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On August 3, 2011, about 1635 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA 24-250 Comanche, N6297P, collided with the ground while maneuvering in the vicinity of Grove Field Airport (1W1) Camas, Washington. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to the pilot, and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-county flight that originated from a private airstrip near Pendleton, Oregon, about 1525. The pilot’s planned destination was 1W1; no flight plan was filed. The airframe and engine were extensively fragmented during the impact sequence.
A pilot rated witness reported that he observed the accident airplane join what appeared to be a left downwind for runway 07, about 2,000 feet above ground level. The witness reported that shortly after joining the downwind, the accident airplane banked left. The airplane continued in a descending left turn, until it impacted up-sloped terrain northeast of the airport.
The witness reported that he and the pilot flew to the private airstrip earlier in the day to repair the accident airplane and ferry it back to Camas. The repairs included the installation of a new propeller and repairs to a landing gear door subsequent to a gear up landing that occurred approximately one week before the accident. The witness stated that after the repairs were completed, he and the accident pilot departed as a flight of two with a planned destination of Camas.
The pilot, age 84, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and sea ratings. The pilot’s most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class airman medical certificate was issued on July 28, 2010 with the limitation that the pilot must wear lenses for distance and must possess lenses for near vision.
The pilot's personal flight records were not recovered. On his last application for a medical certificate, he reported a total flight time of 4,000 hours.
The airplane, a 1959 four-seat Piper Comanche PA 24-250 (Serial # 24-1408) was powered by a 250 horsepower, Lycoming O-540 engine. The airplane was equipped with retractable tricycle landing gear and the gross takeoff weight was 2,800 pounds. The airplane was equipped with a two bladed constant speed propeller. A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed that the most recent annual inspection of the airframe was completed on July 30, 2010 at a total time of 2,483 hours. The most recent annual inspection of the engine was completed on July 30, 2010; the engines total time since overhaul was 578 hours.
The weather at Troutdale, Oregon (approximately 5 miles south of the accident site) at 1653 was temperature 28 degrees Celsius, dew point 12 degrees Celsius and clear skies. The wind was variable at 5 knots and the altimeter setting was 29.87 inches hg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in an open field that gradually sloped upwards in a South to North direction. The wreckage debris field from initial impact to the last found piece of wreckage was approximately 230 feet in an overall south to north orientation. The first identified point of contact with terrain was a ground scar that contained fragments of the left wing red navigation light lens.
The main wreckage consisted of the right wing, empennage, main fuselage, cabin, engine and the inboard portion of the left wing. The fuselage sustained extensive impact damage and was mostly fragmented. The top cabin roof section was separated from the fuselage and was fragmented. The seat assemblies separated from the structure. The cabin floor area sustained impact damage and was heavily fragmented. The landing gear transmission assembly and manual flap handle were separated from the floor. The forward cabin area and engine section separated from the fuselage and sustained extensive impact damage. The fuel selector valve was located. Air was blown through the valve and it was determined that the selector was in the left tank position.
The right wing was separated from the fuselage. The wing exhibited ground impact signatures and wrinkling deformation, but was otherwise mostly intact. The flap remained attached to the wing but sustained impact damage. The aileron separated from the wing and extensive wrinkle type deformation was noted. The right wing fuel tank bladder was located in the wing; the bladder was breached.
The left wing was separated from the fuselage. The wing sustained extensive impact damage and was mostly fragmented. The wing was fragmented outboard of the wheel well area. The aileron and flap were separated from the wing and were heavily fragmented. The bladder fuel tank was fragmented and no fuel was noted.
The empennage was separated from the fuselage and was damaged. Leading edge crushing was noted along the vertical tail surface. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer. The rudder counterweight was separated from the surface and was located within the debris field. The horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the empennage. The left side horizontal was broken and separated about mid span. The right side horizontal was intact. The balance weight arm was intact.
The engine remained attached to the fuselage by the engine mount assembly. The engine sustained extensive ground impact damage. Several engine accessories separated from the engine and were scattered along the debris field.
The propeller assembly was separated from the engine and was located in the confines of the main impact crater. One blade separated from the hub. The second blade remained attached to the hub assembly. Both blades exhibited torsional twisting and chordwise striations. One blade exhibited “S” bending. The second blade exhibited forward bending about mid-span.
Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of a preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation.
The complete wreckage exam report and documentation is contained in the public docket for this accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on August 5, 2011. The autopsy report listed multiple specific injuries and the cause of death was reported as multiple blunt force injuries.
Forensic toxicology was performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected in the liver or the muscle; trace amounts of Doxazosin and Warfarin were detected in the muscle and lung.