The pilot of a Piper PA-31-325 Navajo that crashed on August 16, 2016, near Northport, Alabama, killing all six on board, had given air traffic control his diagnosis of the problem the airplane was experiencing. Apparently, the pilot didn’t believe it was dramatic enough to declare an emergency, and he expressed confidence he’d have no trouble diverting to the airport at Tuscaloosa about 20 miles ahead. When given the option of taking a vector for an airport at three o’clock and just eight miles, the pilot said, “Nah, Tuscaloosa’s perfect.” What NTSB investigators learned from airplane maintenance records and a flight instructor who had flown frequently with the pilot raises the possibility that instead of trying to gather current facts and make a current diagnosis, the pilot believed he was experiencing a repeat of an old fuel pump issue that once again could be handled without jeopardizing safety.
The PA-31-325 was manufactured in 1984. The pilot purchased it using a limited liability company on March 14, 2016. He based the airplane at University-Oxford Airport, Oxford, Mississippi. The Navajo had six seats and was powered by two Lycoming TIO-540 engines, each producing 350 horsepower. The airplane had accumulated 3,447.8 flight hours at the time of the accident. The most recent annual inspection had taken place about eight months before the accident. The airplane had been flown 187 hours in those eight months.