Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cessna 500 Citation I Sierra Eagle, Shelter Charter Services Inc., N8DX: Fatal accident occurred March 24, 2017 in Marietta, Georgia

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Honeywell Aerospace; Phoenix, Arizona

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Shelter Charter Services Inc: 

NTSB Identification: ERA17FA135
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, March 24, 2017 in Marietta, GA
Aircraft: CESSNA 500, registration: N8DX
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 March 24, 2017, about 1925 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 500, N8DX, collided with terrain in a residential neighborhood near Marietta, Georgia. The private pilot, and sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by the impact and post-impact fire. The airplane was registered to Shelter Charter Services Inc and operated as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the accident and the flight was operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from Cincinnati Airport - Lunken Field (LUK), Cincinnati, Ohio, about 1810, and was destined for Fulton County Airport-Brown Field (FTY), Atlanta, Georgia.

A preliminary review of air traffic control (ATC) radar and radio communications information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the pilot was in contact with the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center, and had requested a radar vector direct to FTY. The pilot stated that the reason for the request was because his autopilot was not working and he was having steering problems. When the airplane was about 15 miles north of FTY, ATC lost radar and radio contact with the flight.

Several witnesses observed the airplane prior to the accident. A witness, who was a professional pilot, stated that he observed the airplane flying level on a southerly heading about a 1,000 ft below the cloud layer. The witness said there was nothing unusual about the airplane until it made a complete 360° roll to the left before entering a steep 90° bank to the left. He described it similar to a "military high key turn." The witness said the airplane then rolled inverted and entered a vertical nose down dive. He said, "The airplane entered a slow counterclockwise spiral as it started its dive..." before it disappeared from his view behind trees. Another witness stated that she observed the airplane make two complete "barrel rolls" with the nose of the airplane slightly "elevated." During the second roll, the airplane slowed before the nose pointed down and began to spiral counterclockwise. She said, "As the airplane descended, we heard a 'whoosh', followed by the impact explosion and saw the plume of smoke. At no time do we recall hearing engine noise."

The airplane impacted the front yard of a home in a residential neighborhood in a nose level/wings level attitude. An indentation in the ground about the same size and shape as the left wing was noted in the front yard of the house. The wires and trees close to the house and driveway were undamaged. There were no ground injuries.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, single-engine sea, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. His last FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on September 27, 2016. At that time, he did not report his total flight time; however, on his previous medical application in 2013, he reported a total of 6,000 flight hours.

The weather conditions reported at Cobb County-McCollum Airport (RYY), located about 3 miles west of the accident site, at 1947, included wind from 160° at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, an overcast ceiling at 5,500 ft, temperature 21° C, dewpoint 9°C, and a barometric altimeter setting of 30.28 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

Norman Keller 
(Credit: St. Joseph Catholic Church)

Marietta residents Norm and Barbara Keller were not at home Friday when a Cessna 500 Citation I Sierra Eagle plane spiraled into their front yard, setting their home ablaze. They thank God for that.

The Kellers were having dinner at St. Joseph Catholic Church, a common practice for observant Catholics during Lent, a period of religious reflection leading up to Easter.

“We went to our local church’s fish fry and then we did the Stations of the Cross,” Norm Keller said, referring to the practice among some Christians of symbolically tracing the steps of Jesus Christ’s life leading up to the Crucifixion.

The Cessna 500 Citation I Sierra Eagle reportedly was flying from Cincinnati to Fulton County Airport about 17 miles away from the Keller home when it spiraled into the suburban Cobb County neighborhood. The pilot, 78-year-old Robert George Westlake of Atlanta, was killed. Investigators said Westlake radioed moments before the crash that he was having trouble with his autopilot.

Flames spread from the crash and consumed the Kellers’ home. Norm Keller said he and his wife wondered whether they would have been quick enough to make it out of the house without injury.

Although the Kellers lost virtually everything in their home for the past decade, Norm, a deacon at St. Joseph, said he hopes prayers from the community go to Westlake and his family.

“The house and all of this stuff can be replaced. The poor pilot’s family have to go through this grief and they need more support,” he said. “We’ll do all right. We have each other and we have family and community and church.”

For now, the Kellers are staying with their daughter and plan to remain in the area. Norm Keller said their church, neighbors and the broader community have been very supportive.

When they went to have their prescription medicines replaced at their local Publix, the store waved its fees and gave the Kellers flowers, lunch and a gift card. That and the support of family and friends is evidence of the “grace of God,” he said.

