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N3988R accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Stillwater, OK
36.115607°N, 97.058368°W

Tail number N3988R
Accident date 23 Nov 2000
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On November 23, 2000, about 0315 central standard time, a Piper PA-28-180 single-engine airplane, N3988R, collided with terrain approximately 1/2 mile north of the threshold of runway 17 during an instrument approach to the Stillwater Municipal Airport, Stillwater, Oklahoma. The airplane, which was owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed by impact forces and fire. The non-instrument rated private pilot was fatally injured and the passenger received serious injuries. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that departed Hays, Kansas, at 0110.

Information obtained from FAA air traffic control facilities and family members indicated that on November 22, 2000, the pilot flew the airplane with one passenger (his wife) from Cullman, Alabama, to Stillwater, arriving at approximately 1830. A line service technician employed by a fixed base operator at the airport fueled the airplane and assisted the pilot in obtaining weather information from the computer in the lobby of the terminal building. According to the technician, the pilot stated that he was planning to fly the airplane to Hays, Kansas, later that night. The pilot and his wife then left the terminal. At about 2145, they returned to the terminal, and the line service technician observed the pilot obtain a telephone weather briefing and file a VFR flight plan for a flight from Stillwater to Hays with one person aboard. Family members reported that the pilot was going to Hays to pick up his daughter and return with her to Stillwater. After the pilot got off the phone, the technician overheard him say to his wife, "I didn't think you'd feel real comfortable on the way back - we'll be in and out of clouds...I'm not going to take any chances or anything." According to the technician, the wife replied, "I've already called them to pick me up."

The pilot then flew the airplane by himself from Stillwater to Hays. After landing at Hays Municipal Airport, the pilot had the airplane refueled, and at 0040 on November 23, the pilot called the Wichita Flight Service Station (FSS) and obtained a weather briefing for the return flight to Stillwater. During the briefing, the pilot was told that visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the departure from Hays and instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in Stillwater. The pilot then filed an IFR flight plan for a flight from Hays to Stillwater, and at 0110, the airplane departed from Hays with the pilot and his daughter aboard.

At 0231, the airplane was cleared for "an [instrument] approach" to the Stillwater Municipal Airport. At 0232, the pilot requested the current weather and was issued the Stillwater weather as "three hundred overcast; visibility, three with light rain; wind, zero-niner-zero at three; and the altimeter, three-zero-one-zero." At 0250, the pilot reported that he was executing a missed approach and requested another approach. At 0251, the airplane was cleared for a second approach, and at 0256, the pilot was told to switch to advisory frequency. The pilot's acknowledgement of the frequency change was the last radio transmission received from the airplane. At 0258, radar contact with the airplane was lost when it descended below 2,300 feet, the floor of radar coverage in the Stillwater area. The last radar return placed the airplane about 5.5 miles north of the Stillwater Airport. At 0324, when the pilot did not close the IFR flight plan, a search for the airplane was initiated. About 0451, local authorities located the airplane approximately 3,800 feet north and 300 feet west of the threshold of runway 17.


Review of FAA records revealed that the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating issued on July 26, 1997. The pilot's logbook, which was recovered from the accident site, indicated that as of November 7, 2000, the date of the last entry in the logbook, the pilot had accumulated a total flight time of 818 hours. According to the logbook, the pilot had flown 13.4 hours in simulated or actual instrument conditions, 224 hours at night, and 270 hours of cross-country flight.


Examination of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that the 1971-model Piper PA-28-180, S/N 28-7105092, received its most recent annual inspection on April 1, 2000, at an airframe total time of 4,578 hours. At the annual, the Lycoming O-360-A4A engine, S/N L-27923-36A, had accumulated 708 hours since major overhaul. Review of the maintenance records revealed no evidence of any uncorrected maintenance discrepancies. The most recent altimeter, static system, and transponder tests were performed on December 23, 1998.


The recorded weather conditions at the Stillwater Municipal Airport were:

At 0253, wind from 090 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 2 statute miles in rain and mist, sky overcast at 300 feet agl, temperature and dew point 9 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.09 inches of mercury.

At 0311, wind from 110 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 4 statute miles in light rain and mist, sky overcast at 300 feet agl, temperature and dew point 9 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 30.07 inches of mercury.


The Stillwater Airport is served by six instrument approach procedures: ILS RWY 17, VOR/DME RWY 35, VOR RWY 17, NDB RWY 17, GPS RWY 17, and GPS RWY 35. It is unknown which procedure the pilot was using at the time of the accident.


The Stillwater Municipal Airport has two runways, 17-35 (6,002 feet by 100 feet) and 04-22 (5,002 feet by 75 feet). According to information in the Airport/Facility Directory, both runways are equipped with medium intensity runway lights, which are preset to low intensity. Pilots can increase the runway light intensity and activate the approach lighting system for runway 17 and the runway end identifier lights for runway 35 using the common traffic advisory frequency (122.7). It is unknown if the pilot controlled lights had been activated at the time of the accident.


The accident site was located using a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver at 36 degrees 10.704 minutes north latitude and 97 degrees 5.264 minutes west longitude. A trail of crushed vegetation and ground impressions led from a ground scar, which contained separated sections of the left seat tracks, on a measured magnetic heading of 065 degrees for a distance of about 114 feet to the airplane. The airplane came to rest upright on a measured magnetic heading of 045 degrees on the west shoulder of Western Avenue about 0.3 miles north of the intersection of Western Avenue and Richmond Road.

The left wing was structurally separated at the wing root and remained attached to the fuselage only by control cables. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage, and the right wing fuel tank was intact and contained fuel. The inboard section of the left wing, the fuselage, and the vertical stabilizer were destroyed by fire. The cabin area, instrument panel, and radios were consumed. The fuel valve was recovered and determined to be in the right tank position. A buckle was found of the type normally used with shoulder harnesses; however, due to the extensive fire damage, seatbelt/shoulder harness usage could not be verified. Flight control continuity was verified from the control surfaces to the cockpit controls.

The engine remained attached to the airframe, and the propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft. Both propeller blades displayed leading edge nicks, abrasions and polishing. One blade was bent aft 5 to 10 degrees with a slight twist toward low pitch. The other blade was bent aft about 20 to 25 degrees with a slight twist toward low pitch.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Toxicological tests performed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory detected ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine in liver tissue. Additionally, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were detected in heart tissue. (These drugs are decongestants and metabolities of decongestants.)

The passenger died 10 weeks after the accident as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.


On January 24, 2000, the engine was examined under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge at the facilities of Air Salvage of Dallas in Lancaster, Texas. Engine and valve train continuity were verified. Compression was established on all cylinders. The magnetos were removed and rotated, and spark was observed on all distribution points. The vacuum pump was disassembled, and no anomalies were noted. The engine driven fuel pump was hand operated, and suction and pressure were observed through their respective lines. The oil filter, oil suction screen, and carburetor inlet screen were examined, and no blockage or contamination noted.


The airplane was released to a representative of the owner on June 12, 2001.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.