Thursday, April 05, 2018

Piper PA-11 Cub Special, N4910M, registered to a private individual and operated by student pilot: Fatal accident occurred September 14, 2016 in Arcanum, Darke County, Ohio

Clayton Heins (student pilot)

Jacob Turner (passenger)

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Cincinnati, Ohio

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Michael J. Folkerts, Investigator In Charge 
 National Transportation Safety Board

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Arcanum, OH
Accident Number: CEN16FA370
Date & Time: 09/14/2016, 0915 EDT
Registration: N4910M
Aircraft: PIPER PA 11
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Low altitude operation/event
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


Although federal regulations do not allow a student pilot to carry passengers, the student pilot and a passenger departed from a private airstrip on a personal flight in the airplane. During the flight, the passenger posted on social media a video that showed the airplane maneuvering at low altitude. The airplane subsequently impacted a cornfield at high speed. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Toxicology testing of specimens from the student pilot indicated the use of multiple psychoactive drugs, including alprazolam, cocaine, ethanol, and hydroxyzine. The combined effects of these drugs likely impaired his ability to safely perform low-altitude maneuvers. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The student pilot's reckless flying attitude and use of multiple psychoactive drugs, which likely impaired his ability to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at low altitude. 


Altitude - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Illicit drug - Pilot (Cause)
Personality - Pilot (Cause)
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)
Alcohol - Pilot (Cause)
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Qualification/certification - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying
Low altitude operation/event (Defining event)

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

On September 14, 2016, about 0915 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-11 airplane, N4910M, impacted terrain while maneuvering near Arcanum, Ohio. The student pilot and the passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the student pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The local flight departed without a flight plan from a private grass airstrip about 0800.

According to onboard video posted by the passenger to social media during the flight, the student pilot was in the front seat, and the passenger was in the rear seat. On several occasions, the onboard video showed the airplane maneuvering at a low altitude. While in flight, the passenger texted to a friend that the pilot was flying in a "crazy" manner.

A witness, who was in his car preparing to leave for work, observed the airplane fly by his residence at "tree top" level. After exiting his car to check if the airplane had missed the trees, he saw the airplane enter a turn and descend out of sight. Another witness noticed the airplane flying low "just above the trees." A third witness stated that the airplane was flying in a "very radical" manner and commented, "it was like the pilot was drunk." The airplane subsequently impacted in a cornfield about 300 yards north of the departure airstrip. 

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 20, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: None
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/16/2012
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 31 hours (Total, all aircraft), 9 hours (Total, this make and model), 9 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The student pilot, age 20, was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate on October 16, 2012. A logbook review revealed his initial solo flight occurred on December 23, 2012. He had accumulated 31 total hours, and the last recorded flight was on May 22, 2015. FAA regulations do not permit a student pilot to carry passengers.

According to multiple people interviewed by local law enforcement officials, 2 weeks before the accident, the student pilot returned from a substance abuse rehabilitation facility where he was treated for heroin addiction for about 30 days. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N4910M
Model/Series: PA 11
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1947
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 111641
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/31/2014, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1750 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 1925 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C91  installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: C85-12
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 85 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  None 

The airplane, which was registered to the pilot's father, was manufactured in 1947. The two-place, tandem, high-wing airplane was equipped with a Continental C85-12 engine and a Sensenich fixed-pitch propeller. Review of maintenance records revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on Aug 31, 2014, at a total time of 1,925 hours.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KVES, 1008 ft msl
Observation Time: 0915 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 13 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 4°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 5000 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 17°C / 17°C
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 9000 ft agl
Visibility:  7 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots, 360°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:  No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Arcanum, OH (PRIV)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Arcanum, OH
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0800 EDT
Type of Airspace:  Class G 

At 0915, the weather observation station at Darke County Airport, Versailles, Ohio, located about 13 miles north of the accident site, reported wind 360° at 4 knots, 7 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 5,000 ft above ground level (agl), broken clouds at 9,000 ft agl, overcast clouds at 11,000 ft agl, temperature 17°C, dew point 17°C, and altimeter setting 30.19 inches of mercury. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.976944, -84.543056 (est) 

A strip of flattened corn plants led from the initial impact point on a northwest heading to the airplane. The airplane was resting inverted on a southeast heading about 100 ft from the initial impact point. The engine remained attached to the airframe. One of the propeller blades was bent, and the other was nearly straight. The flight control surfaces remained attached to their respective airframe surfaces, and flight control continuity was confirmed. The center fuel tank contained about 2 gallons of aviation fuel.

