Pilot Had Recently Purchased The Airplane And Wanted To Fly With An Instructor

Location: Athens, GA Accident Number: ERA22FA223
Date & Time: May 11, 2022, 18:53 Local Registration: N8007P
Aircraft: Piper PA-24-250 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On May 11, 2022, about 1853 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-24-250, N8007P, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Athens, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to a flight instructor, the pilot had recently purchased the airplane and wanted to fly with an instructor to familiarize himself with the RayJay turbocharger system before flying home to Texas. The pilot told him he had completed a checkout in a PA-24 in Texas, but it was not equipped with a turbocharger. Two days before the accident, they departed and planned to climb to 10,000 ft and utilize the turbo system, but the engine was not developing full power and the manifold pressure was low. They returned to the airport and maintenance personnel found a loose wire that was grounding one of the magnetos.

The next day, the engine performance had improved, but it was still not producing adequate manifold pressure and maintenance personnel subsequently replaced the loose wire. During the next flight, the crew was radioed and told the engine was backfiring, so they landed and returned the airplane to maintenance. On the morning of the accident, the spark plugs were cleaned, gapped, tested, and reinstalled. The fuel mixture was adjusted at the fuel servo to obtain a 50 rpm rise and manifold pressure increased to 26 inches. An engine runup was performed and the airplane was returned to service.

A review of preliminary flight track data revealed that the airplane departed Triangle North Executive Airport (LHZ), Louisburg, North Carolina, about 1619. The airplane flew on a generally southwest heading between about 4,000 to 5,000 ft mean sea level (msl) for about 2 hours 20 minutes. About 23 nautical miles east the Athens/Ben Epps Airport (AHN), Athens, Georgia, the airplane completed two circles to the right and then continued on a southwesterly heading in a gradual descent toward AHN.

About 7 miles east of AHN the pilot contacted air traffic control and was instructed to land runway 27. About 1 mile from the runway the pilot declared may-day and stated he had lost all engine power, there were no further transmissions form the pilot. The last track data was observed at 1852, as the airplane descended through 925 ft mean sea level (msl), about 200 ft above ground level.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted a wooded area on a residential property about 3/4 of a mile from the approach end of runway 27. The wreckage debris path was about 50 ft long and oriented on a magnetic heading of 070°. There was an extensive postimpact fire and all major structural components of the airplane were located within the debris field.

Flight control cable continuity was established from the control inputs to the bellcranks, and then to the control surfaces. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange, and minor scratches were present along the leading edge of the blades. The fuel flow divider and fuel injector nozzles were all intact, unobstructed, and contained fuel. The engine driven fuel pump and fuel lines contained fuel, and the fuel pump was impact damaged.

Both magnetos were removed and manually rotated. The left magneto produced spark on all leads. The right magneto failed to produce spark and the hold down nuts would grind when rotated; when disassembled the shaft was off center due to impact. The engine was manually rotated and internal continuity was confirmed. The turbocharger system remained attached, the left turbocharger vane spun freely, the right turbocharger vane was impact damaged.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov