Saturday, August 28, 2021

Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, N3862W: Accident occurred August 28, 2021 near Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport (KSPA), South Carolina

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; Spartansburg,  South Carolina

MMF Aircraft LLC 

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Accident Number: ERA21LA344
Date and Time: August 28, 2021, 12:40 Local 
Registration: N3862W
Aircraft: Piper PA32 
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On August 28, 2021, about 1240 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3862W, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport/Simpson Field (SPA), Spartanburg, South Carolina. The student pilot and flight instructor sustained minor injuries; a passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

According to the student pilot, who was also the owner of the airplane, the airplane was fueled at SPA with 12 gallons of aviation fuel which brought the fuel level in the main fuel tanks to the bottom of the “tabs.” Each wingtip fuel tank contained 17 gallons. On the day of the accident, the student pilot, his spouse, and the flight instructor departed SPA and flew to Foothills Regional Airport (MRN), Morganton, North Carolina, about 60 nautical miles away. They performed two touch-and-go landings at MRN before returning to SPA. During the return flight, they performed several training maneuvers. The student pilot thought they were in the air about “two point three hours.” When the airplane was about 2 nautical miles from SPA, it experienced a sudden loss of engine power. According to the flight instructor, “It felt like the throttle was pulled back to idle.” The rpm decreased from about 2,300 to 1,500 rpm and the propeller continued to “windmill.”

The flight instructor took control of the airplane, which was about 800 ft above ground level and descending. They performed the emergency checklist and attempted to regain engine power but were unsuccessful. The airplane impacted trees in a residential neighborhood about 1 1/2 nautical miles northeast of SPA and came to rest in a nearly vertical position.

Both pilots did not recall the fuel level indicators or engine instrument readings during the loss of power. When they departed, the fuel selector was on the right tank, then switched to the left tank enroute.

Examination airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the fuselage and both wings sustained substantial damage. The engine separated from the firewall. The left fuel tank was breached, and the right fuel tank remained largely intact, but
was leaking fuel. Spartanburg fire rescue personnel who responded to the accident site stated that the fuel selector was on the left tank when they arrived.

The airplane and engine were recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N3862W
Model/Series: PA32 260 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
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: SPA, 801 ft msl 
Observation Time: 12:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C /21°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3500 ft AGL 
Visibility: 7 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.24 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Morganton, NC (MRN) 
Destination: Spartanburg, SC

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 34.916417,-81.955778 

Authorities are investigating the cause of a small plane crash in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Spartanburg Saturday that injured three occupants who were on a training flight when engine trouble occurred.

The Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six crash happened at about 12:40 p.m. Saturday in a wooded area behind a home in the 300 block of St. James Drive, according to a police report.

Spartanburg Fire Assistant Chief of Operations Brad Hall said several neighbors called 911 to report the crash. All three occupants in the plane were transported to Spartanburg Medical Center.

Hall said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the cause of the crash.

"The plane salvage company should be there today to remove the plane," Hall said Monday. "They will do further investigation on the plane once it is recovered."

Police said the occupants were student pilot Roy Griffin Jr., and back seat passenger Deneen Griffin, his wife. Instructor pilot Margo Anderson was also in the plane. 

The only patient in the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Monday was Deneen Griffin, who was in good condition, according to an SRHS spokesperson.

Police said the Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six plane was resting nose down with its tail suspended in tree branches.

Roy Griffin Jr. was injured but walking around, and his wife Deneen and Anderson were lying on the ground minutes after the crash, police said.

Griffin told police they were doing a training flight from Spartanburg Downtown Airport to North Carolina and back, and were almost back to the Downtown Airport when the engine "began to sputter."

Griffin said Anderson tried to take over, but they ended up on the trees, according to the police report.

Witness describes scene

Kristen Fike said she was with her family at nearby Parkwood Pool when they saw the plane crash.

"The plane was flying low over us," Fike said Monday over Facebook messenger. "We were showing the kids, look at the plane. The next thing we know, it kind of clipped the tree and went into the woods right behind us."

Fike said she and a friend drove to the scene. She described what she saw.

"When we got there all three people were out of the plane," Fike said. "She (Deneen) was on the ground yelling about her back hurting and her husband was on the phone with their children telling them to pray for her. The pilot (Anderson) was turning off everything in the plane because she could smell the fuel and didn't want anything else to happen."

Before paramedics arrived to transport the occupants to the hospital, Fike said she overheard some of the conversation at the scene. The Griffins are members of her church and friends with her parents, she said.

"They said they were flying around for about two hours and noticed something was wrong, so they started heading back to the airport. That's when they crashed. I think they were trying to land in an area without houses.

"They were definitely lucky that nothing worse happened," she said. "God had a hand on them that day."

Hall said small plane crashes in Spartanburg are "unusual."

"That's kind of unusual to have a plane crash in a neighborhood," Hall said Monday.


  1. trees on St. James Drive folded the wings and cushioned the cabins descent just to the hard earth below.

  2. Oh this is awful. Thoughts to those on board and their families at this time.