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N8563L accident description

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Crash location 43.161944°N, 85.658333°W
Nearest city Sparta, MI
43.160858°N, 85.710039°W
2.6 miles away
Tail number N8563L
Accident date 13 Aug 2003
Aircraft type Piper PA-25-235
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 13, 2003, about 1130 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-25-235, N8563L, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when it impacted the ground while maneuvering near Sparta, Michigan. The airplane was engaged in aerial application at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR part 137 flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The time and location of origin of the flight are undetermined.

A witness reported that he observed the airplane heading north at approximately 100 feet above the ground and thought that the airplane was leaving the area after spraying some crops nearby. The witness stated that he began walking back to work, when he heard the aircraft engine suddenly stop, followed by the sound of the impact with the ground. The witness also stated that the engine sounded normal to him and that it did not sputter or backfire before suddenly stopping.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a single-engine airplane rating. The pilot was issued a second class medical certificate on May 23, 2003, with no limitations. According to the pilot's personal log book, he had accumulated a total flight time of 351.2 hours, all of which were in single-engine land airplanes. The pilot purchased the accident aircraft less than a month before the accident. He had accumulated 61.4 hours in the accident aircraft as indicated by his last recorded flight on August 9, 2003.

The pilot received agricultural flight training classes from February to April 2003, and was endorsed under the knowledge and skill requirements specified in FAR 137.19(e) to serve as pilot-in-command in agricultural aircraft operations. The pilot did not possess an agricultural aircraft operator certificate required under 14 CFR Part 137.11 for the operations conducted during the accident flight.


The accident aircraft was a Piper PA-25-235, N8563L, serial number 25-4986. The Piper PA-25-235 is a production built, single-engine, low wing monoplane of all metal construction that seats one individual. The accident airplane was equipped with an agricultural spraying system. The airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-540 series engine that produced 235 horsepower. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was issued a restricted airworthiness certificate on April, 8, 1969. The airplane had an annual inspection on October 8, 2002, and had accumulated approximately 75 hours since the inspection. The airframe had accumulated approximately 3,325 hours since new.


At 1055, the recorded weather at Muskegon County Airport, Muskegon, Michigan, located approximately 25 nautical miles southwest of the accident was:

Winds: 050 at 7 knots

Visibility: 10 statute miles

Ceiling: Clear

Temperature: 25 degrees Celsius

Dew Point: 20 Degrees Celsius

Altimeter: 30.37 inches of mercury


An FAA Inspector arrived at the accident scene at 1330. The inspector stated that the airplane's fuselage showed signs of rotational forces consistent with an aircraft spin. The fuel tank and spray hopper were destroyed and major parts of both were found laying on the ground approximately 25 feet in front of the airplane. The inspector reported that there was no evidence or smell of fuel, either at the airplane or in front of the airplane where the fuel tank came to rest. The inspector stated that the carburetor was broken and there was no evidence of fuel at the airplane engine or under the carburetor. The inspector reported that all flight control cables were attached and moved all control surfaces.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Kent County Office of the Medical Examiner, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute prepared a Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report on the pilot. The report indicated negative results for all tests conducted.


The Federal Aviation Administration was a party to this investigation.

NTSB Probable Cause

The loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and the inadvertent stall/spin encountered. The inadequate fuel supply, airspeed not being maintained, low altitude, and terrain were factors to the accident.

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