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N24743 accident description

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Tail numberN24743
Accident dateMay 25, 1998
Aircraft typePiper J-3C
LocationMorris, IL
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On May 25, 1998, at 2005 central daylight time (All times CDT), a Piper J-3C, N24743, operated by the Littlefield Aeroplane Corporation, was destroyed when it impacted the ground in a wheat field about five miles south of Morris, Illinois. Witnesses reported that the airplane was maneuvering at low altitude when it went into a right bank before impacting the ground. The commercially rated pilot was fatally injured and the airline transport rated second pilot received serious injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight had departed Morris Airport, Morris, Illinois, on a local flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

A witness reported that he had talked with the pilots at the Morris Airport at about 1900. He reported the pilots had ordered fuel for the airplane. A fuel receipt indicated that 6.5 gallons of fuel was put in the airplane. The witness reported he observed the airplane depart at approximately 1935 to the southwest at 500 to 600 feet above ground level (agl).

A witness who was working in his fields driving a tractor reported observing the airplane near Dupont Road approximately five minutes prior to the accident. He reported the airplane was flying low, about tree top level, and flying from east to west. He reported the airplane climbed to 400 to 500 feet agl, and then turned south and crossed the power lines. He reported that he saw the airplane one to two minutes later, flying to the east. He reported the airplane's altitude was about the height of the power line towers.

Another witness reported he observed the airplane banking to the east in front of the house where he was located. He reported the airplane flew "...like a cropduster," because it flew close to the ground. He reported the airplane flew away from him to the east where it "flew around a bit." He reported seeing the airplane "... go up sideways, then curve over back towards the ground...." He reported "... it looked like it was going to swoop under the power lines like a cropduster would do. It got so close to the ground that I couldn't see it. Then I heard the plane's engines cut out. I thought it may have landed on the road, but I wasn't sure."

Witnesses who were related to the pilot reported seeing the airplane fly over the farmstead located on Baker Road where they were having a family gathering. The witnesses reported that the airplane circled the farmstead about two times at 200 to 300 feet agl. They reported the airplane then started heading back to the west.

One of the witnesses reported that the engine sputtered or "missed" when it was over the house, and sputtered again when it was west of Baker Road. He reported the engine shut down and then the airplane went into a right bank. He reported it was almost coming out of it when the "... starboard wing caught the wheat." He reported it looked like the airplane bounced at impact and did not cartwheel. He reported that he "... thought they were going to pull out of it." He reported that the engine was missing and it wasn't an "... ignition type shut off."

One of the witnesses reported that the airplane appeared to make a right hand banked turn "...like they were going to come back around." He reported that the airplane went into a nosedive and went straight into the ground. He reported he heard the engine shut off and then the airplane was going down. He reported the engine noise was "... like they shut the engine off. Like they shut the key off."

One of the witnesses reported to the Grundy County Sheriff's department that he saw the airplane flying westbound when the airplane attempted to "go up and then the plane just crashed into the ground."

The airplane impacted the ground in a wheat field about 400 yards west of Baker Road, and about 150 yards north of the power lines that run east and west.

Personnel Information

The pilot was a commercial rated pilot with single and multi-engine land ratings. She was a certified flight instructor in single and multi-engine land airplanes, and was also an instrument instructor in airplanes. She held a First Class medical certificate that was issued November 11, 1997. The pilot's logbook was not obtained, but she had reported to the FAA that she had 850 hours of total flight time when the medical certificate was issued.

The operator of the flying club where the pilot gave flight instruction reported that the pilot was checked out in all of the club's airplanes, and was very qualified in the accident airplane, a J-3 Cub. He reported the pilot was an active pilot and flew often. He reported that the pilot checked out other pilots in the Cub.

The second pilot was an airline transport rated pilot in multi-engine land airplanes and commercially rated in single engine land airplanes. He was a certified flight instructor in single and multi-engine land airplanes, and was also an instrument instructor in airplanes. He held a First Class medical certificate issued on July 1, 1997. The second pilot's logbook was not obtained, but he had reported to the FAA that he had 7,600 hours of total flight time when the medical certificate was issued.

