On December 30, 1996, at 1900 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-38-112, N2587G, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees during final approach at the Colombia Airport, Colombia Station, Ohio. The certificated flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The instructional flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight instructor reported that he was returning from dinner, and he made a night VFR approach to runway 18. He said, "...In the dark night, I did not see the tree branches struck by the left wing and flap... ."

According to the student, they had flown earlier to Carrollton Airport. She said they departed Carrollton for a flight to Colombia Station. The student said that in the vicinity of Colombia Station,

"...instructor stated that a friend at the airport must have turned the lights on for us...What do you think? (meaning do you see the airport lights?) I said, 'I dont't know.' Instructor said, 'Well this is it (the airport). Get lined up and make your approach.' I started to descend and a few seconds later saw tree branches in front of the plane. The instructor took over controls at this time. I heard them hit us twice. We climbed up and out of area. We then headed for Lorain County Airport [10 miles away]. At 1910 [we] landed at Lorain County Airport."

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, the student reported that this was her first, night dual instructional flight. Neither the flight instructor nor the student reported the accident. It was an FAA Inspector who during a routine ramp surveillance, found an airplane with substantial damage. The Inspector said there was wood remnants stuck in the left wing tip, and in the left landing gear strut.

Both the student and the flight instructor reported that there was no mechanical malfunction with the airplane. The student had over 28 hours of total flight experience. The instructor had over 17,000 hours of total flight experience. The student stated that the accident could have been prevented if [they] had verified that the [airport] landing lights were on prior to departure, they should have circled area to verify that they were at airport prior to descent for landing, and she should have had more experience as student pilot before attempting night time landings.

According to the Airport/Facility Directory, it states in part:

"...For lights Runway 18R-26L call 216-236-8800, or contact Unicom or FSS."

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