About 10 Minutes After Departure, Witnesses Reported Seeing An “Intense” Thunderstorm Coming In From The North

Location: Cynthiana, KY Accident Number: ERA22FA354
Date & Time: August 3, 2022, 17:25 Local Registration: N88550
Aircraft: Piper J3C-65 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On August 3, 2022, about 1725 eastern daylight time a Piper J3C-65, N88550, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at Cynthiana-Harrison  County Airport (0I8), Cynthiana, Kentucky. The passenger sustained fatal injuries and the private pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

About 1700, the pilot and his passenger, who were seated in the aft and front seat respectively, departed the airport for a brief personal flight. About 10 minutes after departure, witnesses reported seeing an “intense” thunderstorm coming in from the north. The storm consisted of a “wall cloud,” heavy rain that they could observe several miles out, as well as a rapid wind shift accompanied by an increase in wind speed. In addition, the temperature dropped about “fifteen degrees” over a short period of time.

Around the same time, an additional witness reported that the airplane returned to the airport and flew an unusually low airport traffic pattern. The airplane approached the airport at a low altitude, just over the trees from the north, then making a left turn to join the left downwind for runway 29; it then made a low base leg to final approach turn over the runway numbers when it suddenly descended in a left spin before impacting the ground adjacent to the runway. Almost immediately after impact, heavy rain and wind began at the airport. The wreckage came to rest in the grass, about 20 ft to right of runway 29. The wreckage path was compact, oriented on a magnetic heading of 331° from the initial impact point, and all major components of the engine and airframe were accounted for at the scene.

Examination of the airplane revealed that the fuselage was buckled, and the left wing was severely crushed and broken aft. The magnetos switch was on BOTH and the fuel selector was in the ON position. The empennage was bucked and bent to the left. The entire engine assembly was bent upwards and canted to the right with the left side of the engine covered in dirt. Both wood propeller blades were splintered although they remained attached to the center hub and crankshaft flange; one blade was shattered down to the spinner with the opposing blade shattered outboard of the erosion strip. There were several dozen propeller fragments in a 50 ft radius of the main wreckage. There were red navigation light lens fragments on the runway edge followed by a primary impact crater that contained propeller fragments and small pieces of wreckage. The cockpit occupiable space was severely compromised in the forward seat area and no shoulder harnesses were observed.

The fuel tank remained intact and contained about 5 gallons of aviation fuel. Flight control continuity was confirmed on all control surfaces through their respective control cables and into the cockpit. The engine crankshaft was rotated 720° with no binding noted. Valvetrain continuity was confirmed, there was thumb compression and suction in each of the cylinders, and both magnetos created spark at each of the posts.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov