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NTSB Prelim: Piper PA-32-300

(Witness) Saw Fire “Come From The Plane” Before He Heard It “Shift” In The Trees And Then Fall To The Street

Location: Brentwood, TN Accident Number: ERA23FA025
Date & Time: October 18, 2022, 07:41 Local Registration: N600JG
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-300 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On October 18, 2022, at 0741 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N902AT, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Brentwood, Tennessee. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the operator of a maintenance facility at the pilot’s home airport, the purpose of the flight was to deliver the airplane to Fayetteville Municipal Airport (KYFM), Fayetteville, Tennessee, for an avionics repair. Preliminary Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed that the airplane departed Springfield Robertson County Airport (M91), Springfield, Tennessee, about 0717 for KYFM.

Preliminary air traffic control communication information revealed that, at 0733:40, the airplane was in cruise flight about 5,400 ft heading 180° at 139 kts groundspeed when the pilot declared an emergency due to a partial loss of engine power. The pilot and controller discussed options for the forced landing and agreed that Nashville International Airport (BNA), Nashville, Tennessee, was the closest option after the controller issued a heading of 350°. The controller subsequently instructed the pilot to turn to 030°, and at 0735:50, with the airplane about 4,800 ft at 109 knots groundspeed, the pilot reported to the controller that he could maintain altitude.

At 0736:45, the airplane was about 4,500 ft, at 108 kts, when the controller advised the pilot that BNA was 11 miles ahead at his 11 o’clock position and instructed him to proceed to runway 2L, which the pilot acknowledged. At 0738:25, the airplane was about 3,500 ft travelling 94 kts when the pilot announced the engine was “stopped” and that the airplane was “heading down.”

The airplane continued its northeasterly heading for about 45 seconds, until it entered a left descending turn from an altitude about 2,700 ft and groundspeed of 71 kts. The final plot depicted the airplane at 800 ft heading 205° at 88kts about 1,800 ft north of the accident site, which was located at an elevation about 730 ft. During the turn, the airplane’s groundspeeds varied between 63 and 88 kts.

In a written statement, a witness described the airplane maneuvering about 75 ft above the ground before it impacted wires, crossed the road on which he was driving, and came to rest in trees on the opposite side of the road. He reported to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that there was no engine noise and that the airplane made only a “whistling” sound. The witness said that he parked his truck and called 911. After he exited the truck, he saw fire “come from the plane” before he heard it “shift” in the trees and then fall to the street, where it “exploded” and became engulfed in flames.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He completed the requirements for operation under BasicMed on October 21, 2021, and he declared 480 total hours of flight experience on that date. The pilot’s logbook was not recovered, but his total hours of flight experience were estimated at 505 hours based on the time accrued on the airplane in the year before the accident.

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1969 and was powered by a Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, 300-horsepower engine. The airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed October 4, 2022, at 3,623.3 total aircraft hours. The engine was overhauled October 1, 2012, and had accrued 101.5 total hours since that date. Local emergency services personnel secured the residential street, and the wreckage was examined the following day. The initial impact point was in power lines about 50 ft above the ground. The wreckage path was oriented 180° and was about 60 ft in length; all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The fuselage came to rest upright in the street, rolled partially to its right side, with the engine and propeller still attached. The propeller blades were largely intact. One blade displayed tip curling consistent with impact damage.

The cockpit, cabin area, and nearly all the empennage were consumed by post-crash fire. The tail section remained largely intact and was suspended in a tree about 45 ft above the fuselage along with the left wing and left main landing gear. The components in the trees also displayed fire damage. The wings displayed impact damage consistent with collision with trees and terrain. Flight control cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the flight control surfaces through several breaks consistent with impact and thermal damage. The engine displayed thermal damage, but only minor impact damage. It was separated from the airframe and examined at the scene. Attempts to rotate the propeller to establish continuity through the powertrain to the valvetrain and the accessory section were unsuccessful.

The rear-mounted engine accessories were removed, then the engine accessory case was removed, and the crankshaft still could not be rotated by hand. The oil suction screen was removed and completely occluded with debris. The debris comprised metallic particles and pieces of rubber material consistent in appearance with pieces of rubber magneto drive cushion.

Cylinder Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were removed. The pistons bore markings consistent with pistons from an aftermarket manufacturer. Damage to the No. 6 cylinder connecting rod and the No. 6 crankshaft rod journal was observed. The No. 6 cylinder was removed using a heavy hammer and prybars. The No. 6 piston remained in the No. 6 cylinder which was not removed due to cylinder barrel skirt damage.

The engine crankcase halves were separated. The crankshaft was fractured at the rear edge of the No. 6 rod journal. The No. 6 rod and rod cap were damaged and the No. 6 rod bearing was extruded. The crankshaft main bearings bore markings consistent with bearings from an aftermarket manufacturer. No damage to the camshaft or cam followers was observed. No damage to the pistons or valves of cylinder Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 was observed. Rusted areas were observed on the interior cylinder walls of all six cylinders. At 0753, the weather reported at BNA, 7 miles southwest of the accident site, included wind from 310° at 5 knots, 10 miles visibility, and few clouds at 5,000 ft above ground level. The temperature was 3°C, the dew point temperature -6°C, and the altimeter was 30.06 inches of mercury (inHg).

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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