May 28, Hawthorne, Calif. / Piper Malibu


At 11:59 PDT, a Piper PA-46-310P crashed in a shopping mall parking lot while maneuvering to return to the runway shortly after takeoff from the Hawthorne airport. The three occupants were killed. Multiple witnesses familiar with the airplane and the pilot described the engine sounds during the takeoff as abnormal in various degrees and reported that the climb out angle of the airplane was shallower than usual. One witness said he believed the takeoff ground roll had been longer than usual. Two other witnesses said they believed that the power output was lower than normal. According to witnesses located near the impact site, the airplane began a steep left turn between – and -mile from the runways end. The bank angle was variously estimated by the different witnesses as 45 degrees or greater, continuing around until the nose suddenly dropped and the airplane entered a spiraling descent to ground impact. The majority of these witnesses stated that they heard sputtering or popping noises coming from the airplane. The airplane had just been fueled with 120.2 gallons of 100LL avgas, but other aircraft fueled from the same truck did not report difficulty.


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