Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Collision During Landing: Piper PA-24 Comanche 400, N8501P; accident occurred August 30, 2021 at Fullerton Municipal Airport (KFUL), Orange County, California

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Long Beach, California

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://data.ntsb.gov/Docket

Location: Fullerton, California
Accident Number: WPR21LA343
Date and Time: August 30, 2021, 13:40 Local 
Registration: N8501P
Aircraft: Piper PA-24-400 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land 
Injuries: 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, while accomplishing a straight in approach to land, he was slowing the airplane down, and was not paying attention to an obstacle ahead when he extended the landing gear and flaps at the last moment. The airplane subsequently struck the airport perimeter fence and then collided with terrain before coming to rest on the runway. The wings and fuselage were substantially damaged. The pilot reported that there were no pre-accident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to monitor the environment and maintain a proper glidepath on approach which, resulted in a collision with the airport perimeter fence.


Aircraft Descent/approach/glide path - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Environmental issues Fence/fence post - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern final Collision during takeoff/land (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial 
Age: 90, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: August 12, 2020
Occupational Pilot: 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: August 28, 2020
Flight Time: (Estimated) 3834 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2805 hours (Total, this make and model), 3733 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Other flight crew Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial; Flight instructor
Age: Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Single-engine sea; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Unmanned (sUAS)
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): 
Airplane Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): 
Airplane multi-engine; Airplane single-engine; Instrument airplane
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Unknown 
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: UNK
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N8501P
Model/Series: PA-24-400
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1964 
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 26-81
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: January 11, 2021 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3600 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3653 Hrs at time of accident 
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-720
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 400 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFUL,96 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 12:53 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 91°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 7000 ft AGL
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 190°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 29.78 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Chino, CA (CNO)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Fullerton, CA 
Type of Clearance: VFR;Traffic advisory; VFR flight following
Departure Time: 12:30 Local 
Type of Airspace: Air traffic control; Class B;Class C

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 96 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 06/24
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3121 ft / 75 ft 
VFR Approach/Landing: Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.872014,-117.97978 (est)

A plane struck a chain-link fence while attempting to land at Fullerton Municipal Airport Monday afternoon, August 30, sending the two people aboard to the hospital.

A pilot and one passenger were aboard the Piper PA-24 Comanche 400 that came to rest on its belly on the runway at about 1:55 p.m., said Brendan O’Reilly, the airport manager. They were able to communicate with paramedics.

“It looks like they just came in too low on approach and hit the perimeter fence around the airport,” O’Reilly said.

Part of the aircraft landing gear was left detached, several feet away from the rest of the aircraft. Two blades on the propeller were bent and the plane’s front end partially crushed.

The crash resulted in the closure of the airport’s runway, O’Reilly said, projecting that it would take several hours before it could reopen.


  1. One of my favs! Please please fix her up

  2. yessir.... the comanche is one of the prettiest airplanes out there....it and a super viking....

  3. This is a COMANCHE 400. 400 h.p. from an eight cylinder Lycoming.
    Rare bird!

    1. Yeah I looked at one many years ago but after doing the numbers on fuel burn vs. performance, I passed even though it was a great deal and somewhat of an aviation novelty. But as we all know in aviation when you own something, be it a large airline or a single jet corporation down to a private owner, novelty and the "cool" factor don't work for the bottom line when operating expenses are considered. And as T Ibach said above, the performance wasn't game changing either. Some of that was contributed to the power to weight ratio.

  4. "Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances on landing."

    Wheels appear to be missing in the photo. That would seem to be a known circumstance... Gear up landing or failed gear.

    1. According to the article they hit the perimeter fence which probably sheered the gear off.

    2. Maintain thine airspeed (and glide path), lest the ground (or fence) riseth up and smite thee.

  5. ATC audio of this one is up on YouTube. Definitely some bad decisions were made that day. The tower gave very clear instructions to the pilot to go around because their gear was up. The pilot ignored the command to go around as well as multiple subsequent calls from the tower. Also, several unauthorized bystanders illegally entered the movement area after the accident, which caused issues for authorized responders.

