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N55893 accident description

Minnesota map... Minnesota list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Erhard, MN
46.485515°N, 96.098669°W
Tail number N55893
Accident date 09 Mar 2001
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On March 9, 2001, at 2003 central standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N55893, operated by a private pilot was destroyed when it impacted into a cornfield 1-1/2 miles northwest of Erhard, Minnesota. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The ferry flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at Detroit Lakes (DTL), Minnesota, at 1940, and was en route to Fergus Falls (FFM), Minnesota.

The owner of the airplane said that he and the pilot had flown to DTL in the airplane so that the owner could pick up another airplane and ferry it back to FFM. The owner said the flight to DTL was uneventful. At DTL, they checked the weather for the return flight. The automatic weather observing/reporting system (AWOS) at FFM was reporting a ceiling of 800 feet overcast and 7 miles visibility. The owner took off in a Piper Seneca before the pilot took off. The owner said that he heard the pilot departing DTL on his airplane radio. En route to FFM, the pilot contacted the owner and inquired if the owner got off okay. The owner responded that everything was working. The pilot then said, "You must be close to Fergus [Falls]". The owner said that he was 11 miles from FFM at that time. The owner said he landed right at 2000. While taxiing to the ramp, the owner said he tried to call the pilot on the airplane's radio. There was no response. The owner parked his airplane and went into the fixed base operator (FBO) to contact the pilot on the FBO radio. Again, there was no response.

A witness on a farm located near the accident site said that he first heard the airplane. "We couldn't see it. It was in the clouds or fog." The witness said the ground visibility was good. "The airplane appeared out of the fog approximately up 150 ft. spiraling sharp to the right, and going down fast. It only took a few seconds for it to hit the ground."


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. According to records provided by the airplane's owner, the pilot obtained his private pilot certificate on August 24, 1995. The pilot completed a biennial flight review on August 13, 2000. The records indicated that in April 1999, the pilot had logged 230 flying hours.

The pilot held a third class medical certificate dated August 10, 2000. Under limitations, the pilot's medical certificate stated the pilot must wear corrective lenses.


The airplane was owned and operated by West Central Airways, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and was used for flight instruction and rental purposes. The airplane underwent an annual inspection on July 17, 2000. The total airframe and tachometer times recorded at the annual inspection were 5,017 hours respectively. The tachometer time recorded at the accident site was 5,175 hours.


At 2017, the AWOS at FFM, 15 miles south of the accident site, reported sky conditions 600 overcast, 7 miles visibility, temperature 21 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 14 degrees F, winds 150 degrees at 12 knots, and altimeter 29.91 inches of mercury.


The Safety Board on site investigation began on March 10, 2001, at 1515.

The accident site was located in a snow covered corn stubble field, 60 feet south of Otter Tail County-Township Road 370, an east-west running gravel road. The accident site, which contained the airplane main wreckage, covered an area approximately 50-feet long, running north to south, and 30-feet wide, running east to west. Preceding the main wreckage, and approximately 25 feet south of the road, was a set of east west running power lines. The power lines were suspended by 30-foot poles and paralleled the road. The power lines showed no damage.

The main wreckage consisted of the entire airplane. The airplane rested on the engine, propeller, and cowling, and was oriented on a 230 degree magnetic heading.

Beneath the main wreckage was an impact hole that contained the airplane's engine, propeller and part of the lower cowling. The hole was 4 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 3 feet at its deepest point. The airplane's engine was oriented at an 85 degree nose down angle. A spray of dirt and debris fanned outward from the impact hole in a 30 degree cone that extended south of the main wreckage. The debris consisted of several pieces of clear Plexiglas, and pieces of cabin interior panels.

The airplane's engine mounts were broken aft and downward. The firewall was bent forward around the rear engine accessories and crankcase. The majority of the accessories were broken out. The top and bottom cowlings were broken aft. The top cowling rested 10 feet south of the main wreckage. The nose gear was broken aft. The wheel pant was broken off. The airplane's windscreen, glareshield, and instrument panel were broken out and fragmented. The front cabin floor was broken upward. The cabin ceiling and left aft cabin wall were crushed aft. Interior panels were broken out and fragmented. The cabin door was bent outward and crushed aft. The door window was broken out and fragmented. The cabin floor, aft of the front seats was broken downward. The right side cabin was crushed upward and aft. The right cabin windows and cabin interior panels were broken out and fragmented. The baggage area was crushed aft. The baggage door was broken out and crushed aft.

The fuselage aft of the baggage compartment was bent downward, crushed aft and broken open at the bottom. The empennage was bent upward, just forward of the horizontal stabilator's leading edge. The vertical stabilizer showed bends and skin wrinkles. The rotating beacon at the top of the vertical stabilizer was bent forward 20 degrees from the vertical axis. The rudder was bent inward on the right side near the bottom. The horizontal stabilator and elevator trim tab showed bends and wrinkles. Flight control continuity from the cockpit to the rudder, horizontal stabilator, and stabilator trim tab was confirmed.

The right wing was crushed aft along the leading edge. The top and bottom wing skin was buckled outward and aft. The right wing fuel tank was broken open forward. The top wing skin covering the fuel tank was broken out and forward along the top lateral rivet line. The smell of fuel was prevalent in the area in front of and beneath the tank. The front 18 inches of the right wing tip was bent upward and broken aft. The right flap was flush with the aft top wing surface. The flap showed several aft dents along the track edge. The left aileron showed upward and downward bends in several places along its span. Control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed. The right wing tip position light bulb filament remained intact and was stretched forward to form a "u" shape. The right main landing gear was bent aft. The front 10 inches of the right main gear wheel pant was broken aft.

The left wing was crushed aft along the leading edge. The top and bottom wing skin was buckled outward and bent aft. The outboard 8 feet of the left wing was bent downward approximately 10 degrees. The left wing fuel tank was broken open forward. The wing skin over the fuel tank wars broken out along the top and bottom lateral rivet lines. The smell of fuel was prevalent in the area beneath the tank. The forward 11 inches of the left wing tip was crushed aft and broken downward. The tip was split longitudinally along the outside edge. The left wing tip position light lens cover and bulb globe were broken out. The bulb filament remained intact and was stretched forward to form a "u" shape. The left flap was bent upward at mid-span. The left aileron was bent downward at mid-span and crushed aft along the hinge line. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed. The left main landing gear was bent aft 45 degrees. The front 12 inches of the left wheel pant was broken aft.

The airplane's engine and propeller were examined following extraction from the impact hole. The spinner was crushed aft and broken. The rear spinner plate was bent aft around the propeller hub. The propeller remained attached at the flange. Both propeller blades showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and blade tip curling. An examination of the engine, engine controls, and remaining airplane systems showed no anomalies.


An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Otter Tail County Coroner, at the Lake Region Hospital, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, on March 10, 2001.

The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens received from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.


Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Officer, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the New Piper Aircraft Company, and Textron Lycoming.

All of the airplane wreckage was released and returned to the owner, West Central Airways.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control. Factors relating to the accident were the pilot's encounter with known adverse weather conditions, the low ceiling, the pilot disregarding the weather observation information obtained prior to the flight, and the pilot's lack of instrument experience.

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