "affirmative" and that he "had trouble gaining altitude." Shortly after, the pilot advised the controller that he "had to come back to the airport." The controller cleared the airplane direct to the airport, and subsequently observed the airplane descend below a tree line followed by a black plume of smoke rising from the area where he lost site of the airplane.

A witness located near the accident site reported observing an airplane flying overhead about 200 to 300 feet agl, and it appeared not to be climbing. He stated that the airplane began to turn to the left, and descended below a tree line. The witness further stated after he lost site of the airplane, he observed a plume of black smoke. The witness added that at the time he observed the airplane, the landing gear and flaps were retracted. The witness further mentioned that the engine sounded like it was "straining to keep the airplane airborne."

Two passengers who were seated in the aft seating area reported that the pilot initially had a hard time starting the engine, which also occurred on previous flights, but it seemed to run fine after it was started. Both passengers said that as the pilot attempted to start taxiing, the airplane did not initially move and that the pilot thought it was still chained. Shortly after, the airplane began to move, and the pilot taxied to the runway run up area. One of the passengers stated that during takeoff, the airplane "climbed slowly as always then started to feel different, like it [the airplane] was stepping down." Shortly after, the passenger heard the pilot say that they were losing altitude followed by "what sounded like terrain alarms sounding off and the engine rearing up and down."

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 50, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating that was issued on January 20, 2009. A third-class airman medical certificate was issued on July 22, 2010, with no limitations stated. The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 295 total flight hours. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that as of September 3, 2010, he had accumulated 318.7 hours of flight time, of which 29.8 hours were within the previous 30 days and 35.8 hours within the previous 90 days of the accident. As of September 3, 2010, the pilot had logged 139 hours of flight time within the accident make/model airplane.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The six-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 32R-7885156, was manufactured in 1978. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine, serial number L-15966-48A, rated at 300 horse power. It was equipped with a Hartzell model HC-C2YR-1BF adjustable pitch propeller, serial number CH42787B. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot had registered the airplane with the FAA on December 23, 2009.

Review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on March 30, 2010, at a tachometer time and aircraft total time of 3,426.20 hours, engine total time of 3,507.18 hours and 1,437.48 hours since major overhaul.

Review of airport refueling records revealed that the accident airplane was topped off with 48.2 gallons of 100 low-lead fuel on September 3, 2010, per the pilot's request.

Various items including clothing bags, clothing, aviation charts, soft ice chest with non alcoholic beverages, and other personal affects were observed within the wreckage. Baggage removed from the forward baggage area was weighed using a calibrated scale and found to be about 33 pounds. Baggage and various loose items recovered from the middle area of the cabin area were weighed to be about 62 pounds. The baggage and loose items removed from the rear area of the fuselage, near the remains of the baggage compartment, weighed about 88 pounds. The total amount of luggage and loose items was about 183 pounds. It was noted that the baggage recovered from the middle and aft areas were damp with water at the time it was weighed.

The most current aircraft weight and balance indicated the empty weight of the airplane as 2,176.8 pounds with a useful load of 1,423.2 pounds. The maximum gross weight of the airplane was 3,600 pounds. Using the reported weights of all occupants of the airplane, weighed luggage, 94-gallons of usable fuel, and the landing gear retracted, the center of gravity (CG) was calculated to be 93.82 inches. The airplane’s total weight was 3,636.2 pounds. The CG envelope for the airplane was +82 (forward) to +96 (rear) inches.

Review of the manufacturer’s supplied Flaps Up and 25-degree Flaps Takeoff Performance charts, located in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, revealed that the weather conditions present at the time of the accident were within the airplane's performance capability parameters. Using the manufacturer’s supplied takeoff ground roll calculation charts for takeoff's with and without two notches of flaps, reported weather conditions, and maximum gross weight of the airplane, the flaps up takeoff ground roll was calculated to be about 2,450 feet, and flaps second notch takeoff ground roll to be about 2,200 feet. Using the manufacturer's supplied takeoff performance charts, the reported weather conditions, and maximum gross weight of the airplane, the flaps up takeoff distance over a 50-foot obstacle was calculated to be about 4,450 feet and 3,500 feet with flaps in the second notch.