At the recovery location, the spark plugs were removed from the cylinders. All displayed a normal worn-out condition when compared to the Champion Aviation Service Manual (AV-27). During a check of the engine's continuity, the Nos. 2 and 4 cylinders had normal compression. The No. 1 cylinder had weak compression due to a crushed intake valve pushrod, and the No. 3 cylinder had no compression due to a crushed exhaust valve pushrod. Both magnetos were rotated by hand and produced spark at all leads. The carburetor float bowl was removed, and no anomalies were noted. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The student pilot had not reported any medical conditions or use of any medications to the FAA. The Montgomery County Coroner's Office, Dayton, Ohio, performed an autopsy of the student pilot, and his cause of death was determined to be multiple trauma. No significant natural disease was identified.

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on samples from the student pilot and identified ethanol at 0.105 gm% in blood and 0.134 gm% in urine. In addition, alprazolam and its metabolite hydroxyalprazolam; cocaine and multiple metabolites, including benzoylecgonine, cocaethylene, anhydroecgonine methyl ester, and ecgonine methyl ester; levamisole; hydroxyzine and its metabolite cetirizine; and naltrexone and its metabolite naltrexol were found in urine. Finally, benzoylecgonine, ecgonine methyl ester, hydroxyzine, cetirizine, naltrexone, and naltrexol were found in blood.

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office also performed toxicology testing on samples from the student pilot. The testing identified 57 ng/ml of alprazolam, 161 ± 33 ng/ml of cocaine, 917 ± 190 ng/ml of benzoylecgonine, 404 ng/ml of ecgonine methyl ester, and 106 ng/ml of cocaethylene in heart blood. In addition, ethanol was found in heart blood at 0.139 ± 0.013 gm% and in vitreous at 0.095 ± 0.009 gm%.

Alprazolam is a sedating benzodiazepine prescription medication used to treat anxiety available as a Schedule IV controlled substance and commonly marketed with the name Xanax. Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant. Ethanol is the intoxicant commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor; it acts as a central nervous system depressant. FAA regulations prohibit any person from acting or attempting to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while having 0.040 gm% or more ethanol in the blood. Cocaethylene is a metabolite formed only when cocaine and ethanol are ingested together.

Levamisole is a drug used to deworm animals; it is not available for use in humans. It is a white powder and is commonly used to cut illegally produced cocaine. Hydroxyzine is an anxiolytic often marketed with the names Atarax and Vistaril; it is known to be sedating. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist available by prescription and is commonly sold with the names Revia and Vivitrol; it may be used in the treatment of opioid and alcohol addiction.

Tests And Research

Two personal electronic devices were recovered from the accident site and evaluated by the National Transportation Safety Board Recorder Laboratory. One device contained two short videos of the flight, each about 10 seconds long, that showed the airplane flying low over grassy areas but did not capture the accident sequence. Due to significant impact damage, no data was retrieved from the other device. For further details, see the Personal Electronic Devices Factual Report in the public docket for this investigation.

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA370
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, September 14, 2016 in Arcanum, OH
Aircraft: PIPER PA 11, registration: N4910M
Injuries: 2 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 September 14, 2016, about 0915 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-11 airplane, N4910M, impacted terrain while maneuvering near Arcanum, Ohio. The student pilot and passenger were fatally injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The local flight departed without a flight plan from a private grass strip about 0800. 

According to onboard video posted by the passenger to his Facebook page, the airplane was maneuvering near the grass strip, with the student pilot in the front seat and the passenger in the rear seat. The airplane subsequently impacted into a cornfield about 300 yards north of the grass strip, which damaged both wings and fuselage. The airplane came to rest about 100 feet from the initial ground impact point.


  1. My condolences to the parents.

    Our kids choose their own path, sometimes a fatal one and there is little we can do about it.

  2. Agreed. Sadly for the parents of the student pilot they are getting sued for damages due to the carelessness of their son from what I saw online. Which is a double whammy.

    He also soloed at 16 but 4 years later was still just a student? looks like his pathway didn't really include Aviation or what it takes to be an Airman.

    The regulations are written in blood and once again here is a glaring example of why students cannot carry passengers, much less recklessly and carelessly operate aircrafts under drugs and alcohol.

    "Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect."