Sunday, March 4, 2018

Toevs Titanium Explorer, N556XT: Fatal accident occurred July 15, 2016 in Whitewater, Butler County, Kansas

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

James Lee "Farmer Jim" Toevs

Location: Whitewater, KS
Accident Number: CEN16LA266
Date & Time: 07/15/2016, 1900 CDT
Registration: N556XT
Aircraft: Toevs Titanium Explorer
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The sport pilot was conducting a local flight in the gyroplane that he and his wife had built. Witnesses saw the gyroplane start a turn, the nose of the gyroplane pitch up, and then the gyroplane descend and impact the ground. A postimpact fire ensued and destroyed the gyroplane. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation; however, the examination was limited by fragmentation due to impact damage and heat damage due to the postimpact fire.

The pilot had an undiagnosed adrenal tumor and was being treated for hypertension, depression, and chronic pain. However, it is unlikely that any of these conditions or treatments contributed to the abrupt loss of control in this accident.

The reason for the sudden pitch up and then descent and impact with terrain could not be determined during the investigation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The loss of aircraft control for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.


Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Loss of control in flight (Defining event)

Uncontrolled descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

On July 15, 2016, about 1900 central daylight time, an amateur-built experimental Titanium Explorer gyroplane, N556XT, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Whitewater, Kansas. A post impact fire ensued. The sport pilot was fatally injured. The gyroplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. No FAA flight plan had been filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight that originated from Newton City/County Airport (EWK), Newton, Kansas, about 1830.

According to witnesses interviewed by Kansas Highway Patrol officers and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the gyroplane was flying at a low altitude. The gyroplane started a turn, its nose pitched up, and then it descended and impacted the ground. One witness described hearing engine noise.

A review of FAA air traffic control radar data did not reveal any primary or secondary radar targets consistent with the accident gyroplane. The gyroplane was not in communications, nor was it required to be in communications, with air traffic controllers. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private; Sport Pilot
Age: 61, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Gyroplane
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Sport Pilot
Last FAA Medical Exam: 11/05/2012
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 06/17/2016
Flight Time:  53.65 hours (Total, all aircraft), 53.65 hours (Total, this make and model), 0.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot, age 61, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating and a sport pilot certificate with a rotorcraft gyroplane rating. He was issued his gyroplane rating, after passing the practical test in the accident gyroplane, on June 17, 2016. He also held a repairman certificate with an "inspection light sport – rotorcraft gyroplane" rating issued on August 24, 2011.

The pilot's most recent third-class airman medical certificate was issued on November 5, 2012, without limitations. At that time, the pilot reported having 110 hours total flight time.

Copies of the pilot's "Pilot Flight Record and Log Book" and "Ultralight/Recreational Sport Pilot Log Book" were reviewed. The Pilot Flight Record contained entries dated between January 20, 1973, and April 14, 1976. These entries showed about 80 hours of flight time and experience in an Aeronca Champ 7AC, and a Cessna 150, a 172, and a 177. The Ultralight/Recreational logbook contained entries dated between November 20, 2010, and July 14, 2016. These entries illustrated about 54 hours of flight time and experience in a "gyroglider" and the Titanium Explorer.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: Toevs
Registration: N556XT
Model/Series: Titanium Explorer
Aircraft Category: Gyroplane
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: TX007
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/31/2016, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 175.8 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
Engine Model/Series: 914UL
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

According to FAA records, the gyroplane, an experimental Titanium Explorer (serial number TX007) had been manufactured by the pilot and his wife in 2015. It was registered with the FAA on a special airworthiness certificate for experimental operations. It was powered by a 100-horsepower Rotax 914UL engine. The engine was equipped with a 2-blade, Bolly Optima composite propeller.

The gyroplane was maintained under a condition inspection program. A review of the maintenance records indicated that a condition inspection had been completed on May 31, 2016, at an airframe total time of 175.8 hours. When the accident occurred, the gyroplane had been flown about 40 hours since the condition inspection, and had accumulated about 217 hours total time. 


The closest official weather observation station was Newton City/County Airport (EWK), Newton, Kansas, located about 10 nautical miles northwest of the accident site. The elevation of the weather observation station was 1,533 ft mean sea level (msl). The routine aviation weather report (METAR) for EWK issued at 1856, reported, wind 090° at 7 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky condition, scattered clouds at 4,700 ft, broken clouds at 5,500 ft, temperature 28° C, dew point temperature 20° C, and altimeter 30.01 inches of mercury. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KEWK, 1532 ft msl
Observation Time: 1856 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 295°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 4700 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 20°C
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 5500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots, 90°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.01 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Newton, KS (KEWK)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Newton, KS (KEWK)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1830 CDT
Type of Airspace:  Class G 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  37.993056, -97.106667 (est) 

An FAA inspector responded to the accident scene. The accident site was located in a vegetated field, at an elevation of 1,385 ft msl. The gyroplane came to rest in a nose low attitude, on its left side. It was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. Several larger components separated during the impact and were located within a radius of 50 to 60 feet surrounding the main wreckage and impact point.

The fuselage, engine, main rotor, and empennage were all accounted for at the accident site. The cockpit instrumentation and gauges had separated from their cockpit locations and did not convey reliable readings. Some instruments and gauges were impact and fire damaged.

After it was removed from the accident site, the wreckage was examined further, by an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rudder control cable was continuous from the aft pulley forward to the rear seat rudder pedals. Push-pull tubes were continuous from the aft pedals forward. Both tubes separated at the forward pedals. Signatures were consistent with impact damage and overload separation.

The empennage was impact-damaged, and the rudder had separated from the vertical stabilizer. The fuselage was impact- and fire-damaged and fragmented into multiple pieces.

The main rotor consisted of two blades, - the yellow-spot blade and the non-spot blade. The yellow-spot blade was broken into multiple pieces along the span consistent with impact damage. The outboard portion of the blade exhibited exposure to heat and fire. The non-spot blade was broken into two pieces. The outboard portion was found imbedded in the ground. The inboard portion of the blade was fire damaged.

The propeller and hub exhibited impact and separation damage at all three blade hubs. The propeller blades were charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The engine exhibited impact damage and exposure to heat and fire. No anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operations.

The flight control tubes were continuous from the control stick aft to the mast and keel. The control tubes were continuous up to the control rod scissor arms. The two control arms between the scissor arms and the mast head were separated with signatures consistent with impact damage and overload separation. No anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operations. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Regional Forensic Science Center – Sedgwick County, Kansas, performed an autopsy of the pilot on July 16, 2016. The autopsy concluded that the cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries… include[ing] thermal injuries" and the report listed the specific injuries. The examination identified a tumor in the right adrenal gland. In addition, there was evidence of a previous surgery on the skull.

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological tests on specimens that were collected during the autopsy. Carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed. Tests were negative for ethanol. Amlodipine and norfluoxetine were detected in the blood and kidney at unspecified levels. Tests detected dihydrocodeine at 0.019 ug/mL in the lung and 0.009 ug/mL in the cavity blood; fluoxetine at 3.598 ug/mL in the kidney and 0.313 ug/mL in the cavity blood; and hydrocodone at 0.138 ug/mL in the lungs and 0.04 ug/mL in the cavity blood.

Amlodipine is used to treat high blood pressure and is not generally considered impairing. Dihydrocodeine is a metabolite of hydrocodone and norfluoxetine is a metabolite of fluoxetine. Hydrocodone is a potentially-impairing prescription medication used to manage severe pain. Usual blood levels that result in pain control and psychoactive effects in novice users are between 0.01 and 0.05 ug/mL. According to the pilot's wife, he had been using hydrocodone for several years to treat chronic low back pain. Fluoxetine is used to treat a multitude of mood disorders and can be approved for use by pilots through a special issuance medical certificate.

The pilot had reported no chronic medical conditions and no chronic medication use to the FAA during his last airman medical certificate examination in 2012. The pilot's wife reported that, when he was in his 20's, the pilot sustained a brain injury in a motor vehicle accident that required surgery. She reported that he had fully recovered from his injuries related to this accident. She was not previously aware of the adrenal tumor.

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA266
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 15, 2016 in Whitewater, KS
Aircraft: Toevs Titanium Explorer, registration: N556XT
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 July 15, 2016, about 1900 central daylight time, an amateur-built Toevs Titanium Explorer autogyro, N556XT, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Whitewater, Kansas. A post impact fire ensued. The private pilot was fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight which originated from Newton City/County Airport (EWK), Newton, Kansas, about 1800.

According to witnesses interviewed by the Kansas Highway Patrol, the autogyro started a turn, the nose pitched up, and then it descended and impacted trees. At least one witness described hearing engine noise. The autogyro impacted the ground and was destroyed by the post impact fire.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration inspector who traveled to the accident site, the autogyro impacted the ground in a nose low attitude.

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