Thursday, May 30, 2019

Piper PA-28R-201 Arrow III, N106ER: Fatal accident occurred April 04, 2018 near Daytona Beach International Airport (KDAB), Volusia County, Florida

Zachary Michael Capra

Deadly ERAU plane crash: Father of student pilot sues Piper Aircraft, claims

DAYTONA BEACH — The family of an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student killed in a plane crash along with a federal examiner last year when a wing detached from the airplane is suing Piper Aircraft alleging it knew of structural failures in that model since 1987 but failed to warn pilots and owners, or require testing that could have saved lives.

Zack Capra, a 25-year-old Navy veteran who was taking his commercial pilot license exam, and Federal Aviation Administration pilot examiner John Shahriar Azma, a father of four, were killed on April 4, 2018, when the left wing came off the Piper PA-28 as they flew west of Daytona Beach International Airport.

In the April crash, the plane had climbed to 900 feet when radar contact was lost. It crashed in a cow pasture along Tomoka Farms Road near the Daytona Flea & Farmer’s Market.

“The horror and fear of impending death for pilots from an in-flight breakup of their aircraft cannot be overstated as it is a pilot’s worst nightmare come true,” according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Capra’s father, John Charles Capra, who is administrator of his son’s estate.

John Capra had posted on his Facebook page recent tattoos in honor of his son. One showed an eagle with a scroll with the words “Tailwinds of hope.” The other tattoo was a drawing of the blue and white Piper his son was flying compete with its registration, N106ER. Above the plane were the letters “RIP ZMC JSA” and below it were a latitude and longitude.

Investigators found cracks consistent with metal fatigue beginning at or near an attachment bolt hole on the left wing spar, a metal piece that bears the load of the wing, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report. The right wing also had fatigue cracks at the same location.

After the crash the investigators found another Piper PA-28 at the university with a similar crack to the one in the deadly crash. The second plane had just over 7,600 hours of flight time. FAA records showed the plane was registered to the university. The college grounded its fleet of about a half-dozen Piper PA-28s.

Jacqueline Carlon, spokeswoman for Vero Beach-based Piper, said the company had just received the lawsuit and declined to comment.

“This is a pending lawsuit, we can’t respond,” Carlon adding it would be addressed the “normal litigation channels.”

The Piper in the deadly crash had been built in 2007 and also had more than 7,600 hours. It was used exclusively for flight training and had undergone its annual inspection on March 21, 2018, two weeks before the crash.

The Piper was being used in a demanding training environment in Florida which is known for rapid development of cumulus clouds that can create turbulence for planes, the lawsuit states, which makes inspections of the planes all the more important.

The Piper had endured “no less than seven separate ‘hard landing’ reports,” each requiring a Piper-specified inspection, the lawsuit states, and each time the plane was inspected.

But the types of inspections needed to detect the crack in the Piper’s wing spar were not done. Such tests were not required despite Piper knowing about the flaw, said Arthur Alan Wolk, of the Wolk Law Firm in Philadelphia which specializes in representing plaintiffs in aircraft crashes, in a phone interview. Wolk is the lead attorney in the case while Jeffrey Bigman is the local counsel.

He said Piper models PA-32, a single-engine type like the PA-28, and the PA-34, a twin-engine, also have similar problems.

Wolk said that the problem was identified in 1987 but Piper asked the FAA to withdraw an airworthiness directive requiring an inspection to detect the problem without fixing the flaw in the plane.

“Well, if nobody does the inspection then nobody finds the problem,” Wolk said. “If nobody finds the problem then somebody else is going to die.”

He added that there were several non-destructive tests that Piper could have required to catch the problem before a wing fell off and pilots and passengers got killed.

“For years prior to 1987, Piper knew that more than a hundred PA-28 aircraft had suffered in-flight structural failures resulting in the loss of life of hundreds of occupants,” according to the lawsuit.

Piper spokeswoman Carlon declined also to respond to the allegations that hundreds had died.

Wolk said that the NTSB and Piper about two weeks ago again inspected the wreckage of the Piper in the ERAU crash. He said he hopes that will lead to a new FAA directive to address the problem.

The FAA in December published in the federal registry a notice about a proposed air worthiness directive for inspections of the main wing spar on some Piper models “to address the unsafe condition on these products.”

