Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Loss of Control on Ground: Piper PA-32R-300 Lance, N47863, accident occurred January 25, 2018 at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport (KMTH), Monroe County, Florida

View of Empennage and Tail Section as Found.
Federal Aviation Administration

View of Cockpit and Cabin Area as Found.
Federal Aviation Administration

View of Cabin and Cabin Door as Found.
Federal Aviation Administration

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

Additional Participating Entity:

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

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

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


Location: Marathon, FL
Accident Number: ERA18LA070
Date & Time: 01/25/2018, 1425 EST
Registration: N47863
Aircraft: PIPER PA32R
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on the ground
Injuries: 4 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The private pilot reported that the airplane "was performing well and didn't have any issues" during the attempted takeoff. When the airplane reached about 60 knots during the takeoff roll, the nosewheel lifted off the runway, and the airplane began immediately turning left. The pilot attempted to arrest the turn with rudder and aileron control inputs, but the airplane continued to turn left, exited the runway, and impacted trees.

Given that the airplane had been performing as expected initially, it is likely that the pilot failed to adequately compensate for the airplane's natural left turning tendencies due to torque effects during the attempted takeoff, which resulted in a loss of directional control.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during takeoff.


Directional control - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information 

On January 25, 2018, about 1425 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N47863, was substantially damaged during collision with terrain shortly after takeoff from Florida Keys Marathon International Airport (MTH), Marathon, Florida. The private pilot and three passengers sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The accident flight was recorded via airport surveillance video. One video revealed the airplane began its takeoff roll from a complete stop, on runway 07 and travelled about 800 ft before the nose wheel lifted from the runway. At liftoff, the nose pitched up steeply and the airplane rolled left immediately, before it disappeared from the frame. A second video captured the takeoff from a much greater distance. The image in the frame was smaller with poorer resolution. The video revealed a steep pitch and left bank at takeoff. The climb stopped immediately after liftoff, and the airplane maintained approximately the same angle of bank as it departed the runway to its left, entered the trees, and disappeared. Several seconds later, a fireball appeared above the trees about the point where the airplane entered them.

The pilot reported to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that the airplane "was performing well and didn't have any issues." The airplane reached approximately 60 knots on the takeoff roll when the nose wheel lifted from the runway and the airplane began an immediate left turn. He attempted to arrest the turn with rudder and aileron, but the turn continued until the airplane entered the trees.

A rear seat passenger told the inspector that he was seated in the third row of seats with the other passenger, and that the center row of seats was unoccupied.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued October 20, 2016. He reported 500 total hours of flight experience on that date.

According to FAA airworthiness and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1977. Its most recent annual inspection was completed October 20, 2017, at 6,156.86 total aircraft hours. The maintenance records reflected a "50-hour" inspection completed January 16, 2018.

At 1453, the weather reported at MTH included an overcast ceiling at 4,700 ft, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 050° at 18 knots. The temperature was 22° C, the dew point was 16° C, and the altimeter setting was 30.19 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was examined at the accident site by an FAA inspector and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wings and fuselage were substantially damaged by impact and postcrash fire.

According to FAA Advisory Circular AC-61-23C, Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge:

"The effect of torque increases in direct proportion to engine power, airspeed, and airplane attitude. If the power setting is high, the airspeed slow, and the angle of attack high, the effect of torque is greater. During takeoffs and climbs, when the effect of torque is most pronounced, the pilot must apply sufficient right rudder pressure to counteract the left-turning tendency and maintain a straight takeoff path." 

History of Flight

Loss of control on ground (Defining event)
Attempted remediation/recovery
Runway excursion
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 65, 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:
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/20/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:  
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 500 hours (Total, all aircraft), 10 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N47863
Model/Series: PA32R 300
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 32R-7880025
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/20/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3600 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 50 Hours
Engines: Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6156.86 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-540-K1G5
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 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: MTH, 5 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1953 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 0°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4700 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 18 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 50°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 16°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:  No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Marathon, FL (MTH)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: WINTER HAVEN, FL (GIF)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1425 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 5 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 07
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5008 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 3 Serious
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 24.956944, -81.050556 (est)


  1. I have flown both the Six and Seneca like this ... The rear seats are the most comfortable and quietest for the pax.

    Moves the CG rearward but should have been within the limits based on my experience. However it does make the plane a little more pitch sensitive and requires more nose mown trim to prevent the pitch up. In the Six I also liked one notch of flaps. All of this aside you have to 'fly' the airplane.

    Rearward CG does make the landing a little easier.


  2. I wonder if this was an attempted short or soft field takeoff demonstration gone wrong. The runway at Marathon is around 5000' long so there's no reason for rotating so early in the takeoff roll.