Using the manufacturer’s supplied gear up and gear down performance calculation charts, reported weather conditions, and maximum gross weight of the airplane, the climb performance with the gear in the "DOWN" position was calculated to be about 430 feet per minute. The climb performance with the gear in the "UP" position was calculated to be about 650 feet per minute.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded data from the Henderson Executive Airport automated weather observation station, located 2.4 miles southeast of the accident site, revealed at 0756 conditions were wind from 050 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 27 degrees Celsius, dew point -3 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.88 inches of Mercury. Using the reported weather conditions and airport elevation, the calculated density altitude was about 4,539 feet mean sea level (msl) with a pressure altitude of about 2,530 feet msl.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The Henderson Executive Airport (HND) is a controlled airport operating under Class-D airspace. The reported field elevation of HND is 2,492 feet msl. The airport is equipped with two asphalt runways (17R/25L and 17L/25R). Runway 35L is a 6,510-foot long and 100-foot wide runway.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed that the wreckage debris and broken tree limbs were scattered about a 268 foot debris path oriented along an approximate 285-degree magnetic heading from the initial point of contact (IPC), which consisted of a damaged tree and adjacent damaged light pole. Damage was observed to the light pole and tree about 25 feet above the ground. A portion of the left flap was located about 37 feet beyond the IPC adjacent to a damaged cinder block wall. A separated section of the outboard left wing structure and an outboard section of the left aileron were located about 60 feet beyond the IPC and exhibited fire damage. About 53 feet beyond the IPC, four ground scars, consistent with propeller slash marks, were observed. The four ground scars exhibited similar spacing between each scar of 18 inches. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and horizontal stabilator assembly was located about 100 feet beyond the IPC. A majority of the right wing structure was observed within the middle of a residential street about 161 feet from the IPC. The main wreckage reportedly came to rest on its side about 224 feet beyond the IPC, and was later rolled upright by first responders to facilitate life saving operations. A cabin door was observed 268 feet beyond the main wreckage. The elevation measured by GPS at the accident site was found to be about 2,250 feet msl.

All major structural components of the airframe were observed throughout the wreckage debris path.

Examination of the recovered airframe and flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. Examination of the engine revealed that it was partially separated from the engine mount. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft, and the propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub and moved freely, consistent with the internal pitch change mechanisms being detached. The propeller blades were bent in a direction opposite direction of rotation and exhibited "S" bending. Both propeller blade tips outboard of the painted white stripes were missing (approximately 5 to 6 inches). The propeller blades exhibited multi direction striations on the propeller blade face. Examination of the recovered engine and system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Clark County Coroner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on September 8, 2010. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was “…multiple blunt force injuries.”

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested, and had negative results.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Examination of the propeller assembly and propeller governor was conducted on January 10, 2011, at the facilities of Hartzell Propeller Inc., Piqua, Ohio, under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The examination revealed that the pitch change rod and both blade pitch change knobs were fractured, which allowed both blades to be turned well beyond their normal pitch range. The fractured pitch change knobs and pitch change rod was consistent with impact forces. The propeller governor was placed on a test bench and performed satisfactorily. It was noted during the test that the pressure relief setting and high RPM setting were slightly out of specification. There were no anomalies noted that would preclude normal operation. All damage to the propeller assembly was consistent with impact damage.

Examination of the throttle body fuel servo was conducted on January 27, 2011, at the facilities of Precision Airmotive LLC., Marysville, Washington, under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge. The examination of the fuel servo revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

A handheld global positioning system (GPS), Garmin GPSMAP 496 was recovered from the airplane. The unit was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Research and Engineering Recorders Laboratory for data extraction. The data revealed a flight track from the day of the accident showed the flight taxied onto runway 35L at taxiway bravo before initiating the takeoff roll. The data revealed that the airplane's groundspeed progressively increased to about 77 knots prior to the airplane becoming airborne just beyond taxiway echo, or distance of about 4,148 feet from taxiway bravo. The following 54 seconds of data showed the flight path remaining on a northerly heading, and an altitude increasing to a maximum of 2,530 feet msl with the groundspeed fluctuating between 73 and 79 knots. The data depicted a left turn to a north, northwest heading with the groundspeed fluctuating between 75 and 83 knots along with a decrease in altitude. The last recorded GPS data plot was within the vicinity of the IPC at a ground speed of 72 knots and an altitude of 2,257 feet msl.

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