The deadline for comments was last month and the FAA is reviewing them to determine the next step, wrote FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. The inspections would be based on service hours and cover PA-28 and PA-32 aircraft.

The lawsuit accuses Piper of negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent failure to warn and other violations. The company lobbied the FAA to withdraw the directive for expensive inspections of the plane, the lawsuit states.

By doing so, Piper ignored continuing in-flight failures and “it decided unilaterally that some people would have to die if the inspections were not made especially in high time aircraft operated in harsh environments,” the lawsuit states.

Piper was aware of the crash in 1987 in which the wing fell of a plane doing pipeline patrol, killing the pilot, the lawsuit states. That crash was caused by a crack emanating from a bolt in the wing attachment fitting in a plane with about 7,500 flight hours, the lawsuit stated.

The FAA then issued an air worthiness directive for the planes based on conditions which could likely result in structural failure and death.

Inspections were conducted on 500 Piper aircraft and the cracks were found on two additional planes. Afterward, Piper lobbied the FAA to withdraw its directive which the FAA did, the lawsuit states. Piper also withdrew its own service bulletin.

The lawsuit accuses Piper of knowing pilots were being killed due to problems with the plane.

The lawsuit said the fatigue crack in the crash of the ERAU PA-28, also known as Piper Arrows, emanated from the same bolt and location as in the 1987 crash.

The lawsuit accuses Piper of “hiding the truth behind wing failures in the PA-28 aircraft” from pilots, owners and operators by requiring confidentiality in litigation. It also accuses the company of violating the public trust by being dishonest about the structural integrity of its aircraft.

Had the appropriate effective inspections been recommended by Piper and followed the crack would have been located and he wing repaired and replaced, the lawsuit states.

ERAU spokeswoman Ginger Pinholster said the college no longer flies the Pipers.

The Pipers were used because they were considered “complex” type aircraft to train on retractable landing gear. But three weeks after the crash, the FAA said pilots need not need to fly a complex type plane for their initial commercial pilot’s license.

“Last year, the FAA changed its pilot certification standards, which had previously required flight students to work with two particular classes of aircraft. The FAA rule change to the commercial pilot airman certification standards allowed us to remove the “complex” type of aircraft from our curriculum and streamline our overall fleet,” she wrote.

The FAA notice dated April 24, 2018, does not refer to the crash but it states that requiring a complex type aircraft, a class that includes retractable landing gears and other features, had become cost prohibitive for flight schools.

ERAU has 82 aircraft at its campuses in Daytona Beach and Arizona with 66 of those planes being Cessnas. The other planes are Diamonds and American Champion Decathlons.

Pinholster said there are no Piper aircraft in the fleet.

Original article ➤

Lawrence McCarter
Investigator In Charge 

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida 
Federal Aviation Administration Accident Investigation and Prevention; Fort Worth, Texas
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida 
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Daytona, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Daytona Beach, FL
Accident Number: ERA18FA120
Date & Time: 04/04/2018, 0953 EDT
Registration: N106ER
Aircraft: PIPER PA28R
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On April 4, 2018, at 0953 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-201, N106ER, collided with terrain following an in-flight breakup shortly after takeoff from Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), Daytona Beach, Florida. The airline transport pilot and private pilot were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight, which departed DAB at 0927.

According to the operator, the private pilot was conducting his commercial pilot single-engine land practical test, and the airline transport pilot was acting as a designated pilot examiner (DPE).

Preliminary radar and voice communication data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the airplane flew to the southeast after departure; after maneuvering, it returned to DAB. The airplane entered the airport traffic pattern and performed a touch-and-go landing. While climbing out after the takeoff from runway 25L, air traffic control issued the pilot a discrete transponder code, and shortly after, the pilot asked if they could make a left turn to the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern. The controller responded by telling the pilot to continue upwind. Radar data indicated that the airplane climbed to 900 ft mean sea level at a groundspeed of 80 knots on a heading of 240° before radar contact was lost.

According to multiple witnesses, all located within 2,500 ft of the accident site, they saw the airplane flying normally, then watched as the left wing separated from fuselage. The fuselage impacted a field, while the wing descended separately and landed in an adjacent field.

According to FAA records, the pilot, age 25, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on June 17, 2016. He reported 201 hours of flight experience as of his most recent logbook entry on March 19, 2018.

According to FAA records, the DPE, age 61, held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine land. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on April 5, 2017. At that time, he reported 27,600 total hours of flight experience.

