Five Canadians were killed in the crash of a Piper Turbo Lance next to a freeway in Nashville on Monday. Two adults and three children died after the plane crashed and caught fire next to I-40 in a commercial area about three miles south of John C. Tune Airport west of downtown Nashville. The aircraft had been cleared for an emergency landing at the airport, but the pilot told ATC he wouldn’t make the runway. “I’m going to be landing. I don’t know where,” the pilot said in his last transmission.

The pilot reported engine problems and the controller immediately cleared him for a straight-in approach to Runway 2 at the airport, but the pilot said he had the runway in sight. “I’m too far away. I won’t make it,” he said. The aircraft took off from southern Ontario earlier in the day and made stops in Erie, Pennsylvania and Mt Sterling, Kentucky. It left Mt. Sterling about 6:19 p.m. Eastern and crashed about 2.5 hours later. An earlier story contained an incomplete and incorrect timeline based on early reports.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • Fixed the errors. Thought I’d done that before publication but I must have forgotten to save the changes.

  1. How unfortunate the death of the occupants of this flight.
    It is rare that instructors teach pilots that when encountering an engine emergency, the control of the pitch of the propeller (Constant speed), if you put it in coarse pitch, you can reduce the resistance to advance and in many cases, you manage to get the plane to the runway. I recommend that you try. Put the engine at idle and the airplane at glide speed. Take the step to coarse and you will notice that the resistance decreases considerably and will allow you to go much further.

    • This is true and all instructors should demonstrate this when checking out individuals in planes with a constant speed propeller. The odd exception would be E series Bonanzas and Navions with a Hartzell Constant Speed Propeller STC. Pulling back that propeller control will starve the OTU of oil, ruin it and possibly destroy the engine.

      • I’ve always wondered why on single engine constant speed prop planes the “no oil pressure” (i.e. engine dead) default is for fine pitch with the added braking effect. Probably a good technical/design reason – but always seemed more intuitive and safer that if an engine failed and oil pressure dropped that the CS prop would go to full course to enhance the glide. I’m sure somebody here has the answer…

        • It happened to me in a Mooney Exec. The oil line to the prop governor failed and the prop went fine which over sped the engine. From 9000′ I tried to nurse it to an airport but the engine seized. Bad for the engine but good for me. With the prop now stopped my glide picked up considerably and I made an airport. Would not have made it with a windmilling prop and most likely would have destroyed the airframe also.

    • Trained this technique as chief pilot for an air charter operation. IF you have a complete power loss, IF you have completed the engine failure check list and IF you think the power isn’t coming back then pitch and trim for best glide speed and pull the prop control full back to coarse pitch, you will actually feel the aircraft accelerating from the reduced drag and gain at least 10% in glide distance.

      Interesting many single engine aircraft manuals don’t have this step in the engine failure checklist but the FAA encourages the technique. On a side note one of our Cessna 210s suffered a seized engine due to complete oil loss from a defective oil filter adapter that should have never been certified. The prop was completely frozen but the pilot did a great job doing a forced landing, gear up in a field. The doctor he was flying was a bit late but went and saw patients that day and then had us fly him home in another 210, he figured the odds of it happened again were pretty low!

    • Wouldn’t we need to differentiate between “engine out” and an engine operating poorly to manage the prop?

      Similar to Gary’s comment to loos of oil, loss of oil flow due to an engine out prohibits prop adjustments. A sputtering under-powered engine the prop pitch could be changed.

      Exceptions: electric pitch prop, prop with feathering control, Engine still generating some oil pressure

  2. This is tragic. Obviously there was fuel on board. Power loss at night, forced landing in a congested area, sadly not much chance for a good outcome. RIP.

  3. Russ, since that would have been a quite remarkable tailwind to fly from Toronto to Nashville in 90 minutes in a Lance, further info from a Canadian news source indicates the aircraft made two fuel stops, one in Erie and another in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. That would have made for a late arrival over BNA with the reported 1819 local departure out of Toronto. Looks like he was shooting for the highway to put it down. And kudos to the anonymous pilot/crew who transmitted “keep flying the airplane”–don’t know if that had any influence or not, but a good reminder to always aviate, navigate, communicate when confronted with a challenging situation.


