Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Piper PA-28-161 Warrior III, N558PU: Accident occurred December 02, 2019 near Vero Beach Regional Airport (KVRB), Indian River County, Florida

 Zhuang Qu (yellow vest), was flying a Piper PA-28-161 Warrior III before the plane lost power and went down near Vero Beach Regional Airport December 2nd, 2019. 

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

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


Location: Vero Beach, FL
Accident Number: ERA20TA046
Date & Time: 12/02/2019, 1240 EST
Registration: N558PU
Aircraft: Piper PA28
Injuries:1 None 
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On December 2, 2019, about 1240 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N558PU, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in a field at Vero Beach, Florida. The private pilot was not injured. The airplane was operated by FlightSafety International under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a solo-instructional flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight originated at La Belle Municipal Airport (X14), La Belle, Florida about 1130 and was destined for Vero Beach Regional Airport (VRB), Vero Beach, Florida.

According to the operator, the pilot departed VRB earlier in the day for a solo, cross-country flight. He took off from VRB with full fuel tanks (48 useable gallons) and landed uneventfully at X14. He intended to switch fuel tanks one hour into the flight, contrary to the flight school's policy of every 30 minutes. He forgot to switch tanks prior to landing at X14 and did not switch tanks on the ground at X14 prior to departure. During the return flight to VRB, he again did not switch fuel tanks. While in the traffic pattern at VRB, the engine lost all power and quit. Unable to glide to runway 4, he performed a forced landing in a field to the south of the airport. During the landing roll, the airplane collided with a tree, separating the left wing from the airframe.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. Both wings and the fuselage were structurally damaged. The left wing fuel tank was not breached and contained no fuel. The right wing fuel tank was completely full of fuel. The cockpit fuel selector handle was found in the left tank position.

The wreckage was retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N558PU
Model/Series: PA28 161
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Flightsafety International Inc
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: KVRB, 28 ft msl
Observation Time: 1253 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3700 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 18 knots / 25 knots, 300°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.88 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: La Belle, FL (X14)
Destination: Vero Beach, FL (VRB)

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: 27.645833, -80.427778 (est)

VERO BEACH, Florida — Zhuang Qu brought both of his hands up to his face in shock. The 22-year-old student pilot seemed stunned and without words.

About 45 minutes prior Monday afternoon, Qu was piloting a Piper PA-28-161 Warrior III enroute to Vero Beach Regional Airport from an airport in Okeechobee County on what flight safety officials told police is his first solo flight.

Suddenly, the aircraft lost power, police officials said. 

This was not the first time that exact plane lost power in flight. In November 2018, the aircraft's engine experienced a partial power loss, according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot at that time was able to land the plane safely. It's unclear from records where that happened.

An inspection later found a crack in one of the engine's cylinders led to the power loss, FAA records showed. The cylinder was then "replaced with a serviceable part." 

Now, just over a year later, Qu brought the plane down into a field.

"The plane lost power and he decided to bring it here instead of crashing it into a residential area," said Master Police Officer Darrell Rivers. "He found a safe place to land, and so here we are." 

Qu was able to land the airplane into a clearing in the 4100 block of Aviation Boulevard just south of 26th Street, successfully avoiding nearby residential areas.  The airplane clipped a tree on its way down, ripping off its left wing. While debris from the plane was scattered across the open field, Qu was unharmed.   The plane is registered to FlightSafety International Inc, a flight school with a training academy at Vero Beach Regional Airport.

The Treasure Coast has been no stranger to plane crashes in recent months. 

A March 5 plane crash left one FlightSafety Academy student pilot dead after a Piper PA-28 Cherokee crashed deep in the woods south of Vero Lake Estates.

A pilot of a rare military aircraft died in Stuart, November 1st, as his plane crashed while he was practicing for the Audi Stuart Air Show. A final report for that particular crash from the National Transportation Safety Board could take more than a year.

Story and video ➤ https://www.tcpalm.com


  1. Wing ripped off and the report says minor damage ?

  2. I didn't even notice that initial report comment. I was however impressed how well the entire hull and even gear seemed to be in shape. But yeah, minor damage to me is not a wing missing.