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N40RT accident description

Missouri map... Missouri list
Crash location 42.565833°N, 84.423334°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 Columbia, MO
38.949761°N, 92.299072°W
481.7 miles away
Tail number N40RT
Accident date 14 Apr 2004
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On April 14, 2004, about 2000 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, piloted by a commercial pilot, sustained substantial damage on impact with terrain during a precautionary landing near Columbia Missouri. The personal flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. An Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed, activated, and was canceled prior to the intended destination of the Monroe City Regional Airport (K52), near Monroe City, Missouri. The pilot reported no injuries. The flight originated from the Mason Jewett Field Airport, near Mason, Michigan, about 1605 and was en-route to K52 when the precautionary landing was performed.

The pilot reported that he checked weather and it was Visual Flight Rules (VFR) weather the whole day. He said that he "entered intended flight plan into the DUATS [Direct User Access Terminal Service] flight planner - ran several scenarios with different destinations and cruise altitudes. Checked my DUATS PA28-180C performance profile - no problems noted - used profile as-is. Shortened route and selected Monroe City (K52) as intended fuel stop." He stated that he performed a preflight and verified that both tanks were full.

The pilot stated that he the first fuel tank switch was completed 12 minutes after departure and the remaining tank switches were completed on 15 to 17 minute balanced intervals.

The pilot stated:

Near Quincy, ATC [Air Traffic Control] cleared me to 4000ft.

Richened mixture for descent and pulled the power back. ... Shortly

after leveling, the controller radioed that she had lost radar contact. She

wanted my DME from the Quincy VOR. Had view of the Quincy

airport slightly ahead and mostly on the right, so, based on my chart,

reported that I was negative DME, but, estimated that I was about 5

from the VOR. Proceeded to the VOR, as, it was intention to track

the 233 deg Quincy radial per the VOR/DME-A approach into Monroe

City. Crossed over the VOR, turned and intercepted the 233 radial.

Cancelled IFR a few minutes later. While tracking the 233 deg radial,

noted the time as Hannibal passed on my left: clock dials at 1227 - noted

in my head that I had exceeded my planned ETA and was not at my

destination. Fuel gages showed more than an hour's fuel left.

Still tracking the radial, I remember switching tanks again at clock

dials 12:40.(Note: the analog clock in N40RT was set to UTC time.)

Continued scanning for an airport, none to be found - a larger town

in view to the south with a river beyond it (later verified as Columbia).

Decided to make a 180 deg turn, track 233 deg radial back toward

Hannibal. Completed the 180 then twisted the reciprocal heading on

the VOR.

The left tank ran out of fuel, and, I reacted automatically & immediately

turned on the electric fuel pump then switched from the left to the right

tank - the engine fired up right away. I thought about issuing a

May-Day call, but, decided not to because ATC lost radar contact with

me at 4000ft, and, I was at 3500. I did not want to waste fuel climbing

or waste time to set up radios and communicate -started thinking about

my aviate, navigate, communicate priorities. I had the radial to track

back to a known airport location, Hannibal, but, I began to doubt if I

had the fuel to get there. This logic hinged on the fact that I had been

religious about keeping the tanks balanced. If I had emptied the left,

regardless of why it emptied prematurely, the right tank should be no

more than 15 minutes behind it. Figured Hannibal was at least 15 minutes

out with Monroe City closer, but, neither in view. To greatly compound

matters, the sun was well on its way to setting. Guessed I might have

no more than 5 or 10 minutes of light left. Scanned around again for an

airport - none found.

Started looking for a place to make an emergency landing. The clinching

factor was the impending darkness. Flew Northbound away from the

town toward less density. ... Decided to go with my 1st choice

pasture/hay field with known surface. Next, thought I heard a burp

from the engine as the field approached. This made it easier to commit

to the precautionary landing.

... After clearing a bump or rise ahead in the field, I forced the plane

down, bounced twice, and put the brakes on hard while rolling on the

ground. The field was not long enough, though. I rolled into scrub

brush and a barbed wire fence with metal fence posts

The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions associated with the airplane in reference to the flight.

At 1954, the recorded Columbia Regional Airport, near Columbia, Missouri, weather was: Wind 140 at 5 knots: visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 16 degrees C; dew point -1 degree C; altimeter 30.05 inches of mercury.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot inadvertently became lost and over flew his destination in cruise flight and selected an unsuitable landing area for his precautionary landing. Factors were the rough/uneven terrain, the barbed wire fence, and the fence post encountered during the precautionary landing.

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