Friday, November 30, 2012

Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee B, N7746W: Accident occurred November 17, 2011 in Perryville, Arkansas

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA072 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, November 17, 2011 in Perryville, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/27/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-180, registration: N7746W
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

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.

About 2 hours after departure, radar data tracked the airplane at 7,000 feet before the airplane then initiated a right, descending turn before disappearing from radar. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane flying low, descending, making several turns, before impacting terrain. Impact signatures were consistent with a steep, nose-low attitude. An examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any preimpact anomalies. The reason for the pilot's loss of control could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:The pilot's loss of control in flight.


On November 17, 2011, about 1610 central standard time, a Piper PA-28-180 airplane, N7746W, impacted the ground near Perryville, Arkansas. The commercial rated pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from Stillwater Regional Airport (SWO), Stillwater, Oklahoma, about 1415, and was destined for North Little Rock Municipal Airport (ORK), North Little Rock, Arkansas.

The purpose of the flight was to transport two Oklahoma State University (OSU) coaches to Little Rock, Arkansas, in order to support the Oklahoma State University (OSU) athletic recruitment program. The coaches are hereafter referred to as passengers for the report.

Employees at SWO’s fixed base operator (FBO) reported that the airplane landed approximately 1345, picked up two passengers, and departed for ORK. The airplane did not receive any services at SWO.

About 2 hours after departure, radar data showed the airplane level at 7,000 feet mean sea level on a southeasterly heading. At 1610:49, the airplane entered a right turn and descended. The airplane disappeared from radar shortly after. There were no air traffic control communications with the airplane.

Witnesses, who were near the accident site, reported seeing the airplane flying at a low altitude and making turns. They then observed the airplane enter a steep nose-low attitude prior to descending toward the terrain.



The pilot, age 82, held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. In addition, he held a certificated flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine airplanes. He was issued a third class medical certificate on April 1, 2010, with a restriction for corrective lenses for near and distant vision. A review of the pilot’s log book revealed that the pilot had accrued over 2,200 hours total time, with over 350 hours in the accident airplane. The pilot’s last flight review was flown on April 9, 2010, and his most recent night time was on April 25, 2011, at which time he had logged night landings. The last entry in the pilot’s log book was on October 20, 2011.

The pilot was a graduate of and contributor to OSU. He volunteered his flight services to assist with the athletic department’s recruiting efforts, was not compensated for his flight time, and was not contracted by the university.

Pilot rated passenger

The passenger seated behind the pilot, age 79, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. She was issued a third class medical on Aug 26, 2011, without restrictions. A review of her log book revealed that she had accrued over 1,145 hours, a majority of which in the accident airplane. Of note, her most recent night time was logged on November 10, 2007. The last entry in the log book was on October 21, 2011.

On the previous flight, the pilot rated passenger had flown with the accident pilot from Ponca City, Oklahoma, to SWO. For the accident flight she was seated behind the accident pilot.


The single engine, low wing, fixed landing gear, four seat airplane, N7746W, serial number 28-1756, was manufactured in 1964. It was powered by a 180-horsepower Lycoming O-360-A3A, serial number L-7030-36. A review of maintenance records found that the last annual inspection was completed on November 8, 2011, at a total time of 5,800.8 hours. During the annual inspection, the mechanic noted that the muffler was inspected, removed, weld repaired, and reinstalled.

An aircraft flight log was found in the wreckage. It contained flights on October 25, 2011, November 16, 2011, and a partial entry on November 17, 2011. Prior to the accident flight, the airplane had about 5,802 hours total time. It is unknown if the pilot flew another airplane between October 25 and November 16.


At 1553, an automated weather reporting station at the Russellville Regional Airport (KRUE), Russellville, Arkansas, located about 22 nautical miles north-northwest of the accident site, reported wind from 200 degrees at 3 knots, 10 miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 52 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 19 F, and a barometric pressure of 30.35 inches of mercury.

There were no associated hazards forecasted along the airplane’s route of flight.


The accident site was located in a heavily wooded area of the Ouachita National Forest, about 8 miles southwest of Perryville, Arkansas. The initial ground impact scar was consistent with the airplane’s right wing leading edge contacting the ground. An impact crater, about 10 feet in diameter and about 3.5 feet deep contained most of the airplane. Ground scars and witness marks to trees surrounding the accident site were consistent with the airplane being approximately 50 to 60 degrees nose low at the time of impact. Wreckage debris was distributed in a “V” from the impact site between 280 degrees to 310 degrees with a field about 80 yards long. Numerous trees throughout the debris field exhibited signs of impact damage.

Examination of the wreckage revealed several of the flight control cables were fractured in multiple places. Each fracture was consistent with overload. Most of the cockpit instrumentation sustained impact damage, was unreadable or unreliable, or destroyed. The engine case and engine components were impact damaged. The blades of the fixed-pitch, two-bladed propeller displayed signs of leading edge polishing, chordwise scratches, and S-bending. The propeller hub was fractured in torsional overload. The airplane’s muffler was disassembled and displayed no sooting or preimpact anomalies. No preimpact anomalies with the airframe or engine were found which would have precluded normal operation.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock, Arkansas, on November 18, 2011. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. The manner of death was ruled an accident. The autopsy noted that the condition of the remains did not allow for identification of any medical conditions which may have contributed to the crash.

