Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Aerodynamic Stall / Spin: Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N6427P, fatal accident occurred July 26, 2018 at Palatka Municipal Airport (28J), Putnam County, Florida

David and Kimberly Niblett

Together they had a great love of flying; David was the pilot, Kimberly the right seat; they were building their own airplane, another opportunity to spend time together. They were very active in both the EAA’s Young Eagles program and KidsFlyCubs, both organizations designed to introduce young people to the world of flying. Professionally, David was an IT professional, for many years with Gainesville Regional Utilities, and Kimberly an agricultural research scientist, at the University of Florida.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida 
Lycoming Engines; Dallas, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms 


Daniel Boggs
Investigator In Charge
Location: Palatka, FL
Accident Number: ERA18FA200
Date & Time: 07/26/2018, 2007 EDT
Registration: N6427P
Aircraft: Piper PA24
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


On July 26, 2018, about 2007 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-24-250, N6427P, was destroyed when it impacted the ground during the initial climb after takeoff from Palatka Municipal Airport (28J), Palatka, Florida. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was owned by the pilot who was operating it as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.

A witness was standing in his hangar about 200 yards from the end of runway 17 when he heard the accident airplane beginning its takeoff. He noticed that the airplane's brakes were engaged while the engine was at full throttle and he believed that the pilot was going to perform a short-field takeoff. As the airplane rolled down the runway, it's nosewheel lifted off the ground then touched down again before the airplane became airborne. The witness thought that the pilot rotated the airplane "early," as the airplane appeared slow. He added that the airplane kept climbing "steeper and steeper" and that the pilot did not lower the nose to gain airspeed. When the airplane was about 150 ft above ground level, it entered a stall and the left wing dropped; the airplane spiraled to the ground. The witness further stated that the engine was operating at full power during the entire flight.

An airport security video at 28J showed the airplane immediately after takeoff as it climbed to about 150 ft; the airplane's left wing dropped and the airplane spiraled to the ground, consistent with the witness' account.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He was operating under the provisions of the BasicMed; his most recent physical exam was completed on July 14, 2018. According to the pilot's logbook, he had a total of 704.4 hours of flight experience. The accident flight was the pilot's second solo flight in the airplane. The pilot purchased the airplane 13 days before the accident; since purchase, the pilot had logged 15.1 hours of flight instruction in the airplane. Logbook remarks indicated that, during those flights, the pilot had received instruction in normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings, approach and departure stalls, and simulated engine failures.


The four seat, low-wing, tricycle gear airplane was manufactured in 1959. It was powered by a Lycoming O-540-A1C5, 250-horsepower engine equipped with a three-bladed McCauley propeller. The most recent annual inspection was completed on July 12, 2018. At the time of the accident, the airframe total time was 3,435.73 hours (13.73 hours since the annual inspection) and the engine had accrued 1,268 hours since major overhaul.


At 2015, the recorded weather at 28J included wind from 180° at 5 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 27°C, dew point 26°C, and an altimeter setting of 29.98 inches of mercury.


The wreckage was located about 60 ft to the left of and about halfway down the length of runway 17, which measured 3,510 ft long. The wreckage came to rest on a magnetic heading of 270°. The propeller was fractured from the engine and buried about 2 ft into the ground. The engine was displaced into the instrument panel and cockpit. The landing gear was extended, and the wing flaps were retracted. Both wings exhibited accordion-like crushing on the leading edges. Flight control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to all flight controls. The stabilator trim control was fragmented and the trim position could not be verified. Both pitch and trim servos rotated freely, and the clutch was not engaged. The fuselage was crushed, and the empennage was bent over top of the cabin. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and elevator were not damaged.

The engine was removed from the airframe for further examination. The top spark plugs were removed, and a lighted borescope was used to look inside the cylinders. All valves and pistons showed normal wear. Thumb compression was confirmed on all cylinders. Drive train continuity was established through the engine and accessory case by rotating the propeller flange and observing the movement of the gears. Both magnetos were removed and turned by hand. All leads sparked to ground.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Medical Examiner, St. Augustine, Florida. The report listed the cause of death as multiple blunt force trauma.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory was negative for drugs and alcohol.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 44, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: BasicMed
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/14/2018
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/16/2018
Flight Time:  704.4 hours (Total, all aircraft), 15.1 hours (Total, this make and model), 660.6 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 38 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 15.1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N6427P
Model/Series: PA24 250
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:1959 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 24-1537
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/12/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2899 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 14 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3422 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540 SERIES
Registered Owner: Gatoraire LLC
Rated Power: 250 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: 28J, 47 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2015 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 0°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 180°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 26°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Palatka, FL (28J)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Palatka, FL (28J)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 2007 EDT
Type of Airspace: 

Airport Information

Airport: Palatka Muni - Lt Kay Larkin F (28J)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 47 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 17
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3510 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 29.656389, -81.688611 (est)


  1. strange and tragic. sad for the passenger especially

  2. Control lock ? Seat un-secured ? Weight and Balance out of allowable range ?