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N5295L accident description

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Crash location 38.204167°N, 79.344444°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 Deerfield, VA
38.196515°N, 79.406707°W
3.4 miles away

Tail number N5295L
Accident date 18 Aug 2002
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-180
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 18, 2002, about 1515 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, N5295L, was destroyed when it struck trees after takeoff from a private airstrip in Deerfield, Virginia. The certificated flight instructor and pilot rated passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the property manager at the private airstrip, earlier in the day, the pilot landed "the wrong way" on runway 15. Runway 15 was 2,442 feet long, 50 feet wide, and consisted of up-sloping turf. The landing was the first time the pilot had flown to the private airstrip. The pilot and two passengers visited with friends for several hours. About 1500, the pilot and one of the passengers intended to fly from the private airstrip to Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), Staunton, Virginia, as the passenger was late for work. The second passenger declined to take the flight because he wanted to stay longer at his friend's residence.

The property manager further stated that the airplane back-taxied on runway 15, and began a takeoff roll, "the wrong way, with a 15-20 mph tailwind." The airplane became airborne and the engine "sounded fine." However, the airplane rolled right, then left, and struck an approximate 80-foot tall tree at the end of runway 15. The airplane subsequently impacted terrain about 250 feet from the tree, and was consumed by a post-crash fire.

Another witness, the person who elected not to take the accident flight, stated that the pilot landed on runway 30 because there appeared to be more clearance from trees at that end of the runway. Subsequently, the pilot chose to takeoff in the opposite direction because of the preferred tree clearance. The witness added that after the accident, he noted that the windsock was small, and indicated a 7-8 mph tailwind. The witness further stated that the engine sounded fine, and:

"...What I saw, was the airplane moving very very slow for a takeoff, and it looked to be having a great deal of trouble climbing. Unlike what the initial report said about it rolling right then left, I did not see anything like that, but maybe a quick jolt from side to side, trying to keep the wings level. As it approached the tree line, the airplane pitched up hard and stalled."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight; located approximately 38 degrees, 12.25 minutes north longitude, 79 degrees, 20.67 minutes west latitude.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane.

The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first class medical certificate was issued on January 25, 2002.

According to his logbook, at the time of the accident, the pilot had a total flight experience of approximately 521 hours. Within the preceding 30 days, he had accumulated about 51 total hours; of which, about 12 hours were in the accident airplane.


The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on November 11, 2001. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accumulated about 2,857 hours of total flight time.

The four-seat airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-360 engine, and had a maximum gross takeoff weight of 2,400 lbs.


SHD was 1,201 feet above sea level, and located approximately 20 miles east of the accident site. The reported winds at SHD, at 1502, were from 320 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 15 knots. The reported temperature was 80 degrees F, which equated to a density altitude of approximately 2,854 feet.


According to FAA records, the private airport was not certificated. It consisted of one turf runway (15/30), that had an estimated 90-foot upgrade. Trees and wires were listed as obstructions near the airport. The airport was limited to visual flight rules (VFR) private use, and there was no "one-way" restriction noted in the file.


The wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 19, 2002. The cockpit, fuselage and empennage were destroyed by fire, but all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage was located on the private property, oriented about a 310-degree heading, on an approximate 150-degree bearing from the 80-foot tree. The vegetation in the vicinity of the wreckage exhibited fire damage, and branches were laying the ground in the vicinity of the 80-foot tree.

Flight control continuity was established from the ailerons to the control chain in the cockpit. The chain and aileron balance cable were separated, consistent with impact forces. Continuity was also established from the rudder horn to the rudder pedals, and from the stabilator balance weight to the T-bar in the cockpit. The elevator trim drum sustained impact and fire damage, and a measurement of the threads corresponded to an approximate neutral trim setting.

Both inboard sections of the wings were consumed by fire, but the outboard sections remained. The right aileron was deflected 90 degrees upward, and the left aileron was separated from the wing. Both flaps were separated from the push/pull tubes, and both wings exhibited leading edge crush damage.

The only readable instrument recovered from the cockpit was the attitude indicator. The indicator face was tumbled to the right approximately 90 degrees, and nose-up. The flap handle was also recovered from the cockpit. The handle was found in the full flaps extended position.

The engine was recovered from the wreckage and the propeller was removed. Both propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouging, chordwise scratching, and s-bending. The number two bottom spark plug was damaged and unable to be removed from the engine. The remaining plugs were removed for inspection; they were light gray in color, and their electrodes were intact. When the propeller flange was rotated by hand, crankshaft and camshaft continuity was confirmed. Valve train continuity was confirmed, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders except for the number three cylinder.

Further examination of the number three cylinder revealed that the intake valve remained in the open position. However, examination of the number three intake valve spring revealed that it had been subjected to the post crash fire. The number three intake valve spring was retained for further examination.

Oil was observed throughout the engine, and the oil screen was absent of debris. Both magnetos sustained fire and impact damage and could not be tested. The throttle butterfly valve was found in the full open position, and the carburetor was recovered and disassembled. The metal floats were intact and the fuel screen was absent of debris. The vacuum pump remained intact and sustained fire damage, and the mechanical fuel pump was destroyed.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot and passenger by personnel from the Virginia State Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Roanoke, Virginia.

Toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot and passenger at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Examination of the number three intake valve spring by a Safety Board Metallurgist revealed that it was heat relaxed, consistent with post crash fire damage.


Weight and Balance

According to FAA and aircraft records, the basic empty weight of the airplane was about 1,467 pounds. The combined weight of the pilot and passenger was approximately 340 pounds. The witness, who elected not to take the accident flight, stated that the airplane was fueled to capacity, then flown for about 30 minutes on the previous flight to the private airstrip. According to an owner's handbook for the make and model of the accident airplane, it had a maximum fuel capacity of 50 gallons, which equated to about 300 pounds. The weight of the airplane during the accident takeoff was less than the 2,400-pound maximum gross weight as published in the owner's handbook.


According to a performance chart from an owner's manual for the make and model airplane, the takeoff distance over a 50-foot obstacle, at a density altitude of 3,000 feet, was about 2,150 feet. The performance chart assumed a maximum gross weight, a 25-degree flap setting, and a paved-level-dry-runway. However, the performance chart did not account for an up-sloping turf runway, or a tailwind.

Wreckage Release

The wreckage was released to the property manager on August 19, 2002.

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