General Aviation Accident Bulletin

Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents.

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AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause on the NTSB’s website at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.


December 18, 2020, Tampa, Fla.

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee 140

At 1322 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed during an off-airport landing following an engine failure. The flight instructor and two student pilots were seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

After refueling at a nearby airport, the airplane took off again and subsequently was cleared to land at its home airport. About two and a half minutes later, the instructor declared an emergency due to engine failure and told ATC they would try to make the airport. Instead, video footage showed the airplane striking a utility pole and wires in a business parking lot about 0.6 NM from the runway threshold. The airplane exploded upon impact with the power lines, spun counter-clockwise and fell to the ground, coming to rest upright. Most of the wings and fuselage were consumed by fire. The engine failure’s cause hasn’t been determined.


December 19, 2020, Burleson, Texas

Sonex Light Sport Experimental

The airplane impacted power lines and terrain at about 1430 Central time while its pilot attempted an emergency landing after reporting engine failure, sustaining substantial damage. The pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The accident pilot told ATC he wanted to orbit the field at 3500 feet. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot reported the airplane was unable to climb and he needed to return to the airport. After being cleared to land, the pilot told ATC he had a “sick engine” and he was “just trying to make the field.” Smoke appeared to be coming from the engine, ATC told the pilot. The airplane came to rest inverted about one mile south of the airport, after striking the power lines.


December 19, 2020, Naples, Fla.

Piper PA-46-310P Malibu

At about 1216 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it was ditched in the Gulf of Mexico after engine failure. The pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan was in effect.

The flight departed with 100 gallons of fuel aboard for the planned hour-long flight. After being cleared direct to Key West, the pilot switched tanks. The engine immediately began sputtering and lost power. The pilot switched back to the previous tank but there was no change, and remedial actions failed to restore power. The pilot advised ATC of the engine problem and asked for the nearest airport. Shortly, the pilot was cleared to land but realized he could not make the airport and would land in the water. After touchdown, the airplane came to a sudden stop and was floating.

A boat picked up the two occupants as the airplane continued to float. The airplane eventually sank and came to rest in six feet of water. It was later recovered for examination.


December 20, 2020, Midway, GA

Cessna 210L Centurion

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 2011 Eastern time as its pilot attempted to land at a VFR-only airport in reported instrument conditions. The solo instrument-rated private pilot was fatally injured.

The pilot exchanged text messages with his son before and during the accident flight, including that the destination airport had 400-foot ceilings and rain. Tracking data revealed the airplane climbed to and maintained between 2000 to 2500 feet MSL in cruise. The airplane began descending at 2003, then turned right and continued to descend to about 100 feet msl before turning, briefly climbing to 300 feet MSL, then descending to the ground. The track data ended at 2011. No flight plan was filed for the flight and no ATC services were provided. There were no published instrument approach procedures for the destination airport.

The airplane subsequently was reported overdue, and was located the next day, about five miles north of the destination. It came to rest upright, in a marshy area at the end of a debris path about 400 feet long and oriented to the southeast. The initial point of impact was a tree, and the right wing was located at the base of a tree. There was no fire. The propeller blades were bent aft, with one blade fractured near the blade tip.

Reported weather at the departure airport included an overcast at 300 feet and four miles of visibility in rain. The 1956 weather at a nearby military airport included overcast clouds at 600 feet and seven miles of visibility in light rain.


This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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