According to FAA airworthiness and operator records, the airplane was manufactured on September 17, 2007 and was issued a standard airworthiness certificate in the normal category. It was a single-engine, low-wing, four-place airplane with a 200-horsepower, Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 four-cylinder engine and a McCauley two-blade, constant-speed propeller. The airframe had accumulated 7,690.6 hours of operation at the time of the accident, and 28.3 hours since its most recent annual inspection, which was completed on March 21, 2018.

A surface observation weather report taken at DAB at 0953 indicated the wind was from 260° at 7 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, and few clouds at 25,000 ft. The temperature and dew point were 24°C and 19°C, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.03 inches of mercury.

The debris path was about 450 ft long, and the debris path began about 2 statute miles southwest of the departure end of runway 25L. The first items along the debris path included a rubber wing root seal and small pieces of window plexiglass, followed shortly thereafter by the left wing. The main wreckage impacted the adjacent field about 200 ft from the wing on a magnetic heading about 230°.

The forward portion of the fuselage, including the engine, exhibited significant impact-related damage. There was a strong odor of fuel at the site, and a large area of grass surrounding the wreckage was discolored. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. An impression of the right wing leading edge was observed in the ground, and the right wing leading edge surface was crushed aft to the wing spar along the entire span of the wing. The flap and aileron of the right wing remained attached. The right landing gear was in the down and locked position.

The vertical stabilizer, rudder, horizontal stabilator, and trim tab control surfaces remained attached. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the rudder to the rudder pedals. Elevator control cable continuity was established through cuts made to facilitate the wreckage recovery from the control column to the elevator control surface. Aileron control continuity was confirmed from the right aileron to the control column. Continuity of left aileron control cables was traced from the control column through fracture features consistent with tensile overload separation to the aileron.

The left wing separated from the fuselage near the wing root and exhibited mid-span buckling of the surface skin. The left wing flap remained connected and moved freely with no resistance. The left main landing gear was in the down and locked position. The left wing fuel tank remained intact and contained about 15 gallons of fuel.

The fractured left wing main spar portions, along with the box assembly and attached inboard end of the right wing main spar, were forwarded to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for detailed examination. Preliminary examination of the left wing main spar revealed that more than 80% of the lower spar cap and portions of the forward and aft spar web doublers exhibited fracture features consistent with metal fatigue (see figure 1).

Figure 1 - Left wing main spar lower cap fracture surface.

The remainder of the lower spar cap, spar web doublers, and upper spar cap displayed fracture features consistent with overstress fracture. The fatigue features originated at or near the outboard forward wing spar attachment bolt hole (see figure 2). None of the surfaces exhibited visible evidence of corrosion or other preexisting damage. The right wing also exhibited fatigue cracks in the lower spar cap at the same hole location extending up to 0.047-inch deep.

Figure 2 – Exploded view of left wing spar assembly and attachment bolts.

The wreckage was retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N106ER
Model/Series: PA28R 201
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Pilot School (141) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: DAB, 34 ft msl
Observation Time: 0953 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 19°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 25000 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots, 260°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Daytona Beach, FL (DAB)
Destination: Daytona Beach, FL (DAB) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 29.158611, -81.085000 
Roy Williams of Airframe Components shows how to inspect the Piper Aircraft aft wing attach fittings, in Service Bulletin 1244B.
Service bulletin 1006 talks about replacing fuel tanks in the Piper Aircraft wings. Airframe Components shows you how to check your wings to find out if you need this repair.


  1. >>“For years prior to 1987, Piper knew that more than a hundred PA-28 aircraft had suffered in-flight structural failures resulting in the loss of life of hundreds of occupants,” according to the lawsuit.<<

    Where'd the lawyers get this BS from?

  2. Because of scum lawyers like these the price of a new C172 is $400,000+ when you could buy a new one 40 years ago for under $40,000. That's a ten-fold increase in price that is not in line with inflation. Thanks to them they've ruined the GA manufacturing in this country. I'd say this crash was more of a result of repeated abuse at the hands of students and not a design flaw. I would like to see the FAA implement some kind of enhanced testing of this area in hopes to avoid a repeat of this terrible accident. I fly Piper PA28's that are much older than this accident plane.

