Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N317LB: Accident occurred August 14, 2020 near Wheatland County Airport (KHWQ), Harlowton, Montana

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

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

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

Location: Harlowton, MT
Accident Number: WPR20LA278
Date & Time: 08/14/2020, 1235 MDT
Registration: N317LB
Aircraft: PIPER PA28
Injuries: 4 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On August 14, 2020, about 1235 mountain daylight time, a Piper, PA-28-140, N317LB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Harlowton, Montana. The pilot and three passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the pilot, he selected runway 27 and performed a short-field takeoff at the airplane's maximum gross weight. About 77 miles per hour (MPH), "I rotated and we began to climb before reaching the end of the runway." He recalled that moments later, the airspeed decreased, and the airplane descended. The airplane touched down and nosed over on the grass surface of a pasture about one mile west of the airport. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing and the fuselage.

The pilot reported that the airplane engine power had declined over the months prior to the accident and that he had the engine inspected two days prior to the accident. The pilot recalled that the FAA certificated airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P) that inspected the engine informed him that the engine produced between 2,200-2,300 revolutions per minute (RPM). Additionally, the A&P inspected the tachometer and found it to be operational.

The pilot reported that the engine did not malfunction, yet he affirms that "the engine was not providing as much power as it should have." The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N317LB
Model/Series: PA28 140
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Trail Of 140 Tears LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: K1KM, 4363 ft msl
Observation Time: 1858 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / -2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots / 22 knots, 300°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.16 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Harlowton, MT (HWQ)
Destination: White Sulfur Sp, MT (7S6)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 3 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 46.448611, -109.852778 (est)

The Wheatland County Sheriff's Office reports that a small plane crashed last Friday approximately three-quarters of a mile west of the Harlowton Airport.

The pilot and three passengers aboard a Piper PA-28-140 had been departing to the west when the pilot reportedly realized a significant loss of lift, according to a social media post by the Sheriff's Office. "My takeoff speed is supposed to be 70 but I had reached 78 mph at liftoff," the pilot reported to Sheriff Everett Misner.

The plane descended into a field approximately three quarters of a mile west of the runway and came to rest on its top after striking a fence post and barbed wire and tearing off the front landing gear.

As fuel dripped from the plane's tanks, Sheriff's Office personnel, as well as the Wheatland County Volunteer Fire Department, were able to pull pins from the door latches, fold the access door down and assist the occupants to safety. A passenger, under guidance from the pilot, was able to turn off the main power and fuel supply moments after the crash.

Variable winds coupled with the plane's load are believed to be contributing circumstances to the crash. The pilot, his wife, and a Harlowton couple were treated for minor injuries. The crash has been reported to the FAA and the NTSB, according to the Sheriff.


  1. 'Damage: Unknown'
    Allow me to amend that.......'totaled'.

  2. Elevation 4,312 ft, 80 degF, four on board a 140. Full fuel load, too? Lucky to come down level enough to walk away, and no fire.