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N3623J accident description

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Crash location 43.398889°N, 84.963889°W
Nearest city Cedar Lake, MI
43.406143°N, 84.975018°W
0.8 miles away
Tail number N3623J
Accident date 11 Oct 2008
Aircraft type Cessna 150G
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

**This case was modified on 11/19/2010 - See docket for supporting documentation**


On October 11, 2008, at 1332 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150G, N3623J, operated by a student pilot, impacted trees and terrain during initial climb from a private airstrip near Cedar Lake, Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The student pilot, who was acting as pilot-in-command, was seriously injured. His passenger was fatally injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and had the intended destination of Clare, Michigan.

On the morning of the accident, the student pilot and his passenger flew from James Clements Municipal Airport (3CM), near Bay City, Michigan, to a private airstrip owned by the Great Lakes Adventist Academy near Cedar Lake, Michigan. The student pilot was seated in the left seat during the flight and performed the landing. He and his passenger then attended a reunion hosted by the Great Lakes Adventist Academy for approximately 3 hours before departing for another event near Clare, Michigan.

According to the student pilot, the southeasterly grass runway was "very bumpy" and that it took more than half of the available runway length to achieve liftoff. After liftoff, the airplane was unable to clear the 60-70 foot high tree line located at the departure end of the runway. The airplane impacted several trees before descending nose first into a residential backyard. An engine compartment fire ensued after impact, and was subsequently extinguished by first responders.


Pilot-in-Command --

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot-in-command of N3623J, age 37, held a student pilot certificate with a solo endorsement for a Cessna 150 airplane. His most recent 90-day solo logbook endorsement was entered by a flight instructor on February 4, 2008. His last aviation medical examination was completed on August 31, 2007, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate with the limitation that he wear corrective lenses. A search of FAA records showed no accident, incident, enforcement, or disciplinary actions.

The student pilot's most recent logbook entry was dated March 6, 2008. He had accumulated 25.3 hours total flight time, of which 13.9 hours were documented as pilot-in-command. All of his logged flight experience was performed in single-engine land airplanes and 24.2 hours were completed in the accident airplane.

Passenger --

According to FAA records, the passenger, age 60, held an expired student pilot certificate. The expired pilot certificate was issued on February 11, 2002, when he was also issued a third-class medical certificate with the limitation that he wear corrective lenses. The passenger’s flight logbook was not recovered during the investigation, although he reported having 45 hours of flight experience when he applied for his medical certificate. A search of FAA records showed no accident, incident, enforcement, or disciplinary actions.


The accident airplane was a 1967 Cessna 150G, Commuter, serial number 15064923. The Commuter was a high wing, all-metal, single-engine, two-place monoplane. The airplane was equipped with externally braced wings, wing flaps, and a fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on August 22, 1966, and had accumulated a total service time of 4,369.6 hours at the time of the accident. The airplane’s last annual inspection was completed on October 8, 2008, and it had accumulated 1.5 hours since that inspection. The airplane was equipped with a 100-horsepower Teledyne Continental Motors model O-200-A reciprocating engine, serial number 64668-6-A. The engine had accumulated 88.6 hours since being overhauled on May 8, 2006. The metal propeller was a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, McCauley 1A100/MCM/6950, hub serial number F3739.

According to FAA records, the student pilot was the registered owner of the accident airplane. However, the pilot had reportedly sold the airplane to the passenger a few days prior to the accident.

A weight and balance record was not located with the airplane’s flight manual or its related maintenance paperwork. According to the student pilot, who was also the registered owner, the airplane’s empty weight was 1,080 pounds. Cessna delivery documents indicated that the airplane’s empty weight was 1,087 pounds when it was originally certificated. According to FAA information, the student pilot and his passenger weighed 219 pounds and 195 pounds, respectively. The student pilot reported that the airplane had approximately 17 gallons (100 pounds) of fuel available before the accident flight. Based on available information, the aircraft’s weight before the accident flight was at or near its certified maximum takeoff weight of 1,600 pounds.

A review of the airframe, engine and propeller records found no history of unresolved airworthiness issues.


The nearest weather reporting station was located at Gratiot Community Airport (KAMN) about 15 miles east-southeast of the accident site. The airport was equipped with an Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS). At 1336, the following weather conditions were reported by the KAMN AWOS: wind 160 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky clear; temperature 22 degrees Celsius; dew point 8 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.34 inches of mercury.


The private airstrip was owned by the Great Lakes Adventist Academy, near Cedar Lake, Michigan. The airstrip had two runways: 12/30 (2,331 feet by 100 feet, grass/turf) and 02/20 (1,957 feet by 100 feet, grass/turf). A 60-70 foot high tree line was located at the departure end of runway 12. The general airport elevation was 896 feet mean sea level (msl).


The aircraft came to rest inverted in a residential clearing east of the airport. A forested area, consisting of 60-70 foot high trees, separated the residential lot and the departure end of runway 12. Several damaged tree branches were found lying around the accident site. These tree limbs varied between 3-5 inches in diameter and exhibited cut marks consistent with damage caused by a rotating propeller blade. The aircraft wreckage was orientated on a 140 degree magnetic heading. There was no significant wreckage propagation from the initial impact location. All airframe structural components were located at the accident site and all flight control surfaces remained attached at their respective airframe positions. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage structure. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft. The outboard section of the right wing and the left stabilizer exhibited semicircular crush areas that were consistent with damage caused by tree impacts. Both wing flaps were fully retracted. Flight control cable continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to their corresponding cockpit controls. The empennage structure had separated from the tailcone, but remained attached to remainder of the fuselage by control cables. The elevator trim actuator position was consistent with a neutral trim tab setting. The fuel selector was in the “on” position. The firewall-mounted fuel strainer was broken, and no fuel was present. The fuel strainer filter screen was free of contamination. There were several cabin components and personal items found on the ground outside the cabin. One of these items included a red pitot-tube cover that was found on the ground near the leading edge of the left wing. The engine was pushed aft into the cabin area. The engine was removed for an operational test run. Both propeller blades exhibited aft bending and leading edge damage. One propeller blade exhibited extensive blade twist and chordwise scratches.


The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses, which were not required under the certification standards at the time of manufacture. Both lap belts were found clasped. The right lap belt was cut in two locations by first responders to remove the passenger. The left lap belt’s outboard anchor clip was found not attached to the aircraft structure anchor bolt.


A portable global positioning system (GPS) unit was recovered from the wreckage that contained position data for the accident flight. The plotted data indicated that the airplane began its takeoff roll at 1331:49 (hhmm:ss) from the approach end of runway 12. The altitude data for this data point was 896 feet msl. At 1332:23, the airplane had traveled about 1,788 feet laterally and had a recorded altitude of 901 feet msl. The plotted data showed that the airplane completed a 10 degree right turn immediately after liftoff and continued to climb as it approached the tree line located at the departure end of runway 12. Between the final two data points recorded at 1332:29 and 1332:31, the airplane’s average ground speed was approximately 53 knots. At 1332:31, the airplane’s recorded altitude was 964 feet msl. The final data point was located about 233 feet from the accident site. The accident site elevation was about 924 feet msl.

Based on the available airport and weather information, the airplane’s pilot operating handbook indicated that the takeoff ground roll, on a level grass runway without a headwind, was about 885 feet. The required distance to clear a 50 foot obstacle was about 1,663 feet. According to the pilot operating handbook, the zero-bank stall speed with retracted wing flaps was 55 mph (48 knots).

The engine, a Teledyne Continental Motors model O-200-A engine, serial number 64668-6-A, was sent to the manufacturer for an operational test run under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge. The engine was installed in a test cell and outfitted with a test club propeller. The test propeller was a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, McCauley 1A101/DCM/6262, hub serial number G1746. The test propeller was shimmed to compensate for a deformed crankshaft propeller flange. The engine started on the first attempt and idled without excessive fluctuations in engine rpm. The engine speed was increased incrementally to 2,568 rpm over a period of 30 minutes. The engine ran at each incremental power setting for a period of 5 minutes without anomaly. The engine throttle was cycled several times between idle and maximum power settings in quick succession. The engine did not experience any hesitation, stumbling, or interruption in engine operation during the engine test run. The engine demonstrated the ability to produce rated horsepower.


According to FAA regulation 14 CFR Part 61.89(a), a student pilot is prohibited from acting as pilot-in-command of an aircraft carrying passengers.

NTSB Probable Cause

The student pilot's failure to maintain adequate clearance after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's overall lack of flight experience.

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