Sunday, March 22, 2020

Runway Excursion: Air Tractor AT-502B, N6180J; accident occurred May 27, 2018 in Qulin, Butler County, Missouri

Weight and Balance Calculations

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; St. Louis, Missouri

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Qulin, MO
Accident Number: CEN18LA194
Date & Time: 05/27/2018, 1200 CDT
Registration: N6180J
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Runway excursion
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On May 27, 2018, about 1200 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT502B, N6180J, impacted terrain during takeoff from a private airstrip near Qulin, Missouri. The pilot was not injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by Danny's Air Agri Service, Inc. under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot reported that the airplane was loaded with 2,700 lbs of chemical and he was using an airstrip owned by one of his customers. He noted that he had been using the airstrip for the past 14 years and knew how the airplane performed when taking off from this airstrip. He stated that the engine gauges were all indicating normal, but during the takeoff, the tailwheel of the airplane was still on the ground after the airplane had used about 3/4 of the runway length. At this point, he checked the engine instruments, and all were still indicating within normal parameters. When the airplane reached the end of the runway it was still not airborne, and the pilot applied full flaps to "jump" the ditch at the end of the runway. The airplane crossed the ditch and impacted the ground on the other side of the ditch.

Examination of the airplane after the accident confirmed substantial damage to both wings, landing gear, aft fuselage and tail surfaces. No preimpact anomalies were found that would have prevented normal operation, and the pilot didn't report any mechanical issues encountered during the flight.

The turf runway had a north-south orientation and was about 2,500 ft long. The takeoff was performed to the south. At the south end of the runway was a drainage ditch which separated two farm fields.

The pilot reported to Federal Aviation Administration inspectors that the airplane had between 130 and 140 gallons of fuel and 2,700 lbs of chemical on-board. Based on a fuel density of 6.7 lbs per gallon, and the airplane's empty weight of 4,778 lbs, the airplane's takeoff weight was calculated to be between 8,523 and 8,574 lbs. The maximum gross weight of the airplane was listed as 8,000 lbs.

At 1153, the recorded weather conditions at the Poplar Bluff Municipal Airport, Poplar Bluff, Missouri, about 12 nm north of the accident site were wind from 210 degrees at 5 kts,10 sm visibility, clear skies, temperature 30° C, dewpoint 22° C, and an altimeter setting 29.92 inches of mercury.

Based on the reported weather conditions, the calculated density altitude was about 2,200 ft.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
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 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/09/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/05/2017
Flight Time: 17616 hours (Total, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: AIR TRACTOR INC
Registration: N6180J
Model/Series: AT 502B B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1995
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 502B-0329
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 01/15/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:8000 lbs 
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time: 10219 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt & Whitney
Engine Model/Series: PT6A-45R
Rated Power: 1100 hp
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: POF, 331 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1153 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 340°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 22°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Qulin, MO (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Qulin, MO (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1200 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Private (PVT)
Runway Surface Type: Dirt; Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 300 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2500 ft / 100 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: 36.557222, -90.204722


  1. He only forgot one thing in his calculations, there is a dump handle on the left side by your knee that would have corrected his misfortune.

  2. Yeah but the question is how quickly does it dump the load? My guess is he committed too late to abort and a dump would not have saved the aircraft. I mean the fact that his tailwheel was still not off the ground after 3/4 down the field was the red flag he should have listened to. That was his only chance to throw it in reverse pitch and brake. So he committed to continue the takeoff. Engine instruments can look fine well within normal performance parameters, but if the aircraft doesn't want to fly, it won't for a reason - and one needs to abort and investigate. Wrecked air tractor and perhaps the old dude's high level of time and experience put overconfidence in his tractor. It happens to the best of us.