Crash of a Piper PA-31T Cheyenne I in Billings: 1 killed

Date & Time: Apr 20, 2020 at 0950 LT
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On April 20, 2020 about 0950 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-31T1 airplane, N926K, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident about 1-1/2 miles west of Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Billings, Montana. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 local flight. According to ATC information, the pilot requested to taxi to runway 28L for takeoff, and then perform pattern work, and land on runway 28R at BIL. After the pilot held short of runway 28L, the controller cleared the pilot for takeoff with instructions to extend the upwind leg. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot was instructed to enter the left traffic pattern for runway 28R twice, with no response. A subsequent attempt was made to establish communication, with no response. About a minute and a half after the airplane departed, a column of smoke was observed west of the airport. Radar data showed the airplane departing runway 28L and remaining on runway centerline heading for the length of the flight. The airplane's altitude climbed to about 100 ft above ground level and the airplane's groundspeed increased to 81 knots soon after departure, and then decreased to 70 knots before dropping off radar. Witnesses located near the departure end of runway 28L watched the airplane through a window, depart the runway with its gear not retracted. The airplane was lower than normal as it neared the end of the runway. All the witnesses moved outside to watch as the airplane flew away from their location. One of the witnesses stated that the airplane had a "slow descent trajectory and a slight-nose up attitude." The airplane passed over a hill and out of view. None of the witness reportedly saw the accident sequence but saw the column of smoke rising from the accident site. Another witness who was sitting in his vehicle near the accident site saw the airplane pass about 250 ft in front of his position. The airplane's wings were level and the landing gear was up when it struck the ground. He lost sight of the airplane as it flew into a nearby coulee. Ground scars found near the top of a coulee consisted of the airplane's fuselage impact mark and symmetrical propeller strikes consistent with the airplane impacting the ground in a shallow, nose-up, wings-level attitude. The airplane then continued over the coulee about 410 ft, and about 75 ft down before impacting the side of the coulee where a postimpact fire ensued. All major structural components of the airplane were located within the debris field.