Saturday, July 11, 2020

Collision During Takeoff: Piper PA-23-250 Aztec, N1428P; accident occurred January 08, 2020 near Helena Regional Airport (KHLN), Lewis and Clark County, Montana

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Helena, Montana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Helena, MT
Accident Number: WPR20CA066
Date & Time: 01/08/2020, 1600 MST
Registration: N1428P
Aircraft: Piper PA 23
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that, during an instructional flight in a twin-engine airplane, which included feathering and unfeathering the left engine in flight, the left engine would not restart. The airplane was unable to maintain altitude and reach the destination airport, so he landed the airplane on a field about 1/2 mile from the airport. After the instructor successfully started the engine on the ground, the student pilot walked back to the airport, while the instructor decided to attempt an off-airport departure from the frozen ground with 4-inch-tall alfalfa stubble. He chose a takeoff path that didn't have any visible obstructions, which he estimated would allow for a 3,000-ft-long ground roll. He then taxied to the edge of the field, held the brakes, applied full power to the engines, and released the brakes, and the airplane began to move. About 700 ft into the ground roll, the airplane impacted a shallow rut from an irrigation pivot, and the nose landing gear collapsed, which resulted in substantial damage to the forward fuselage. The pilot reported that his decision to take off from the field was poor because he made it without first walking the takeoff terrain.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper decision to attempt an off-airport departure from rough terrain without inspecting the takeoff area, which resulted in a collision with a shallow rut during takeoff and the nose landing gear collapsing.


Personnel issues
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)
Planning/preparation - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Rough terrain - Effect on operation (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight

Collision during takeoff/land (Defining event)
Landing gear collapse

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor
Age: 61, 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): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/30/2018
Occupational Pilot:Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/31/2018
Flight Time:  8174 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1874 hours (Total, this make and model), 7939 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 294 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 98 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N1428P
Model/Series: PA 23 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1956
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 23-484
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 12/16/2019, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3501 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 12 Hours
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 5051 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-320
Registered Owner: Vetter Brent E
Rated Power: 150 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: , 3877 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 1553 MST
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 7000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 230°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.54 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C / -6°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Helena, MT (HLN)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Helena, MT (HLN)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1615 MST
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Airport: Helena Rgnl (HLN)
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 3877 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Holes; Rough; Vegetation
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
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: 46.606944, -111.983056 (est)

1 comment:

  1. Got in a hurry while working himself out from an unplanned off-field landing. If a recovery pilot had been involved, the walkdown of the runway path would have been done as part of figuring things out before proceeding.

    Lesson here is to detach from the unplanned landing mentally and approach the recovery as if you were a recovery pilot brought in to see what could be done.