Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac, N4218, registered to and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred December 09, 2016 in Marengo, McHenry County, Illinois -and- Incident occurred March 08, 2016 in Bolingbrook, Illinois

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Des Plaines, Illinois 
Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location:  Marengo, IL
Accident Number: CEN17FA053
Date & Time: 12/09/2016, 1819 CST
Registration: N4218
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The light sport pilot decided to conduct a night cross-country flight in his light sport airplane even though he was not current to act as pilot-in-command at night. Radar data depicted the airplane departing after sunset and proceeding along the intended route of flight. The last radar contact was at 3,500 ft above mean sea level (msl), about 2,600 ft above ground level, about 0.5 mile from the accident site. There were no witnesses to the accident, and the wreckage was located the following morning in a plowed field along the intended route of flight about 12.6 nautical miles from the departure airport.

The impact damage to the airframe was consistent with the airplane impacting the terrain while inverted. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.

The pilot's sport pilot certificate did not authorize him to fly at night. In conjunction with his private pilot training, he had an expired 90-day endorsement for night flight that was dated about 14 months before the accident. It is possible that the pilot became spatially disoriented and lost control of the airplane; however, given that the pilot had been flying at night and that there were no mechanical anomalies identified during the investigation, the reason for the loss of control could not be determined. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A loss of control in flight for reasons that could not be determined because no anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction were identified during the investigation.


Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Unknown or undetermined

On December 9, 2016, about 1819 central standard time, an Aircraft Manufacturing and Design, LLC, Zodiac CH601XL SLSA, light sport airplane, N4218, impacted terrain following a loss of control in Marengo, Illinois. The sport pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operating on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Poplar Grove Airport (C77), Poplar Grove, Illinois, about 1812, with an intended destination of the Schaumburg Regional Airport (06C), Schaumburg, Illinois.

The pilot planned to fly from C7 to 06C, a distance of about 38 nautical miles, to attend an Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter holiday party. The pilot did not arrive at the party. The wreckage was discovered about 0730 the following morning.

There were no communications between air traffic control and the pilot. The airport surveillance radar (ASR) located at the Rockford International Airport, Rockford, Illinois, showed the airplane departing C77 and proceeding on a course toward 06C. The airplane climbed to an altitude of 3,700 ft above mean sea level (msl). The last radar return showed the airplane at an altitude of 3,500 ft msl about 0.5 miles northwest of the accident site.

The airplane came to rest in a plowed cornfield. The site was 12.6 miles southeast of C77 along the direct route between C77 and 06C. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Sport Pilot
Age: 63, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied:
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/27/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/21/2016
Flight Time:  274 hours (Total, all aircraft), 274 hours (Total, this make and model), 189 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 16.9 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 4.7 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a sport pilot certificate that was issued on November 30, 2012. The pilot's logbook contained entries from July 22, 2008 through November 26, 2016. The pilot had logged total flight time of 274 hours, all of which was in the accident airplane. Of these hours, 189 hours were logged as pilot-in-command and 9.5 hours as night flight time. The pilot's last logged 0.5 hours of night flight on November 14, 2016. The pilot's logbook contained a night flight endorsement dated October 1, 2015. The pilot's last flight review was completed on October 21, 2016.

The pilot had been taking flight instruction toward his private pilot certificate. He had passed the private pilot written knowledge examination on September 15, 2016.

Title 14 CFR section 61.315 states that the holder of a sport pilot certificate may not act as pilot in command of a light sport aircraft at night.

Title 14 CFR 61.87 (o)(3) states that a student pilot may not operate an aircraft in solo flight at night unless that student pilot has received "an endorsement in the student's logbook for the specific make and model aircraft to be flown by an authorized instructor who gave the training within the 90-day period preceding the date of the flight." 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: AIRCRAFT MFG & DESIGN LLC
Registration: N4218
Model/Series: CH601XL SLSA
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Special Light-Sport
Serial Number: 601-068S
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 09/02/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 263.8 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-200A
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  None 

The pilot purchased the light sport airplane from the factory when it was manufactured in 2008. Maintenance logbook records showed that the airplane's wings were modified in June 2010 in accordance with the manufacturer's safety alert dated November 7, 2009.

The maintenance logbooks showed that the last annual inspection was performed on September 2, 2016, at an airplane total time of 263.8 hours. The last entry in the logbook was a battery replacement on November 9, 2016, at an airplane total time of 280.3 hours.

The pilot's wife was the passenger during the last flight logged in the pilot's logbook, which occurred about 2 weeks before the accident. She stated that she was not aware of any anomalies with the airplane at that time.

The airplane was fueled with 12 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel on December 6, 2016. It is unknown if the airplane was flown between the time it was fueled and the accident flight. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: RFD, 742 ft msl
Observation Time: 1754 CST
Distance from Accident Site: 24 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 265°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 18000 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: -7°C / -12°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction:  4 knots, 260°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting:  30.53 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Poplar Grove, IL (C77)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Schaumburg, IL (06C)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:  1812 CST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Official sunset on the night of the accident was at 1622. The moon was 46° above the horizon at the time of the accident. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 42.225556, -88.627500 

The airplane came to rest inverted on a magnetic heading of 15°. The wings and tail were folded up and over the cockpit and engine. There was an impact crater under the engine, which was partially buried in the frozen ground. Most of the wreckage was located at the main impact location. The left main landing gear was located about 190 ft southeast of the main wreckage; a piece of the lower right-wing skin was located about 100 ft southeast of the main wreckage; and a leather satchel belonging to the pilot was located about 500 ft south of the main wreckage.

A postaccident examination was conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors, with the assistance of a representative of the engine manufacturer. The examination did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction. The observed damage to the airframe was consistent with the airplane impacting the terrain while inverted. A detailed summary of the examination is included in the docket associated with the investigation. 

Medical And Pathological Information

An autopsy of the pilot was performed at the McHenry County Coroner's Office, Woodstock, Illinois, on December 12, 2016. The pilot's death was attributed to multiple injuries sustained in the accident.

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Research Sciences Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. The testing was negative for drugs in the testing profile except that atorvastatin which was detected in the liver. Atorvastatin, commonly known as Lipitor, is used to treat elevated cholesterol and is generally considered to be non-impairing.

Tests And Research

A Garmin GPSMAP, a Dynon EFIS-D100 electronic flight instrument system and a Dynon EMS-D120 engine monitoring system were recovered from the wreckage and sent to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory, Washington DC, for examination and download.

Both the Garmin GPSMAP and the associated SD card sustained impact damage. The non-volatile memory (NVM) chip that stores track history was cracked. The chip was repaired; however, data could not be retrieved. The SD Card was cracked and the NVM component was missing.

The Dynon EFIS-D100 sustained significant impact damage. The NVM chip was intact. Minor pin damage was repaired, and the chip was successfully downloaded. However, historical data was not found on the chip because either the logging function was turned off or, the firmware version did not support data logging.

The Dynon EMS-D120 sustained significant impact damage. The NVM chip was repaired and about 16 recorded historical sessions were downloaded. There was no recorded geographical data that matched either C77 or the accident site, indicating that data from the accident flight was not recorded.

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA053
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 09, 2016 in Marengo, IL
Aircraft: AIRCRAFT MFG & DESIGN LLC CH601XL SLSA, registration: N4218
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 9, 2016, about 1819, an Aircraft Mfg & Design LLC, CH601XL SLSA, N4218, impacted the terrain following a loss of control in Marengo, Illinois. The sport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Poplar Grove Airport (C77), Poplar Grove, Illinois, about 1812, with an intended destination of the Schaumburg Regional Airport (06C), Schaumburg, Illinois.

The pilot reportedly planned to fly to 06C to attend an Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) holiday party. There were no witnesses to the accident. The wreckage was discovered the following morning.

There was no communication between air traffic control and the pilot. The time of departure and the time of the accident are based on preliminary air traffic control radar data.

The airplane came to rest in a plowed cornfield on the corner of Meyers and Pleasant Grove Roads. The site was 12.6 miles southeast of C77 along the route between C77 and 06C. The majority of the wreckage was located at the main impact location. The left main landing gear was located about 190 ft southeast of main wreckage, a piece of the lower right wing skin was about 100 ft southeast of the main wreckage, and a small satchel type bag was located about 500 ft south of the main wreckage.

Rob Sherman — well-known in the Chicago area as an atheist activist who ran for Congress this year — has been identified as pilot of a small plane who died when it crashed into a field in rural Marengo over the weekend.

The wreckage of the single-engine plane was discovered off Meyer Road in Marengo by a passer-by at about 7:30 Saturday morning, and the single victim was pronounced dead at the scene less than a half hour later.

Sherman was due Friday evening to attend a holiday party at the Schaumburg airport for a local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association but never arrived, said John Tatro, past president of the group.

An FAA representative has said the plane was a Zenair Zodiac CH-601 XL.

The National Transportation Safety Board examined the wreckage at the crash site Saturday, said spokesman Keith Holloway. Because of poor weather the aircraft was taken to a nearby hangar for further examination.

As of Monday morning, authorities were still seeking to determine what caused the crash and when it occurred. The NTSB expects a preliminary report by next week.

Sherman, 63 and a longtime resident of the northwest suburbs, ran for Congress for the Green Party in Illinois' 5th District this year and was known for legal challenges in defense of separation of church and state.

The plane that crashed — a fixed-wing, light sport aircraft of a type the National Transportation Safety Board once sought to ground amid safety concerns — is sold both ready-to-fly and in kits for home builders. Authorities earlier said Sherman's plane was home-built but on Monday afternoon an NTSB spokesman said the aircraft apparently was manufactured.

Between 2006 and April 2009, there were six instances, four in the United States and two in Europe, in which a Zodiac CH-601 XL broke apart in midair, killing a total of 10 people, according to NTSB news releases from 2009.

The rash of fatal incidents led the NTSB to issue an "urgent safety recommendation" to the Federal Aviation Administration, asking the agency to ground the style of plane until the flight control issue was resolved. The FAA determined that it lacked "adequate justification to take immediate certificate action to ground the entire fleet," according to the NTSB.

Seven months later, after another Zodiac CH-601 XL broke apart in flight, killing the pilot, the FAA issued Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin strongly recommending that all owners and operators of Zodiac CH-601XL and CH-650 aircraft comply with a safety directive from the manufacturer.

The directive involved making structural modifications to the airplane and adding counter-balances. The NTBS had suspected aerodynamic flutter, a phenomena in which the airplane's control can vibrate and result in structural failure, in all of the accidents.

Manufactured planes that didn't get the safety fix were effectively prohibited from flight; the manufacturer of kit-built planes asked owners to make the same modification but it was not required, according to the NTSB.

Several friends and associates have attested to Sherman's enthusiasm for aviation.

At Poplar Grove Airport, about 17 miles from where the plane went down, Sherman operated a "builder assist center," called Rob Sherman Airplanes, where he offered use of his builder facilities and tools to those interested in building Zenith Aircraft Co. kits in exchange for a "modest fee," according to his website.

According to records, neighbors and associates, Sherman and his family had recently moved from Buffalo Grove to an airport community at Poplar Grove, where many of the homes have their own hangars with taxiways that lead to the airport's runways.

Sherman was active on the Experimental Aircraft Association's board and with its Young Eagles program at both Schaumburg airport and Chicago Executive Airport on the Prospect Heights-Wheeling border. As part of the program, he has offered youth free introductory rides in his plane.

"He was certainly passionate about aviation," Tatro said. "He loved flying, and he wanted to share it."

For decades, though, Sherman was better known as an activist and politician seeking to maintain the separation of church and state through numerous legal challenges against school districts, libraries and other state institutions.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, Inc., said the movement has lost an asset, and the country has lost a fighter for good. Sherman was a past state director and board member of the group.

"I've known Rob for all my 20 years as an activist. He was a proud fighter for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He was a great activist and a great person," Silverman said in an email. "I've flown with him in that very plane when he gave me a tour of Chicago. He loved that plane and loved flying it."

Sherman, who jokingly declared himself Illinois' most prominent atheist, was on the Nov. 8 ballot as a Green Party candidate for the 5th Congressional District. Though he lost the race, trailing the Democratic incumbent and the Republican challenger, Sherman's most recent campaign was his best.

He won 60 percent of the Green Party votes in the primary. Previously he tried to secure a nomination for several public offices including local library board, village clerk and twice for state representative.

Sherman ran on a platform appealing to secular voters, vowing to eliminate the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency. In a photo on his website, in an example of his often witty approach to issues, Sherman is pictured next to Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and is wearing an airbrushed T-shirt with his likeness on a penny inscribed "In Rob We Trust."

George Milkowski, 50th Ward Committeeman for the Illinois Green Party, said Sherman will be remembered as an "intensely passionate person who was not afraid" to speak his mind. Sherman, who once described himself as "175 pounds of walking, talking disbelief" in a 1993 Chicago Tribune interview, was regarded as "famous or infamous" depending on people's viewpoints, Milkowski said.

"I think a lot of people felt his belief, or I should say lack of belief, really pushed him forward," Milkowski said.

The office supply dealer turned atheist advocate sparked controversy in 1987 when he challenged the city of Zion over its seal that contained Christian symbols of a cross, dove and crown and a banner reading "God Reigns." Sherman assisted Clint Harris, a Zion resident and fellow atheist, with the litigation, which later involved Rolling Meadows as well.

His exploits and bumper-sticker candor earned him appearances on numerous talk shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show"

In 1992, the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed the lower court ruling to stand, and the towns were ordered to drop the religious symbols. He sued Zion again in 2011 after a city commissioner used the former city seal in a newspaper ad.

Sherman's children were no strangers to his advocacy efforts and legal ventures.

In 1997, Sherman's son Richard, who was 15 at the time, sued the Boy Scouts of America for denying him membership because he refused to pledge allegiance to God.

In 2007, Sherman and his daughter Dawn, then a 14-year-old freshman at Buffalo Grove High School, sued Township High School District 214 over the state's new law mandating a moment of "silent prayer or silent reflection" at the start of classes. Two years later, a federal judge overturned the law when he ruled that it amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion intended to bring prayer into public schools.

That victory for the Shermans was short-lived, however. A federal appeals court eventually revived the matter, opining that there is no harm in silence, which could be implemented for a practical purpose in calming students at the start of classes.

Attorney Miriam "Mimi" Cooper, a longtime school board member for Arlington Heights-based District 214, has known Sherman for years as a frequent critic of board policies that he felt violated the separation of church and state.

In addition to Sherman's battles over the moment of silence, his opposition to a blessing at the end of a school choir performance prompted the board to separate the blessing from the school event, Cooper recalled.

Though Sherman was willing to stand up for unpopular causes, Cooper said, his respectful manner made it easier to consider his point of view.

Cooper said Sherman told her that he was born and raised in the Jewish faith, and he knew some Hebrew and could speak some Yiddish.

"He was dedicated to his causes, for sure," Cooper said. "Our politics were certainly not the same, but he was a very interesting man, very charming, very respectful."

According to his website, Sherman also hosted a morning drive talk show on WJJG-1530 AM where topics ranged from politics to religion to pop culture. He chronicled every show on his website.

Read more here:

A man piloting a plane that crashed in a Marengo farm field has died, authorities said.

