NTSB: "the wings and tail...fell off mid-air"

Too early to speculate, but there would have had to be some serious stress put on the airframe.

ktvb.com/news/localnews/stor … 37b9a.html

Investigators: Plane’s wings fell off in mid-air

BOISE – They don’t know the cause, but they know what happened – aviation investigators say a small plane broke apart in the air before crashing in Elmore County earlier this week.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the wings and tail of the 1965 Piper Comanche fell off mid-air as the pilot was flying from Caldwell to Utah.

That pilot, 41-year-old Craig Jewett, died on impact.

He had just purchased the single-engine, 4-seat plane the day it crashed.

(Related: Family: Jewett “always wanted to be a pilot”)

The lead investigator finished his on-sight inspection yesterday and is going through maintenance records today.

The NTSB says there are several factors that can lead to a mid-air break-up, but it does not believe this was weather-related. It’s too soon to say whether mechanical failure was an issue.

The airplane was recovered today from the remote crash site near the Hagerman Fossil Beds. Debris was spread over a one-mile area.

Additional analysis of the wreckage will continue now that it’s in a controlled environment in Boise.

A preliminary accident report should be filed early next week.

The NTSB says it does take extra time to compile information from an inflight breakup.

Jewett was relatively new to flying. His brother says he earned his pilot’s license two years ago.

Pick one:

  1. Weather related breakup.

  2. Maintenance (or the lack thereof) related.

  3. New pilot exploring the operational envelope of his new airplane.

Given the fact that he had purchased the plane the day of the loss, I’m leaning toward a combination of numbers 2 and 3.

Damn sad.

That’s horrible! :frowning:

too bad they dont have a carfax report for airplanes… very sad

They have better, airframe and engine logbooks and the ability to see that all ADs and other maintenance directives have been fulfilled.

The problems arise when it requires an A&P to decipher both the ADs and logbooks to see if they mesh, and the cost of hiring someone to do so is prohibitive or unattractive when the aircraft cost is inexpensive to start with.

E. g., if you’re paying less than $10K for an aircraft it’s difficult to justify paying $2.5K or more to have someone give it a pre-purchase inspection.

I should have thought about what I said before I posted it. :blush:

S’no problem.

I’d agree with you.

Comanches had an AD on the tailfeathers that had to due with flutter. Compliance was limit the envelope or mod the plane. The plane is also pretty slippery for it’s era and could get out of its envelope with a new pilot. :cry:

Interesting, the family said he got his ticket two years ago in all the articles.

The 70-hour student pilot departed on the 315 mile cross-country flight in dark night conditions in a complex airplane that he had purchased about 3 hours prior to the accident.

ntsb.gov/NTSB/brief.asp?ev_i … 1045&key=1

As you note, the NTSB and FAA are characterizing the pilot as a 70 hour student, odd.

Also: “Both outboard sections of each wing, both outboard sections of each horizontal stabilator, and the airplane’s empennage was located in a debris field, which extended over an area of about 1 mile prior to the main impact point. The cabin door was located at the main wreckage site and had remained attached to the fuselage.”

So, he ripped off both wings, both horizontal stabilizers AND ultimately the whole tail section! Damn! I feel sorry for the guy and hope he lost consciousness early due to centrifugal forces.

So if he was part of a flight of two while returning to his home airport, why did the other plane leave him?

Sorry, I suspect there’s more to this story and it won’t be pretty.

“dark night conditions”

student pilot in a complex airplane that he had purchased just 3 hours before

However, in a subsequent air-to-air communication with the second pilot, the student pilot reported that the problem had been resolved and that he was continuing by “…following highway 84 to Salt Lake City.”

IFR - “I’m Following Roads”

recipe for sure

Which then begs the question of how this “student” pilot gained his complex endorsement?

You can be a student pilot in a complex or high performance aircraft. Even a twin jet if you want.

Not while you’re alone you can’t without the proper endorsement!

Sad story. :frowning:

The family probably doesn’t know the difference between a student license and an PPL. They probably know that he got a license. And if you’re not into aviation then the details would be forgotten easily and all you would remember is that he had a license. Maybe he had a student license for two years. Or he could be getting his instrument rating? I don’t see otherwise why someone without an instrument rating would even fathom flying at night.

…in a remote dark place, in an unfamiliar plane, with very little flight experience. Wouldn’t those be the main concerns, rather than IFR ratings per se?

Flying after dark in VFR conditions is not a procedure that automatically requires IFR proficiency. Nighttime aviating can be quite safe and rewarding provided the pilot is familiar with the aircraft and has some familiarity with the projected route of travel.

For all the jokes one hears about IFR in reality meaning I Follow Roads, having the ability to follow the cars on roads such as the NJ or PA Turnpikes or I95 unerringly to one’s destination at night is quite comforting.

I think this loss demonstrates what happens when we have an inexperienced and unqualified pilot in an unfamiliar aircraft flying at night over an unfamiliar route. It wouldn’t take much to distract an already uncomfortable pilot from the requirements of aviate, navigate, communicate necessary to guarantee a successful completion of his journey. Nor would it take a great deal of inattention on the pilot’s part before he found himself behind the aircraft’s operation and departing its operational envelope.

Many questions remain unanswered at this point. Did he have an operational Auto-Pilot? Was he relying on charts and a flashlight, or a GPS for navigation? Any charts at all onboard for the route? (Before anyone discounts that as a possibility, there have been many documented cases where pilots have taken off on extensive cross-country trips without the proper charts based solely on the fact that they were headed for their “home” airports and would recognize where they were when they got “close”!). What happened to cause his supposed wingman to leave him? Why no transmissions expressing any alarm or difficulties? Not even an “Ah shit!” broadcast?

Sorry, but to me this loss stinks, primarily due to the fact that one never leaves a wingman. http://img116.exs.cx/img116/934/z0tdntknw.gif

Is it really best to not venture out at nite as vfr pvt pilot lic’d without having instrument rating ?
is nite flying in vfr that much more serious/dangerous and how does a instrument rating help so much in vfr conditions ?
i did hear another pvt pilot - oldtimer tell me he would never think of nite flying in a sel ac too

Night flying itself is inheritantly more work on the pilot in my experiences. In my plane, lighting is very, very poor, so the extra work comes using a flashlight and knowing AND remembering where every switch, button and knob is. Oh yeah, need to remember where you put that unlit flashlight to read check lists :smiley:

All familiar landmarks, like lakes, rivers and powerlines dissapear at night, so now you are looking at landscape outlined by lights.

Looking further out to the horizon, in some areas I fly, there are more lights in the sky then there is on the ground with no visual reference to the horizon. See Landing Raymond MS Landing Madison MS with ATC COMS - YouTube) and start at 4:40 for the night portion for what I am talking about. When it’s that dark, you may need depend on the instruments to figure which way is up and that is where the instrument rating really shines

Some pilots won’t fly in clouds or night in a SEL as you indicate above. I won’t hesitate to take my plane in either, but I would be hesitant to go in some planes I have been in as a passenger.

Generally speaking a well maintained airplane does not care if it’s night, day, IMC or VMC, the human fear factor kicks in upping that safety anti in flying.

The more proficient a pilot stays, the better the chance the outcome of the flight will be.

Wouldn’t it be better to use a headlamp rather than a flashlight? A headlamp would keep your hand free. The one I have fits nicely on my head and has two settings- 1 or 3 lights. The lights are LEDs so battery drainage is low.

Just curious. Maybe you do use a headlamp and used flashlight as a generic term.