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N5274A accident description

Michigan map... Michigan list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Curran, MI
44.714734°N, 83.807765°W
Tail number N5274A
Accident date 02 May 1999
Aircraft type Piper PA-28R-201
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 2, 1999, at 1045 eastern daylight time (edt) a Piper PA- 28R-201, N5274A, operated by a private pilot was destroyed when just after takeoff, the airplane departed controlled flight and impacted into a wooded area. A post-impact fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. No flight plan was on file. The first pilot, pilot-rated passenger, and passenger in the rear seat, were fatally injured. The cross- country flight originated at a private airstrip located, 2 miles north of Curran, Michigan, and was en route to Detroit, Michigan.

The pilot's father stated that the pilot had flown the airplane to the airstrip for the first time on April 30, 1999. The following day, the pilot took off from the airstrip, with his father-in-law, on a local flight. On his return, the pilot told his father that he was "leery of the trees" which bordered the east end of the airstrip. The pilot told his father that he didn't know by how much he had cleared the trees during the takeoff performed on May 1, 1999. The pilot wanted to know, so he asked his father if he would position himself along the runway and watch his next takeoff, which was the one on which the accident occurred.

The pilot's father, positioned near the departure end and south edge of the runway, watched the pilot taxi to the west end of the runway. He said that he watched the airplane sit there for 4 to 5 minutes while his son went through his checks. Then he watched the airplane make its takeoff run. The father said that the airplane was about 1,000 feet down the runway when it got into the air. "The plane gained approximately 35 feet and flew at that level straight down the center of the runway. The plane veered first to the right and then turned to the left, heading over some of the trees and then crashed and exploded."


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Records, the pilot was issued an instrument rating on March 29, 1998. At the time of this issuance, the pilot reported having accumulated 308 total flight hours, 225.6 hours as pilot-in- command, and 173.6 hours in the PA-28R-201.

The pilot's father said that he had flown a lot since receiving his instrument rating. He estimated that the pilot had accumulated approximately 500 total flight hours at the time of the accident. The pilot's father said that the pilot kept his personal logbook in a flight bag which he carried with him in the airplane. No remains of the pilot's personal logbook were located or recovered from the accident site.

The pilot-rated passenger held a private pilot certificate with single-engine land rating.

According to FAA Airman Records, the pilot-rated passenger was issued his private pilot certificate on March 14, 1998. At the time of this issuance, the pilot-rated passenger reported having accumulated 103 total flight hours, all in the PA-28R-201.

The remains of pilot-rated passenger's personal logbook were not located or recovered from the accident site.


The airplane was owned by the pilot's father. It was used by the pilot and his brother for pleasure.

The airplane was manufactured in 1989. The airplane was originally registered as N9182R. The airplane was exported to the Republic of France, and placed in service on August 30, 1990.

The airplane was operated 4 years under the French registration letters F-GIDZ. The airplane was returned to the United States in 1994. The airplane was issued a new registration certificate on April 29, 1995, listing the pilot's father as the owner, and establishing the airplane as N5274A.

The airplane underwent an annual inspection on April 28, 1999. The tachometer time at the annual inspection was recorded as 2,003.8 hours.


The Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) for Alpena, Michigan, 22 miles north-northeast of the Mohammed Ranch, at 1054 est, was clear skies with 10 miles visibility, temperature 68 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), and winds of 130 degrees magnetic at 9 knots.


The airstrip from which the airplane departed was located on a 1,200 acre former hunting camp, which the pilot's father purchased in February, 1999. The pilot's father said that he purchased the property specifically for the airstrip. The airstrip was oriented on a 090-270 magnetic heading. On the 090 degree orientation, the airstrip was 2,500 feet in usable length, with 500 additional feet beyond what was marked as the departure end of the airstrip. At the end of the 3,000 total feet was a heavily-wooded area consisting of 50 to 60 foot high pine trees. The airstrip was 100 feet wide, with a hard turf surface. The grass was approximately 1 inch high.


