Airplane Was Cleared To Land On Runway 1R at TPA

Location: Tampa, FL Accident Number: ERA21LA081
Date & Time: December 18, 2020, 13:22 Local Registration: N6978W
Aircraft: Piper PA28 Injuries: 3 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional

On December 18, 2020, at 1322 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140 airplane, N6978W, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Tampa, Florida. The flight instructor and two student pilots were seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

The instructor and two student pilots departed Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa, Florida around 0900. The airplane landed and was refueled at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport (ZPH), Zephyrhills, Florida, about 25 nm northeast of TPA, and departed for TPA around 1307. Review of preliminary air traffic control (ATC) communications revealed that the airplane was cleared to land on runway 1R at TPA. About two and a half minutes later, the instructor radioed, “78W, we’re declaring an emergency. We’ve got an engine failure. We’re gonna try and make it.” No additional communications were received from the flight. Video surveillance footage from a nearby business showed that that airplane yawed left immediately before striking a utility pole and wires in a business parking lot about .6 nm from the runway threshold. The airplane exploded upon impact with the power lines, spun counter-clockwise, and fell to the ground.

The airplane came to rest upright next to the parking lot. Photographs provided by first responders revealed that most of the wings and fuselage were consumed by fire. The empennage remained intact, but the forward section of the horizontal stabilator and vertical stabilizer exhibited thermal discoloration. In addition, the right horizontal stabilator was bent up about midspan. The engine remained partially attached to the firewall and the cowling was consumed by fire. The propeller remained attached to the engine and the spinner was impact crushed aft.

The wreckage and engine were recovered and will be examined.