HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On August 3, 2000, at 1515 central daylight time, a Piper J-5A, N600F, operated by a student pilot, was destroyed when it nosed over during a practice landing and takeoff on runway 18 (2,200 feet by 150 feet, dry grass) at the Villnave Airport, Belton, Missouri. A post-crash fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. There was no flight plan on file. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident, and was en route to a nearby private airstrip.
The airport manager said that the student pilot arrived on the airport at around 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. He said that they conversed for a while, and then student pilot left. The airport manager said, "The airplane has no electrical system, so I hand-propped it to start. Then I came inside." The airport manager said that he didn't watch the takeoff roll.
The airport manager said that he agreed to drive the student pilot's car to a private airstrip approximately 2 miles from the Villnave Airport, pick up the student pilot there, and then be driven back to Villnave Airport by the student pilot. The student pilot told the airport manager to wait a few minutes after he took off, and then drive over to the airstrip.
The airport manager said that he didn't hear anything. He then went out to see if student pilot was going to "buzz" (over fly) the hanger. He saw smoke.
The airport manager went to the accident site. He saw that there was nothing he could do. He ran back to his shop and called 9-1-1.
A witness was driving eastbound toward the airport when she saw "a yellow plane, very low, cross 195th [Street], going south." The witness said that as she got close to the crest of the hill on 195th street, she saw black smoke coming from the area south of where she was. The witness said that when she got to the top of the hill, where the end of the runway was, she saw black smoke and flames. She could not tell what was on fire. She thought that someone was burning something, so she went on her way. The witness said that when she saw the airplane cross over the road, it was not trailing any smoke or flames.
The student pilot held a valid student pilot certificate.
According to the FAA aeromedical records, at the student pilot's last flight physical examination, on May 18, 1999, the student pilot reported having logged 30 hours.
The student pilot held a third class medical certificate, dated May 18, 1999.
A flight instructor and friend of the student pilot said that he had given the student pilot his "tail dragger time." The flight instructor said he had begun flying with the student pilot in November 1994. On reviewing his own logbook, the flight instructor related 18 flights with the student pilot over a 5-1/2 year period, logging 18.8 hours in tail wheel airplanes. The flight instructor said that the last time he gave instruction to the student pilot was on May 29, 2000.
The airplane was manufactured in 1940. It was owned and operated by the student pilot and was used for training and pleasure. The manager at the Villnave Airport said that the student pilot purchased the airplane approximately 10 months prior to the accident.
The airport manager, also an airframe and powerplant mechanic, said that just before Christmas, 1999, he worked on the airplane, reconditioning one of the brakes. He said that he did not enter that work in the airplane's maintenance logbooks because the student pilot did not bring them to him. The airport manager said that about a week before the accident, the student pilot brought the airplane to Villnave Airport to have some more routine maintenance performed on it. When the student pilot returned to pick up the airplane; again, he did not provide the maintenance logbooks. The airport manager said that he did not perform the annual inspection on the airplane, and did not know when it had last been performed. He said the airplane had 2,067 hours total time.
The airplane's airframe and engine logbooks were not recovered.
At 1453, the weather surface observation for the Olathe/Johnson County Executive Airport, 8 miles northwest of the accident site, was few clouds at 4,300 feet, a broken ceiling at 11,000 feet, 7 miles visibility, temperature 86 degrees F, dew point 70 degrees F, winds 070 degrees at 10 knots, and altimeter 30.00 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Safety Board's on scene investigation began on August 4, 2000, at 1030.
The accident site was located 375 feet north of the south end, and 41 feet east of the west edge of runway 18, on the Villnave Airport, at 405 E. 195th Street, Belton, Missouri.
The accident site began with two ground scars. The first ground scar was located 32 feet east of the west edge of the runway. It was 3 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. The second ground scar was located 8 feet east of the first ground scar and was 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and approximately 1-inch deep. Several small chips of yellow paint were scattered in the grass between the two ground scars.
The airplane's main wreckage was located 25 feet from the first ground scar on a 120-degree magnetic heading. The airplane's remains were resting upright and oriented on a 260-degree magnetic heading.
An area of burned grass preceded the airplane's main wreckage to the west and northwest of the main wreckage. The burned area was 35 feet wide running north to south, and 24 feet wide running east to west.
A 4-foot long slash in the ground preceded the front of the airplane by 7 feet. The slash was 10 inches deep and set at a 60-degree down angle. The slash ran along a 240-degree magnetic heading. A second cut in the ground was located 3 feet northwest of the slash. It was 4 inches long, in line with the slash, 1- inch wide, and 5 inches deep.
