National Transportation Safety Board
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Investigators from the NTSB's Aviation Regional Offices are currently investigating a number of aircraft accidents that have occurred over the past two weeks. The following update is provided on three of these accidents:
Homer Glen, Illinois
On May 28, 2004, at 2:30 p.m. CST, a Cessna T206H, N9548D, operated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), impacted a detached garage in a residential area during a forced landing attempt near Homer Glen, Illinois. The forced landing was precipitated by a loss of engine power, according to a radio call from the pilot. At the time, the airplane was at 1,700 feet at that time and traveling about 140 knots. The pilot was killed and the airplane was destroyed. No one on the ground was injured. The pilot was an agent for the DEA, and the purpose of the DEA flight was to reposition the airplane to St. Louis for a routine maintenance inspection. The airplane crashed shortly after taking off from Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
Examination of pilot records indicates that the pilot had logged about 3,590 hours of flight time. Examination of maintenance records indicates that the airplane and engine were manufactured in 1999 and had about 630 hours of flight time logged. The following investigative activities are on-going or being scheduled: Disassembly and inspection of the engine and propeller assemblies; x-ray and bench testing of engine accessories, analysis of recorded radar data and air traffic control voice recordings, and fuel testing. The investigator-in-charge of this investigation is Mr. Mitchell Gallo from the NTSB's North Central Regional Office in West Chicago, Illinois. He is being assisted by representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the DEA, the Cessna Aircraft Company, Lycoming Engines, L-3 Vertex Maintenance, Precision Airmotive, Crank Lear Romec, and McCauley Propeller company. The NTSB accident identification number is CHI04GA130.
On May 31, 2004, at 10:56 PDT, a Piper PA-28R-180, N7626J, collided with level terrain following a loss of engine power after takeoff from runway 17 at Columbia Airport, Sonora, California. The airplane was destroyed in the post-impact fire. The private pilot/owner (seated in the right seat) and commercial pilot (seated in the left seat) sustained fatal injuries. The flight departed about 1050 from the Columbia Airport. The personal cross-country flight had originated from the Minden-Tahoe Airport, Minden, Nevada, about 0900. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
The accident site was about a quarter of a mile off the departure end of runway 17 on the top of a hill. The airplane came to rest 35 feet from the first identified point of contact, in an upright attitude. The left wing root/fuel tank area struck a rock outcropping, compromising the left fuel tank and igniting a post-impact fire. Impact damage did not compromise the right wing fuel tank, and fuel was found in this tank.
Investigators established flight control continuity from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces. Both wings had no leading edge damage. The seat bottoms remained attached to the seat rails, with no deformation of the frames noted. There was no damage to the tail section.
The airplane was topped off with 11.4 gallons of fuel on the day before the accident flight. According to witnesses on the airport, they heard the engine: "missing", "sputtering," and "not sounding normal" during the takeoff roll.
The engine remained intact and attached to the engine mounts and firewall. There was no obvious external evidence of a catastrophic failure noted with the engine. The propeller separated from the engine and was 45 feet forward of the main wreckage. There was S-bending and chordwise scratching noted on both propeller blades. A cursory disassembly and inspection of the engine did not reveal evidence of any preimpact mechanical deficiencies.
Additional examinations of the engine and components are planned. Investigators are also examining issues related to survivability factors.
The investigator-in-charge of this investigation is Ms. Tealeye Cornejo from the NTSB's Southwestern Regional Office in Gardena, California. She is being assisted by representatives of the FAA, the New Piper Aircraft Corporation, and Lycoming Engines. The NTSB accident identification number is LAX04FA266.
On June 1, 2004, about 7:30 p.m. EDT, a Piper PA-32-300, N21072, was destroyed after impacting terrain in Leominster, Massachusetts, during an approach to the Fitchburg Municipal Airport (FIT), Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight that originated from the Manchester Airport (MHT), Manchester, New Hampshire.
The investigation has revealed that the airplane was fueled earlier at FIT with 16.7 gallons of aviation fuel prior to departing for MHT to pick up the passenger. Upon arriving at MHT, the airplane was refueled with 14.1 gallons of aviation fuel. The flight departed from MHT at 2109, and proceeded towards FIT. Preliminary review of air traffic control data revealed that the pilot was instructed to "cross TOPTO at or above 2,500, cleared GPS 32 approach," which he acknowledged. No further transmissions were received from the airplane.
The airplane came to rest on its right side, on top of a stone wall, in a wooded area, about 1-3/4 miles from the runway 32 threshold, and about 1/2-mile right of the extended centerline. A post crash fire consumed the main wreckage. The elevation at the site was about 552 feet msl.
Examination of the accident site revealed terrain that consisted of evergreen and hardwood trees reaching a height of about 80 feet. The foliage surrounding the accident site was wilted, consistent with being sprayed with aviation fuel and exposure to heat. The wreckage path was about 280 feet in length, and was oriented along a 060-degree heading. The first tree strike area was located about 250 feet prior to where the main fuselage came to rest. Surrounding the tree strike area were branches of varying diameters that were cut at 45-degree angles and displayed black and red paint transfer. Along the wreckage path were wing skin sections from the left wing and the empennage assembly.
All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The attitude indicator and directional gyro were disassembled. Evidence of rotational scoring was observed on the inside gyro rotor housings of both instruments. The remaining primary flight instruments and engine instruments -- the throttle, mixture, and propeller controls -- were destroyed.
The engine was recovered from the accident site and examined on June 3, 2004. The examination did not reveal any evidence of preimpact mechanical deficiencies.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single- engine, and instrument airplane. The pilot's most recent application for an FAA third class medical certificate was dated on December 16, 2002. Review of the pilot's logbook, which was found in the wreckage, revealed that he had accumulated about 409 hours of total flight experience. Within the previous 6 months, he had accumulated 7 hours, of which 1.7 hours were conducted in simulated instrument conditions, and .7 hours were in actual instrument conditions.
The weather reported at FIT, at 2117, included winds from 080 degrees at 4 knots; 3 statute miles of visibility; mist; overcast cloud layer at 700 feet agl; temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point of 46 degrees Fahrenheit; and an altimeter setting of 29.80 inches of mercury. The overcast ceiling was variable from 400 to 1,100 feet agl.
The NTSB continues to investigate issues in this accident that are related to the weather conditions in the vicinity of the accident site, the pilot's recent flight experience, and his flight training history.
The investigator-in-charge of this investigation is Mr. Stephen Demko from the NTSB's Northeast Regional Office in Parsippany, New Jersey. He is being assisted by representatives of the FAA, the New Piper Aircraft Corporation, and Lycoming Engines. The NTSB accident identification number is NYC04FA136.
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