Friday, July 06, 2018

Extra EA-330LC, N330MT, registered to and operated by Vegas Extreme Adventures LLC doing business as Sky Combat Ace (SCA): Fatal accident occurred April 30, 2016 in Henderson, Clark County, Nevada

Steven Anthony Peterson of Sonoma County, passed away on April 30th, 2016 at the age of 32.

Benjamin Anderson Soyars, III, "Ben", age 37, died on April 30th, 2016 while living in Nevada.

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Las Vegas, Nevada 
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Henderson, NV
Accident Number: WPR16FA097
Date & Time: 04/30/2016, 1624 PDT
Registration: N330MT
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On April 30, 2016, about 1624 Pacific daylight time, an EXTRA Flugzeugproduktions-und Vertriebs, EA-300/L airplane, N330MT, was destroyed when it impacted terrain about 10 miles south of Henderson Executive Airport (HND), Las Vegas, Nevada. The airline transport pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Vegas Extreme Adventures LLC, doing business as Sky Combat Ace (SCA), under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight, which departed HND about 1603.

The accident airplane departed and rendezvoused with two other company airplanes to conduct a simulated air-to-air combat mission. The mission profile included two airplanes at a time maneuvering against each other, while the third airplane observed from a higher altitude and safe distance. Following completion of the air combat mission, all three airplanes began the return flight to HND. During the return, the airplanes flew a planned low-level bombing run simulation. After landing at HND, the pilots of the first two airplanes realized that the third airplane had not returned. The operator's pilots subsequently notified HND tower and the company. The company initiated an aerial search, and the wreckage was located shortly thereafter.

The accident airplane was equipped with both a GoPro Hero and a Garmin VIRB onboard camera system. The GoPro Hero camera was mounted in the front seat instrument panel and faced backwards, in order to record the front seat occupant. The Garmin VIRB camera was forward facing and mounted on the right side of the rear seat at the instrument panel. Both cameras were recovered from the accident site and sent to the NTSB's Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for download. The GoPro Hero card contained two files that captured the accident flight. The Garmin VIRB card captured the accident flight and cockpit communications. A complete report on the recorded flight data is available in the public docket.

The recorded data began on the airport ramp area and revealed weather conditions that included scattered clouds and a high overcast layer. The accident pilot and passenger discussed the recent weather as rain droplets collected on the airplane's surfaces. Both the pilot and passenger were wearing parachutes. The passenger was seated in the front seat and the pilot was seated in the rear seat. Another company airplane (Ace 4) checked the formation in on the radio and called for taxi clearance, for the three airplanes. The accident airplane (Ace 1) began taxing behind Ace 4 (the lead airplane): the other airplane in the formation was Ace 2. The timing of the recorded data referenced below, is expressed in video elapsed time, which is the minutes and seconds from the beginning of the recordings.

At 08:55 elapsed time, the accident airplane took off from runway 35L. After reaching about 200 ft agl, as indicated by the altimeter in the forward panel, the pilot initiated a hard left turn. The airplane climbed to its cruise altitude of 3,500 ft msl.

At 11:40, the three airplanes flew south towards the practice area and accomplished a simulated gun check. The accident pilot led the passenger through some shallow bank maneuvers, where they simulated setting up to shoot another airplane. The altimeter indicated 3,900 ft msl. At 15:00, the airplanes continued to fly south, and the accident airplane was instructed to set up to watch the Ace 4 and Ace 2 maneuver for a simulated "dogfight." The altitudes given to maintain for the simulated dogfight were between 5,000 ft and 7,000 ft msl. The accident airplane maneuvered in slight banking turns as the other two airplanes maneuvered for a simulated dogfight.

At 18:30, the first dogfight between the other airplanes had ended. The accident airplane was then instructed to set up for the next simulated dogfight. At 19:38, the accident airplane maneuvered for their first simulated dogfight. The passenger appeared to be manipulating the controls. After about 2 minutes, the dogfight was terminated and another one shortly thereafter.