  4. Another “almost made it” crash. It looks like maybe he was turning around to try for the runway, then as a last ditch effort tried for the freeway. If the engine quite before turning, he should have gone straight for the freeway. Very sad.

  5. The Arrow POH calls for ‘PROP – LOW RPM (Full Aft)” under the “If no restart & time permits” heading.

  6. We in the USA are blessed with being able to “declare” and then throw the rule book away. Immediately declare the emergency and then do whatever you need to do to get down safely. It speeds up the decision making process for both pilot and controllers. Declare immediately and the airspace and runways and frequency will be yours to use to get down as efficiently as possible.

  7. Wreckage photos has all the characteristics of stall/spin crash. A bad place to have to go down around KJWN. I travel the route regularly, flying and driving and it’s not a good location even in the daytime to try landing on I-40.

  8. Just never been a fan of single engine night. Many years ago, many, it was basically a no,no.

    • I had a total engine failure at night with a fixed-pitch prop single many years ago. Definitely will increase the pucker factor! Although I had practiced engine out procedures with the engine at idle, I was surprised how much more drag the windmilling prop on a dead engine created. Managed to nurse it into a lighted field and walked away with only soiled drawers, but I have pretty well ruled out night flying since then. Same attitude on heavy IFR in a single for the same reason.

      • Me too. One engine failure during daytime VMC was enough to convince me. I still stay night current, but I don’t plan any trips for nighttime any more. I live in the West, and fly mostly over either built-up or non-agricultural areas, so the odds of touching down in a plowed field are slim. Speaking of Slim, I was amazed when I read in The Spirit of St. Louis how the mail pilots landed at night relying on a single set of headlights, or dropping flared under little parachutes to illuminate the ground. Different times; different men.

  9. Hard to say if pulling the prop control would have saved them—too many other variables. But it’s sure a good technique to try, if the engine is still spinning but not producing power.

    I was taught to do that by an FAA Inspector during my first ATCO checkride way back when—late 70s. I had just completed a mock engine out from downwind in a 182, which worked out but was really close. He had me repeat the exercise, and in the same place on downwind, he pulled the throttle, I turned toward the runway, and he said to pull the prop control all the way out. Wow! The airplane seemed to shoot ahead, and the landing was much easier, because we arrived at the runway with more altitude to spare.

    During a combined IPC/FR a few years ago, I used the same technique, when my instructor pulled the power while I was still under the hood. When he said “you’ve broken out, find a place to land”, I was apparently within gliding distance of a small rural airstrip. But as we got closer, it was apparent that we wouldn’t quite make it. So I pulled the prop control all the way out, and we made it easily.

    But without knowing exactly where the Saratoga was, its altitude, or what the nature of the engine problem was, or its weight, or the winds, it’s impossible to say if that technique would have helped, or merely moved the crash a little closer to the airport. In any event, it’s a tragedy that second-guessing won’t help.

  10. I appreciate whoever said “you keep flying that aircraft” — the various offerings from controllers could be very distracting.

    • Very true. About a week before I had my engine failure I read an article on emergency procedures in Flying magazine. The primary takeaway I got from the piece was the advice to “First, fly the airplane.” Whatever else you do will depend on your altitude and location, but keep flying the plane all the way to the ground. It may well have saved my life.

  11. One reviewer read the Piper procedure for switching tanks and that there was only a L and R fuel position and no “Both”. I’m sure there’s a mechanical or design reason for this. The procedure in the flight manual calls for running one wing tank for XX time and then switching to the opposite tank. It also comments that if the first tank is run dry, and the engine stops that the pilot can expect a 10 second delay until the empty fuel line can deliver fuel to the engine with the boost pump. The stress in a situation of running one tank dry and engine stopping as well as the procedure seems fairly complex and I can imagine that the pilot, tired from the last two legs, night approaching and experiencing, add the need to attend to the prop pitch, the level of stress was overwhelming. This is truly a sad/terrible accident, pilot and family lost.