Sunday, January 19, 2020

Collision During Takeoff: Cessna 421B Golden Eagle, N3372Q; accident occurred April 26, 2016 at Foley Municipal Airport (5R4), Baldwin County, Alabama

View of fire damaged wreckage 

Fuel receipt for 45.2 gallons of 100LL 

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Foley, AL
Accident Number: ERA16LA171
Date & Time: 04/26/2016, 1424 CDT
Registration: N3372Q
Aircraft: CESSNA 421
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On April 26, 2016, at 1424 central daylight time, a Cessna 421B, N3372Q, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain in Foley, Alabama. The private pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight from Foley Municipal Airport (5R4), Foley, Alabama, to West Georgia Regional Airport (CTJ), Carrollton, Georgia. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

During a postaccident interview with a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector, the pilot recounted that he taxied out and lined up for takeoff on the runway. With brakes on, he cycled the propellers and they "checked good." The magneto check at 1,500 rpm was also "good," as were the oil pressure and oil temperature. The pilot then ensured that the fuel selectors were position to both main fuel tanks, the throttles were full, mixtures were all the way forward, the fuel boost pumps were on low, and the propellers were all the way forward. He selected the flaps to the takeoff position and released the brakes.

During the takeoff roll, everything was "normal" (temperatures and pressures were "in the green"), and when the airplane had accelerated to 75-80 knots, the pilot pulled back on the yoke slowly, and the airplane began to climb. The pilot raised the landing gear and noticed that the airplane wasn't climbing. He looked at the airspeed indicator, which indicated 80 knots. The pilot heard the stall warning and pulled back on the yoke. He then shut the boost pumps off and lowered the flaps before a hard impact.

After impact, the pilot found himself upside down. He released his seat belt, saw fire and went to the back of the airplane. He opened the aft hatch and rolled forward, landing flat on his back. Two men then helped him up and led him to a nearby building. When asked about the performance of the airplane's engines the pilot stated, "the engines were operating fine and I screwed up."
Review of the normal takeoff checklist for the airplane revealed that the minimum control speed was 86 knots, and the break ground and climb out speed was 106 knots.

A witness stated that during the takeoff from runway 18, the airplane left the ground at the departure runway end, just clearing the airport's perimeter fence. The airplane was unable to gain sufficient altitude to clear the trees less than ¼ of a mile south of the runway. The airplane began hitting tree tops, and impacted a large oak tree with the left wing, then spun into two other large oak trees 30 feet to the southwest. The airplane then flipped over, hit the ground, exploded and was consumed by fire. The pilot jumped from the rear entry door and landed on his back. The pilot refused medical attention and sustained burns and a cut to his left hand.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):None 
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/31/2011
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 5450 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N3372Q
Model/Series: 421 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1972
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 421B0256
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 7449 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
Engine Model/Series: GTSI0-520-H
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 375 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None  

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: JKA, 17 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1415 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 160°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 11 knots / 17 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 130°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 19°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Foley, AL (5R4)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Carrollton, GA (CTJ)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1424 CDT
Type of Airspace:Class G 

Airport Information

Airport: Foley Municipal Airport (5R4)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 73 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3700 ft / 74 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries:1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 30.416389, -87.700278


  1. There is Youtube video of this crash taken from a security camera at the building where this aircraft hit the tree. It's scary. He basically just slammed into a tree and people came out getting him down right before a fire started on the ground with fuel.

  2. "The pilot refused medical attention and sustained burns and a cut to his left hand.

    Walked away, tough as nails!

  3. "The pilot heard the stall warning and pulled back on the yoke."

    Dumber than a doornail!

    1. ^ Beating a dead horse.
      According the NTSB pilot report - The pilot, Mr. Smith, said “the engines were operating fine and I screwed up.” Being a careful reader, I paid attention to the avionics inspector statement, which is indicative of the whole accident.
      Not a lump on a log.

    2. Proof that it's better to be lucky than good.

  4. Ok, what did he screw up exactly?

    1. If it wasn't obvious it's better that you not fly.

    2. Pilot attempted to take off too early/slow airspeed. He rotated and attempted to climb at 80 knots. Minimum control speed on the check list was 86 knots and climb out speed was 106 knots. Sounds like he lifted into ground effect, ran out of runway, and tried to yank the plane up over the trees ahead which caused it to stall and crash. Very lucky to survive that.

    3. No, it was not obvious. He (stated) he had full power and props forward and he used the entire runway but barely cleared the perimeter fence. The C421 should have had excessive airspeed because he sure as heck wasn't climbing (this precludes flying behind the power curve). Sounded like he forgot to get his props or mixture forward. It reads like he flew in ground effect until he pulled up to clear tree's.

    4. This -

      "The pilot heard the stall warning and pulled back on the yoke."

  5. He also was way past due on his physical. Old guy who lifted her off the runway too soon, tried to climb with stall warning going off. Lucky to be alive.

  6. That would do it for me; no more attempting to impersonate a pilot!