Sunday, August 7, 2016

PZL-Bielsko SZD-55-1, N551DR: Fatal accident occurred August 06, 2016 at Chicago Glider Club Gliderport (IL59), Channahon, Illinois

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA308
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 06, 2016 in Channahon, IL
Aircraft: PZL-BIELSKO SZD 55-1, registration: N551DR
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 August 6, 2016, about 1533 central daylight time, an experimental PZL Bielsko SZD 55-1, a single-seat glider, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain during takeoff from the Chicago Glider Club Gliderport (IL59), Channahon, Illinois. The pilot was fatally injured. The glider was owned and operated by the pilot 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 on a flight plan. The glider departed from IL59 about 1532 on a local flight. 

The pilot of the tow airplane reported that he initiated the takeoff from runway 27 (2,000 ft by 250 ft, grass/turf) and that the takeoff was normal. The tow airplane lifted off about halfway down the runway and began climbing. He stated that when the tow airplane was about 20 ft above ground level (agl), he began to feel a "heavy increasing drag from the glider and shortly thereafter, felt the glider release from the tow." 

Witnesses reported that during the takeoff roll, the glider's right wing dropped and hit the ground after the "wing runner" let go of the right wing. The wings leveled momentarily and then the left wing hit the ground while the glider was veering slightly to the left. The witnesses stated that the pilot leveled the wings briefly before the glider pitched up approximately 30 to 40 degrees. The tow airplane was still on its takeoff roll as the glider pitched up. The glider continued to climb at a 30 to 40-degree pitch attitude until the tow rope was released from the glider, which was on a southwest heading. The glider's pitch attitude leveled out, and it appeared that the glider started a right turn, but then the glider entered a stall/spin to the left. The witnesses stated that the glider had reached 100 to 200 ft agl when it entered the stall/spin.

The glider impacted a field with tall grass in a left wing low, steep nose-down attitude about 200 ft south and 1,600 ft from the approach end of runway 27. The entire aircraft was located at the point of impact. The entire span of the left wing remained attached to the fuselage and it exhibited crushing and impact damage along the leading edge of the outboard section of the wing. The nose and cockpit remained attached to the fuselage; however, it was crushed and broken, and displaced to the right. The outboard section of the right wing was separated from the rest of the wing at the aileron bellcrank and was lying forward of the right wing in the direction of travel. The tail was broken aft of the fuselage and the tail boom and empennage were displaced to the right of the fuselage. The empennage remained intact and exhibited no damage. The wing and horizontal stabilizer attach points were attached properly and were secure. The flight controls, including the spoilers, were checked for continuity from the flight controls to their respective surfaces. Flight control cables and control tubes were traced and all breaks were consistent with overload. No preimpact flight control continuity anomalies were detected. There was no water found in the ballast tanks. The chin tow cable release was found in the spring-loaded closed position. The chin release lever was operated by hand and it moved to the tow release position. 

The surface weather observation at the Joliet Regional Airport (JOT), Joliet, Illinois, located 6 miles northeast of the accident site, was wind 330 degrees at 6 kts, 10 miles visibility, sky clear, temperature 29 degrees C, dew point 16 degrees C, altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

James M. Patton in this undated photo with his eldest granddaughter, Molly.

A 69-year-old Tinley Park man died after the glider plane he was piloting crashed into a field in Minooka over the weekend, authorities said.

James M. Patton, a former firefighter and assistant fire chief in Tinley Park, was at the Chicago Glider Club in Minooka when his plane crashed into a field Saturday, according to Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Tom Budde. No one else was injured in the crash.

Witnesses at the club, located at 26291 W. Airport Road in Minooka, told investigators they saw one of the wings of Patton's plane dip after the glider detached from the tow plane. The glider then stalled and "nose dived" into the field shortly after, Budde said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the crash, Budde said.

Patton's wife, Gwen Patton, said her husband has held a pilot's license for his Cessna plane for at least 25 years. He began flying the glider plane about 10 years ago.

"He flew as often as he could," Gwen Patton said, adding he would go out on weekends to fly if the weather was nice.

"I think (he liked) the freedom and the challenge of being up there and being free like that," she said of his interest in gliders.

Patton's love for flying also included taking his 9-year-old granddaughter to the air show in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. The two would sleep in a tent under the wing of the plane, family members said fondly, adding that 9-year-old Molly Ouradnik was considered Patton's co-pilot.

Patton was a 25-year veteran of the Tinley Park Fire Department. He retired about 15 years ago and served as assistant fire chief before his retirement.

He started out as a firefighter for the Tinley Park Fire Department in 1967 and rose through the ranks to eventually be named assistant fire chief in 1976. He held that post until he retired in 1992.

He was involved in setting up MABAS — the mutual aid and box alarm system, a network that provides assistance to other departments during a major crisis situation. He also played a key role in helping computerize the fire department, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Klotz said.

"He set a real good foundation for us," Klotz said.

Though Klotz never served with Patton, Klotz said he got to know him through other events.

"He was always there to help with what he could help with," Klotz said.

Patton also owned Pattons Tire & Auto Service at the corner of 167th and Oak Park Avenue for more than 40 years. He eventually sold the property and retired from the business in 2005.

Son-in-law John Ouradnik said Patton started the business in his 20s and built it up through "hard work, blood, sweat and tears."

"That is how I learned a good work ethic," Ouradnik said.

Family members said Patton also was active in various community organizations and found ways to give back to those in need.

"He was a great man, a great friend and he was always helping people," his wife said. "He was just a good man."

Patton is survived by Gwen, his wife of 48 years; two daughters, Lisa (John) Ouradnik and Chris and two granddaughters, Molly and Carter.

Visitation will be on Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 16600 Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park. Funeral services will be Friday at 10 a.m. at the funeral home.


MINOOKA – A Tinley Park man died Saturday in Minooka when the glider he was piloting crashed into a field.

The incident occurred about 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chicago Glider Club, located on West Airport Road, according to Will County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Tom Budde.

James M. Patton, 69, was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m. at the scene, according to the Will County Coroner's Office.

The Sheriff's Office, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the crash occurred shortly after the glider detached from its tow plane. 

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford stated via email that preliminary information indicates the glider detached not long after takeoff.

Knudson said an NTSB investigator would be on scene Sunday. 

A preliminary incident report is expected in one to two weeks and it will take six to 12 months to complete the investigation, he said.

Patton's final cause and manner of death is pending autopsy, toxicological and police reports, according to the Coroner's Office. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

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