Monday, August 02, 2021

Cessna 172E, N3090U: Accident occurred August 02, 2021 near JAARS-Townsend Airport (N52), Waxhaw, Union County, North 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; Charlotte, North Carolina 

Wings Over Waxhaw Flying Club Inc

Location: Waxhaw, North Carolina
Accident Number: ERA21LA313
Date and Time: August 2, 2021, 12:59 Local
Registration: N3090U
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Injuries: 3 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On August 2, 2021, about 1259 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172E, N3090U, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Waxhaw, North Carolina. The pilot and two passengers received minor injuries. The airplane was being operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The accident occurred during takeoff from runway 04 at JAARS-Townsend Airport (N52), Waxhaw, North Carolina. After rotation, just past the windsock located on the fence of the airport, the airplane became airborne and gained roughly 50 feet. The pilot maintained best rate of climb speed (80 mph), but the airplane failed to climb. He momentarily decreased the speed towards best angle of climb speed, to see if the airplane would respond with best angle of climb, but it did not, so he returned to best rate of climb speed. He heard no abnormal sounds from the engine or any decrease in rpm during the takeoff run.

Sensing that the airplane would not clear the trees beyond the departure end of the runway (the trees were getting closer and he was not able to see any more trees appearing beyond), he momentarily reduced power to idle to land on the remaining runway and overrun area.

However, as he was thinking about the rapid deceleration forces of hitting the chain-link fence, he elected to add power and land on a lawn just beyond the airport. After adding enough power to reach the lawn, he reduced power to idle and touched down prior to a wooded area. On rollout, the airplane was traveling towards a gap in the trees. The pilot then turned left to avoid the trees, and the airplane nosed over and came to rest nose down, leaning against a tree.

The pilot realized that he and the front seat passenger were hanging from their seatbelts, and he was concerned about the fuel that was leaking from the airplane. The rear seat passenger easily egressed and assisted the front seat passenger. The pilot’s pant leg was snagged between his seat and the instrument panel, so he grabbed the fabric and ripped it until he felt he was free at which point he was able to egress. He then directed some campers away from the accident site, and a few minutes later returned to the airplane, to ensure that the master switch was off. To do so, he pulled the windscreen the rest of the way off the airplane (it had already been partially separated from the airplane during the accident sequence.

The pilot had flown this airplane several times over the previous few weeks without any problems.

The wreckage was retained by the NTSB for examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N3090U
Model/Series: 172 E
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: KLKR, 486 ft msl 
Observation Time: 12:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C /18°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Waxhaw, NC (N52)
Destination: Waxhaw, NC

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Minor 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 34.868453,-80.742878 

When Christians accept the call to enter the overseas mission field, they accept any number of risks, including potential persecution from foreign governments and even personal harm or death.

For Peter Lessmann, one of those risks nearly became very real on Monday afternoon.

Peter, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Indianola, was one of three people, including the pilot, who survived a plane crash in Union County, North Carolina on Monday afternoon.

Peter, 18, and his 16-year-old brother Richard were there training with a mission organization called JAARS when the crash happened.

They are the sons of Indianola physician Dr. Erik Lessmann and Rebecca Lessmann, who have 10 children, ranging from 5 to 22 years old.

Richard was not on board the plane when it crashed.

Emergency medical responders were dispatched to the crash site just before 2 p.m. that day, according to a release from the Union County Sheriff’s Department, “And determined that a single engine plane had nosedived in the back yard of a residence” there.

According to the JAARS website, “From pilot training and mission aviation services to remote technology and communications support, we provide off-the-grid logistical solutions that help make Bible translation possible.”

The camp, Rebecca said, is designed to spur teenagers’ interest in mission work, and not only the mechanics of flying, but how they can help missionaries in remote areas.

The boys were signed up to go last year, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.

Rebecca said there are about 10 boys at the camp this week, and cellphones were supposed to be off limits during the week of flight training.

When she saw Peter’s number come up on her phone, she knew something was not right.

“He called me and said, ‘Mom, don’t panic. I think I’m okay,’ and he said, ‘I was in a plane crash,’” she said. “I thought he was kidding me, because the whole previous week, I told the boys, ‘You can go to this camp and learn all you want about flying on the ground, but you can’t go up in an airplane.’ I was just joking, of course.”

This was no joke.

The recent high school graduate described to his mother having a headache, but overall he seemed to be okay. Peter and the other passenger were apparently taken by ambulance to a Charlotte, N.C. hospital where they were treated for minor injuries and later released.

The pilot also survived with no major injuries.

During the call with his mother, Peter described what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.

“He said they were going up,” she said. “He said they were over the tree line and were ascending, and he heard the pilot say, ‘uh oh.’ The last thing he said was that it was so fast. He described flipping over into the trees.”

“Preliminary indications are that the plane experienced mechanical problems shortly after taking off from JAARS,” the Sheriff’s department said in its Monday release. “The Federal Aviation Administration will be conducting further investigation into the crash.”

Union County Sheriff's Office, Monroe, North Carolina

Emergency Responders were dispatched to an aircraft emergency Monday afternoon at approximately 1:44 pm in the Radin Road area near Waxhaw. Several UCSO deputies responded and determined that a single-engine plane had nosedived in the back yard of a residence in the 7600 block of Radin Road near JAARS. 

Deputies determined the plane was occupied by a pilot and two passengers at the time of the crash. The passengers were transported to an area hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The pilot was not injured. 

Preliminary indications are that the plane experienced mechanical problems shortly after taking off from JAARS. The FAA will be conducting further investigation into the crash.

WAXHAW, North Carolina  — Two passengers were injured after a plane crashed near Waxhaw Monday afternoon. Deputies with the Union County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene near Radin Road around 1:45 p.m.

A single-engine plane nosedived in the back yard of a home on Radin Road, near JAARS, deputies determined. The two passengers of the plane were transported to a hospital nearby for treatment of minor injuries. The pilot of the plane was not injured.

At this time, deputies believe the plane had mechanical problems shortly after taking off from JAARS and nosedived as a response. The FAA is now conducting an investigation into the crash. 


  1. I wouldn't really say it nose dived it was less than 100 ft off the end of a runway and went in below the tops of the trees which were on a descending hill. If it were flat ground or corn field she would have just needed a wash. If you look at the google map location at the end of rnwy 4 there is a house...It basically took the path of the drive way to the right of the house & into the back yard. Id say they did pretty good. At least it wasn't a stall spin or impossible turn situation. They flew the plane through the crash. The people that fly out of JAARS are some of the best bush pilots out there & they train may new missionary pilots in bush flying & STOL operations and haven't had a crash there in the 30 years I've been in the neighborhood. I loved watching 3090U get her paint work & makeover done. The mechanics at JAARS are top notch but I think the flying club runs on volunteers. JAARS are the only ones I know that still fly the Helio Courier which is a cool plane.

  2. I am not surprised with another engine failure. The club has had financial troubles for years and slacked in maintenance. I personally had an engine out with another plane from WoW. They downplayed this incident and didn’t really investigate on the cause of the failure. The club Wings over Waxhaw is risking the life of everyone flying there!