Pilot Reported He Was "In Trouble" Just Before The Plane Went Down
The NTSB has released a preliminary report in an accident involving a Diamond DA40 which went down shortly after takeoff from Valdosta Regional airport December 10th. According to the report, the pilot, 52-year-old businessman Rick Poppel, told air traffic controllers "I'm in trouble" just before radar contact with the airplane was lost.
NTSB Identification: ERA13FA083
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 10, 2012 in Lake Park, GA
Aircraft: DIAMOND AIRCRAFT IND INC DA 40, registration: N840DS
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On December 10, 2012, at approximately 1950 eastern standard time, a Diamond Aircraft Industries DA 40; N840DS, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain after a loss of control during climb, near Lake Park, Georgia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight, which departed Valdosta Regional Airport (VLD), Valdosta, Georgia, and was destined for Jesup-Wayne County Airport (JES), Jesup, Georgia.
According to the VLD Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) supervisor, at approximately 1935, the pilot radioed VLD ATCT and advised that he was ready to taxi for departure. The pilot was then issued current weather and taxi instructions to the active runway. The pilot then advised the controller that he would be departing to the east to JES. At 1939, the pilot advised ATCT that he was ready for departure and was issued current wind information and was cleared for takeoff.
At 1942, the pilot was advised to squawk a beacon code of "1200" and that he could receive visual flight rules (VFR) advisory service with Moody Air Force Base Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) on frequency 126.6. The pilot then advised that he was changing to frequency 126.6 for advisory services. According to the RAPCON supervisor, after the pilot contacted the RAPCON for VFR flight following the pilot was advised to squawk a beacon code of "5576" but, at 1950, before the airplane was radar identified by the RAPCON, the pilot radioed "I'm in trouble". Moments later, both radar and radio contact was lost.
At 1953, downed airplane procedures were initiated and a search for the airplane by federal, state, and local authorities was initiated.
On December 11, 2012, at 1115, the wreckage of the airplane was discovered by the crew of a Georgia State Patrol helicopter in a heavily wooded area, approximately 7 miles from VLD.
Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane initially made contact with an approximately 56 foot high pine tree before striking two smaller trees and then the ground about 50 feet further on, from the initial impact point with the tree. The impact angle was measured at an approximate 45 degree nose down angle, and the airplane came to rest on a 107 degree magnetic heading in a depression on the forest floor.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane was heavily fragmented. Further examination revealed however, that all major components of the airplane were present and control continuity was established for all of the primary flight controls, and for the wing flaps.
The recorded weather at VLD, at 1953, approximately 3 minutes after the accident included: wind variable at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, broken clouds at 1,400 feet, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 19 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.84 inches of mercury.
According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on October 15, 2012. On that date, he reported that he had accrued 208 total hours of flight experience.
According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 2007. The airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed on April 27, 2012. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued 203.1 total hours of operation.
Portions of the elevator pitch trim system were retained by the NTSB for further examination.
(Diamond DA40 image from file. Not accident airplane)