Monday, March 20, 2017

Harmon Rocket II, N729PS: Fatal accident occurred March 24, 2016 near Cheraw Municipal Airport (KCQW), Chesterfield County, South Carolina

Final report still not in on last year's deadly plane crash in Chesterfield County

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not issued a final report on a deadly plane crash last March in Chesterfield County.

The NTSB's accident status investigation only lists the preliminary report.

The deadly plane crash occurred on March 24, 2016 in Cheraw.

The preliminary report says the, "aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances."

It describes the aircraft's make as a Harmon and its model as a Rocket.

Walker Jeter Hester, 59, from Atlanta, was in town flying his plane, stationed at the Cheraw Airport, when it crashed on a small island in the Great Pee Dee River, killing him, according to Chesterfield County Coroner Kip Kiser.

Hester was the pilot of the plane and the only person inside when it crashed.

The plane was found about 100 yards into the woods from the Great Pee Dee River near Legion Road.

It usually takes up to a year before a final report is released on plane crashes.

There's no word on when this final report will be ready.


Walker Jeter Hester served in the United States Navy as a Naval Aviator, call sign “Boxer.” Following an honorable discharge in 1987, he joined Delta Airlines as a First Officer, progressing rapidly to Captain.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; West Columbia, South Carolina 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA139
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Cheraw, SC
Aircraft: HALL, WENDALL W HARMON ROCKET II, registration: N729PS
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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On March 24, 2016, about 0750 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Harmon Rocket II, N729PS, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Cheraw, South Carolina. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed Cheraw Municipal Airport (CQW), Cheraw, South Carolina, about 0715. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Witnesses observed the airplane flying at or near "treetop height" at several locations in and around the town of Cheraw on the morning of the accident. One witness, who was working alongside the Pee Dee River, stated that just prior to the accident the airplane was flying along the river at tree top level when it struck a power line.

Examination of the accident scene by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that two power line cables were found severed about mid-span between two towers, one on each either side of the river. The airplane came to rest on a wooded island about 150 yards north of the power line crossing, and about 50 yards west of the river bank. Damage to the trees surrounding the wreckage was consistent with a near vertical descent. The airplane came to rest in a nose down, inverted attitude.

The upper surface of the engine cowling and canopy were crushed, both wings exhibited leading edge damage consistent with several tree impacts, and the left main landing gear had separated at the fuselage. The empennage was partially separated from the fuselage and bent upward and forward with severe crushing in the aft direction. One section of power line cable was found next to the fuselage, another was found wrapped around the engine cowling. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the control stick and rudder pedals to the ailerons and rudder, and from the control stick through an overload fracture in the push-pull tube, to the elevator.

The engine crankshaft was fractured in overload just aft of the flywheel. The flywheel, propeller, spinner, and hub remained attached to one another and were found near the rear of the main wreckage. The propeller exhibited gouge marks in the leading edge that were the size of the power line diameter, as well as scrape marks on the leading edge and rear of the blade that were consistent with impact with the cable. Both blades exhibited S-bending.

According to FAA records, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, as well as a flight engineer certificate. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued February 25, 2016. He reported 13,289 total hours of flight experience, and 31 hours in the six months prior to that date. A witness reported that the pilot had accrued approximately 35 hours in accident airplane make and model.

An electronic primary flight display and engine monitor system was recovered from the accident site and forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder laboratory for examination.

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