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N5238F accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Tappahanock, VA
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Tail number N5238F
Accident date 12 May 1995
Aircraft type Cessna 172F
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On May 12, 1995, about 1725 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172F, N5238F, operated by the Andrews Aero Club at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, collided with a fencepost after the pilot overshot the intended landing point on runway 20 at the Tappahanock Municipal Airport in Tappahanock, Virginia. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The instructional solo cross country flight originated from Andrews Air Force Base and was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the Andrews Aero Club records, the student pilot was intending to complete a 300 nautical mile cross country flight as required by 14 CFR Part 61.107 (private pilot certificate). The Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight plan filed by the pilot revealed the intended route was from Andrews AFB (ADW)to Farmville Municipal Airport (FVX) in Farmville, Virginia, followed by a landing at Hampton Roads Airport (PVG) in Portsmouth, Virginia, and return to Andrews Air Force Base.

Prior to the cross country flight on the day of the accident, the Aero Club's Manager reported that he reviewed the cross country flight with the student pilot. The Manager stated, "I...told her that if she had any problems, she was to call back to the club and we would send down another aircraft for her to complete the flight." He also stated that they discussed procedures regarding being disoriented/lost during the flight. He said the student pilot stated that if she got lost "...she would climb up and request a radar assist from Richmond...."

The departure time of the flight was not determined. According to the Richmond, Virginia, Air Traffic Control Tower tapes of recorded radio transmissions, the pilot of N5238F first contacted a controller at 1151:32 and requested assistance in finding the Farmville Airport. The controller issued a vector to the pilot to the Farmville Airport and stated that radar was lost. About 35 minutes later, radio contact was lost. The pilot of a State Police airplane flying in the area established communication with N5238F. The Police Officer assisted the lost pilot until he too lost radio contact.

The operator of the Crewe Municipal Airport (W81), located about 20 miles southeast of Farmville, stated that on the day of the accident, at an undetermined time, "...a young lady walked into my office...and asked where she was." The operator stated that he told her she was at "Crewe" and then assisted her with flight information. The operator stated that the pilot called Leesburg Flight Service Station and refiled a VFR flight plan. He stated, "...she called someone that she identified to me as her instructor on the phone and she told me he said to use Crewe as her first point and continue on to Hampton Roads."

The Crewe Airport Operator stated that he "topped off" N5238F with 27.6 gallons of 100LL fuel and provided the pilot with a "radio check" prior to her departure. He stated that the airplane's radio was operable on the ground, but after the airplane became airborne, he could not establish radio contact. He reported, "I saw her coming back from a different direction from which she left. I went outside to watch her. She flew a right hand pattern and landed on the last 600 feet of runway 33 [3,300 feet long]. She slid the wheels approximately 100 to 150 feet and stopped 6 feet from the very end of the runway."

The Crewe Airport Operator stated that the pilot told him that her radio was not working. He stated, "She again called her instructor and she said he told her to disconnect the hand-held mike and try her headset, which she did and her radio seemed to work ok." He stated after N5238F departed the second time, he talked to the pilot over the radio and communications were normal.

The Aero Club's Manager stated that he did talk with the student pilot the second time she called the flight club. She reported that she was at the Crewe Airport and that the airplane's radio was not working, however, she was "OK" and not lost. He stated they discussed the radio problem and felt the problem was resolved.

N5238F arrived at the Hampton Roads Airport (PVG) where the airplane was again refueled and the airplane departed for Andrews Air Force Base. According to the Richmond ATCT tapes, at 1704:30, the pilot of N5238F contacted the Richmond ATCT and requested "...flight following to Andrews." A controller acknowledged the transmission and requested N5238F to "...squawk 0307." The pilot did not respond and the controller tried to regain radio communications with the pilot, however, there were no further communications.

At about 1720, a pilot located at the Tappahanock Municipal Airport (W79) stated, "Approx 1720 a Cessna 172 (white) was observed making a pass over [runway] 20 at W79. Altitude was about 50-75 feet. Wind was 330-350 at about 5 knots...I expected the Cessna to return and land on Rwy 2. However, at about 1725 the Cessna returned final to Rwy 20. The plane landed was past the end of the runway threshold when it touched down at about 65-70 knots, bounced once or twice. I think power was then applied for about 1 second to attempt a go-around. Then all power was taken off and full brakes were applied. The right brake caught harder and [skewed] the plane to the right into a fence...."


Pilot Information

According to the pilot's flight log book, prior to the accident flight she had accumulated a total of 62.8 hours, of which 21.5 were solo. Her first logged flight was on September 23, 1992, and on March 27, 1993, she received her solo endorsement to fly a Cessna 150. On September, 27, 1994, she received her solo endorsement to fly a Cessna C-172 (T-41).

On March 18, 1995, the pilot's current instructor signed her off for the accident cross country flight. The pilot then flew solo for 0.9 hours on March 18, 1995, and received 1.1 hours of flight instruction on April 29, 1995. The pilot did not fly again until the accident flight on May 12, 1995.

Flight Instructor

The flight instructor who endorsed the pilot for solo cross country flights in the Cessna 172 was assigned as her instructor in late February, 1995. The instructor stated that "...she flew with the pilot on April 29, 1995, and felt that the pilot was competent to make solo cross country flights."


The airframe received a 100 hour inspection on April 17, 1995, 16 flight hours prior to the accident.

At the time of the accident, the hand held radio mike jack on the instrument panel was labeled "INOP."

Prior to the accident flight the tachometer read 7487.36 hours. At the time of the accident, the tachometer read 7492.31 hours.


Postaccident examination of the accident site showed two intermittent black rubber markings, spaced about seven feet apart, that began at the departure end of runway 20. The marks were about 700 feet in length and ended near the airplane wreckage. The left side of the fuselage, forward of the left wing, came to rest against a fencepost that supported a barbed wire fence and gate.

The engine compartment was damaged and the engine was displaced down and aft. The propeller blades had chordwise scratches and their tips were curled aft.

The left wing had crush marks along its leading edge. The left wing flap was found extended 20 degrees. An undetermined amount of fuel was in the left fuel tank.

The right wing had cuts running from the leading edge to the trailing edge on its bottom skin. The right wing flap was found extended 20 degrees. An undetermined amount of fuel was in the right fuel tank.

The cabin area and instrument panel were destroyed. The throttle control was full forward and the mixture control was pulled out from the instrument panel about 1/3 its length. The carburetor heat control was pulled full out. The magneto selector was selected to BOTH. The fuel selector was selected to the BOTH position. The "HOBBS" meter read 477.9 hours. The VHF radio had 122.8 dialed in and the transponder was found tuned to 5546. The navigational radio was tuned to 113.95.

The aft fuselage was intact but crushed and displaced forward just aft of the cabin area. The empennage was intact. Control continuity was verified.


The autopsy was performed by Dr. Kay at the Richmond, Virginia, Medical Examiners Office, on May 13, 1995.

Toxicology was performed by Dr. Canfield at the Civil Aeromedical Institute located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Negative results were reported for all screened drugs and volatiles.


The airplane was released to Captain Nathan Goff, United States Air Force, 89 SPTG MWBA, Andrews Air Force Base, District of Columbia, on June 14, 1995.

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