Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Air Tractor Inc AT-301, N3169H; accident occurred July 22, 2018 in Milford, Dickinson County, Iowa

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Ankeny, Iowa

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

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

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf   


Location: Milford, IA
Accident Number: CEN18LA288
Date & Time: 07/22/2018, 1330 CDT
Registration: N3169H
Aircraft: Air Tractor AT 301
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


The operator reported that, during takeoff for an agricultural application flight, the airplane "quickly whipped" left almost immediately after becoming airborne. Subsequently, the airplane impacted a cornfield and then came to rest about 70 ft west of the runway.

Postaccident airframe examination did not reveal evidence of any preimpact anomalies with the flight control system that would have precluded normal operation. The pilot reported that there were no issues with the engine during the takeoff. The pilot added that he commonly used a gentle rise in the runway to assist the airplane to become airborne during takeoff; however, the investigation could not determine if this played a role in the loss of airplane control. Based on the available evidence, the investigation could not determine the reason for the pilot's loss of airplane control.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of airplane control during takeoff for reasons that could not be determined because no anomalies consistent with a flight control system malfunction were observed.


Performance/control parameters - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information

On July 22, 2018, about 1330 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-301 airplane, N3169H, was substantially damaged during an in-flight collision with terrain after takeoff from a private airstrip (2,000 ft by 50 ft, turf) near Milford, Iowa. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by private individuals as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 agricultural application flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight was originating from the private airstrip at the time of the accident.

The operator reported that the pilot conducted application flights earlier in the day. During the accident takeoff, the airplane "quickly whipped" to the left upon reaching about 8 ft above ground level. The airplane impacted a corn field and came to rest upright, about 70 ft west of the runway, with substantial damage to both wings and the aft fuselage.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector conducted a postrecovery airframe examination. He reported that flight control continuity was confirmed and that no anomalies consistent with a preimpact malfunction were observed. The pilot informed the inspector that there were no issues with the engine during the accident takeoff. The pilot commented that he commonly used a gentle rise in the runway to assist the airplane to become airborne during takeoff.

The operator reported that the airplane weight at the time of the accident was about 5,840 lbs., with a maximum allowable gross weight for the operation of 7,400 lbs. The airplane chemical hopper was about one-half full at the time of the accident.

History of Flight

Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 59, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s):None 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/05/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/14/2018
Flight Time: 3148 hours (Total, all aircraft), 441 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Air Tractor
Registration: N3169H
Model/Series: AT 301 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1984
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 301-0572
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/11/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 7400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 53 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3315.9 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt&Whitney
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: R1340-AN-1
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 600 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SPW, 1339 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1353 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 190°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  7 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: Variable
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Milford, IA (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Milford, IA (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1330 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Airport Information

Airport: Private (PVT)
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 1445 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Vegetation
Runway Used: 36
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2000 ft / 50 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 43.302500, -95.062500

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