Monday, May 9, 2016

Family of man who died in plane crash files wrongful death lawsuit: Vans RV-4, N999ZF, fatal accident occurred October 17, 2015 in Cortland, Gage County, Nebraska

David A. Schneider

Jerry Allen Allder

The family of a Lincoln man who died in an Oct. 17 plane crash near Cortland in October claims the pilot was flying the aircraft recklessly before it crashed. 

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Lancaster County District Court, the wife of David Schneider alleges pilot Jerry Allder was negligent and caused the wrongful death of his passenger.

Allder, 68 of Lincoln, and Schneider, 52, left the Crete Municipal Airport bound for the Lincoln Airport, the lawsuit said.

Halfway through the flight, the plane made low-altitude passes above a small lake on property owned by Allder before ascending after a final pass to 2,000 feet, the lawsuit said.

Suddenly, the suit says, the Zidek Vans RV-4 plunged nose down and hit the ground in a bean field near Cortland, about 25 miles south of Lincoln in Gage County. Both men died.

Skies were clear and winds low, according to the lawsuit.

Federal investigators found no evidence of engine malfunction or failure in the experimental, amateur-built airplane.

In the suit, Dana Schneider alleges that Allder failed to maintain reasonable control of the plane and was engaging in aerobatic flight. 

Federal aviation regulations define aerobatic flight as intentional maneuvers involving abrupt changes in altitude, abnormal altitude or abnormal acceleration.

All of these actions violated federal aviation regulations, the lawsuit alleges.

David Schneider's estate is seeking damages from Allder's estate to cover the roughly $6,600 in funeral and burial expenses as well as other unspecified damages.

Attorneys for the estates of Allder and Schneider declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Original article can be found here:


FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Lincoln FSDO-65

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 17, 2015 in Cortland, NE
Aircraft: Zidek Vans RV-4, registration: N999ZF
Injuries: 2 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 October 17, 2015, about 0841 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Zidek model Vans RV-4 single-engine airplane, N999ZF, was destroyed during a postimpact fire after colliding with terrain while maneuvering near Cortland, Nebraska. The private pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the accident site. The personal flight departed Crete Municipal Airport (CEK), Crete, Nebraska, at 0833, and had the intended destination of Lincoln Airport (LNK), Lincoln, Nebraska.

According to available air traffic control (ATC) radar data, after departing CEK on runway 17, the accident flight proceeded to the southeast and climbed to an altitude of about 2,600 feet mean sea level (msl). At 0837:30 (hhmm:ss), the flight turned to the south and descended to 2,400 feet msl. About 19 seconds later, the flight turned to easterly course and started to descend. Between 0839:23 and 0841:42, the accident flight made multiple low-altitude passes centered over a small lake located 1/3 mile northeast of the intersection of West Ash Road and Southwest 29th Road, near Cortland, Nebraska. The low-altitude passes, and the associated course-reversals, were completed within a 1/2 mile radius of the small lake. According to available elevation data, the terrain immediately surrounding the lake was about 1,470 feet msl. The small lake was located adjacent to a residence owned by the pilot's brother.

The first low-pass of the small lake was from the southeast to the northwest at an altitude at or below 100 feet above ground level. Following the first low-pass, the flight entered a climbing right turn to about 1,900 feet msl before it entered a descent back toward the small lake on a south heading. The second low-pass was from the north to the south at an altitude at or below 100 feet above ground level. Following the second low-pass, the flight completed a 180-degree turn at approximately 1,600 feet msl before descending for a third low-pass over the small lake. The third low-pass was from the south to the north at an altitude at or below 100 feet above ground level. Following the third low-pass, the flight entered a climbing right turn to about 1,800 feet msl before it entered a descent for another low-pass over the small lake. The fourth and final low-pass was from the northeast to the southwest and was at an altitude at or below 100 feet agl. Following the final low-pass, the flight entered a climb on a southwest heading to about 2,000 feet msl before making a sharp turn toward the north. The final radar return was recorded at 0841:42 at 1,700 feet msl. The final radar return was located about 472 feet east of initial impact point with the ground.

The pilot's brother stated that he witnessed the accident airplane complete multiple low-altitude passes over his property immediately before the accident. He stated that following the final low-pass the airplane pitched-up and entered a climbing right turn. The witness stated that, during the climbing turn, the airplane suddenly pitched nose down and descended rapidly. The witness stated that the airplane recovered briefly to a level attitude before it quickly rolled wings left-and-right and entered a descending right turn into the terrain.

The main wreckage was located in a harvested soybean field. There was a wreckage debris path that measured about 92 feet long and was oriented on a 265-degree magnetic heading. The initial impact crater contained the propeller and the right main landing gear. The impact crater also exhibited a well-defined propeller slash mark in the terrain. The estimated angle between the propeller slash mark and the surrounding terrain was about 30 degrees. The two-blade propeller exhibited chordwise scratches near the blade tips. One propeller blade exhibited significant S-shape bending along its span. A large area of burnt ground and vegetation surrounded the main wreckage, which consisted of the fuselage, empennage, both wings, and the engine. A majority of the fuselage, including the cockpit and cabin, had been consumed during the postimpact fire. Flight control continuity could not be established due to impact and fire damage; however, all observed separations were consistent with overstress or damage caused by prolonged exposure to fire.

The engine remained partially attached to the firewall. Internal engine and valve train continuity was confirmed as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The internal oil-pump discharged oil in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The mechanical fuel pump exhibited fire damage and did not function. Neither magneto provided a spark when rotated by hand; however, both magnetos exhibited damage consistent with impact and prolonged exposure to fire. The upper spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. The fuel metering assembly was found separated from the engine and exhibited impact related damage. The postaccident examination revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal engine operation.

At 0854, the LNK automated surface observing system, located about 25 miles north of the accident site, reported: wind 120 degrees at 9 knots, surface visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 8 degrees Celsius, dew point -1 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.49 inches of mercury.

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