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N3127R accident description

Missouri map... Missouri list
Crash location 37.218056°N, 93.265833°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Springfield, MO
38.415298°N, 93.572710°W
84.4 miles away
Tail number N3127R
Accident date 12 Dec 2014
Aircraft type New Piper Aircraft Inc Pa 32R-301T
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On December 12, 2014, about 1730 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-301T, single-engine airplane, N3127R, was substantially damaged after impacting an obstruction and terrain during an approach to landing at Downtown Airport (3DW), Springfield, Missouri. The pilot and one passenger were seriously injured and the other two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to PPG Properties, LLC; and was operated by Integrity Home Care, Inc.; both of Springfield, Missouri. Night low visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight. The airplane had departed Lee's Summit Municipal Airport (LXT), Lee's Summit, Missouri, about 1620 and was destined for 3DW.

The airplane had descended on an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri. After reaching VMC the pilot cancelled the IFR flight plan and advised he was proceeding direct to 3DW. The airplane was northeast bound flying at an altitude of 1,645 ft when it struck the top of a 367 ft tall cellular tower. The airplane was then about two miles southwest from 3DW. After a complete loss of engine power the airplane descended, impacted trees and terrain in a congested residential area, and came to rest upright. Several witnesses saw or heard the accident and immediately called 9-1-1 emergency.

An examination of the 17 ft. tall lightning rod on top of the tower showed impact damage, which corresponded to impact, marks on the airplane and the propeller. The separated tips of all three propeller blades and the separated portion of the left flap were found on the ground near the base of the tower. Parts of the lightning rod and its mast were found wedged in the top of the tower structure. Police officers that responded to the tower location immediately after the accident reported that the white strobe light on the top of the tower was still operating.

An examination of the airplane wreckage showed the tips of all three propeller blades were missing and there was impact damage on the left wing that breached the left wing fuel tank and penetrated from the leading edge all the way through to the front side of the spar of the left wing. There was a significant fuel spill at the scene, but no postimpact fire. The postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

At 1652 the automated weather observing system at SGF, located about 5 miles northwest from the accident location, reported wind from 180° at 6 knots, visibility of 10 miles, overcast clouds at 1,800 ft., temperature 11° C, dew point 7° C, with an altimeter setting of 30.26 inches of mercury. Data from the United States Naval Observatory indicated that sunset occurred at 1656, and the end of civil twilight occurred at 1725.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge: Chapter 14, Page 14-28, instructions for operations at a nontowered airport are that the pilot should "Enter (the traffic pattern) in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude (then) maintain pattern altitude until abeam approach end of the landing runway on downwind leg (and) complete (the) turn to final at least ¼ mile from the runway".

The FAA Airport/ Facility Directory, North Central U. S., indicated that 3WD was a non-towered airport with a field elevation of 1,375 ft. msl. The only runway was 11/28, which was an asphalt runway 4,037 ft. long by 50 ft. wide. Runway 11 was oriented to 108 degrees magnetic, and runway 28 was oriented to 288 degrees magnetic. The traffic pattern altitude for 3DW was not published.

According to FAA Aeronautical Circular AC 90-66A "Recommended standard traffic patterns and practices for aeronautical operations at airports without operating control towers", Paragraph 8 (c): "It is recommended that airplanes observe a 1,000-ft. above ground level (AGL) traffic pattern altitude".

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s decision to descend below the recommended altitude during approach for landing in night visual meteorological conditions, and his failure to see and avoid a lighted tower, which resulted in collision with the tower and a subsequent total loss of engine power.

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