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Specimens submitted were not suitable for the detection of carbon monoxide and cyanide. No ethanol or drugs were detected in the muscle.


Selection of seats for the flight

Personnel at the SWO fixed base operator’s office recalled the airplane’s arrival to fly the passengers to their destination. Due to a hearing condition, the pilot spoke loudly, so personnel could hear his conversation with the passengers. The pilot decided that the male passenger would ride in the right pilot seat for the flight to Little Rock. The female passenger and pilot rated passenger would sit in the rear seats. The pilot rated passenger sat behind the male pilot.

Seat belts

A review of the occupants’ seat belts at the accident site, found that the forward two occupants restraint buckles remained latched. The rear occupants’ seat belt restraint buckles were found unlatched. Neither latch plate showed any gouging or deformity. In addition, neither belt exhibited signatures of loading of the clasps. The rear left occupants belt containing the buckle and the rear right occupants belt containing latch plate remained secured to the fuselage. The left belt containing the latch plate and the right belt containing the buckle were fractured in overload at the belt to fuselage cable.

Night time flight requirements

Neither pilot had documentation in their logbook supporting that the currency requirements to land at night with passengers had been accomplished in accordance with 14 CFR Part 61.57. Although not relevant to the accident flight, the planned itinerary for the roundtrip flight would have included a night landing, about 2300.

Donor flight program

Prior to the accident, the Oklahoma State University had limited oversight of the donor flight program. Coaches and staff were allowed to arrange travel directly with the donors without notification to the university. There was no requirement to verify pilot qualifications and airplane inspections; in this case, the pilots did not have documentation supporting the completion of currency requirements for a night landing with passengers. Although the athletic department had an oversight program for student athletes, coaches and staff were exempt from the requirement. OSU's travel policy has since been modified to include coaches and staff into a program similar to the oversight provided to student athletes. The new policy would include a review of pilots and aircraft by an aviation consultant.


LANGSTON, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State regents on Friday approved tougher oversight of the airplanes that employees use on official business following the death of women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and three others in a crash a year ago.

The new policy requires an aviation consultant to pre-approve any private aircraft and the pilot who'll be flying it. It applies to all OSU employees, from coaches to administrators and student employees.

"We want, whoever they are and however they may travel, that they travel safely and that they come home safely," said vice president and general counsel Gary Clark, chairman of the task force that put together the policy.

Budke, assistant Miranda Serna, pilot Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula Branstetter, died on a recruiting trip to Arkansas last year. A federal report on the cause of the crash is pending, but weather has been ruled out as a factor.

Clark said he didn't know whether that flight would have been approved under the current policy. At a minimum, the plane's maintenance records and the pilot's history would have been checked before takeoff. A pilot will have the final say when it comes to weather conditions.

"We didn't really try to look at or address our policy to that accident. What we were looking at were the general safety standards that are out there," Clark said.

Oklahoma State had already instituted a policy for team travel following a 2001 plane crash that resulted in the deaths of 10 men associated with the Cowboys basketball team on their way back from a game at Colorado. Clark said that policy had been interpreted over the years to allow coaches to control their own travel without the team, and it was amended in 2004 in an attempt to clarify that stance.

"From the very beginning, the actual practice has been that it has been the coaches' discretion," Clark said.

That no longer will be the case. Wrestling coach John Smith, women's tennis coach Chris Young and athletic director Mike Holder were part of the task force, and Clark said others were consulted during the drafting of the policy.

"The coaches probably would have preferred to have something that allowed them greater latitude than what the policy provides," Clark said. "I think it may limit them to some extent, but we think that the limits are reasonable under the circumstances."

The policy specifically prohibits travel on home-built and light sport aircraft, but no other planes are specifically prohibited. There are requirements that must be met for single-engine planes.

The aviation consultant's approval of an aircraft or a pilot will be good for six months before another round of checks will be needed.

"In order to avoid some kind of disruption of their plans, we're going to encourage them to plan well ahead of time," Clark said.

Clark added that the coaches involved suggested a change to the team travel policy, which currently would require a stop-over if a team drove to Austin, Texas — home of Big 12 foe Texas — because it is about 30 minutes outside the current maximum.

"I think we're going to look at those and see if, in the process, the lines may have been drawn that didn't really work as well as maybe what we had in mind," Clark said. "We'll at least look at those. I can't say that those changes will be made."

Although the policy takes effect immediately, Clark said some time will be needed to choose the aviation consultant and get the pre-approval process started.

There are no specific penalties laid out for violating the policy.

"Basically what we would want to do is have the supervisor to look at the seriousness of the violation and have an appropriate discipline action taken, whatever that might be," Clark said.