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N4577T accident description

Minnesota map... Minnesota list
Crash location 44.860000°N, 95.792777°W
Nearest city Clarkfield, MN
44.790514°N, 95.808639°W
4.9 miles away
Tail number N4577T
Accident date 05 Aug 2003
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 5, 2003, about 1645 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed on impact with terrain near Clarkfield, Minnesota. The personal flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. Visual to instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed in the area. A visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was on file. The pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed from Karl Stefan Memorial Airport, near Norfolk, Nebraska, about 1430 and was enroute to Montevideo-Chippewa County Airport (MVE), near Montevideo, Minnesota at the time of the accident.

A witness stated:

That afternoon around 4:35 P.M. the airplane was heading

north over my grass strip runway. The cloud cover was low

100' to 150'. Then the plane came around and flew right over

my farm site. At that point the plane was in [and] out of the

clouds, going in a northern direction. That's the last sound of

that airplane I heard that day.

A pilot stated:

Enroute from Bismark, ND to Granite Falls, MN, I was on

top at 11,000. After [receiving] a cruise clearance into

Granite Falls I was IMC until I descended to 1000 ft

above the ground. Conditions at Granite Falls were

variable 1000 to 1200 at landing. There were a few

jagged clouds passing through the area that may have

been lower by a hundred feet.

An agricultural spray pilot in the Benson, Minnesota, area delayed his takeoff because he thought the weather was too low. He stated:

The weather just south of Monti Airport, I estimate

just of few miles appeared to be IFR weather. It was

much better at Montivedio and north.

The pilot did not arrive at MVE at the time his filed flight plan indicated. The Princeton Automated Flight Service Station issued an ALNOT (Alert Notice) for the missing airplane. The United States Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) reviewed radar data and advised the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Department of an area to search for the airplane. The Sheriff's Department found the wreckage on August 6, 2003, about 0010 near the area the AFRCC advised.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating issued on July 20, 1984. The pilot held a third class medical certificate with limitations, "Holder shall wear corrective lenses", dated June 17, 2002. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aeromedical records, the pilot reported having 1,660 total flying hours at that physical examination. The pilot also reported having flown 13 hours in the six months prior to the examination. Examination of the pilot's logbooks revealed a total of 1,728.22 hours of flight time logged.


The accident airplane, N4577T, was a Piper PA-28-180, Cherokee, serial number 28-7205187, single-engine, low-wing airplane. Its engine was a 180 horsepower Lycoming O-360-A4A, serial number L-16444-36A. Its propeller was a fixed pitch, metal, two-bladed, Sensenich 76EM855-0-60 propeller, with serial number 22950K. A registration certificate dated September 10, 1998, was found in the wreckage. A review of the aircraft logbooks revealed a 100-hour and annual inspection was completed on May 28, 2003. The airframe logbook entry on that date indicated that the airplane had accumulated a total time of 4,303 hours. The engine logbook entry for that date revealed that the engine had accumulated 1,399 hours since major overhaul.


At 1616, the recorded MVE weather was: Wind 120 degrees at 6 knots; visibility 5 statute miles; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 1,000 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point 17 degrees C; altimeter 29.96 inches of mercury.

At 1636, the recorded MVE weather was: Wind 120 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 2 and one half statute miles; present weather mist; sky condition overcast 1,200 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point 17 degrees C; altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.

At 1656, the recorded MVE weather was: Wind 120 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 7 statute miles; sky condition scattered 1,000 feet, overcast 1,400 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point 17 degrees C; altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.


The aircraft was found in a bean field. Areas of beans along a linear path were found deformed. The location of the start of the path was latitude 44 degrees 51.645 minutes N and longitude 95 degrees 47.523 minutes W. The path had a downward slope and its heading was about 215 degrees magnetic. The end of the path was located at latitude 44 degrees 51.600 minutes N and 95 degrees 47.570 minutes W. The path was about 337 feet in length. The propeller was found embedded in terrain about 57 feet from the start of the path. The propeller exhibited "S" shaped bends, leading edge gouges, and chordwise abrasion. Left wing was found detached from the fuselage about 257 feet from the start of the path. The left main landing gear was found separated from its wing. The right wing, fuselage, and empennage were found about 275 feet from the start of the path. The engine and nose landing gear were found at the end of the path

An on-scene investigation was performed. Control continuity was traced from the controls to all flight control surfaces. Engine control continuity was traced from the engine controls to the engine. The fuel tanks were found ruptured. Blight was observed in the areas of vegetation under the tanks. Drops of liquid that smelled like fuel were found to exit the carburetor when it was tilted. The number 2 cylinder intake push rod was bent. The engine produced a thumb compression on all cylinders and valve train operation was observed when the crankshaft was rotated by hand. No anomalies were found.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Ramsey County Office of the Medical Examiner on August 7, 2003.

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report. The report stated:

18 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Muscle

NO ETHANOL detected in Liver


- The ethanol found in this case is from

postmortem ethanol formation and not from the

ingestion of ethanol.


The parties to the investigation included the FAA, Textron Lycoming, and The New Piper Aircraft, Inc.

The aircraft wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot not maintaining altitude/clearance from terrain and his continued VFR flight into IMC during cruise flight. A factor was the low ceilings.

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