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N158EA accident description

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Crash location 39.154444°N, 91.817500°W
Nearest city Mexico, MO
39.169763°N, 91.882948°W
3.7 miles away
Tail number N158EA
Accident date 18 Mar 2012
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-161
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On March 18, 2012, approximately 1150 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N158EA, sustained substantial damage when it collided with trees on takeoff from Feutz Airport (M088), a private airstrip, near Mexico, Missouri. The private pilot was fatally injured and the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Stuart Flying Service, LLC, Mexico, Missouri. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that originated at Mexico Memorial Airport (MYK), Mexico, Missouri, about 1115. The personal flight was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The manager of Mexico Memorial Airport stated the pilot arrived at 1030 on the morning of the accident and informed him that he and his wife were going out to “do maneuvers.” The pilot did not specifically say where they were going. The airport manager saw the pilot perform a preflight inspection of the airplane and then depart runway 18 around 1115. At that time, the manager stated the wind was blowing directly out of the south between 14 and 20 knots.

The airplane was later observed by a witness, who was the son of the individual, who owned Feutz Airport. The witness said that he just climbed into his tractor, which was located southwest of the airstrip, when he saw the accident airplane flying low over runway 26 towards him. The airplane then made a wide sweeping left hand turn and disappeared from his view. The witness did not recognize the airplane and figured the pilot was just making a low pass for fun. Several minutes later, the witness saw the airplane land on runway 26 and then taxi to the far end of the runway where he was located. The pilot parked the airplane, shut down the engine, and he and his passenger got out. At that time, the witness recognized the pilot and his wife, who were old friends that he had not seen in several years. The witness said they visited for about 20 minutes before he returned to his farm work around 1150. He did not see the airplane depart and last saw it facing south at the end of runway 08 performing, what he believed, was an engine run-up. Around 1250, when the witness was driving off the property, he saw the airplane wreckage located off the end of the runway and immediately called 911. The witness said both occupants were responsive and taken to the hospital. The pilot passed away the following day. The passenger was not interviewed due to the extent of her injuries.

There were no records that the pilot had obtained a weather briefing from an Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) prior to the flight.


The pilot, age 61, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class medical was issued on May 21, 2010, without limitations. A review of his pilot logbook revealed that as of February 18, 2012, he had accrued a total of 152 hours, of which 45 hours were in a Piper PA-28-161 airplane.


The accident airplane was a Piper PA-28-161, which is a low wing single-engine, 4-seat airplane. It was equipped with a Lycoming 0-320-3DG engine and Sensenich fixed-pitch, two-bladed propeller. A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed that the airplane’s last annual inspection was conducted on February 6, 2012, at total aircraft time of 13,788.0 hours. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accrued a total of 13,827.7 aircraft hours.

The airplane had flown a total of .5 hours from the time it took off to the time of the accident.

A postaccident calculation of the airplane’s weight and balance at the time of the accident revealed it was under gross weight and within the center of gravity envelope limitations.

Interpolation of the Piper PA-28-161 Normal Short Field Ground Roll Distance - No Obstacle performance chart,revealed the airplane would have needed approximately 2,312-feet of ground-roll distance on a paved, level and dry runway, with zero flaps. This chart also incorporated the existing tailwind and crosswind components that existed at the time of the accident.


Weather at Columbia Regional Airport (COU), Columbia, Missouri, approximately 20 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1154, reported wind from 190 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 23 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 3,600 feet, temperature 25 degrees Celsius, dewpoint 16 degrees Celsius, with an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches of HG. Remarks included a peak wind of 28 knots at 1128 from 190 degrees.

The density altitude was calculated to be approximately 2,421 feet.


Feutz Airport is a privately owned grass airstrip that was a 2,600-foot-long and 100-foot-wide runway oriented approximately 08/26 at an elevation of 890 feet msl. The runway surface was soft and the grass was measured between 6 to 10-inches-high. The runway was level and a cluster of 20 to 50-foot-tall trees were located along the far left side of the approach end of runway 26.

A walk of the runway revealed that the airplane landing gear made clear depression marks in the grass during both landing and takeoff. A measurement of the depression marks from where the airplane departed on runway 08 to where the main landing gear lifted off was approximately 1,900 feet. The distance between the end of the take off depression marks to the cluster of trees was approximately 686 feet.


An on-scene examination of the airplane wreckage was conducted on March 19, 2012, under the supervision of the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge. The airplane came to rest on a heading of 063 degrees magnetic at an approximate elevation of 878 feet mean sea level (msl), approximately 294 feet from the end of the runway. All major components of the airplane were located at the wreckage site.

The airplane collided with trees before coming to rest on its left side and both wings separated from the fuselage at the wing root. The main wreckage, which included the fuselage, vertical stabilizer/rudder, and both horizontal stabilator, came to rest approximately 75 feet forward of the wings. Both wings sustained leading edge impact damage; however, the left wing fuel tank was not breached and was filled with fuel. The right wing fuel tank was breached and was empty.

Examination of the airplane revealed the flap handle was in the fully retracted position. Flight control continuity was established for the rudder and both stabilator from the cockpit to the flight control surface. The right aileron control cable was separated and the left aileron balance cable was separated at the left aileron bell crank. These cables exhibited broomstrawed cables, consistent with overload failure. The elevator trim was positioned 1-degree nose down.

The engine was attached to the firewall and the two-bladed propeller remained attached to the engine. Both propeller blades exhibited some leading edge polishing and chordwise scratching. The spinner exhibited rotational twisting.

The propeller was manually rotated and compression and valve train continuity were established to each cylinder. Both magnetos remained attached to the engine and only the left magneto's harness was damaged. Spark was produced for the right magneto leads when the engine was rotated. The left magneto was removed from the engine and the harness was removed from the magneto. The magneto was rotated by hand and spark was produced at each tower.

The main fuel line from the carburetor to the engine was broken from impact and the carburetor inlet fuel screen was not recovered. The carburetor was removed and no fuel was found in the bowl. The carburetor linkage position was consistent with the throttle being full open and the mixture full rich.

The fuel selector in the cockpit was set to the left wing tank position.

The fuel pump was removed from the engine and fuel pumped from the unit when manually rotated.

The gascolator was removed from the firewall. Fuel was in the bowl and absent of water and debris. The fuel screen was also absent of debris.

The top and bottom spark plugs were removed and exhibited a normal wear pattern, except for the #2 cylinder top and bottom plugs, which were oil soaked.

The oil suction screen was removed and was absent of debris.

No mechanical deficiencies were observed with either the engine or airplane that would have precluded normal operation at the time of the accident.


Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA's Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of the testing were positive for Acetaminophen (21.48 ug/nl) in the urine and Diphenhydramine in the urine and blood.

An autopsy was conducted by the Office of the Medical Examiner, Columbia Missouri, on March 19, 2012. The cause of death was determined to be from "Multiple blunt force injuries. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease may have contributed to his death."

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control during takeoff, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and subsequent collision with trees. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight performance planning before departing on the soft, grass field with a quartering tailwind.

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