The main wreckage consisted of the airplane's engine, propeller, remains of the cabin and fuselage frame, remains of the left and right wing frames, the aft 4 feet of fabric-covered fuselage, and the empennage.
The airplane's engine was broken downward and charred. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft. Both propeller blades showed torsional bending. One propeller blade showed chordwise scratches near the blade tip. The other propeller blade showed was charred and melted. The outer 8 inches of the blade was consumed by fire. The engine cowling was consumed by fire.
The airplane's firewall was crushed aft, twisted left, and charred. The header fuel tank, just aft of the firewall, was broken out of the right mount and bent downward. The front of the tank was crushed inward and showed a 1-1/2 inch puncture. The entire fuel tank was charred. The fuel tank was melted at the puncture.
The airplane's cabin, pilot seat and instrument panel were consumed by fire. The airplane's windscreen and cabin windows were consumed by fire. The airplane's right main landing gear struts were bent upward and showed charring and melting. The right tire was consumed by fire. The left main landing gear struts were bent upward and aft approximately 60 degrees. The struts were charred and melted. The left tire was consumed by fire
The airplane's right wing was bent downward 20 degrees at the root. The wing's frame and fuel tank were charred and melted. The fabric covering was consumed by fire. The right aileron was attached at the rear spar. Its fabric covering was consumed by fire. The aileron frame was charred and melted. Control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed. The right wing struts were charred. The aft right wing strut was bent outward approximately 30 degrees and twisted aft, just outboard of the fuselage frame.
The airplane's left wing frame was charred and melted. The fabric covering was consumed by fire. The outboard three feet of the left wing's leading edge and tip were broken upward and aft, and were charred. The left aileron was attached at the rear spar. Its fabric covering was consumed by fire. The aileron frame was charred and melted. Control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed. The left wing struts were charred. The aft left wing strut was bent upward, just outboard of the fuselage frame. A 10-inch long wood rib piece was located 32 feet south of the main wreckage on a 185-degree magnetic heading.
The fuselage, just aft of the cabin section, and running aft for approximately 5 feet, was charred and melted. The fabric covering in this area was consumed by fire. The fuselage frame and covering aft of the charred area was intact except for along the top, where the fabric had been consumed by fire. The remaining fuselage fabric showed heat wrinkles and melting.
The empennage was intact and showed no damage. Control continuity to the elevator and rudder were confirmed. The tail wheel strut was bent slightly to the right.
An examination of the airplane's engine, engine controls, and remaining systems, revealed no anomalies.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Jackson County Medical Examiner at Kansas City, Missouri, on August 4, 2000.
FAA toxicology testing of samples taken from the pilot was negative for all tests conducted.
The airport manager called 9-1-1 emergency services on returning to his hanger at 1515. The Belton Fire Department responded to the scene, arriving at 1526. By 1535, the fire had been extinguished.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
An area of bird remains was located on the runway, approximately 1,000 feet from the approach end, and 100 feet from the eastern edge. The bird remains, which included flesh, guts, and feathers, preceded the accident site by approximately 650 feet. The area was documented and samples of feathers and flesh were retained for further testing.
The bird samples were examined at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Division of Birds, on December 4, 2000. The national resource ornithologist identified the remains as those of a 4-1/2 pound Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). She went on to state that after close examination of the feather evidence, "we feel that the amount, condition, and arrangement of the feathers is more indicative of prey remains and not a bird strike. Bird strike remains are generally chopped up, dirty, greasy, bloody and are found singly on or near the aircraft."
The Division of Birds' staff biologist said that the photographs taken of the area showed "a perfect ring of feathers which is indicative of a larger bird of prey as an owl or a hawk, consuming the bird." The staff biologist also said that the remains were relatively fresh, probably the same day as the airplane accident. She said that she did not rule out the possibility that the bird could have been struck by the airplane and then consumed by a bird of prey shortly afterward.
On December 18, 2000, the manager for the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Bird Strike Database, said that after reviewing the Smithsonian Institution's findings and inquiring about what the accident investigation had revealed, "it was possible the airplane was maneuvering to miss the bird and caught enough of the bird to lay it out on the field. A bird of prey would have done the rest. We will never know."
Parties to the investigation were the FAA's Flight Standards District Office, Kansas City, Missouri, and the New Piper Aircraft Company, Incorporated.
The airplane wreckage was released to the Villnave Airport, Belton, Missouri.