Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Loss of Control in Flight: Piper PA-28-180, N9277J; accident occurred June 24, 2021 near Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL), Fort Collins, Larimer County, Colorado

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; Denver, Colorado

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Iron Sights Aviation LLC 

Location: Loveland, Colorado
Accident Number: CEN21LA291
Date and Time: June 24, 2021, 18:45 Local
Registration: N9277J
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight 
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that he was conducting practice maneuvers with a student in the local area when he observed virga developing in the distance. He decided to return to the airport and assumed control of the airplane. During the landing, the airplane encountered a “strong right-to-left wind” gust and began to drift off the runway centerline. The instructor decided to execute a go-around and “quickly advanced to full throttle.” The airplane yawed to the left and continued to drift until it was no longer over the runway. The left wing impacted the ground in the grassy area adjacent to the runway, and the airplane cartwheeled before coming to rest near the parallel taxiway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage. The flight instructor reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. At the time of the accident, the instructor pilot was landing on runway 15 with wind from 200° at 20 knots. The flight instructor reported that he was aware of a convective SIGMET for thunderstorms and there were thunderstorms in the vicinity at the time.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The flight instructor’s failure to maintain aircraft control during the landing flare and subsequent attempted go-around with a strong quartering crosswind. 


Personnel issues Identification/recognition - Instructor/check pilot
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Instructor/check pilot
Personnel issues Aircraft control - Instructor/check pilot
Environmental issues Thunderstorm - Contributed to outcome
Environmental issues Gusts - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing Windshear or thunderstorm
Landing-flare/touchdown Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Landing-flare/touchdown Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Flight instructor Information

Certificate: Commercial; Flight instructor 
Age: 33, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane single-engine 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 1 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: September 28, 2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: March 19, 2021
Flight Time: 388 hours (Total, all aircraft), 118 hours (Total, this make and model), 317 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 50 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 17 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Student pilot Information

Certificate: Student 
Age: 30, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: None, None 
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 8 hours (Total, all aircraft), 8 hours (Total, this make and model), 0 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 8 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N9277J
Model/Series: PA-28-180 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-3356
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: April 10, 2021 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 85 Hrs 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4278 Hrs at time of accident 
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: O-360-A3A
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 180 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: FNL,5016 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0.5 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 18:38 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 330°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 1200 ft AGL
Visibility 8 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 7000 ft AGL 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 16 knots / 30 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 260° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Heavy - Thunderstorm - Rain
Departure Point: Loveland, CO (FNL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Loveland, CO
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 18:17 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class E

Airport Information

Airport: Northern Colorado Regional KFNL
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 5016 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 15
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 8500 ft / 100 ft 
VFR Approach/Landing: Go around; Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: Aircraft
Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 40.451827,-105.01133 (est)

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