Airplane Damage Was Consistent With A High Angle And High Energy Impact With Terrain

Location: Buxton, ND Accident Number: CEN22FA017
Date & Time: October 18, 2021, 19:24 Local Registration: N820ND
Aircraft: Piper Aircraft Inc PA-28-181 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional

On October 18, 2021, about 1924 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181 airplane, N820ND, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Buxton, North Dakota. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

According to preliminary air traffic control (ATC) data, the airplane departed the Grand Forks International Airport (GFK), Grand Forks, North Dakota, about 1900, for a night, solo crosscountry flight to Hector International Airport (FAR), Fargo, North Dakota. The airplane departed runway 17L, climbed to about 3,700 ft mean sea level, and continued south toward FAR. About 30 miles from GFK, the data showed the airplane turned left about 180° and began a  rapid descent. ATC data was lost about 1924. Based on an estimate of the last known flight track position, the airplane was located by local law enforcement about 2040.

The airplane wreckage was located in a plowed, soft, dirt field, and distributed on a measured magnetic heading of about 300°. The initial impact point in the field, which was consistent with both wings, the landing gear, and fuselage, was located about 25 ft from the main wreckage. The initial impact contained the two-blade propeller and propeller hub, and several separated sections of the forward, lower fuselage. Fragmented sections of the engine cowling, upper cockpit and windscreen structure, plexiglass, and avionics were found in the debris forward of the main wreckage. Both wing leading edges were crushed aft to the flaps and ailerons. The forward fuselage was crushed aft to the rear cabin bulkhead. The airplane damage was consistent with a high angle and high energy impact with terrain.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed no mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operations.