…Then Sharply Decreased To A Descent Exceeding 5,000 Ft Per Minute
Location: Bignell, NE Accident Number: CEN23FA031
Date & Time: November 9, 2022, 09:34 Local Registration: N234PM
Aircraft: Piper PA46-500TP Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Business
On November 9, 2022, about 0934 central standard time, a Piper PA46-500TP, N234PM, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Bignell, Nebraska. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight.
According to preliminary air traffic control information, the pilot established contact with Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZDV), reported inbound to the North Platte Regional Airport (LBF), North Platte, Nebraska, and the controller issued the current altimeter. The controller asked the pilot for the preferred approach; the pilot’s reply was partially unintelligible, and he requested the instrument landing system (ILS) runway 30 approach. At the request of the pilot, the controller provided vectors to the approach and instructed the pilot to fly to a heading of 230°. The pilot requested to begin the descent, and the controller cleared the pilot to turn right to 280° and descend to 7,000 ft. The controller then instructed the pilot to descend to 5,000 ft and turn right heading 280°, maintain 5,000 ft until established on the ILS, and cleared the pilot for the ILS runway 30 approach. In the same clearance and without receiving a proper read back, the controller instructed the pilot to report the cancellation of his instrument flight plan and change radio frequencies to the LBF common traffic advisory frequency. After a position change with controllers, the relieving controller reported the airplane overdue, and an alert notice (ALNOT) was issued.
About 3 miles southeast of LBF, a resident noticed smoke coming from a field and contacted the local fire department. Local authorities responded to the area and reported the airplane accident. There were no witnesses to the accident. A review of the automatic dependent surveillance broadcast data revealed that during the last minute of data, the airplane’s vertical rate increased from a 500 ft per minute to a 3,000 ft per minute descent. In the last 30 seconds, the vertical rate increased to a climb of 2,000 ft per minute, and then sharply decreased to a descent exceeding 5,000 ft per minute.
Postaccident examination of the accident site revealed the airplane impacted terrain on the bank of an irrigation reservoir. A postimpact fire partially consumed the airplane. The main wreckage, which consisted of the engine, fuselage, and empennage, came to rest within the initial impact area. Fragmented airplane structure was located within a 50 ft diameter of the main wreckage. The engine and propeller assembly were embedded in the terrain, followed by the cockpit, cabin, and empennage. The left and right wings came to rest adjacent to the main wreckage. The airplane’s flight instruments were destroyed by impact and thermal damage. The airplane’s landing gear and flaps were in the retracted position.
A flight instructor, who recently provided instruction to the pilot, reported that the pilot had purchased the airplane about 3 weeks before the accident. Between October 23rd, 2022, and October 28th, 2022, the instructor and the pilot completed 10 hours of ground instruction and 15.1 hours of flight instruction in the accident airplane.
The pilot’s logbook, which was located in the main wreckage, revealed that the pilot had accumulated 505.3 total flight hours, of which 24.5 hours were in the accident airplane. Of the 505.3 hours, the pilot logged 5.2 hours of actual instrument flight time, of which 1.0 hour was in the accident airplane. The instructor reported the 1.0 hour of actual instrument time in the accident airplane was an encounter with instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions during high altitude training.
The National Weather Service had issued several AIRMETs (Airman’s Meteorological Information) that were current over the accident area to include instrument flight rules conditions due to low ceilings, low visibility with mist and fog, and low-level wind shear below 2,000 ft. There were no advisories that were current for icing or turbulence conditions.