Pilot Reported A Rough Running Engine, Followed By A Total Loss Of Engine Power

Location: Afton, VA Accident Number: ERA22FA418
Date & Time: September 14, 2022, 23:00 Local Registration: N2104J
Aircraft: Piper PA32 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On September 14, 2022, about 2300 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N2104J, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Afton, Virginia. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the airport manager at Blue Ridge Airport (MTV), Martinsburg, Virginia, the pilot diverted to MTV uneventfully on September 10, 2022, due to weather. He purchased 72 gallons of fuel and return to Pennsylvania on a commercial flight. On the day of the accident, the pilot arrived at MTV to retrieve his airplane with the intention of flying back to his home airport, Smoketown Airport (S37), Smoketown, Pennsylvania.

According to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane was in cruise flight at 7,500 ft mean sea level when the pilot reported a rough running engine, followed by a total loss of engine power. The pilot attempted to glide the airplane to Charlottesville-Albermarle (CHO), Charlottesville, Virginia, but the airplane impacted wooded terrain about 15 miles southwest of CHO.

An approximate 100-ft debris path was observed, extending on a 60° magnetic course, consisting of severed trees at a downward angle of approximately 45°. The wreckage came to rest upright, oriented on a magnetic heading of 240°. The cockpit and cabin were consumed by fire. The fuel selector valve exhibited thermal damage and was positioned to the left main fuel tank. The fuel strainer bowl was thermally damaged, and the fuel strainer screen was destroyed. Flight control cable continuity was continuous from the cockpit to each of the respective control surfaces except for a separation in each of the rudder cables consistent with impact forces. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. Both propeller blades remained in the hub. One blade appeared straight and undamaged. The other blade was bent aft about 90°. The spinner was crushed on one side.

The engine was subsequently examined at a recovery facility. The crankshaft could not be rotated by hand. Removal of the rear accessory case housing revealed  fragments of connecting rod cap on top of the oil sump baffling. Removal of the oil sump revealed about 1 quart of oil remained in the sump with additional metal fragments. The Nos. 1 and 2 cylinders were removed and their respective connecting rods remained intact. The remaining four cylinders could not be removed from the engine case. An access hole was cut through the oil sump baffling to facilitate visual examination. The remaining four connecting rods were fractured. The visual examination revealed that the crankshaft remained intact.

The engine was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov