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Thu, Aug 10, 2023

NTSB Prelim: Piper PA-28R-200

Witness Reported Seeing The Airplane In A Steep Left Bank “With The Wings Perpendicular To The Ground”

Location: Churchville, MD Accident Number: ERA23FA313
Date & Time: July 25, 2023, 19:06 Local Registration: N34PT
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-200 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On July 25, 2023, about 1906 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N34PT, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Churchville, Maryland. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A mechanic at Harford County Airport (0W3), Churchville, Maryland, reported talking with the pilot around 1850 while the pilot was performing the preflight inspection of the accident airplane. The pilot told him that the purpose of the flight was to fly in the airport traffic pattern a few times in preparation for an upcoming cross-country flight. The mechanic then left the airport before the pilot departed. A witness reported that he heard the accident airplane begin its takeoff run about 1905 and that he heard an engine sound for about 45 seconds before he noted the sound of impact. Another witness reported seeing the airplane in a steep left bank “with the wings perpendicular to the ground” and stated that the airplane was extremely low compared to the airplanes that normally flew over his house. Both witnesses reported that the engine sound was constant, and they did not hear any backfiring or sputtering.

The accident site was about 1/2- mile from the departure end of runway 1 at 0W3. The site was located in a hay field at an elevation of 386 ft and the wreckage was oriented on a magnetic heading of about 350°. All major components of the airplane were found at the accident site and there was no postimpact fire. The fuselage was impact damaged and crushed aft. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage by one aileron control cable and was rotated towards the tail with the bottom facing up, the leading edge exhibited impact crushing aft along the entire length. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage and the leading edge exhibited impact crushing aft along the entire length. The flap handle was found in the fully extended position, and selected flap position was confirmed by measuring the flap drive chain. The landing gear position handle was found in the down position. The stabilator remained attached at all attachment points, there was impact damage to the left stabilator tip. The stabilator trim tab remained attached at all attachment points and was deflected slightly toward nose up when the jack screw was measured. The vertical stabilizer and rudder remained attached at all attachment points and were not damaged, the red beacon remained secure and was not damaged. Control continuity was traced from all flight control surfaces to the controls through multiple overload failures.

The engine remained attached to the fuselage through the engine mounts. Engine crankshaft and valvetrain continuity were confirmed through rotation of the vacuum pump drive. Compression and suction were confirmed on all cylinders. The cylinder interiors were examined with a lighted borescope and no anomalies were noted. The magneto input drives were rotated by hand and produced spark on all leads. The fuel injector was examined, and no anomalies were noted. Fuel was noted throughout the engine fuel system. No debris was noted in the oil suction screen. There were no anomalies found with the engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The controllable pitch propeller was impact separated from the crankshaft flange and the three blades remained attached to the hub. All three propellers exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise scratches. Two of the three propeller blades were bent aft about mid-span and the third was bent forward about mid-span. The propeller governor remained attached to the accessory housing and was impact damaged at the mounting flange. The governor rotated freely when the drive was rotated by hand.

A review of maintenance records found the last annual inspection was completed on July 24, 2023, and the accident flight was the first flight after that inspection. During the most recent annual inspection the airplane had a new propeller and interior installed. Maintenance personnel reported that during an engine run with the new propeller installed, while at full power the thrust level was so great that the airplane began to move even with full braking applied.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov 

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