The second pilot reported that he had about 150 to 200 hours of flight time in a J-3 Cub, and had flown at least 5 hours in the airplane in the last 4 to 5 months. He reported that the pilot had been flying "every day." He reported that he could not remember which pilot was flying the airplane at the time of the accident.

Aircraft Information

The airplane was a single engine Piper J-3C, Piper Cub, serial number 3415. The engine was a 100 horsepower Continental O-200-A engine. The last annual inspection was conducted on January 31, 1998. The airplane had flown about 38 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of about 5886 hours.

Meteorological Conditions

At 1945, the weather conditions reported at Aurora Municipal Airport, Aurora, Illinois, about 20 miles north of Morris, Illinois, were VFR. Visibility was 20 miles with scattered clouds at 5,500 feet and a broken layer at 20,000 feet. The temperature was 65 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and the winds were 030 degrees at 6 knots.

Wreckage and Impact Information

The airplane impacted in a wheat field that stood about 30 inches high. The impact of the airplane made a swath through the wheat field as it traveled on a 030 degree heading for about 50 feet. The right wing and the nose of the airplane pushed the wheat stalks over on a 030 heading when the airplane hit the standing wheat.

A six foot wide swath was made in the wheat by the right wing impact. The wheat just to the northeast of the six foot wide swath remained intact, and did not get affected by the right wing after the initial impact. Small pieces of yellow fabric and paint were found among the downed wheat stalks.

The nose of the airplane impacted the field and made an impact scar. Two impact holes were evident 40 inches to the southeast of the impact scar.

A swath approximately 30 to 36 inches wide on a 030 heading was made through the wheat from the impact scar to the main airplane wreckage about 50 feet way. A piece of 3x4 inch plywood from the floorboard of the airplane was found in the swath.

The airplane came to rest with the nose of the airplane heading 060 degrees. Both wings had collapsed. The right wing had been pushed rearward about 45 degrees from the fuselage. The outboard section of the right wing's leading edge had crush damage, and the front and rear spars were bent and buckled aft. The fabric on top of the right wing was wrinkled. The right aft wing root exhibited compression and buckling damage.

The left wingtip exhibited strike damage and had buckled ribs. The upper and lower wing surfaces of the left wing did not exhibit wrinkling or buckling damage, except for the wingtip damage. The wing struts exhibited downward buckling and had collapsed.

The lower engine cowling had impact damage. The nose of the airplane was bent at the firewall. The cabin exhibited crush damage in a forward direction.

The tail had buckled forward and to the right just aft of the wings. The empennage remained intact with only minor damage to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers.

The flight controls exhibited continuity.

The propeller had separated from the propeller shaft. It was located in front of the nose of the airplane. One of the blades was found under the engine, and was bent backwards. The other blade was visible in front of the airplane, and it did not exhibit any bending or impact damage. No leading edge gouges or chordwise scratching was visible on the blades, although there was chordwise smearing of dirt on the blades.

The engine was removed from the airframe. It exhibited continuity in the drive train. Thumb compression was determined in all four cylinders. Both magnetos were sparked on all four towers. Fuel was found in the fuel lines and the carburetor bowl had about a 1/4 bowl of fuel. The spark plugs were normal in color.

The fire department had foamed the impact area for fuel leakage.

Medical and Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Grundy County Coroner's office, Morris, Illinois.

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The results were negative.

Additional Information

The witness who observed the airplane flying like a cropduster was questioned concerning the maneuver the airplane made before impacting the ground. The witness reported the maneuver was similar to a wingover. He reported that it was the only time he saw the airplane do that maneuver. He reported the other turns were made using banked turns.

The Federal Aviation Administration was a party to the investigation.

The aircraft wreckage was released to the Littlefield Aeroplane Corporation.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.