On January 14, 2002, at 1210 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N3997R, was substantially damaged during an aborted landing at Oxford Airport (43M), Oxford, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated at Lawrence Municipal Airport (LWM), Lawrence, Massachusetts, about 1130. A visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the business flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot's intended destination was the Southbridge Municipal Airport (3B0), Southbridge, Massachusetts, which was located about 9.5 miles southwest of the Oxford Airport. Prior to his departure, he contacted the fixed base operator at Southbridge Airport to "assure that the runway was cleared of the recent snowfall and ascertain the local winds."
The pilot reported that he had prepared an index card with Southbridge Municipal Airport's information as part of his pre-flight planning, and carried an aeronautical sectional chart on board the airplane during the flight. He also said that he owned an airport facility directory (AFD).
As the pilot approached the area of his intended destination, he contacted the Southbridge Airport Unicom and requested airport advisories. He was informed by an airport operator that runway 02 was in use. The pilot said that he then became disoriented and misidentified the Oxford Airport as the Southbridge Municipal Airport.
In a written statement, the pilot said:
"I approached the [Oxford] airport. I assumed that this was the Southbridge Airport. I inspected the runway finding no other traffic. I radioed my landing intentions and I proceeded to land the aircraft."
"When it appeared that I could not stop prior to reaching the end of the runway, I advanced the power in order to take-off again for a second approach. During the take-off, the aircraft could not gain enough altitude to clear the trees that are located at the north end of the runway. The right wing of the aircraft encountered the trees causing the aircraft to rotate to the right, nosed over settling though the trees, landing inverted."
In a telephone conversation, the pilot said that he configured the airplane for a short field landing on runway 02. He utilized full flaps and stabilized airspeed. The pilot reported that there were 30-40 foot tall trees at the approach end of the runway, that he had not anticipated, and noted that the wind sock indicated calm winds.
The pilot stated that he landed about 1/3 of the way down the runway, which "was longer down the runway than he would have liked, and that was part of the problem."
The pilot said that during the landing roll out, he "avoided hard braking due to the runway conditions," which he described as "snow, patchy ice." As the airplane came over a rise, the pilot noticed a snow bank located at the end of the runway and decided to abort the landing. With less than half of the runway length available, he applied power and tried to establish a climb, but was unable to clear the trees.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He reported a total of 156 flight hours, of which 37 hours were in make and model. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane or engine.
Oxford Airport was an uncontrolled airport with a Unicom/common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 122.8. The airport had one runway, which was aligned 02/20. It was a 2,047 foot long and 50 foot wide asphalt runway with 52 foot high trees located at the approach end of runway 02, and 36 foot high trees located at the approach end of runway 20.
Southbridge Municipal Airport was also an uncontrolled airport with a Unicom/CTAF of 122.8. The airport had two runways, which were aligned 02/20 and 10/28. Runway 02/20 was an asphalt runway that was 3,500 feet long and 75 feet wide. Runway 10/28 was a turf runway that was 1,450 feet long and 100 feet wide.
A review of the Piper PA-28-180 Landing Distance and Takeoff performance chart revealed that with a paved, level, dry runway, with no wind, and maximum braking, the airplane at full gross weight required approximately 1,185 feet to land over a 50 foot high obstacle, and approximately 1,625 feet to take off over a 50 foot high obstacle from a paved, level, dry runway in zero wind conditions with 25 degree of flaps, and full power before brake release.
Weather at Worcester Regional Airport, about 7 nautical miles to the north, at 1221, was reported as wind from 260 degrees at 7 knots gusting to 18 knots, winds variable between 240 and 300 degrees, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 11,000 feet, temperature 42 degrees F, dewpoint 48 degrees F, and altimeter setting 30.02 inches HG.
Additionally, the pilot said that the accident could have been prevented by, "strict adherence to the flight plan...use of multiple characteristics to identify rural airports...[and] more precise execution of short-field procedure."