At 23:15, the pilot asked the passenger how he was doing? The passenger responded that he was "doing pretty rough." The pilot asked the passenger to let him know if he started to feel airsick and the passenger confirmed that he was ready for one more simulated air-to-air engagement.

At 23:35, the accident airplane began a third simulated engagement and achieved a successful "kill" at 24:38. At that time, the pilot, indicated that he was going to stop the simulated dogfighting with the other airplanes and set up to watch them. The accident airplane climbed to 7,000 ft msl, and the passenger expressed that he was "not feeling well." The accident pilot responded that he "would not be doing any crazy turning or anything like that."

At 25:35, Ace 4, radioed that he was calling off the next simulated dogfight and the flight of three would return to HND. Ace 4 informed the other airplanes that during the return their position would be "fighting wing" with the accident airplane as the last airplane in trail. The pilot of another airplane in the formation radioed that they would finish up flying a low-level bomb run. The accident pilot informed the passenger, that he would keep it smooth for him, then radioed the formation that he was going to "keep it pretty PG back here." The other pilots in the formation acknowledged and replied: "sounds good, you guys tame it down to however you like it."

As the accident airplane descended towards the desert floor, the passenger readied an air sickness bag. The accident pilot restated that he was going to keep the airplane nice and smooth and instructed his passenger to take care of himself. Shortly, thereafter, the accident passenger became actively airsick and adjusted his headset microphone away from his face. The accident pilot transmitted over the radio that "One's code three."

At 28:51, the accident airplane was flying low level over the desert floor. The front seat altimeter indicated 2,750 ft msl and the indicated airspeed 185 knots. The passenger continued to be actively airsick. At 28:56, the passenger began to tie off his airsickness bag. Rain was seen beading up on the accident airplane's windscreen and the sky condition was overcast with a high ceiling, similar to the weather conditions observed during the simulated dogfights.

At 29:26, the accident airplane began climbing as it approached a ridgeline. Despite the rain accumulating on the windscreen, the forward visibility appeared to be unobstructed and the ridgeline was not obscured by cloud cover. At 29:37, the accident airplane was in a shallow climb and the accident pilot transmitted "you guys are leaving some pretty sweet vapor trails." At 29:46, the shallow pitch increased slightly, and the rain continued to bead on the airplane's canopy. The rain did not obstruct the forward view and the ridgeline was still clearly visible. The airplane's airspeed indicator read about 175 knots and the altimeter indicated 3,150 ft msl. The accident pilot then stated, "I'm going to take it nice and easy here." The airplane continued to approach the ridgeline in a shallow climb and an indicated airspeed just over 170 knots. The forward facing, Garmin VIRB camera stopped recording as the accident airplane was just approaching the ridgeline of the dry lake bed about 15 seconds before impact.

The GoPro Hero camera recorded the accident airplane perform 3 check turns before crossing the ridgeline and one after. The airplane crossed the first ridgeline and leveled off briefly and then began a shallow wings-level descent. There was some rain beading on the canopy; however, the visibility around the airplane was not degraded. The airplane then rolled into a slight right turn as it continued to descend towards the valley floor. Seconds later, the passenger was seen yelling: however, his microphone was not near his mouth. Almost simultaneously, at 30:18, the airplane impacted a small hill that rose from the valley floor. At the time of impact, the airplane was in a slight left bank and shallow climb.

The accident pilot did not indicate any anomalies before impact and the airplane was in stable flight with no attempted maneuver to avoid terrain.

Video from Ace 2 was also reviewed. Ace 2 was flying as the number two position in the formation, in front of the accident airplane. Ace 2 was maneuvering at a low attitude on the desert floor near the Jean dry lakebed and appeared to be flying about the same altitude above the ground as the accident airplane. Rain impacted Ace 2's windscreen as it maneuvered around a ridge adjacent to the dry lakebed. The rain did not appear to significantly degrade visibility and Ace 2 remained in VFR conditions. When compared to the accident airplane's video, Ace 2 encountered heavier rain. The flight path where the accident airplane was observed, was west of their position and the weather conditions near the accident airplane appeared to be better.

Ace 2 cleared the ridgeline and performed slight clearing turns as it descended back towards the valley floor. Once it reached level flight just above the valley floor, the accident airplane came into view behind and could be seen descending towards the valley floor. Once the accident airplane crossed above the first ridgeline, it was difficult to see, because it was no longer silhouetted against the overcast skies. A small hill comprised of rocks came into view behind and to the left of Ace 2, where the accident airplane was flying. Moments later, a white plume was observed on top of the hill. During the low-level, Ace 2 performed 8 clearing turns during the low-level flight before the accident. Following the accident, Ace 2 continued flying normally and the pilot and passenger seemed to be unaware of the accident airplane's impact with terrain, since the impact occurred outside their field of view.


The pilot, age 37, held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land. He also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single and multi-engine ratings. The pilot was issued a first class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman medical certificate on September 2, 2014. At the time of the accident, this medical certificate was valid only for third class purposes with no limitations. The pilot reported on the application for that medical certificate that he had accumulated 7,118 total hours of flight experience, with 200 hours in the previous 6 months.

Information provided by the operator revealed that the pilot had over 17 years of professional flying experience and had been flying aerobatics for 19 years, in a variety of aerobatic airplanes. He had been employed by SCA since August 2015.

According to the other pilots in the formation who flew against him on the day of the accident, the pilot appeared to be in good health and disposition. According to SCA, the accident pilot had taken the previous 2 days off and the accident flight was his second flight of the day. He had routinely flown the EA-300/L on company missions throughout his employment with SCA.


The tandem-seat, low-wing, acrobatic-category airplane was equipped with dual controls and was manufactured in 2011. A review of maintenance logbooks revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on January 2, 2016, at an airplane hour meter time of 619.9 hours. The engine received a 100-hour inspection on February 23, 2016, at an hour meter time of 719.3 hours and 719.3 hours since overhaul.

During the accident flight, the flight instructor was seated in the rear seat, and due to the tandem seating configuration, forward visibility was restricted by the forward portion of the airplane. No specific information about the rear seat visibility was available from the manufacturer, however, utilizing airplane drawings from the manufacturer, forward visibility from the rear seat, during level flight, was estimated to be limited between 7.5° left and right of centerline, and below more than about 8° below the nose of the airplane. The rear seat visibility limitations do not account for the additional limitations potentially imposed by the front seat passenger. The airplane's Pilot Operating Handbook states that solo flights will be accomplished from the rear seat.


At 1636, the automated weather observation station at HND, reported wind from 120° at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 4,100 ft, scattered clouds at 7,000 ft, overcast cloud base at 9,500 ft, temperature 16° C, dew point 9° C, and an altimeter setting of 29.79 inches of mercury. Remarks included: station with a precipitation discriminator, wind shift at 1555, lightning more than ten miles away to the north and northeast, thunderstorm ended at 1630, and rain began at 1559, and rain ended at 1620, trace precipitation in last hour.

An unofficial meteorological reporting station located about 6 miles east-southeast of the accident site, reported wind from 011° magnetic at 11 mph at 1625. Another unofficial meteorological reporting station located about 5 miles south of the accident site, reported wind from 074° magnetic at 8 mph at 1627.

Weather radar imagery depicted high reflectivity values consistent with heavy rain and reflectivity patterns consistent with convection moving through the accident site immediately before the accident time. About 1632, immediately following the passage of the convective feature, a small area of light reflectivity was identified over the accident location.

One AIRMET advisory active for mountain obscuration was active for the accident location for altitudes below 8,000 ft. No SIGMETS advisories were active for the accident location at the time of the accident. Several convective SIGMETS were active for the accident location at the accident time for thunderstorms moving into the area.


Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), investigator-in-charge, revealed that the airplane impacted terrain, near the top of a hill, at an elevation of about 3,101 ft mean sea level (msl). The hill was comprised of dark-brown-colored lava rocks and its approximate dimensions were about 650 ft long by 350 ft wide, with a peak elevation about 3,109 ft. The contour of the hill was orientated northeast/southwest. The desert floor to the southwest of the hill, from where the accident airplane approached, was about 40-50 ft lower than the hill elevation. The hill was about 3,000 ft northeast of the dry lake bed ridgeline.

The first identified point of contact was an area of disturbed rocks and dirt near the top of the hill, which measured about 4 ft long, 3 ft wide, and 6 inches deep, and was located southeast of the main wreckage. Numerous small pieces of wreckage and paint transfer on the rocks were observed at the initial impact point, and all the major components of the airplane were located along the debris path, which was about 800 ft long and oriented on a heading about 030° magnetic, or with the main wreckage.

Most of the debris consisted of small fragments of the airplane. The wings separated from the fuselage and large wing fragments were located on the northwest side of the hill about 200 ft from the initial impact point. The left aileron remained attached to an aft section of the wing. The right aileron was separated and located near the wing fragments. The fuselage and tail section came to rest upright about 400 ft from the initial impact point on a heading about 250° magnetic, and was leaning to the left.

The engine separated from the fuselage and came to rest inverted about 400 ft past the main wreckage, where it struck and breached a wire fence. All the tubing and mounts were separated, and the bottom of the engine case was breached. The propeller blades were separated from the hub, and blade fragments were observed near the initial ground impact scars.

The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility for further examination. Control continuity was established to all flight control surfaces. The engine was partially disassembled to confirm mechanical continuity of the internal mechanisms. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no pre-impact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation; a complete report is contained within the public docket.


The Clark County Coroner's Office, Las Vegas, Nevada, conducted an autopsy of the pilot. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "blunt force injuries."

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the passenger and pilot.

The results for the passenger were negative for carbon monoxide, volatiles, and tested-for drugs.

Samples from the pilot were negative for carbon monoxide, and volatiles; however, drug testing identified 9.4 ng/ml of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the pilot's cavity blood; THC was also detected in the lung, liver, and brain. In addition, 10 ng/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (TCH-COOC) the active metabolite of THC, was identified in the cavity blood; it was also found in the lung, liver and brain. TCH is the primary active metabolite of marijuana and may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, such as flying, driving, and operating heavy machinery.

THC is stored in fatty tissues and may leach out of those tissues back into blood after death; as a result, post mortem levels may be significantly higher than ante-mortem levels. Because blood that has leaked out of vessels and into cavities may be diluted with other fluids, there is no direct way to reliably compute antemortem blood levels of THC. THC is impairing and is typically used for its psychoactive properties; however, there is no direct relationship established between blood levels of THC and impairment.


In discussion with other company pilots who have flown the airplane; check turns were used to clear for terrain directly in front and below the airplane during low-level flight.

The company was founded in 2011. At the time of the accident, their operations were located at HND and at Gillespie Field Airport (SEE), San Diego/El Cajon, California. The company offered a variety of different flight options, including aerobatics and aerial dogfighting. The advanced profiles allowed for the customer to fly the maneuver.

The air-to-air combat flights were operated as flight instruction. SCA's website, stated: "You fly the plane, you are at the controls and you execute the air-to-air combat tactics." It also stated, "Don't worry, you don't need any flight experience…Under the supervision of one of our expert combat fighter pilots, we teach you the art of basic fighter maneuvers, which will enable you to outmaneuver your opponent and get the kill." The operator used 4 EA-300 airplanes in the aerial combat profiles.

The company had established a training syllabus that all its pilots were required to complete in order to conduct flights with customers. The syllabus included advanced aircraft handling, aerial dogfighting, and advanced air combat maneuvering. Each of the three sections ended with a check ride conducted by an authorized company flight instructor.

