Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gefa-Flug AS-105-GD thermal airship, United Kingdom registration G-SUNA, registered to and operated by AirSign LTD: Accident occurred June 15, 2017 in Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


NTSB Identification: CEN17FA231 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 15, 2017 in Erin, WI
Aircraft: GEFA-FLUG GMBH AS-105-GD, registration: G-SUNA
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 June 15, 2017, at 1115 central daylight time, a Gefa-Flug AS-105-GD thermal airship, United Kingdom registration G-SUNA, collided with the terrain in Erin, Wisconsin, following an inflight envelope panel failure. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the thermal airship was destroyed. The airship was registered to and operated by AirSign LTD, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight. Visual flight rules conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the accident, and a flight plan had not been filed. The local flight departed from the Erin Aero Airport (WN75) at 1100, and was returning to the airport when the accident occurred.


The accident occurred on the second flight of the day. Prior to takeoff on the accident flight, the airship was fueled and two of the propane tanks were swapped out with full tanks. The airship departed for the aerial advertising flight and shortly after takeoff, the pilot radioed the ground crew that he was returning because the wind was too strong.


Following the accident, the pilot reported to law enforcement, that he was at an altitude of about 1,000 ft above ground level (agl) when he decided to return to land. He was approaching the airstrip and at an altitude of about 200 ft (agl), he encountered a thermal which increased his altitude to 500 ft. He vented the envelope to descend and heard an envelope panel tear. Seconds later, he heard another panel tear. The pilot turned off the fuel to the burners and vented the envelope, but the front section of the envelope collapsed around the burners and caught fire. The airship descended in a nose-down attitude until it impacted the terrain.





DATE: 06-20-2017

SUBJECT:   ADVERTISING BLIMP CRASH-UPDATE  17-22192, 17-22212

AUTHORITY:    SHERIFF DALE K. SCHMIDT 

The Sheriff’s Office is confirming reports that it investigated a complaint on 06-15-2017 in regards to the Airsign aircraft prior to the aircraft actually crashing.

At 8:53 am on that date, the Sheriff’s Office received a complaint from a property owner near the private airstrip where the aircraft launched. During the original call, the complainant advised that the aircraft was scaring his cattle.  He also was concerned that the aircraft may be violating permits/regulations during its operation.

Near the end of the call, the complainant asked if he could “…shoot it down?” The dispatcher advised no, and that a Deputy was on his way to meet with him.  The question was asked in a sarcastic manner, but could be construed as a vague threat.

The Deputy did meet with the complainant, advised him on his concerns and determined that he was not a threat to the aircraft.

At 11:15 am, the aircraft was seen in distress and crashed. Investigators were almost immediately assigned to locate and interview the complainant from earlier in the morning.  He was located, and during a thorough interview, denied any involvement in the aircraft crash.

Through interviews, evidence at the crash site, witnesses and other information, there is no reason to believe this person was involved, in any way, with the aircraft crash.

Additionally, from the same evidence and information, there is no reason to believe foul play is involved with the crash of the aircraft. If any new information develops, it will be investigated. 

The NTSB has an open investigation, and it is hoped they will be able to make a determination as to the cause of the crash. No reports or recordings will be released at this time.

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