  3. I work in the aviation insurance industry. We know the stats for things like major structural failures that would result in costly claims and fatalities. I am not aware of any significant increase in accident rates for the PA28 series - especially not from major structural failures. The PA28 line is statistically one of the safest aircraft flying today.

  4. Anonymous posters who work for the industry trying to defend themselves. How many of you would like it if your wing fell off for no good reason? Not all lawsuits are just trying to punish someone. Companies have proven time and again (Boeing being one of them!) that they cover up flaws and mistakes until something tragic happens then they try to shift the blame. I say if Piper isn't at fault, they have nothing to worry about.


  5. If he sues Piper he has to sue ERAC too. The aircraft had 7600 hrs. on it. Corrosion was found on the spar cap in the same area as the fracture. The aircraft had four documented 'hard' landings. As a part 141 aircraft it had undergone 76 100 hr. inspections. See where this is going?

  6. The biggest issue with any attorney who represents plaintiffs in cases like this, is that most claim on their websites "to be in the business to make aviation safer", but seemingly never seem to really do that, but tout the tremendous values of the awards that they have won for a plaintiff.

    These attorneys generally go after the same claim that won them, or another law firm, a case previously, knowing that juries do not really care about the real facts, pilot qualifications, weather, rules and regs and know nothing about aviation, but have sympathy for a grieving family.

    Perhaps a list of product improvements made as a result of a lawsuit would be in order .....

  7. He got the right scum bag ambulance chasing lawyer a airplane owner expert lawyer who pays for his jets by siding aircraft manufacturers, to bad he dose t own the other arrow, let’s see, can I say this because he sues anyone who comments on him.

  8. I usually find the comments more informative than the article. Lawyers/attorneys don't like being criticized ... or worse still, to be shown to have missed something. Some of the aviation commentators/commenters on Kathryn's Report have more knowledge than the lawyers and attorneys.

  9. The manufacturer of the plane has deeper pockets than the flight school that was operating and maintaining / inspecting the plane.

    RIP guys.

    Too bad a couple of the attorneys weren't in the back seats.

  10. 7600 airframe hours + 7 recorded hard landing inspections = "F" grade for the owner and operator Embry-Riddle

    I agree that if Piper Aircaft is sued, then ERAU needs to be held accountable as well. It's time to stop paying for the stupidly. This plane should have been retired and sent back to Piper to be disassembled and not returned to service. This could have been a learning experience for ERAU and Piper. But like most educational institutions "it's all about the all mighty dollar"


  11. Like any car or boat, it is difficult to determine what hard loads have occurred in the past and how severe.

    For myself, this May-June is the second annual on our 1977 -201T. Last year we carefully inspected the aft and forward view of the spar cap and only found accumulated dirt and a bit of oily grease.

    This year we removed the fuel tanks to re-do the fuel tank AD (and) repeat the spar inspection with better forward accessibility. Tank removal is required to fully see the entire front of the spar cap. Again, other than typical dirt/oil accumulation things look good. One of the nice things we noted is the spar was dipped in zinc chromate at the time of manufacture. There is only a slight amount of oxidation on the aluminum stringers, easily wiped away.

    What qualifies as a hard landing is subjective. Inspections without full disassembly and complete paint removal are also subjective but done with a trained eye and recorded with a bore-scope camera for reference pictures.

    But, from a pragmatic standpoint, would you pull both fuel tanks every time a hard landing was noted? Not likely.

    The whole incident is terrible. Lives lost, families separated prematurely, grandchildren perhaps desired will not be born. A friend of ours knows the student pilot and their family personally.

    Someone posted recently "no flight is routine". They are right. I have to admit that jewel of wisdom awoke me from a level of complacency. Every time I turn the key those words are remembered.

    Now, am I going to dispose of both our PA-28R's? No. We will continue to inspect both and fly them just as hundreds of others do each day.

    Are we negligent or irresponsible for making that decision?

    Some might have a strong opinion on that, both ways.

    But be careful to remember that cracks, de-lamination and material fatigue are not limited to one model or brand of aircraft, nor to wood or metal alone.

    The truth is all aircraft have these problems to one degree or another and the severity is progressive. Sometimes there are problems beginning from the production line before flight stresses are ever encountered.

    Inspect all the time. Spend the time and money and do it. Inspections are your best friend.

    The court case could go anywhere and one party will experience the idea justice was not served. The only people who will "win" are the lawyers.