Friday, January 14, 2022

Piper J3C-65 Cub, N88509: Accident occurred January 12, 2022 in Winter Haven, Polk County, Florida

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; Orlando, Florida

Jack Browns Seaplane Base Inc

Location: Winter Haven, Florida 
Accident Number: ERA22LA107
Date and Time: January 12, 2022, 14:27 Local 
Registration: N88509
Aircraft: Piper J3C
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On January 12, 2022, about 1427 eastern standard time, a Piper J3C-65 float-equipped airplane, N88509, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Winter Haven, Florida. The flight instructor and pilot receiving instruction sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

The flight instructor reported that the airline-transport-pilot-rated pilot receiving instruction was already seaplane rated, so he viewed the training flights as review. He stated that during their 2-hour morning flight, the pilot receiving instruction sat in the front seat and that he “tended to fly too slow and turn sharply.” The instructor had to “push the nose down and add power on several occasions.” After lunch and refueling the airplane, the pilot receiving instruction sat in the rear seat. The instructor estimated that they flew about one hour before the accident occurred, and that the last thing he recalled was thinking “he is more reckless” in the backseat. He wondered if the issue was that he could not see the instruments well from the rear seat.

A witness near the accident site went fishing by himself every day and would watch the seaplanes while he fished. He stated that the accident airplane flew one low pass over the lake, circled to the right, then came around and descended again toward the lake. He stated that airplanes typically either landed on the lake or flew a low pass; however, the accident airplane made a small splash on the second pass when the right float touched the water. The airplane then “accelerated up” a couple hundred feet and started veering to the right in a “big arc.” He stated that the turn “seemed like a steep angle” and that at the top of the arc, he saw “the whole top of the airplane and it just continued downward.” He could no longer hear the engine when the airplane was descending. He stated that the airplane impacted the ground in a near vertical nose-down attitude and stayed in that position for a short time before the tail settled toward the ground.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the airplane came to rest in a near vertical nose-down attitude, with no ground scars or tree damage leading toward the wreckage, consistent with a near vertical flight path angle. There was substantial damage to left wing. 

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N88509
Model/Series: J3C 65 
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: KGIF,146 ft msl
Observation Time: 13:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C /11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4500 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 60°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.15 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 28.052172,-81.711304 (est)

WINTER HAVEN, Florida - Polk County investigators said it appears a float-equipped Piper Cub attempted to land in Lake Smart before crashing into a Winter Haven orange grove.

The crash occurred around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. They said the licensed pilot – identified by the sheriff's office as 77-year-old John "Jack" Hamilton of Elizabethton, Tennessee – was visiting the Orlando area. 

He requested a refresher course at the Jack Brown Seaplane Base in Winter Haven. His passenger was a flight instructor, 22-year-old Landen MacFarland of Stuart.

"Shortly after the pontoons landed on the lake, one of the wings dipped into the water causing the plane to catapult upward approximately 50 feet before crashing nose-first into an orange grove about 40 yards from Lake Smart," according to the sheriff's office.

Both were taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. Both were listed in critical condition as of Thursday morning.

Federal officials are also investigating the plane crash. 

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