One Person Fatally Injured When The Plane Went Down Shortly After Takeoff
The NTSB has released a preliminary report outlining the circumstances of an accident which occurred on December 23, 2016.
At about 1145 EST, a Piper PA-28-161, N31202, was substantially damaged after it impacted trees and terrain during the initial climb from Middlebury State Airport (6B0), Middlebury, Vermont. The private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to a witness, the airplane was not flown during the past 2 months. The pilot cleared off snow from the airplane's wings the morning of the flight and preheated the airplane. He then performed a preflight inspection and sumped the fuel tanks. The pilot taxied the airplane to runway 19 and departed. During the initial climb, about 150 feet above ground level (agl), the airplane's wings "wagged," the engine "skipped," and then the engine sound "went back to normal." The airplane continued to climb, it made a slight right turn, and then entered a left turn. When the angle of bank was about 45-degrees, the airplane "stalled," and "rapidly" descended until it struck trees. Another witness stated the engine "sputtered" several times, and that after the airplane struck the ground, a postimpact fire erupted.
According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on August 6, 2009, with no limitations. At that time, he reported 750 hours of total flight time, of which 54 hours were within the previous 6 months. In addition, the pilot held an airframe and powerplant certificate with an inspection authorization. According to FAA records, the four-place airplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on April 10, 1978, and was registered to a corporation. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series, 160-horsepower engine with a Sensenich fixed-pitch propeller. According to airplane maintenance logbooks, an annual inspection was performed on June 16, 2016, at a total time in service of 8,582 hours.
The airplane impacted trees, the ground, and came to rest in an upright position about 300 feet from the departure end of runway 19. The main wreckage was oriented on a 347-degree magnetic heading, the debris path was oriented on a 360-degree magnetic heading, and was approximately 160 feet in length. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The fuselage remained intact but was heavily damaged by impact forces and a postimpact fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit through multiple control cable fractures that were consistent with overload. The fuel tanks were breeched; the left fuel tank exhibited thermal damage, and the right fuel tank was heavily impact damaged.
The engine remained attached to the airframe through all but one engine mount and was removed to facilitate further examination. Engine crankshaft continuity was confirmed from the propeller flange to the rear accessory section of the engine. All cylinders remained attached to the crankcase. The rocker box covers were removed and no anomalies were noted with the valve springs and rocker arms. Valvetrain continuity was confirmed when the crankshaft was rotated. The cylinders were examined with a borescope and no anomalies were noted with the cylinders, pistons, and valves. Piston movement and thumb compression was observed on all cylinders. Both magnetos remained attached to the engine. Each were removed, and sparks were observed on all towers, when they were rotated by hand. The top spark plugs were removed and their electrodes were dark gray in color. The engine driven fuel pump was removed and disassembled. The fuel pumped liquid that was consistent in odor with 100LL aviation fuel when the arm was
actuated by hand. No debris was noted in the liquid. There were no anomalies noted with the fuel pump. Fuel was noted in the fuel line to the carburetor. The carburetor box was impact damaged. The carburetor was impact separated from the engine but remained attached through cables. The carburetor was disassembled and no liquid was noted in the fuel bowl. However, the carburetor floats exhibited damage consistent with hydraulic deformation. Debris, similar to the terrain at the accident site, was noted in the carburetor. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was removed and no debris was noted.
The 1135 recorded weather observation at 6B0 included wind from 180 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 14 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 3,200 feet agl, temperature 3 degrees C, dew point -3 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.26 inches of mercury.
(Image from file. Not accident airplane)