Friday, September 18, 2020

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, N7602Y: Accident occurred September 12, 2020 near Billings Logan International Airport (KBIL), Yellowstone County, 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: Billings, MT
Accident Number: WPR20LA308
Date & Time: September 12, 2020, 11:43 Local 
Registration: N7602Y
Aircraft: Piper PA 30 
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On September 12, 2020 about 1143 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-30 airplane, N7602Y, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near the Billings Logan International Airport (BIL). The airline transport pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The airplane departed Lake Elmo Airport (21D), St. Paul, Minnesota and was destined for BIL. According to the FAA, the pilot contacted the BIL air traffic control tower asking for clearance to land on runway 28. In addition, the pilot mentioned that the airplane had one engine “out,” but did not share details, nor did he declare an emergency. As the airplane was on short final, the pilot made another radio call to tower indicating that he lost the second engine. The airplane landed short of the runway against a cliffside.

The airplane has been recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N7602Y
Model/Series: PA 30 No Series 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: BIL,2662 ft msl
Observation Time: 11:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C /0°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 210°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: St. Paul, MN (21D)
Destination: Billings, MT

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 45.649333,-108.38076 (est)

A plane crashed at the base of the Rims near North Park late Saturday morning, putting its pilot in the hospital but causing no harm otherwise.

Billings Fire Department engines and American Medical Response arrived at the scene around 11:45 a.m. after witnesses saw the plane drop at the northern end of Vuecrest Drive, just yards away from the nearest house.

“So far, we have no details on what caused the crash,” said BFD Battalion Chief Ed Regele.

Regele said the pilot, who was the only person on board, was in communication with air traffic controllers at Billings Logan International Airport when the plane fell off the radar. The landing bent the wings and twisted the tail of the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, but caused no fire.

The pilot has been taken to the hospital to be treated for lacerations and probable head trauma, according to Regele, but was conscious when emergency crews extracted him from the plane.

Ryan Mershon, who lives nearby, said he didn’t hear or see anything until fire engines drove onto Vuecrest Drive. He said a neighbor out walking his dog saw the plane fall before texting him.

“I just can’t believe nobody was killed,” he said.

Regele said the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified, but will not be investigating the crash. Billings Police officers will take photographs of the site crash, which will be sent to the U.S. Flight Standards District Office in Helena. Ultimately, it will be the Federal Aviation Administration that determines what caused the emergency landing.


  1. Right engine prop, with only one blade still attached, is in feather. No reason why the aircraft would fall short of the runway in single engine ops unless he waited too late to identify and secure the failing engine. At least he missed the homes and kept it wings level going in.

    1. Oops both blades are attached...didn't see the third pic...

    2. Actually there are several reasons the pilot could "come up short" on approach, but the most likely cause in this scenario is fuel starvation.
      The pilot was on over a 4 1/2 hour flight from St Paul MN. When he contacted Billings approach about 20mi out, he informed them he had an engine shut down, and was asked if he needed any assistance to which he replied no. Approach then vectored him to the numbers for 28R and instructed him to contact tower. The pilot contacted tower and also informed them he had an engine shut down, and was asked again if he need assistance, to which he again said no. A few moments later he informed tower that he had lost the other engine and declared an emergency. As you can see from the photos, it was not the outcome that anyone would have wanted. Very lucky to be alive, and no-one on the ground was injured.
      Oddly, this aircraft was declared DESTROYED in July 1966 on an approach to Pickens airport, AL (3M8) for fuel exhaustion. Both Pilot and passenger were fatally injured


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