Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Piper PA-28R-200 Cherokee Arrow II, N56258: Fatal accident occurred October 30, 2019 near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (KPDK), Atlanta, Georgia

Negotiations over an insurance payout to a DeKalb County resident whose home was damaged in the 2019 crash of an airplane out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport has been “resolved” in an undisclosed manner, according to an attorney. 

John Patterson was one of two residents left temporarily homeless in the October 30, 2019 crash of a private airplane that hit their townhomes at 2421 Peachwood Circle near I-85. The crash killed the pilot and a passenger. Debris smashed a huge hole in the roof of Patterson’s spare bedroom and fell through the floor into the kitchen below.

Patterson and his attorney, Alan Armstrong, said a month after the crash that they were seeking insurance compensation but were running into a hitch about whether the pilot was covered for the instrument-based flying he was doing at the time. 

Insufficient insurance is a common problem in private airplane crashes, Armstrong and other experts say. There is no federal or Georgia requirement that non-commercial pilots have liability insurance at all, and some beginners have policies that pay only $100,000. Policies that pay out $1 million total per incident are common, but that amount can quickly be consumed by the scale of damage and injuries from airplane crashes.

Asked for an update about the Peachwood Circle case, Armstrong in December said, “The matter is resolved,” adding that he cannot discuss the details. Patterson did not respond to a comment request.

DeKalb County Superior Court records show no filings for legal action in the matter.

Located on Clairmont Road in Chamblee on the Brookhaven border, PDK has a long history of accidents, including an infamous 1973 case where a jet crashed into a Buford Highway apartment building, killing seven people on the plane and severely injuring a resident with burning fuel. 

Since 2000, three residential properties have been hit by planes from PDK in DeKalb, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Lilburn. A total of 17 people have been killed in accidents in that time period, all pilots or passengers. Other planes from PDK have wrecked in residential or commercial areas or on highways. 

The 2019 crash raised safety concerns with some nearby residents as development increases around what was once a remote, semi-rural airport. However, experts say that PDK’s accident rates are not unusual and the risk to any given property is tiny. PDK officials have said that most accidents and near-misses happen within the airport property.

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta Georgia
Piper Aircraft Inc; Vero Beach, Florida
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Location: Atlanta, GA
Accident Number: ERA20FA021
Date & Time: 10/30/2019, 1032 EDT
Registration: N56258
Aircraft: Piper PA28R
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On October 30, 2019, about 1032 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R, N56258, was destroyed following an inflight break up, and impact with a residential building and terrain near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK), Atlanta, Georgia. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was privately owned and operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at PDK about 1014 and was destined for Mid-Carolina Regional Airport (RUQ), Salisbury, North Carolina.

According to air traffic control communication and radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot established communication with the ground controller at PDK and advised that he had received Automatic Terminal Information Service Hotel (H). The 0953, weather observation included variable wind at 6 knots, visibility 6 miles with mist, with an overcast ceiling at 400 feet above ground level. Before departing, the pilot received an IFR release with instructions to fly a heading of 090°. The controller then cleared the flight for takeoff on runway 12L with a left turn to a heading of 090°, and advised the pilot the current winds were 150° at 5 knots.

The pilot established communication with the departure controller as he was climbing through 2,000 feet in a right turn to a heading of 090°. The controller instructed him to climb to 5,000 feet and proceed direct to the Athens (AHN) VORTAC. Additionally, the controller advised him of moderate precipitation extending to the east for 10 miles along their route of flight to AHN. The pilot began a right turn to the southeast and the controller instructed the pilot to turn left direct AHN, advising the pilot that it appeared that they were heading southbound. The pilot turned eastbound and the controller asked if they were showing a route direct to AHN, to which the pilot responded "affirmative." The airplane continued eastbound for approximately three miles before again turning southbound. The controller instructed the pilot to fly a heading of 090° and the pilot advised that they had "…lost their vacuum gauge." At that time the airplane was at 5,000 feet and turned to the northeast briefly before it entered a right turn and rapidly descended to 3,700 feet. The controller instructed the pilot to maintain "wings level" and maintain 4,000 feet; however, the pilot did not respond. The controller made additional transmissions to the pilot to maintain wings level without a response, there were no additional communications with the flight, and radar contact was lost.

An examination of the accident site revealed the airplane impacted a residential apartment building 1.5 miles southeast of PDK. The airplane struck the wooden roof near the back wall, then continued through the second floor coming to rest in the kitchen area. The engine was located inside the apartment crawl space and kitchen area, while the fuselage and cockpit remained outside of the residence back door. Additionally, the right main gear and sections of the right wing flap were located on the second floor of the adjacent apartment. The debris field was about 790 feet in length on a magnetic heading of about 270° from the crash site. At the beginning of the debris field, a portion of the right wing tip was located on the roof of another residential building. Within the debris field was a portion of the left wing tip, right aileron, horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer with the rudder attached by one hinge.

The engine remained attached to its mounts and the firewall. One of the three propeller blades were broken at the base of the propeller hub. All the propeller blades had scoring and impact marks throughout the span of the blades. The left wing aileron was not located during the initial search.

Flight control continuity was not confirmed, but flight control cable terminations were observed intact at the rudder pedal assembly in the cockpit. The aileron cable chain was fracture separated with one end still attached to the cable. The stabilator cables remained attached to the stabilator idler arm in the cockpit. The flap control cable remained attached to the flap selector handle. All the cables were separated between the cockpit controls and the control surfaces with signatures consistent with overload due to impact or cuts made to facilitate recovery of the wreckage.

The left wing spar inboard attach flanges were located at the accident site; a small section of the wing box which had separated from the main wreckage revealed a fracture of the lower spar cap that occurred on the outboard pair of attach bolts. The fracture surface was clean and smooth with no apparent indications of fatigue progression and exhibited damage signatures consistent with impacting the building. The outboard section of the left wing was separated chordwise at the main spar splice joint and the fractures were consistent with overload. It was located on the ground near the entrance gate to an apartment complex.

The right wing spar was located near the fuselage, it remained attached to the wing box. The outboard portion of the right wing was separated chordwise at the main spar splice joint and the fractures were consistent with overload. The outer section of the left wing was recovered from the roof of a residential building.

The stabilator's left and right tips were located in the debris field away from the fuselage. The center portion of the stabilator was impact damaged and separated chordwise about mid-span and the fractures were consistent with overload. The trim tab remained attached to the portions of the stabilator by its hinges. The forward spar of the stabilator was separated about 12" either side of the aircraft centerline. The center portion of the forward stabilator spar, including the balance tube and weight, remained attached to the tailcone bulkhead at its hinges.

The vertical stabilizer and rudder were separated from the tailcone and the fractures were consistent with overload. It was located along the debris field between the wing tips and the main wreckage. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer by its upper hinge. The rudder horn was separated from the rudder and the rudder cables remained attached to the horn. The rudder stops were intact and unremarkable.

The wreckage was recovered and retained for further examination.

According to FAA airmen records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. At the time of the accident, the pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on April 18, 2018 and reported 4,850 hours of flight experience.

The weather conditions reported about 1027 at PDK, about 1.5 miles northwest of the accident site, included visibility of 3 statute miles, overcast sky at 400 feet agl, light rain and mist, wind variable at 3 knots, temperature 19°C, dew point 19°C, and a barometric altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N56258
Model/Series: PA28R 200
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PDK, 998 ft msl
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 19°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , Variable
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 400 ft agl
Visibility:  3 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.11 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Atlanta, GA (PDK)
Destination: Salisbury, NC (RUQ)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.856944, -84.290556 (est)

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