The NTSB on scene investigation began on May 3, 1999, at 0830 edt.

The accident site was located in a heavily-wooded area approximately 40 feet south of an east-west running dirt access road on the 1,200 acre property. The accident site was also located abeam the marked departure end of the airstrip, approximately 175 feet north of the airstrip's north edge.

Preceding the airplane's main wreckage, was a stand of several pine trees, approximately 60 feet tall and 12 inches in diameter.

The stand of trees was located 180 feet from the airplane on a 220 degree magnetic heading. Several branches at the tops of these trees were broken in the direction of the airplane's 040 degree magnetic, path through the trees.

Approximately 51 feet from the initial stand of trees on a 040 degree magnetic heading, was a second stand of four pine trees which were severed 25 feet up from their bases. The tops of these trees were fallen along a 040 degree magnetic heading and pointed toward the airplane's final resting spot.

A single 12 inch diameter pine tree, located 87 feet from the initial stand of trees on a 040 degree magnetic heading, was severed 18 feet up from it's base. The top portion of the tree pointed toward the airplane and showed fire damage.

Several other smaller pine trees, along the 040 degree magnetic heading and 120 feet from the initial stand of trees, were severed approximately 20 feet up from their bases. The tops of these trees were at their bases and fell along the 040 degree heading. These trees showed fire damage.

The remains of the airplane rested mostly upright at the base of a 60 foot tall, 16 inch diameter pine tree, at it's west- northwest side. The airplane was oriented on a 020 degree magnetic heading. A 42 inch, horizontally-running gash was found in the tree, 4 feet up from the tree's base, on it's west- northwest side. The gash was 13 inches wide and 4 inches deep. The tree was charred.

The main wreckage consisted of the propeller, engine, remains of the cabin, both wings, fuselage, and empennage.

The airplane's engine and propeller rested mostly inverted on the north side of the pine tree. The engine was charred and melted. The engine's sump and right aft accessories were melted and consumed. The propeller remained attached to the flange and crankshaft. The propeller showed torsional bending, chordwise scratching, and tip curling. The propeller spinner was melted and consumed. The airplane's upper cowling was broken open and melted. The lower cowling was melted and consumed. The engine firewall was bent aft and charred. The airplane's nose wheel was charred. The tire and gear doors were consumed. The airplane's cabin rested upright, beginning at the northwest base of the pine tree. It was oriented west-southwest along a 200 magnetic heading. The cabin, to include the lower instrument panel, pilot and passenger seats, cabin interior walls, exterior skin, windscreen, windows, and cabin door, aft to the rear cabin bulkhead area, was melted and consumed. Portions of the upper instrument panel, the control yokes, rudder pedals, control cables, seat rails and seat frames were charred and melted.

The inboard 8 feet of the airplane's left wing, including the left flap, was melted and consumed. The remaining outboard wing section was charred and melted. The left aileron was consumed. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed.

The airplane's right wing, from the wing root to the wing tip, including the right flap, right aileron, and right main landing gear, was melted and consumed. The airplane's right wing tip was separated longitudinally along the rivet line, and showed charring and melting. Flight control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed.

The fuselage aft of the cabin bulkhead to include the baggage compartment was melted and consumed.

The empennage area was melted and consumed. Flight control continuity to the rudder was confirmed. The stabilator control cable, part number 62701-102, was fractured in the approximate area of fuselage station 78.0 and 81.0, just forward of the stabilator trim control wheel. At the fracture, both ends of the stabilator cable showed fraying and unraveling. The cable sections were cut 12 inches outboard of the fracture and retained for further testing.


Autopsies of the pilot and pilot-rated passenger were conducted by the State of Michigan Office of Forensic Medicine, Lansing, Michigan, on May 3, 1999.

The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot revealed the following volatile concentrations:

24 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in blood. 9 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ACETALDEHYDE detected in blood. 22 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in muscle fluid.

