Saturday, June 09, 2012

Dogbee gyroplane built by C. W. Bowen, N1481: Accident occurred June 08, 2012 in Wrens, Georgia

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA386
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, June 08, 2012 in Wrens, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/29/2013
Aircraft: BOWEN CHRISTOPHER W DOGBEE, registration: N1481
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The student pilot/owner of the accident gyroplane was the lead in a flight of two gyroplanes that had departed the airport traffic pattern to fly over nearby fields. The pilot in the second gyroplane stated that, less than 1 mile from the airport, he observed the accident gyroplane begin a smooth, descending left turn that continued until ground impact. The second pilot did not observe any anomalies with the accident gyroplane nor receive any radio transmissions indicating a problem before seeing the turn and impact. A witness located on a road near the accident site stated that the accident gyroplane was approaching and appeared to be level with a set of overhead lines when it began a steep left turn and descended into the ground. While it could not be determined if the turn was initiated as an evasive maneuver, the pilot’s decision to fly at low altitude increased the likelihood that such a maneuver would be necessary and provided little room for error in the event that the gyroplane entered an unusual attitude or the pilot experience a momentary distraction. Postaccident examination of the gyroplane revealed extensive fire damage that precluded the establishment of flight control continuity. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange and continuity was confirmed to each of the two cylinders. Review of postaccident autopsy and toxicology testing results showed no evidence of any preexisting condition that would have resulted in the pilot’s incapacitation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s loss of control during a low-altitude maneuver for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to fly at low altitude.

On June 8, 2012, approximately 1645 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Dogbee gyroplane, N1481, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Wrens, Georgia. The certificated student pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

One of the witnesses to the accident was also a gyroplane pilot, and knew the accident pilot personally. He stated that he arrived at Wrens Memorial Airport (65J), about 1500, and began to unload his gyroplane from the trailer. The accident pilot had arrived before him, and was also unloading his gyroplane and assembling the rotor for flight. The witness stated that the accident pilot seemed to be in good spirits prior to the flight. After assembling their aircraft and conducting preflight inspections, both pilots departed 65J and flew “around the airport” for around 5-10 minutes before departing to the north to overfly nearby fields. The second pilot stated that he was flying approximately one-quarter mile behind, and around the same altitude as, the accident gyroplane. The two pilots were in radio contact, and the second pilot stated that the accident pilot’s transmission was “loud and clear” during a radio check.

A set of transmission lines was located between the airport and the fields the pilots intended to fly over, approximately three-quarters of a mile northwest of 65J. A set of lower, overhead lines was located about one-tenth of a mile past the transmission lines along the gyroplanes’ route of flight. The second pilot stated that, at their cruising altitude of around 400-500 feet, both gyroplanes were “plenty high” to avoid the transmission lines. After crossing over them but prior to reaching the set of overhead lines, the accident gyroplane began a descending left turn, which continued until ground impact. The second pilot described the turn as “normal” and “smooth,” and stated that as he watched the accident gyroplane, he “expected it to straighten out.” He watched as the gyroplane continued turning and descended to the ground, and stated that a post-crash fire immediately ensued. The second pilot did not observe any anomalies, nor receive any radio calls from the pilot indicating a problem, prior to impact. He further stated that accident gyroplane stated that the accident gyroplane was “well above” the overhead lines and he did not believe the turn immediately preceding the impact to be an evasive maneuver.

A second witness was located on a road adjacent to the accident site. He reported seeing the accident gyroplane fly over the field at an altitude between 50 and 70 feet, with a second gyroplane following approximately 200 yards behind and at a slightly higher altitude. He stated that the accident gyroplane was approaching, and level with, a set of overhead lines which ran perpendicular to its direction of flight. Before reaching the lines, the gyroplane made a steep, 180-degree left turn and impacted the ground. The witness stated that the gyroplane appeared to be "almost on its side" as it turned.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site. He stated that the gyroplane came to rest near the edge of a plowed cotton field, approximately 20 feet from a wooded area. Most of the structure was consumed by post-impact fire. The main rotor was separated from the airframe, and was found suspended in a nearby tree. The engine and two of the three propeller blades remained intact.
The gyroplane was recovered to a secure location, where a further examination of the wreckage was conducted. Two of the four rotor control rods exhibited signs of failure at impact; the other rods were consumed by post-crash fire. The throttle was observed in the aft position. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange, and continuity was confirmed to each of the two cylinders. The spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal wear. Cyclic and rudder control continuity could not be established due to fire damage.

The pilot held a student pilot certificate, which was issued in May 2010. The pilot’s flight logs could not be located after the accident, and the pilot’s flight experience could not be determined.

