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N9103F accident description

Minnesota map... Minnesota list
Crash location 46.000000°N, 96.000000°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Moorhead, MN
46.836630°N, 96.725358°W
67.3 miles away
Tail number N9103F
Accident date 02 Jul 2017
Aircraft type North American T-28A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On July 02, 2015, about 1800 central daylight time, a North American T-28A airplane, N9103F, registered to and operated by the Trojan Corporation, Grand Forks, North Dakota, clipped a light pole and impacted terrain while on landing approach to Moorhead Municipal Airport (JKJ), Moorhead, Minnesota. The private pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight was being operated as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight, and no flight plan had been filed. Day visual meteorological conditions existed at the accident site at the time of the accident. The flight originated from Hector International Airport (FAR), Fargo, North Dakota, at 1750, and was originally en route to Lyons Field (47Y), Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector's statement, the airplane took off from runway 31 at FAR and climbed to 1,800 feet mean sea level (msl), about 900 feet above ground level (agl), at 160 knots. Shortly after reaching 1,800 feet, the pilot radioed FAR departure control and told them he was landing at JKJ. The controller asked the pilot if he needed any assistance and the pilot replied, "I don't think so." The pilot was given clearance to land at JKJ and when asked again if he needed any assistance, he replied "No." The controller told the pilot that a frequency change was approved and squawk VFR (transponder code 1200) . There was no reply from the pilot. The controller advised the pilot that radar services were terminated. Again, there was no acknowledgement from the pilot. No further communications were made with the pilot. Radar showed the airplane in a controlled decent on a southerly heading towards JKJ. The decent distance from 1,800 feet msl to the point of impact was approximately 7.5 statute miles (an average descent rate of 120 feet per mile). Field elevation at JKJ was 918 feet.

One witness, located 2 miles north of the accident site, saw the airplane fly over in a southerly direction at an estimated altitude of 150 to 200 feet agl with the landing gear extended. It was "obviously in distress." He said there was a "terrible racket" and sounded like "a gearbox or engine that was failing or out of oil." This witness submitted a written statement to FAA, which is included in this report's docket.,

FAA telephonically interviewed two other witnesses who were in public park 2 miles north of the accident site. The first witness said they airplane flew over at an altitude of about 100 feet agl and that he could clearly see the pilot. He said the engine was missing and popping. The landing gear was down, but he did not notice the flap position. He watched the airplane all the way to impact. The second witness said the airplane was flying "very low" and "sounded like it was in trouble." He also watched the airplane impact the ground.

Clay County Sheriff's deputies interviewed 8 other witnesses, who corroborated what the other witnesses had reported. One noted that the airplane appeared to be flying slow and its wings were "rocking" before it clipped the light pole with its right wing. The light was destroyed but the pole was undamaged.

These witnesses and other passerby went the accident site to assist the pilot, who was conscious, coherent, and talking. A shirt was placed against a large laceration on the pilot's forehead. Shortly thereafter, the pilot succumbed to his injuries. He had to be extricated by emergency personnel.

The accident location was in a corn field, 600 feet south of the Moorhead DOT (Department of Transportation) weigh station, about 2 miles east of Moorhead, Minnesota, along I-94, and ½-mile from the approach end of JKJ's runway 12. According to the FAA inspector, there were two open fields and 4 roads between the public park and accident site. The pilot made no attempt to make an emergency landing in either field.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. According to FAA documents, when he applied for medical certification in March 2017, he estimated his total flight time to be 791 hours. His flight time in the T-28A could not be determined.


N9103F, serial number 51-7606, was manufactured by the North American Aircraft Corporation in 1951, and certificated in the experimental category. It was powered by a Wright R-1820 engine, rated at 1,475 horsepower.


According to the weather observation recorded at KKJK at 1814, the wind was from 030° at 6 knots, visibility was 10 miles, and the sky was clear. The temperature was 23°C., the dew point was 1°C., and the altimeter setting was 30.07 inches of mercury.

The weather observation recorded at KFAR at about the same time was wind 020° at 8 knots, visibility 10 miles, and there were a few clouds at 4,800 feet. The temperature was 24°C., the dew point was 12°C., and the altimeter setting was 30.07 inches of mercury.


According to the FAA inspector's report, the right main landing gear struck the ground first, followed by the nose of the airplane. The impact caused the propeller and gear case to separate from the engine, and were located 20 feet from the impact crater. The fuselage rotated clockwise 180° and came to rest facing north. The engine separated from the fuselage and was found 60 feet to the south. The right wing separated from the fuselage and was lying inverted slightly behind the aircraft. The right-wing flap was torn off and the outboard end was pointed away from fuselage. The landing gear was extended and the strut was broken off at the axle attachment. The FAA inspector noted paint transfer marks from the light to the right wing of the accident airplane.

The tail section was mostly intact and the right elevator had only tip damage. The horizontal stabilizer was deflected upward at the root. The intact left horizontal stabilizer had impact damage from debris. Flight control continuity could not be conclusively determined due to the extent of aircraft damage. The FAA inspector said the pilot was wearing a lap belt and shoulder harness, but the shoulder harness had failed. The radio was found set to the FAR departure frequency.

First responders placed absorbent pads under the wings to capture leaking fuel. The fuel tanks were drained. The right wing contained 25 gallons and the left wing contained 7 gallons (a total of 12 gallons useable). This fuel total does not include fuel that was in the ruptured header tank or fuel leakage after impact. Hydraulic fluid from severed lines was also leaking on the ground.


The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on the pilot. Death was attributed to "multiple traumatic injuries."

FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicology tests on samples from the pilot. According to the toxicology report, no carbon monoxide was detected in cavity blood, and no ethanol was detected in vitreous. Diphenhydramine was detected in urine and cavity blood. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used in the treatment of sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and motion sickness.


On July 5, using the operator's mechanics, the engine was disassembled and examined under FAA auspices at Tri-State Aviation, Wahpeton, North Dakota. According to the FAA inspector's statement, the engine -- a Curtis Wright R1820-86B, SN: W507436 -- was running as reported by witnesses. Damage to the propeller and gear case was consistent with the engine developing power. The engine had no visible signs of failure. The oil filter was free from contamination, and no metal or carbon deposits were visible. Oil specimens were sent to Aviation Laboratories for analysis. According to its report, the specimens were within normal ranges.

The FAA inspector removed the airspeed indicator, manifold pressure gauge, and tachometer. Examination of these instruments revealed no transfer marks to indicate the power setting at the time of impact. After consulting with other T-28 pilots, the inspector learned that the engine would have to be developing power for the airplane to remain airborne in the landing configuration. The inspector calculated the airplane flew 1.6 miles in landing configuration before it impacted terrain.

NTSB Probable Cause

Controlled descent into terrain due to engine issues, the reason for which could not be determined because examination of the engine revealed no evidence of malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

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