Monday, August 6, 2012

Piper PA-60-601P, N956AF: Accident occurred February 17, 1996 in Atlantic Ocean

NTSB Identification: MIA96LA175. 
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Saturday, February 17, 1996 in ATLANTIC OCEAN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/20/1996
Aircraft: Piper PA-60-601P, registration: N956AF
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

 
The pilot had departed Swainsboro, Georgia at 1930 EST on an IFR flight. About 12 minutes later, he informed Jacksonville Center that he was very dizzy and could not see. There were no other recorded transmissions from the pilot. The airplane was tracked on radar until radar contact was lost at 2130. The airplane was at a heading of 110 degrees and an altitude of 9,000 feet the entire time. Attempts to locate the airplane by aerial intercept were uneventful. All shipping vessels along the airplane's expected course, were notified of the airplane's estimated fuel exhaustion point. No contact was reported and the search was suspended. Prior to departing Swainsboro, the pilot had mentioned to his wife that he had a headache. A review of the pilot's medical records revealed that he had twice indicated on his application for a medical certificate that he had a medical history of unconsciousness. In addition, he was being treated for hypertension with Norvasc and chlorthalidone prescription drugs.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
pilot incapacitation.



On February 17, 1996, a Piper PA-60-601P, N956AF, registered to Palmetto One Ltd., operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean at an undetermined time. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed. The airplane is missing and is presumed to be destroyed. The commercial pilot is missing and is presumed to be fatally injured. The flight originated from Swainsboro, Georgia, at about 1930 eastern standard time and the destination airport was Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Transcripts of recorded communication between Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), and N956AF revealed n956AF established initial radio contact with Jacksonville ARTCC at 1938. At 1942, N956AF informed Jacksonville ARTCC, "aero star six alpha fox with a problem.... I'm very dizzy and I I can't see." There were no other known recorded radio communications with N956AF.

A controller, from the Fleet Area Control Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC), located at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, stated they were notified of the in-flight emergency by Savannah Approach Control. A short time later, Savannah approach lost radio communication with N956AF, and requested FACSFAC to track the airplane on radar. Radar contact was lost with N956AF at 2130. Attempts to locate N956AF by aerial intercept were uneventful. All shipping vessels located along N956AF flight course, were notified of the airplane's estimated fuel exhaustion point based on known performance and flight path data. No contact has been reported and the search was suspended on February 19, 1996.

The pilot's wife stated her husband called her on the telephone prior to departing Swainsboro. During their conversation, he stated he had a headache and believed it was due to tension from attending a seminar earlier in the day. He informed her that he would be home no later than 8 PM, and that he would check in the airplane to see if he could find some tylenol.

A review of the pilot's medical records, on file at the Federal Aviation Administration, Aeromedical Certificate Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot indicated on his application for a second class medical certificate on April 3, 1992, and May 5, 1993, that he had a medical history of unconsciousness and did not explain the loss of consciousness on his application. The FAA Aeromedical Certification Division sent a certified letter to the pilot on May 5, 1992 requesting an explanation for the loss of unconsciousness. The pilot replied in a letter dated May 15, 1992, that he had been involved in a car accident. Further review of the pilot's medical records revealed the pilot was being treated for hypertension with Norvasc and chlorthalidone prescription drugs.



Plane wreckage found in ocean bottom Joe Kistel and TISIRI diver Ed Kalakauskis found wreckage of a plane 80 feet below the surface off the coast of Florida. 


Stewart Dunbar was piloting the Piper PA-60-601P when he disappeared on February 17, 1996. Dunbar reportedly started feeling dizzy and said he was having trouble seeing. He radioed a distress call and advised the radio control tower in Jacksonville, Florida.  


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