Report released in Port Mansfield plane crash

Robert James Robinett

Investigators found no mechanical deficiencies in the engines of a plane that crashed and killed two in Port Mansfield earlier this month.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report about the fatal crash on its website Tuesday morning.

Pilot Harvey Kinikin and his brother-in-law Robert James Robinett were killed in the December 10th accident.

Investigators pulled the wreckage of the plane from the waters of the Laguna Madre and took it to Lancaster, Texas for examination.

The preliminary report shows that shows there were no mechanical deficiencies with plane TMs two engines.

An investigation continues but the preliminary report shows that there were some communication problems between Kinikin and a radio control tower in Harlingen.

The reports shows intermittent communications where the Kinikin could hear the control tower but the controller was not always able to clearly hear Kinikin.

The preliminary report shows that Kinikin descended and was approaching the Charles R. Johnson Airport in Port Mansfield from the north and northwest.

The airplane was tracked on radar west of the airport at an altitude of 900 feet and then popped up again southwest of the airport.

Kinikin then made a left-hand turn to the east and southeast.

Radar contact with Kinikin TMs plane ended at 10:21 p.m. when the plane was 700 feet above the shoreline of the Laguna Madre.

It's still not clear what happened but a witness told NTSB investigators that the sound of the approaching plane woke him up.

The witness told investigators that he heard the plane near the edge of the water but that the engines sounded fine.

The witness reported heavy haze with a visibility of 300 to 350 while a commercial fisherman ten miles away reported half-mile visibility.

Authorities found the plane upside down in 7 to 10 feet of water about 1.6 miles away from the airport.

Investigators said the plane TMs nose was pointed towards the shoreline.

Senior NTSB Leah Yeager told Action 4 News that authorities are continuing to investigate the crash and are not ready to make any determination about the probable cause of the crash.

Yeager said a factual report about the crash could be released as soon as May or June.

Unedited Copy of the NTSB's Report: NTSB Identification: CEN10FA07014 CFR Part 91: General AviationAccident occurred Thursday, December 10, 2009 in Port Mansfield, TXAircraft: PIPER PA-30, registration: N7781YInjuries: 2 Fatal

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On December 10, 2009, approximately 2221 Central Standard Time, N7881Y, a Piper PA-34 multi-engine airplane, was destroyed after it collided with the water in Laguna Madre about 1.6 miles east of the Charles R Johnson Airport (T05), Port Mansfield, Texas. The commercial pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. The flight originated from a private airport in Sun Ray, Texas, about 1815, and was destined for Port Mansfield. No flight plan was originally filed; however, the pilot filed an instrument flight rules flight plan while en route. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

A preliminary review of air traffic control communications revealed that the pilot was talking to Valley Approach control. When the pilot initially checked on, he was at an altitude of 6,500 feet and descending to 6,000 feet. A controller informed the pilot that there was no weather information available at Port Mansfield, but the airport in Harlingen (23 miles south) was reporting a ceiling of 1,000 feet overcast, visibility 9 miles, and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of Mercury. The controller asked the pilot what "approach" he wanted to attempt, and the pilot responded that there were no instrument approaches available at Port Mansfield. The controller concurred and reiterated that no weather information was available for Port Mansfield Airport. The pilot stated that he had obtained weather information prior to the 4-hour flight, and the forecasted ceilings were 2,500 feet. The pilot then requested to descend to 2,000 feet to "take a look." The controller approved the descent at "pilot's discretion."

At times, some of the communications were intermittent between the pilot and air traffic control. The pilot was able to hear the controller, but the controller was not able to clearly hear the pilot. The controller asked another airplane to relay contact information to the pilot so he could cancel IFR services once on the ground. The pilot was able to confirm that he received that information in a separate transmission. At that time, the controller advised him to descend and maintain 1,600 feet and report the airport in sight.

As the airplane approached Port Mansfield, the controller informed the pilot when the airport was 9, 8 and 6 miles at his 12 o'clock position. A partial radio transmission was received from the pilot, so the controller had him confirm that he did have the airport was in sight by asking him to "Squawk IDENT" on his transponder. The controller informed the pilot that the "IDENT was observed" and cleared him for the visual approach and to cancel IFR on the ground via telephone. There were no further communications from the pilot.

A preliminary review of radar data revealed the airplane was tracking on a south-southeasterly heading toward Port Mansfield. At 2220, the airplane flew west of the airport at an approximate altitude of 900 feet. Less than a minute later, when the airplane was southwest of the airport, it entered a left hand turn to the east-southeast before the data ended at 2221. At that time, the airplane was at an altitude of 700 feet and located over the shoreline.

A witness was sleeping in his home located near the airport when the sound of the airplane woke him up out of a sound sleep. He figured the airplane was in trouble so he got dressed and went outside. The witness could not see the airplane but heard it near the edge of the water and thought the pilot was looking for the runway. Shortly after, the sound of the airplane went away and he figured that it had landed and he went back to bed. The witness said that the engines sounded fine|not missing. He described the weather at the time as a heavy haze and estimated the visibility as 300-350 yards.

The airplane came to rest inverted in approximately 7-10 feet of water about 1.6 miles east of the airport. The nose of the airplane was pointed toward the shoreline. Both engines had separated from the airplane and were found within 300 feet of the main wreckage. Both tip tanks had also separated from the wings. The airplane was recovered and taken to a loading dock at the Port Mansfield marina.

The airplane was examined on December 13, 2009, under the supervision of the Safety Board. All major components of the airplane were recovered, except for the left aileron and portions of the left and right wing. Control cable continuity was established for all flight control surfaces to the cockpit. The landing gear was in the extended position and the flaps were fully retracted.

Both propellers remained attached to their respective engine, and compression and valve train continuity was established for each engine by manual rotation of the propellers. All four magnetos (two on each engine) remained attached to the engine, but the housings were full of salt water. Each magneto was removed and placed on a test bench; however none were able to produce spark. Each magneto was disassembled and the internal components were corroded on each unit. Both vacuum pumps remained attached to the engine and did not exhibit impact damage; however, they both produced suction when manually rotated. No mechanical deficiencies were noted with either engine.

All four propeller blades remained attached to their respective engine. All four blades exhibited aft bending and twisting, consistent with rotation at the time of impact.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a certified flight instructor rating for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) First class medical was issued on July 10, 2008. His total hours were not reported at the time the medical was issued.

Weather reported at Valley International Airport (HRL), Harlingen Airport, Harlingen, Texas, at 2152, was reported as winds from 360 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 9 miles, 1,000 foot overcast, temperature 14 degrees Celsius, dewpoint 12 degrees Celsius, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.11 inches of Mercury.

At 1052, the winds were reported from 010 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 miles, ceiling 1,200 feet overcast, temperature 14 degrees Celsius, dewpoint 12 degrees Celsius, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.11 inches of Mercury.

A commercial fisherman was approximately 10 miles south of the accident site. He reported the weather as a half-mile visibility and winds out of the north at 20 miles per hour with gusts.