Officials believe the only known occupant of the aircraft — the pilot — died shortly after the plane crashed into a cornfield near Meyer Road, just north of Pleasant Grove Road, said Joe Taylor, a Marengo firefighter and paramedic. Officials believe the aircraft is a small, single-engine plane, he said.

A passer-by called 911 at 7:27 a.m. to report seeing the plane crash, at 6105 Meyer Road, McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski said in an email. The only victim, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:53 a.m., she said.

No scientific identification of the victim has been made at this time,  according to Majewski.

An autopsy will be performed Monday morning at the McHenry County coroner’s office.

A representative of the FAA said the plane is a Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac that crashed under unknown circumstances. 

The tail number of the plane, N4218, matches the black block letters and numbers on the side of an orange plane shown in photos on Rob Sherman’s website. On the site, Sherman says he is an airplane pilot and the photo shows him in the plane, with the words Rob Sherman Airplanes written on it.

Sherman is widely known as an atheism advocate and activist and ran as a Green Party candidate earlier this year to represent the 5th Congressional District.

Sherman, who once jokingly described himself as Illinois' most prominent atheist, fought many battles in defense of separation of church and state.

Attempts by the Tribune to reach Sherman were not successful.

Paulette Bodnar lives on a horse farm across from the cornfield where the plane went down. Bodnar, who had been up since 4:30 a.m., did not hear anything unusual Saturday morning.

Then her husband, Stan, came home from doing errands and told her he spotted the flashing lights of several police cars.

When she peeked outside, she was shocked to see the mangled pile of orange metal about 1,200 feet away. The plane didn’t appear to have caught fire.

“It was a shocker to see it there and not have heard it," Bodnar said. “I have three dogs and none of them heard it. There should have been a thump. ... You’d have thought there would have been something."

Bodnar believes the aircraft possibly went down while they were out at a friend’s wedding Friday night.

“It’s horrible."


The pilot of a small plane was killed after the home-built aircraft crashed in a corn field near Marengo overnight, authorities said.

The single-engine plane belonged to longtime suburban atheist activist Rob Sherman, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

The pilot's name has not yet been released.

A passer-by called 911 at 7:27 a.m. reporting the plane wreckage in a farm field off Meyer Road, according to the McHenry County Coroner's office.

Marengo firefighters found the single victim, a man, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:53 a.m.

The plane, a Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac, crashed under unknown circumstances, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were planning to take the plane to a secure facility because of forecasts for heavy snow Saturday night, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

The crash occurred either late Friday night or early Saturday morning near Meyer Road, just north of Pleasant Grove Road, said Marengo firefighter-paramedic Joe Taylor.

The McHenry County Coroner's office will perform an autopsy on the pilot Monday morning.


CHICAGO (CBS) — The small plane that crashed in Marengo, killing the pilot, was owned by a well-known political figure from suburban Chicago.

The plane’s owner is Rob Sherman, from Poplar Grove.

He’s been a congressional candidate, national spokesman for the American Atheists and a board member of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Schaumburg, WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports.

The plane’s tail number, provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, matches the tail number on Sherman’s Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac aircraft.

A source told WBBM that Sherman had been flying last night and never made it to an event at the Schaumburg Airport.

The wreckage, barely resembling an aircraft, was discovered this morning in a corn field in Marengo.

Crews received a call around 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning, after someone spotted wreckage around Meyer Road just north of Pleasant Grove Road.

The FAA said the pilot was the only person on board. Authorities have not identified Sherman as the pilot yet.

The NTSB says an investigator has done an initial examination of the plane and it was being moved to a secure area indoors and a team would assemble on Monday for further investigation and documentation.


Incident occurred March 08, 2016 in Bolingbrook, Illinois 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) 


Date:  09-MAR-16
Time:  04:41:00Z
Regis#:  N4218
Aircraft Make:  ZENITH
Aircraft Model:  CH601
Event Type:  Incident
Highest Injury:  None
Damage:  None
Flight Phase:  TAXI (TXI)FSDO-03
State:  Illinois

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