On March 15, 2000, about 1830 hours mountain standard time, an Aero Commander 100, N3896X, collided with the ground following an in-flight loss of control near Buckeye, Arizona. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The student pilot, the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated by the owner pilot under 14 CFR Part 91. There was no flight plan filed for the personal flight that originated at an unknown time from Buckeye Municipal Airport.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff officers who responded to the scene, the pilot told them that he was flying at 200 feet above the ground (agl), and he had reduced engine power to "see how the airplane would glide at 200 feet." As he was gliding eastbound, a large gust of wind blew him north making his left wing dip. He increased the engine speed to compensate for the wind gust, overcompensated, and lost control of the airplane.

A witness observed the airplane to his south flying east. He said he watched the airplane's right wing drop to a near vertical position and the airplane dove into the ground. He saw a cloud of dust and heard the crash. The witness responded to the scene with another witness. When they arrived at the crash site, they observed the pilot on his knees on the ground near the left side of the airplane. The first witness reported to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that the pilot told him that he was not trying to land on a nearby private dirt airstrip but was just "screwing around."

The sheriff's report stated that they located the airplane in a slightly hilly, open desert area. The report indicated that the airplane came to rest nose down, facing east. The tail of the airplane was pointing upwards about 90 degrees. A sheriff's deputy measured the length of the ground scar leading to the wreckage as 76 feet.

An inspection of the airplane by an FAA Airworthiness Inspector revealed that the engine had separated from the airplane. Fuel was found in both tanks. The propeller blades were bent forward. The throttle was fully forward and the mixture was in the "RICH" position. The primer was in and locked.

According to the owner of Buckeye Aviation, the owner had fueled his airplane the morning of the accident. He observed the pilot running the engine while he stood next to the unattended airplane. On another occasion, the owner of Buckeye Aviation stated that he had looked inside the airplane and noted that all the seats were missing except for the pilot's seat. He noted that the pilot had not flown the airplane in several months, and that he watched the pilot perform several touch-and-go operations prior to departing the pattern. He stated that it was his opinion that no maintenance had been performed on this airplane in "many years."

A friend of the pilot said that the pilot "hardly ever flew his airplane."

The pilot's logbook and student pilot certificate were located and copied. A third-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on March 18, 1998. The certificate contained the limitation that the pilot must have glasses available for near vision. An entry in the pilot log indicated that the pilot had been certified safe for solo flight in a Cessna 150 on December 24, 1986. Additionally, there were three cross-country endorsements for flight in a Cessna 152, all dated from February to March 1987. The logbook did not have any flight instructor endorsements, and a record of a flight review was not located.

The mother of the pilot called investigators and said that she was unaware that her son had purchased an airplane. She stated that he was unemployed and had little money.


Attempts by Safety Board investigators and FAA airworthiness inspectors to obtain airplane maintenance history or copies of maintenance logs were unsuccessful.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page