What Happened to N8891W?

by Gary Chapman

gchapman@lc.edu

 

On May 31, 2020, a 1964 Piper PA-28-235 airplane took off from Creve Coeur Airport near Maryland Heights to its destination of Charlotte, Mich. It did not make it through. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report, it made a gradual left turn and eventually made it the same way it was going. It then did a right turn causing the plane to do a right descending spiral. It crashed a few moments later outside Carlinville, Ill. All four people on board died. The major question on a lot of people’s minds is “What happened?”

First, let us look at the facts. The plane had a clean service record and did not have any mechanical issues before the crash. The plane was owned by Cleared for Takeoff LLC out of Lansing, Mich. The weather that day was fairly nice, with the temperature being about 75 degrees, and it was sunny with high visibility. The plane was within operational capacity, and if it was too heavy it would not have made it off the ground. The plane looks like it did a low-level break up over the area. The plane was descending, according to the NTSB, at a rate of 6900 feet per minute.

Now, let us go to the major theory that is in most people’s minds: pilot error. Inflight loss of control, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, was the leading cause of general aviation accidents in 2008-2018. This usually happens due to the plane being put in an aerodynamic stall. 

One of the theories is that the pilot gave the controls to the person who was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat who was not certified as a pilot, they did the turn, and this caused the plane to go in a downward spiral, they tried to correct but it was too late, as it seems to be a fairly fast speed at the last data pilot. 

The plane crash of N8891W is an intriguing one, and when the NTSB releases their report of it within a year or two, we will finally know the answers on whether it was pilot error, mechanical failure or something else entirely. There was a GoPro onboard, so maybe the last moments were captured.

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