Thursday, July 03, 2014

Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser, N3512M: Fatal accident occurred July 02, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska

NTSB Identification: ANC14FA050
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 02, 2014 in Anchorage, AK
Aircraft: PIPER PA 12, registration: N3512M
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 July 2, 2014, at 0820 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-12 airplane, N3512M, descended vertically and collided with the ground shortly after takeoff from Merrill Field Airport, Anchorage, Alaska. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to acquaintances of the pilot, the airplane had been undergoing extensive maintenance for about 5 years. Neither the airplane's co-owner nor others at the airport were aware of it having been flown before the accident flight. A pilot who was standing on the ramp on the south side of runway 25 saw the airplane climb after takeoff. He said that, once the airplane became airborne, its climb kept getting steeper and steeper and did not level off like he expected it would. He said that the airplane "wasn't pitching quickly or violently but slowly" and "as if the pilot had no ability to stop it." The climb appeared so abnormal to the witness that he yelled to get the attention of another pilot on the ramp. He said that the engine sounded strong during the climb. He said that the airplane then pitched down, and he heard the engine power reduce as if the pilot had pulled it to idle, and the airplane descended vertically to the ground. A second witness who was also on the south side of runway 25 described that the "airplane's angle of attack was so steep" that he knew "something was not right." He said that the airplane climbed straight up then "pivoted" to a nose-down position and descended straight to the ground. The witness said that he heard the engine go quiet about the time that the airplane pivoted, but he was not sure if the engine noise changed before or after the airplane transitioned to the nose-down attitude. The two witnesses and several other people from both sides of the runway ran to the accident site to try to help. Two witnesses who were east of runway 25 reported hearing engine noises that sounded like back-firing.

The airplane was righted and towed from the accident site for an examination. At the request of and in the presence of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), an airframe and powerplant mechanic assisted with the examination of the airplane.

The engine and the damaged front control stick were removed to allow for movement of the flight controls. The postaccident examination revealed that manipulating the ailerons resulted in correct directional movement of the rear control stick. Manipulating the rudder resulted in correct directional cable movement to each rudder pedal.

The elevator control cables were attached to each end of the elevator control horn. Elevator control cable continuity was established from the control horn to the rear control stick. Manipulating the rear control stick aft (to command airplane nose-up) resulted in cable movement corresponding with a downward deflection of the elevator (which would result in airplane-nose-down flight). The airframe and powerplant mechanic assisting with the examination confirmed that the elevator control cables were misrigged, such that they were attached to the incorrect (opposite) locations on the elevator control horn, resulting in a reversal of elevator control inputs.


Investigating Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03  

Donald J. Reed:

ANCHORAGE -    The pilot and sole occupant killed in a plane crash at Merrill Field Wednesday morning has been identified by the Anchorage Police Department.

In a brief statement Wednesday evening, Anchorage police say the man killed in the crash was 61-year-old Charles Hancock. His next of kin have been notified.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Catherine Gagne says the wreckage of the privately owned 1947 Piper PA-12 has been removed from the crash site for further investigation.

APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro said Anchorage police and fire departments were notified of the crash at 8:25 a.m.

All runways at Merrill Field were shut down in response to the crash, Castro said, while the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration were notified.

Gagne also confirmed Hancock was the only occupant of the plane and the reported fatality in the crash.

"It's our understanding that the aircraft was taking off from runway 25 (parallel to 5th Avenue)," Gagne said. "It was in contact with the tower at the time. We do have some witnesses who saw the flight; we're interested in talking to them."

Glen Alsworth, the owner of Lake Clark Air, heard the plane and went outside to watch it as it began to take off.

"Like any good pilot, I wanted to watch -- you always do," Alsworth said. "As it lifted up at a very steep angle of climb, at about 100 feet, it looked like the angle was so great that the airplane couldn't sustain (its climb)."

Alsworth watched as the plane's nose pitched over and it came back down toward the ground, he said.

"It looked like a near-vertical attitude," Alsworth said.

Another witness, Alaska Aircraft Engines employee Tyler Seybert, says the wreck didn't appear survivable.

 "I saw the pilot and he seemed like he was dead on impact, and it was very graphic," Seybert said. "It's definitely sad; it's the first time I've seen something like that, so I'm a little bit -- I don't know how to explain it."

Don Reed says he formed a 30-year-long friendship with Hancock after the two men met while hot-air ballooning. Reed says he and Hancock -- whom Reed's three children knew as "Uncle Charlie" -- were co-owners of the plane that crashed.

"He loved the Alaska lifestyle," Reed said. "He was big into air sports, skydiving, hot-air ballooning, and he and I bought this airplane years and years ago. He was a very good pilot and he loved to fish too and to hunt -- we loved to hunt."

While Hancock had far-ranging interests, Reed says he took a meticulous approach to his hobbies.

"He wasn't reckless, though -- he loved doing what he did," Reed said. "He was very scientific in his approach to things; he liked to know how things worked, both mechanically and physically. He was one of those guys that studied things and then went out and loved to build stuff and tinker with things and have fun."

Employees of the state medical examiner's arrived at the scene to move Hancock's body, at which point NTSB crews began removing the wreckage from the runway. Gagne says Merrill Field reopened shortly after the runway was cleared.

Preliminary documents have been taken from the scene, according to Gagne; the plane wasn't carrying cargo in its rear area, with only a few items there in a contained compartment. The next step in the investigation will include taking witness accounts and gathering information about Hancock.

Gagne says an initial NTSB report on the crash will be released in about a week. In the meantime, Hancock's friends are struggling to accept his loss.

"He was just one of your truly nice guys, like the Billy Joel song, 'Only the Good Die Young,'" Reed said. "He was just one of those really good guys."

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