Preliminary Report on Lyon County Crash

Press Release

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 Jan. 2, 2015, about 1800 central standard time, a Piper PA-34-200T, N81291, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing near Kuttawa, Tennessee. The commercial pilot, and three passengers were fatally injured, and another passenger was seriously injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight departed Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH), Tallahassee, Florida, around 1600 eastern standard time, with the intended destination of Mount Vernon Airport (MVN), Mount Vernon, Illinois.

Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that at 1750, the pilot contacted air traffic control and requested vectors to the nearest airport in visual flight rules (VFR) weather conditions due to “problems” with both engines. The controller advised him that Kentucky Dam State (M34) was 11 miles west of his position. The pilot announced he had the airport in sight, and that the airplane’s right engine had stopped producing power. The controller then cleared the airplane for a visual approach. The pilot acknowledged the clearance, advised that he had lost sight of the airport, and asked for the airport common traffic advisory frequency. There were no further radio communications from the airplane.

At 1755, after several attempts to contact the airplane, the controller advised that radar contact was lost. The airplane was last observed descending through 2,700 feet approximately 10 miles west of M34.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine, multiengine, and instrument airplane. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on February 4, 2014. On that date, the pilot reported 2,300 hours of total flight experience, of which, 50 hours were in the previous six months.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1979 and was registered to a corporation on October 29, 2012. It was equipped with two Continental Motors Inc. TSIO-360-series, 210- horsepower engines, with two 2-bladed Hartzell controllable pitch propellers. The most recent annual inspection was performed on March 16, 2014, and at 7573.4 total aircraft hours.

The airplane came to rest inverted with the landing gear retracted, and was examined at the accident site on Jan. 4, 2015. There was a strong odor of fuel, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented 228 degrees, was approximately 300 feet in length, at 480 feet elevation.

The fuselage and empennage were largely intact, but heavily damaged by impact. The right outboard fuel tank was destroyed by impact and displayed evidence of a small post-crash fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit through tensile overload breaks and cuts made by recovery personnel. Examination of the cockpit and cabin areas revealed that both control yokes were attached to their respective columns and that the throttle, mixture, and propeller levers were intact in the throttle quadrant, and in the full forward position.

The seats were anchored in their mounts, the seatbelts were buckled, and all were cut by rescue personnel with one exception. The forward-facing right aft seat belt was intact and unbuckled.

The left engine was separated from all engine mounts but remained attached to the left wing through wires and cables. The left engine turbocharger was removed from the engine and examined. Rotational scoring was noted on the interior of the turbocharger near the turbine vanes. The left propeller was separated from the left engine and was in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The propeller blades exhibited a slight s-bend on one blade and the other exhibited chordwise scratching. The spinner was impact damaged.

The right engine remained attached to all engine mounts and was attached to the right wing. The engine cowl was removed to facilitate further examination. All major engine components remained attached to the engine. The right propeller was separated from the right engine and was located forward of and in the vicinity of the right engine. The right propeller spinner exhibited impact damage and both propeller blades were bent in the aft direction.

The airplane was recovered from the site, and fuel was noted draining from the ruptured fuel tanks. A detailed examination of the airplane was conducted in Springfield, Tennessee, on Jan. 5, 2015. The right engine was removed from its nacelle, and prepared for shipment and examination at a later date.

A Garmin 696 GPS, a Garmin 496 GPS, and an iPhone were also retained for examination at a later date.

According to Lockheed-Martin Flight Service, they did not provide any type of services to the pilot on the day of the accident. However, the pilot filed his IFR flight plan around 1540 eastern standard time with an online commercial vendor prior to departure, but there was no evidence that a weather briefing was obtained at that time.

A preliminary examination of weather data by an NTSB Senior meteorologist revealed a forecast of IFR conditions along the entire route of flight. In addition, Airman’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) advisories for IFR, icing, and mountain obscuration conditions were in effect around the time of the accident.

At 1753, the weather conditions reported at Barkley Regional Airport (PAH), an airport approximately 29 miles west of the accident location, indicated wind from 060 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 6 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 600 feet above ground level (agl), temperature and dew point 3 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.22 inches of mercury. Remarks indicated that the automated observation system noted rain began at 1725 and ended at 1747.