The accident gyroplane was built by the pilot, and was issued an FAA Airworthiness certificate on March 22, 2012. The gyroplane was equipped with a Rotax 503 DCDI, 50-hp engine, a 3-bladed, composite Warp Drive propeller, and Sport Copter rotor blades. No maintenance logs could be located.

The 1655 weather observation at Thomson-McDuffie County Airport (HQU), located about 20 nm north of the accident site, included winds from 120 degrees at 6 knots, 10 miles visibility, broken cloud layers at 7,000 feet and 8,000 feet, temperature 29 degrees C, dew point 15 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of mercury.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Division of Forensic Sciences on June 9, 2012. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries.

The FAA’s Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. No carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, or drugs were detected in the samples provided.


We have new details involving a plane crash in Jefferson County, Friday.

The Jefferson County EMA Director says 54-year-old Christopher Bowen was flying the single passenger gyro-copter Friday, when it crashed into a field off Highway 17, near the intersection of Old Quaker Ridge Road.

Investigators say Bowen crashed the plane into a field, which then burst into flames and ultimately killed Bowen.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and investigators with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spent Friday night combing for clues.

The crash site is about four miles from the Jefferson County Airport.

Authorities say Bowen was from out of town and visiting an annual fly-in event at the airport in Wrens.

That air show starts Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Officials say that event is still to go on as expected.

A Bluffton, S.C., man died Friday afternoon when his gyroplane crashed at the edge of a field in Wrens less than a mile from the city’s airport.

Christopher William Bowen, 55, was attending the Wrens-O.B. Brown Memorial Fly-In and had not been long signed into the event when the incident occurred just after 4 p.m.

The Fly-In, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 172, attracts small planes, ultralights, paraplanes and other aircraft like the gyroplane. Also known as gyrocopters, gyroplanes are small aircraft that use an unpowered rotor for lift and a propeller for thrust.

Pilot Barry Kroeplin, 52, of Charlotte, N.C., was flying his own gyroplane when he saw Bowen’s plane go down and burst into flames.

“When I got here today Chris already had his rotor on,” Kroeplin said. “We talked for a little bit and then he took off.”

Kroeplin was not far behind him.

“He flew around the airport 10 or 15 times and then flew out over the fields,” Kroeplin said. “I wasn’t more than a mile or half mile behind him. I saw him make a turn and then he just kept going down.”

 Kroeplin said he has been at events with Bowen across the southeast for about three years.

“I didn’t see anything fall off the plane or it do anything odd or anything,” Kroeplin said. “He just made that turn and went down … I know he had good training. I’ve seen him fly a lot of times. He was a good pilot.”

According to an FAA online registry, Bowen was issued his student pilot’s license May 7, 2010, and his gyro was registered Sept. 2, 2010.

A spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said they were turning the investigation over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

John Magnan, the secretary of the EAA Chapter 172, said Wrens has been holding fly-ins twice a year since the mid-1990s.

“In the fall, we sometimes get 15 or 20 gyroplanes,” Magnan said. “They look a lot like a helicopter, but they take off like an airplane. They can land straight down like a helicopter though. They’re a lot cheaper to fly than a helicopter and are normally very safe aircraft.”

Magnan said there have been incidents before where aircraft have gone down hard, but this is the first fatal accident.

“I still believe these things are safer than regular planes,” Kroeplin said, pointing to his own gyro. “I fly both kinds and even after seeing that, I’m still much more comfortable in this.”

 JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. — Tragedy struck a local fly-in before it even started. Now, investigators in Jefferson County are trying to figure out what caused a unique plane to go down in a field — killing the pilot.
The plane was a single seat gyroplane that had just taken off from the airport in Wrens. It crashed around four this afternoon in a cotton field about a mile and a half away from the airport.

The man had just brought his plane into town for an event at the airport tomorrow. Saturday, the airport in Wrens is hosting a “Fly -in”, an event to show off all types of aircraft. People come from all over to attend these events.
The man who died in the crash had brought his one-seater gyro plane into town for the event. He and a friend arrived at the airport this afternoon. They unloaded their planes and took off from the airport together in their separate planes.

People at the event say the friend returned not long after with the news that the other plane had gone down.

Jefferson County Emergency Management tells us the gyro plane caught on fire when it crashed in the field. Once they were able to get the flames out, they found the body in the wreckage.

This is the first fatal crash ever at the Wrens Fly – In, but they say they don’t think it will affect the turn out for Saturday since what they do comes with a risk.

“People will still be coming because everything has a risk in life,” said John Magnan, Secretary of the Experimental Aircraft Association. “It’s just like if you drive a car. As everyone knows, it’s more dangerous to drive an automobile than it is a to fly an aircraft.”

They have not been able to determine a cause for the crash. Investigators with the FAA have been on the scene along with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
They have not been able to get in contact with the pilots family so we are not able to release a name.

We are told the man was not local and was just in Jefferson County for the event.

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