  6. I don't know, but that pic looks like it's bent beyond feasible repair

    1. I think it's rebuildable. The biggest killers are the wing and main fuselage frame structurea. Most of this damage looks to be firewall forward which is a relatively easy fix. As long as the airframe is not bent behind the firewall and the wing root is not damaged, it is rebuildable. The question is at what cost vs. the aircraft value. That question sends more classics like this to their scrapyard graves than anything else by insurance companies.

    2. "http://www.comancheflyer.com/PA24-400.htm"

    3. The engine damage and O/H alone would total this airplane.

  7. The audio from the ATC feed indicates they told him to go around because his landing gear was not down. Shortly after that transmission, ATC reported the gear was down. Indications are that the pilot hit the chain-link fence at the east end of the runway, sheering off or damaging the landing gear, and causing the plane to belly-land. The pilot sounds like he's 90 years old.

    1. I work at this airport. Can confirm, pilot is in fact 90 and makes things interesting for the controllers and everyone else in the pattern every time he flies. We are lucky his flying career is over, and that nobody died in the process. I feel so bad for that beautiful airplane.

    2. So the registered owner” RICHMOND RONALD L” name does NOT show up in the FAA airman data base???

    3. Airmen registry shows one airmen match including owners middle name, with address opted out. The owner has a website that includes a photo of the Comanche. Impressive that he just renewed his third class medical. Hope he and the passenger make a full recovery.


  8. The last I checked, "Go around" is a mandatory command to follow. It's not "Go around if you feel like it." Pilots need to be spring loaded to execute a go around the moment they hear those words. What seems to have happened here is when the pilot heard the words "your wheels appear up" after "Go around", he thought "Oh, I can save this" and decided to ignore the go around command, but not tell the tower his intentions. It's likely the startle factor of his mistake, the increased drag of dropping the gear and the distraction of verifying it being down and locked all combined to cause him to descend below a safe glide path and hit the perimeter fence. Had the tower only told him to go around without the reason, it's possible he wouldn't have ignored the command and tried to save the landing.

    1. Go around, turn immediately, hold short are all non debatable or optional to the pilot.

  9. If he'd have left the gear up he would have missed the fence! :)

  10. You can see part of the chainlink fence pole bent around the right wing as it scraped along the runway on its belly, I'm afraid this plane is going to the scrapyard and the 90 year old pilot's flying days are over.

  11. That airplane did not even reach the rwy 24 threshold bar. I've flown in and out of KFUL many times, and short final goes right over industrial buildings, railroad tracks, and a road. Judging by the images, I'd say he probably just missed the buildings and railroad tracks, impacted the road, and then slid through the fence and onto the runway. Sadly, the airplane is junk, but nobody was injured; the pilot and passenger are very, very fortunate as the result could have been much worse.

    1. Very busy train tracks. If there were an amtrak or metrolink on the tracks at the time, they no doubt would have been hit and this would probably be national news.

  12. complete list of short duration flights thru Aug 30th @ flightaware.
    Date Aircraft Origin Destination Departure Arrival Duration
    30-Aug-2021 PA24 Fullerton Muni (KFUL) Fullerton Muni (KFUL) 13:39 PDT 13:42 PDT 0:03
    30-Aug-2021 PA24 Chino (KCNO) Chino (KCNO) 13:11 PDT 13:19 PDT 0:07
    30-Aug-2021 PA24 Fullerton Muni (KFUL) Chino (KCNO) 12:14 PDT 12:33 PDT 0:18
    08-Aug-2021 PA24 Fullerton Muni (KFUL) Fullerton Muni (KFUL) 12:32 PDT 12:53 PDT 0:20

  13. Flight list: So how does one accomplish a 3 minute flight in a Comanche? Maybe take off and land on the same pass?

    1. 30 Aug flight data @ https://globe.adsbexchange.com/?icao=aba9e1&lat=33.981&lon=-117.649&zoom=13.9&showTrace=2021-08-30&leg=2&trackLabels

    2. That otta buff right out with some 800-grit and some good polishing compound.

  14. I remember that 400 Comanche at Fullerton from when I learned to fly there in 1979. Good thing the short power poles with lines belonging to the railroad were put underground. He would have hit those with that approach.