ATC Attempted To Contact The Pilot And Subsequently Issued A Low Altitude Alert

Location: Fostoria, OH Accident Number: CEN22FA131
Date & Time: February 22, 2022, 22:41 Local Registration: N3952W
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-260 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On February 22, 2022, about 2241 eastern standard time, a Piper PA32 airplane, N3952W, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Fostoria, Ohio. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The flight was conducted as an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight from Effingham County Memorial Airport (1H2), Effingham, Illinois, to Findlay Airport (FDY), Findlay, Ohio. The filed IFR flight plan stipulated a cruise altitude of 9,000 ft mean sea level (MSL), an estimated time enroute of 1 hour and 28 minutes, and 4 hours of fuel on board.

A review of archived Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed that the airplane departed 1H2 about 1956 central standard time, climbed to about 7,000 ft MSL, and proceeded on a relatively direct track toward DOYET, the initial approach fix for the RNAV/GPS runway 25 instrument approach.

After passing DOYET, the airplane turned left about 45°, consistent with a teardrop entry into the procedure turn, before it turned back right, and paralleled the inbound course of the procedure turn. About 4 nautical miles (nm) from DOYET, the airplane turned right, as if to intercept the inbound course, but descended rapidly in a spiral and impacted terrain on a 340° heading.

A review of commercially available communications data revealed that the last confirmed communication between the accident airplane and air traffic control (ATC) took place when ATC instructed the pilot to cross DOYET at or above 3,000 ft and cleared them for the RNAV runway 25 approach, to which the pilot read back the clearance and altitude restriction. Shortly thereafter, ATC attempted to contact the pilot and subsequently issued a low altitude alert, but no reply or acknowledgement was received.

A witness inside their residence described hearing an airplane low near their house. They described the noise as a loud engine or high RPM engine followed by silence. Another nearby witness saw the lights of the airplane but did not hear anything because they were in a car with the radio on. They said that at first sight, the airplane was estimated between 300 and 500 ft above ground level (AGL). When they lost sight of the airplane as it descended behind houses, they estimated the altitude as between 150 and 250 ft AGL.

The airplane first impacted a field in a relatively flat attitude and continued the 340° track into the trees where it collided with multiple trees and became highly fragmented. Flight control continuity could not be established due to the highly fragmented nature of the wreckage, but all lengths of control cables were accounted for at the accident location. All major pieces of the airplane were observed at the accident location.

A detailed examination is pending.