Friday, March 01, 2019

Wildlife Encounter (Non-Bird): Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, N5338N; accident occurred February 23, 2019 at Princeton Airport (39N), Somerset County, New Jersey

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allentown, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Princeton, NJ

Accident Number: GAA19CA153
Date & Time: 02/23/2019, 1840 EST
Registration: N5338N
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Wildlife encounter (non-bird)
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The pilot reported that, while landing at night, the airplane struck two deer on the runway. He added that he did not see the deer on the runway during the approach and landing.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right horizontal stabilizer.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Facility Directory for the accident airport, stated, in part, "Deer and birds on and [in the vicinity of the airport]."

The pilot stated that the airport's fencing was intermittent and that deer were frequently seen around the airport. The airport manager added that the airport's perimeter fence only covered the eastern and southern perimeter and that a deer strike occurred at least once every 2 years. However, according to the FAA Wildlife Strike Database the last reported wildlife strike at the accident airport occurred on April 10, 2012.

The FAA's Part 139 CertAlert, No. 16-03, "Recommended Wildlife Exclusion Fencing," which provides airfield exclusion methods for deer and other large mammals, recommends constructing fencing "fully around the airfield without gaps."

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A collision with deer on the runway while landing at night and the airport's lack of a complete perimeter fence.


Environmental issues
Animal(s)/bird(s) - Effect on operation (Cause)
Animal(s)/bird(s) - Ability to respond/compensate (Cause)
Dark - Effect on personnel

Factual Information

History of Flight

Wildlife encounter (non-bird) (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 30, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/12/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/23/2017
Flight Time:   (Estimated) 296.1 hours (Total, all aircraft), 129.2 hours (Total, this make and model), 249.7 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 18.5 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2.2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N5338N
Model/Series: 172 S
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2003
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility
Serial Number: 172S9358
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 01/23/2019, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2550 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 8772 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-360-L2A
Registered Owner: Raritan Valley Flying School
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: Raritan Valley Flying School
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KTTN, 213 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2353 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 224°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 5500 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 90°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.29 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C / -1°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Princeton, NJ (39N)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Princeton, NJ (39N)
Type of Clearance: VFR; VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1730 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Airport Information

Airport: PRINCETON (39N)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 128 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 10
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3499 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude: 40.399167, -74.658889 (est)

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