CHI01LA321
CHI01LA321

On September 22, 2001, at 1940 central daylight time, a Boeing Stearman B75N1, N47964, owned and piloted by a commercial pilot, sustained substantial damage during a landing in a cornfield, which was adjacent to a sod area that ran parallel to runway 36R (6,506 feet by 100 feet, asphalt surface) at the Southern Illinois Airport (MDH), Carbondale, Illinois. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 and was not on a flight plan. The pilot and his single passenger reported no injuries. The flight departed Shelby County Airport, Shelbyville, Illinois, at 1910.

According to the pilot's written statement, he was attempting to land on the sod area to the right side of runway 36R. The pilot reported, "Because of ditch to left and low light conditions approach was to right of center of sod. Approach was 35 yards too far to right and when ground was in sight for landing, the tassels of a cornfield were mistaken for grass runway. A normal 3 point full stall landing was made to the tops of corn, proceeding for 100 feet and a very slow pitch over onto nose and back."

According to the manager of the air traffic control tower at MDH, the pilot requested to land on the sod area to the right side of runway 36R and the aircraft actually landed in the cornfield adjacent to the sod area on a northerly heading. The tower manager approximated the perpendicular distance from the edge of runway 36R to the accident site was 350 feet. The tower manager approximated the width of the sod area adjacent to runway 36R to be 200 feet.

According to an almanac of sun data, the sun set at 1854 and the end of civil twilight was at 1920.

The Southern Illinois Airport Authority (SIAA) approved takeoff and landing operations on the sod area adjacent to runway 36R for two specific pilot/aircraft combinations. The SIAA issued a memorandum to the air traffic control tower that discussed the associated limitations and provisions of the operation of aircraft on the sod area. The memo states, "These individuals [the two pilots allowed to use the sod area] have been instructed as to the usable portion of that ground and have agreed to accept full responsibility for their activities in the use of that area. The SIAA views this as an 'at your own risk' operation." The memorandum did not have any additional limitations or provisions, including the restriction of operations after civil twilight.

Subsequent to the accident, the SIAA mandated that flight operations on the sod area would be during daylight hours only.

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