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On March 29, 2011, about 1604 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA46-350P, N619VH, impacted a field southeast of the departure end of runway 21 at Custer Airport (TTF), Monroe, Michigan. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage. The airplane was registered to Triple F Aviation LLC and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed from Bedford County Airport, Bedford, Pennsylvania, about 1426, and was en route to TTF.
A witness reported that the airplane was unusually low and still flying at a high rate of speed with its landing gear retracted when it flew over Stewart Road. The airplane continued at a high rate of speed as it crossed over the trees adjacent to runway 21.
Radar data indicated that the airplane's ground speed was 132 knots, at an altitude of 800 feet, and a heading of 207 degrees when it was about 0.5 miles from runway 21 (4,997 feet by 100 feet, grooved asphalt).
A second witness said that the pilot attempted to contact a flight instructor who had previously flown with the pilot while the airplane was approaching TTF. The flight instructor was employed at a TTF fixed base operator and was also a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Safety Team (FAAST) Representative.
Another witness reported that he saw the airplane in a turn with "little speed." The airplane then "just dropped." The left wing and nose hit the ground simultaneously.
The pilot, age 58, held a private pilot with an instrument rating. He was issued a third class airman medical certificate on December 2, 2009, with the following limitation: "must have available glasses for near vision." At the time of his medical certificate application, he reported a total flight time of 1,600 hours. His last flight review was April 6, 2010.
The pilot had no FAA record of previous incidents, accidents, or enforcement actions.
The 2006 Piper PA46-350P airplane, serial number 4636402, was powered by a Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine, serial number L-12591-61A. The airplane was equipped with a Hartzell HC-I13YR-1RF, serial number HK1264B, 3-blade, composite propeller.
The airplane had the following maximum weights and center of gravity (CG) range:
Ramp weight: 4,358 lbs
Takeoff weight: 4,340 lbs
Landing weight: 4,123 lbs
CG at maximum ramp weight: 144.14 - 147.1 inches
According to FAA airman records, the pilot reported a weight of 175 lbs. Department of Motor Vehicle records list the right front passenger weight as 183 lbs and the rear-seat passenger as 207 lbs.
The Piper PA46-350P has a usable main fuel tank capacity of 120 gallons. Prior to departure from TTF, the airplane main fuel tanks were topped off and 5 gallons of fuel was added to each wing tip tank.
According to Piper Aircraft estimates of airplane weight and balance, the airplane total weight was 4,474 lbs and with a CG of 142.24 inches when it originated from TTF. With a fuel consumption of 31 gallons, the airplane total weight was 4,288 lbs and a CG of 141.89 inches. These CGs were based upon the rear-seat passenger being seated in the aft most seat.
According to a weight and balance form for the airplane dated January 5, 2007, the airplane had a useful load of 1,168.96 lbs.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Office of the Wayne County Medical Examiner, Detroit, Michigan, on March 30, 2011. The cause of death was cited as: '...multiple injuries sustained as a pilot of plane that crashed."
The FAA Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report reported the following for substances tested:
- No ethanol detected in urine
Atenolol detected in Liver
- Atenolol detected in Kidney
- 0.082 (ug/mL, ug/g) Dihydrocodeine detected in Urine
- 0.216 (ug/ml, ug/g) Hydrocodone detected in Urine
- Nortriptyline detected in Liver
- Nortriptyline detected in Kidney
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was located at global positioning system coordinates and elevation: 41 degrees 55.663 minutes North, 083 degrees 26.041 minutes West or approximately 1,800 feet southeast of the departure end of runway 21. The tail to nose wreckage heading was about 220 degrees. The wreckage exhibited impact and fire damage to the fuselage.
Examination of the main wreckage revealed that the landing gear was in the retracted position and the flaps were in the retracted position.
The propeller was attached to the hub but was separated at the propeller blade roots. The separation features were consistent with a propeller strike.
Examination of runway 21 noted 37 marks within the runway surface consistent with propeller slash marks that began about 2,000 feet down runway 21. Material consistent with the airplane propeller was located in the area of the slash marks.
Sixteen slash marks beginning about 2,000 feet down the runway were separated beginning with 21 inches and with a range of about 21 - 29.5 inches. The remainder of the slash mark spacing ranged from about 29.5 to 40 inches.
Examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.