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N3365R accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Chesterfield, MO
38.663108°N, 90.577067°W
Tail number N3365R
Accident date 23 Mar 1994
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On March 23, 1994, about 0030 central standard time, a Piper PA- 28-180 airplane, N3365R, was destroyed when it collided with terrain shortly after takeoff from runway 26 left (26L) at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, Chesterfield, Missouri. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight operated in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan.

One witness, a meteorological technician who was working at the weather observation facility located atop the airport's main administration building, reported seeing a small, single engine airplane taxiing from the area of the "T" hangars at what he believed was a faster than normal taxi speed. He watched as the airplane moved down runway 26L, and then looked away for a short time. When he looked again towards runway 26L, he saw an airplane diving vertically towards the runway from an estimated altitude of 300-400 feet (agl). The witness watched as the airplane impacted the northern edge of runway 26. He said the airplane caught fire approximately 30 seconds after impact. Two other witnesses also saw the airplane in a steep, nose-first dive prior to impact. Both those witnesses are pilots, and they both related that the engine sounded like it was developing full power, and that the airplane was not spinning as it descended.


The pilot/owner of N3365R was Mr. Robert L. Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz worked as a Meteorologist/Weathercaster for a local television broadcast station (KSDK). Mr. Schwartz used the broadcast name of Bob Richards.

According to the attached Chesterfield Police Department report, and a telephone interview on March 23 with the Assistant News Director for KSDK, Mr. Michael L. Shipley, Mr. Schwartz had been undergoing a period of emotional turmoil. Mr. Shipley said that there had been recent public allegations made by a local woman charging that Mr. Schwartz and she had been involved in an extramarital affair, and that when their relationship was over, Mr. Schwartz continued to call and harass her. The woman had recently received a court Order of Protection to keep Mr. Schwartz from contacting her. The Order of Protection and other details surrounding the alleged relationship between Mr. Schwartz and the woman were released to the local media, and had been published in newspapers and broadcast on the radio. Mr. Shipley said that he and other coworkers had spoken with Mr. Schwartz on March 21 about the allegations and the attendant publicity, and how it was affecting him. Mr. Shipley said that Mr. Schwartz told him that his wife had left town with their daughter because of all the negative publicity. Mr. Schwartz indicated he was very upset by their absence and the woman's allegations. Mr. Shipley said that Mr. Schwartz related to him he had a very bad weekend (3/19-20), and that on Saturday, March 19, he had sat in his car in his closed garage with the engine running for about five minutes in a suicide attempt. Mr. Schwartz said he decided not to go through with the suicide, but later that day flew in his airplane looking for a hillside to crash into. Again, Mr. Schwartz decided not to complete the act. Mr. Shipley said that Mr. Schwartz told him that he had left a suicide note for his wife at their residence during the two suicide attempts. [The Chesterfield Police Department entered the Schwartz residence on 3/23 at 1530; no suicide note was found]

Additional information gathered by the Chesterfield Police Department relative to Mr. Schwartz's actions and personal contacts prior to his death are noted in their report.


There are no known radio transmissions from N3365R during the time period immediately prior to the crash. An FAA operated air traffic control tower is located on the airport, and operates daily from 0600 to midnight.


The on-site investigation began at 0850 on March 23, 1994. The wreckage was observed lying in a heap, about 3,800' west of the approach end of runway 26L, and approximately 75' north of the north edge of runway 26L. The wreckage had been moved by a front end loader prior to the arrival of NTSB investigators. According to the Assistant Airport Manager, the wreckage had been moved north approximately 75' from its initial impact point. The impact point as described by the Assistant Manager was located on the northern edge of the runway surface immediately adjacent to the runway shoulder.

The center fuselage and cabin section of the airplane was mostly destroyed by impact forces and fire. Control continuity was established from the ailerons, stabilator and rudder to the burned-out center section.

The propeller had separated from the engine at the flange, and displayed slight "S" bending and multiple chordwise scratches along its face. The engine had partially disintegrated and was detached from the fuselage and engine mounts.

Both wings exhibited nearly symmetrical accordion-type folding from the leading edges rearward.

No evidence of preimpact mechanical anomaly was discovered with either the engine or the airframe.


An autopsy was performed by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner's Office on March 23, 1994. The attending pathologist was Dr. Michael A. Graham. The cause of death is listed as Craniocerebral Blunt Trauma; the manner of death is listed as Suicide.


There was a postcrash fire confined to the airplane wreckage. The fire was extinguished by the Chesterfield Fire Department.


The wreckage was released to the Assistant Airport Manager for the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, Mr. Ken Nebrig, on March 23.

NTSB Probable Cause

suicide by the pilot.

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