In-flight Breakup of PIPER PA28R

What Happened

On April 4, 2018, about 0953 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-201, N106ER, collided with terrain following an in-flight separation of the left wing near the wing root during climb after a touch-and-go maneuver at Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), Daytona Beach, Florida. The airline transport pilot and private pilot were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as an instructional flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. ​

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What We Found

​​​We determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: Extensive fatigue cracking in the left-wing main spar lower cap and doublers, which resulted in the in-flight separation of the left wing. The fatigue cracks initiated and grew to a critical size due to flight and ground loads associated with flight-training involving flight-training maneuvers, significant operation at low altitudes and frequent landing cycles. Previously established inspection criteria were insufficient to detect the fatigue crack before it grew to a critical size. ​