According to the Manager of the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the volatile concentrations revealed in the pilot were most likely a result of post-mortem putrefaction.

The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot-rated passenger revealed the following volatile concentrations:

0.005 (ug/ml, ug/mL) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID detected in blood. 0.01 (ug/ml, ug/mL) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID detected in urine. 0.006 (ug/ml, ug/g) DIHYROCODEINE detected in blood. 0.124 (ug/ml, ug/g) DIHYROCODEINE detected in urine. 0.024 (ug/ml, ug/g) HYDROCODONE detected in blood. 0.763 (ug/ml, ug/g) HYDROCODONE detected in urine. 0.554 (ug/ml, ug/g) HYDROMORPHONE detected in urine. 7 (ug/ml, ug/g) ACETAMINOPHEN detected in blood. 114 (ug/ml, ug/g) ACETAMINOPHEN detected in urine.

According to the Manager of the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid is an inactive metabolite of Marijuana. He said that low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid detected in the pilot-rated passenger's blood and urine samples, and absence of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active substance in marijuana, in the blood, indicate use outside of two hours.

The 52nd Edition of the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), published in 1998, states that "Hydrocodone is a potent antitussive which causes cough suppression by a direct action on the cough center. Hydrocodone is approximately three times as potent as codeine and has higher addiction potential. Adverse reactions of Hydrocodone include drowsiness, lassitude, nausea, giddiness, constipation, respiratory depression, and addiction."

Dihydrocodeine is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic related to codeine, which is used for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. The PDR warns that Dihydrocodeine may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, such as driving a car or operating machinery.

Hydromorphone is a hydrogenated ketone of morphine and a narcotic analgesic. Its principal therapeutic effect is to relieve pain. The PDR cautions that Hydromorphone may impair mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Acetaminophen is used to treat tension headaches. It can be purchased over-the-counter under several different commercial brand-names, such as "Tylenol."


The Alcona County Sheriff Department received the call informing them of the accident at 1057 est. Emergency medical response units and fire personnel from nearby Curran, Michigan, were dispatched to the scene immediately. Sheriff's deputies arriving on the scene within 20 minutes of the call, reported the Curran Fire Department gaining control of a sizable brush fire in the vicinity of the airplane accident.

An oval-shaped area of woods, located just north of the airstrip showed heavy fire damage. The area was 236 feet wide, running north-south, and 390 feet long, running east-west. The area consisted of varying-sized pine trees and brush. The fire area was bordered on the west, south, and east sides by a 3 foot wide fire break cut by the Curran Fire Department. Trees within the confines of the area were heavily charred. Brush, branches, fallen trees and pine needles close to, or on the ground were consumed by the fire. The airplane's remains were located within the fire area near its north side, approximately 120 feet east of the west fire break boundary.


The two 12-inch sections of stabilator control cable, part number 62701-102, were examined at the National Transportation Safety Board's Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC, on June 16, 1999. The examination of the "individual wire fractures found yielding and necking of individual wires and fracture surfaces consistent with tensile overstressing of both cable sections. In addition, some cable strands were partially unwound indicative of high energy separation. No indications of preexisting corrosion, fraying or wear were apparent."


The PA-28R-201 Pilot's Operating Handbook, Takeoff Performance Tables show that for a 2,750 pound airplane, a temperature of 21 degrees Centigrade, pressure altitude of 1180 feet mean sea level, zero wind, and using 25 degrees of flaps, the takeoff distance to clear a 50 foot barrier is 2,000 feet.

For the same conditions, but using a zero flap setting, the takeoff distance needed to clear a 50 foot barrier is 2,750 feet.

Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the New Piper Aircraft, Incorporated, Arlington, Texas.

All airplane wreckage was released and returned to the pilot's family on May 3, 1999.

NTSB Probable Cause

the inadvertent stall/mush. Factor which contributed to this accident were the pilot's inadequate preflight planning, the premature lift-off during the takeoff, the airplane's low airspeed following lift-off, and the trees.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.