“This is what the Scripture tells us,” he said.

Story and video:

COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Cobb County police have identified the pilot killed in a plane crash in Marietta.

Police said Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, died in the crash that happened just after 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"He was a dear father, grandfather and a good pilot. He will be dearly missed," the victim's son-in-law said in a statement. 

Police said the 1976 green/white Cessna Citation 500 jet, which was based out of Charlie Brown Airport in Fulton County was returning from a business trip in Cincinnati when the pilot radioed that he was having mechanical troubles.

"He said he was having trouble with his auto-pilot," said Leah Read, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. 

Within moments of doing so, the plane crashed in the front yard of a house in the 100 block of Vistawood Lane in Marietta. 

“Everything just kind of went in slow motion,” witness Trey Richardson told Channel 2’s Nicole Carr.

One house was destroyed due to intense fire and a second house sustained collateral damage due to the heat generated in the crash, according to police.

The family living in the house that was destroyed was at church at the time. Norm and Barb Keller said they are grateful to be alive and their prayers go out to Westlake's family. 

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were at the crash site for two days and concluded their on-scene investigations Saturday evening. 

The NTSB will piece together the plane at its Griffin facility. Investigators hope a cockpit recorder will officer critical information in their investigation.

Story and video:


Anonymous said...

A 78 year old single pilot in a 500! Single pilot (aircraft - pilot) certified? I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

You dont need the autopilot to land a Citation... Who sold a license to this guy??

Jay VC..Bush Pilots and Aerobatic CFI, retired...

lcarson said...

Hey armchair experts,,,,,quit "just saying" and waiting until all the facts are reviewed by the experts......;

AND, yes you do need 6 auto pilots to land any jet weighing more than 3,000 pounds.....

get a life you two beer drinking "know it all"...... :)

Anonymous said...

lcarson...2 upvotes...

Anonymous said...

A 78 year old single pilot in a 500! Single pilot (aircraft - pilot) certified? I'm just sayin'.

If you knew what you were talking about you would know that age is not a factor.

Anonymous said...

"A man's got to know his limitations." - Harry Callahan

Anonymous said...

"There are no new types of air crashes — only people with short memories. Every accident has its own forerunners, and every one happens either because somebody did not know where to draw the vital dividing line between the unforeseen and the unforeseeable or because well-meaning people deemed the risk acceptable".

A 78-year-old single pilot in a 500! Single pilot (aircraft - pilot) certified? I'm just sayin' - yeah, this individual "gets it!"

Air Carrier, ATP, CFI, CJ typed ... 26K hrs. +, co-pilot mandatory!

Anonymous said...

Aviation is self regulating

Warren Whisenhunt BE58 pilot said...

OK, you jump to conclusions pilots. I was in the air listening to the conversation when this happened. The pilot was in VFR conditions, had over 6000 hrs flying and was almost home. He could not comply with a simple request from Atlanta center to change frequencies, because he was being overwhelmed. An eyewitness pilot said he saw the plane make a 360 degree barrel roll then turn 90 to the left, roll inverted and dove into the ground. This man's voice was calm the last time he spoke that I heard, "what runway am I lined up for?" This jet had a modification by Sierra Industries on its wings to allow single pilot operation. If you knew anything about planes, you would know that they are only as good as the mechanics that work on them!!!! Reckon if a hydraulic coupling vibrated loose and lost oil pressure or some other mechanical fault that the pilot was still at fault, or that a copilot would have helped? Those of you that have spoken judgementally and condemned this good man without knowing any facts should be ashamed of yourselves. You show no concern for the loss of this man or his family! Shame, shame on you!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a pilot, but do know the man in question. He was an accomplish pilot. I cant claim to know anything about his plane, I do know he had had installed in the jet, mechanical or instrumentation from a 747 or 757 in order to make it safer to fly, he was constantly making sure it was air worthy. lets be clear, those modifications had been made years ago, its not something new that might have malfunctioned. As for you armchair pilots, you need to think about your lousy uneducated and uninformed comments before you open your mouth. This was a decent man with family and friends and all your stupid comments do is make unfounded hurtful accusations. you have no concern for the people who may know this gentleman, you know nothing about him, his abilities, his situation, but you are suddenly and expert in 1-2 short sentences. I'll be Blunt- Shut the Hell up until you actually have something valid to contribute .