Doomed Plane Had Difficulty On Takeoff, Barely Missing Obstacles, Then Heads "Straight Down"
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL. -- The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the March 15th crash of a twin engine Piper turbine aircraft that took the lives of the pilot and two passengers when it dropped into a Fort Lauderdale parking lot near the airport shortly after takeoff.
On March 15, 2013, about 4:20 p.m., a Piper PA-31T (Cheyenne), tail number N63CA, owned by M.A.S. Inc., of Fort Lauderdale was destroyed after it impacted the ground shortly after takeoff from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Steve Waller, an airline transport pilot and two passengers, Wallace Watson and son Kevin Watson were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local maintenance test flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to initial information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airplane was purchased by its current owner during November 2012, and was being prepared for export to a customer in Columbia. The pilot planned to conduct a local test flight after avionics upgrades had been performed.
FAA registry records show the plane, built in 1978 was first registered to the company January 8, 2013.
The owner of the aircraft stated that the airplane had undergone engine ground checks during the 4 days prior to the accident. He was not aware of any maintenance issues with the airframe or engines, which underwent detailed inspections at the time of the purchase.
The airplane departed from runway 8, a 6,002-foot-long, asphalt runway to the east towards the ocean, and was expected to turn to the left for a northwest departure. Shortly after takeoff, witnesses observed the airplane make a steep right turn back toward the airport.
The pilot transmitted that he was experiencing an "emergency;" however, he did not state the nature of the emergency prior to the accident. One witness, who was a pilot on an airplane that was parked in the mid-field run-up area at FXE, stated that the accident airplane had difficulty climbing and barely cleared the obstacles located off the departure end of the runway.
The airplane turned to the right, and "began to shake as if it was near stall speed". The airplane then appeared to stall, roll to the right about 90 degrees, and descend straight down toward the ground.
The airplane impacted into about seven parked vehicles, and came to rest inverted about .6 miles from the departure end of the runway.
A postcrash fire consumed the airframe, with the exception of the right wingtip fuel tank, which was located about 20 feet south of the main wreckage. The right landing gear was found retracted in its respective gear well, while the structure around the nose and left main landing gears was compromised. The left and right flap actuator jackscrews indicated the flaps were in the retracted position.
The airplane's stability augmentation system control arm was observed in the up (airplane stalled) position. It was noted that internal damage to both engines was consistent with rotation somewhere between the low to mid-range power setting, with more pronounced damage observed to the left engine. The three-bladed right propeller assembly did not display any significant evidence of twisting or rotational damage, while the left propeller assembly displayed evidence of twisting and rotational damage.
Initial review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed that it had been operated for about 135 hours during the previous 5 years, and 20 hours since its most recent documented phase inspections, which were performed on January 31, 2012.
- from the NTSB official preliminary crash report
(Also see original story from Southwest Florida Online)