Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Aerodynamic Stall / Spin: Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, N55455; fatal accident occurred January 25, 2020 near Cannon Creek Airpark (15FL), Lake City, Columbia County, Florida

Salena Short

Salena Gail Short
1959 - 2020

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida
Lycoming; Williamsburg, Pennsylvania
Piper; Vero Beach, Florida

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Lake City, Florida
Accident Number: ERA20FA085
Date and Time: January 25, 2020, 09:30 Local
Registration: N55455
Aircraft: Piper PA32
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


A witness described that, when the pilot arrived at the airport several days before the accident, the airplane’s engine “cut out” while on final approach to the runway. After landing uneventfully, the pilot had a mechanic service the airplane, and the engine performed normally. On the day of the accident, as the airplane departed, the witness reported that he watched the airplane turn “hard left” after it cleared trees near the runway. He later heard a loud bang, then saw smoke. He drove over to the smoke and saw that the airplane was completely engulfed in flames. The airplane came to rest in the yard of a residence about 1,000 feet left of the runway’s midpoint.

Postaccident examination of the airplane was limited due to impact and postcrash fire damage; however, no defects consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction of either the airframe or engine were observed. Additionally, a sound spectrum analysis of the audio from a video recording showed that the engine was likely running slightly below full throttle before the accident. Given this information, there was no evidence that a loss of engine power preceded the accident.

The witness’s description that the airplane was in a “hard left” turn, the location of the accident site relatively close to the runway, the lack of a discernable horizontal wreckage path, and little fragmentation of the wreckage to suggest a high-energy impact, were consistent with the airplane impacting the ground in a near-vertical descent at a relatively low speed. Thus, it is likely that the pilot exceeded the airplane’s critical angle of attack during the steep, low-altitude turn shortly after takeoff, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and loss of airplane control at an altitude too low for recovery.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's exceedance of the airplane's critical angle of attack, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and subsequent loss of control at low altitude.


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft Angle of attack - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information


On January 25, 2020, about 0930 eastern standard time, a Piper PA32-260, N55455, was destroyed when was involved in an accident near Lake City, Florida. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A witness stated that the pilot flew to Cannon Creek Airpark (15FL), Lake City, Florida, the weekend before the accident. At that time, the pilot said the engine “cut out” on short final approach to the runway; however, after landing, the pilot performed an engine run-up, and the engine performed normally. The pilot and the witness subsequently opened the engine cowling and observed an oil leak. The pilot contacted a local mechanic to fix the oil leak. A couple of days later, the pilot ran the engine, and no oil leaks were noted. The night before the accident flight, the pilot and the witness taxied the airplane to the fuel tank and topped off the wing tanks and left-wing tip tank, but they did not put fuel in the right-wing tip tank because it had a fuel leak.

On the morning of the accident, the witness and pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane and noted no anomalies. The witness watched the airplane take off from runway 36 and noticed that the pilot “turned hard left” after the airplane cleared the trees, which was earlier than normal. The witness returned to his vehicle when he heard a loud bang and saw smoke. He drove over to the smoke and saw that the airplane was engulfed in flames.


The airplane came to rest on the side of a house in a subdivision about 1,000 ft to the west side of the midpoint of the runway. The wreckage was oriented on a heading of 215° and there was no discernable horizontal wreckage path. A postaccident fire consumed the airplane, and only the tail section remained intact and undamaged by fire. The cockpit, instrument panel, firewall, fuselage, and wings were all destroyed by the fire, and the engine accessory case was consumed by fire; the magnetos, fuel pump, carburetor, vacuum pump, and oil filter were destroyed. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. Control cable continuity was confirmed to the respective controls.

Postaccident examination of the engine revealed the engine crankcase and cylinders were intact. The top spark plugs were removed, and a borescope examination of the cylinder walls, exhaust, intake valves and piston heads revealed no anomalies. The engine’s crankshaft was rotated by hand and thumb compression was established on all cylinders. Valve train continuity was established throughout the engine by observing movement of the rocker arms and rear accessory case gears.

Both propeller blades remained attached to the hub. One blade was bent aft about midblade, and both blades were twisted near the tip. 

A witness near the airport captured the airplane engine noise on a video camera. The airplane was not captured by the video, and its position, ground track, speed, and therefore at what point during the accident sequence the captured audio occurred could not be determined. A sound spectrum analysis of the audio by the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorders Laboratory revealed that during the time audio from the accident airplane’s engine was recorded, the engine rpm was approximately 2,584 rpm, which was slightly below the maximum rated 2,700 rpm.


An autopsy performed on the pilot by the Office of the Office of the Medical Examiner, Jacksonville, Florida, reported the cause of death as blunt force trauma.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory found no tested-for drugs or alcohol.

History of Flight

Initial climb Aerodynamic stall/spin (Defining event)
Uncontrolled descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 61,Female
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: July 15, 2016
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 172.5 hours (Total, all aircraft), 172.5 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N55455
Model/Series: PA32 260 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1973
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 32-7300038
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: August 1, 2019 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3554.3 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540-E4B5
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 250 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: KGNV,123 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 35 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 14:53 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 144°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 330°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.18 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C / 7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Lake City, FL (15FL) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Tyler, TX (38XA) 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 09:30 Local 
Type of Airspace: 

Airport Information

Airport: Cannon Creek Airpark 15FL
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 125 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 36
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3500 ft / 25 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 30.156944,-82.669166

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