The company required pilots to be in the building at least 30 minutes before the scheduled customer show time. Weather and NOTAMS were a required briefing item, and pilots were required to maintain VFR flight at all times.

The SCA low-level standards stated that the customers would be briefed to not touch the flight controls during the low-level portion of their flight. Further, the pilots were instructed to maintain a minimum airspeed of 140 knots during low-level operation to ensure that maximum maneuverability was available to avoid obstructions. The minimum terrain clearance for the EA300 airplane was 30 ft agl. During low-level operation, all pilots were required to maintain a 1-mile separation from the airplane in front of them. Other SCA pilots who had flown the accident airplane reported that they performed "check turns" when conducting low-level operations to ensure clearance from terrain and/or obstructions directly in front of and below the airplane given the limited visibility from the rear seat. Check turns were a standard procedure taught in SCA. The check turns would consist of accomplishing a slight banked turn in each direction, in order to clear for that side of the airplane.

SCA standards also stated that the pilots will continuously monitor the status and well-being of their customers and will relay the status of their customers to each other via the following codes: "Code 1" means "customer is good to go; continue profile." "Code 2" means the "customer is starting to feel poorly. Ease up on the profile, perhaps watch for a bit." Finally, "Code 3" means "the customer is vomiting or preparing to vomit; go to spectator mode." The standards contained no further guidance on the "spectator mode."

According to the company website: "all SCA flights are instructional in nature conducted by certified flight instructors under 14 CFR Part 61 of the United States Code. Instruction will be provided during ground and flight portions for all flights."

Organizations conducting flight training under 14 CFR Part 61, are not considered by the FAA to be certificated air agencies, and therefore are not subject to the same FAA oversight as certificated air agencies conducting training under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 141 (Pilot School) or Part 142 (Training Center).

FAA surveillance of 14 CFR Part 61 flight schools is outlined in FAA Order 1800.56, National Flight Standards Work Program Guidelines. The only required inspection for flight schools operated under this part is for FAA inspectors to conduct one inspection for each Level 4 or 5 flight training device (FTD) located at each flight school and satellite school within the Certificate Holding District Office (CHDO) region. At the time of the accident, SCA did not utilize any Level 4 or 5 FTDs.

A review of FAA Program Tracking and Recording Subsystem (PTRS) records revealed 9 records in the 3 years preceding the accident. Of the 9, four were complaint investigations, two were ramp inspections completed on the same day on different aircraft, one was an enforcement action, one was a near mid-air collision investigation, and one was the issuance of a waiver.


According to the FAA, (legal interpretation to Doug McQueen, August 16, 2013): "In general, when a flight involves the carriage of person or property for compensation or hire, the operator must hold a part 119 air carrier or commercial operator certificate and operate such flights under part 121 or 135 rules." However, the letter points out certain exceptions in part 14 CFR 119 where operations may be operated without a 14 CFR part 119 certificate. 14 CFR Part 119.1 does not apply to several operations including student instruction, part 119.1(e)(1), and training flights, part 119.1(e)(3).

Title 14 CFR 1.1, General Definitions section, does not define the term student instruction or training flights. The legal interpretation states "Because 'student instruction' existed as an exemption for several years before the Civil Aeronautics Board adopted the 'training flights' exception, the FAA interprets 'student instruction' broadly as referring to an operation in which a person receives flight training from an authorized instructor for the purpose of obtaining a certificate, privilege rating, or authorization under CFR part 61." Further, it states "The FAA interprets 'training flights' described in CFR 119.1(e)(3) as referring to operations in which a person receives training for the purpose of satisfying a training requirement outside of part 61, such as the crewmember training requirement of CFR 119.313. Therefore, flight crewmember training in special purpose operations such as crop dusting, seeding, spraying, and banner towing would fall under the 'training flights' exception of part 119(e)(3)."

A legal interpretation from the FAA (See Legal Interpretation to William Grannis from Lorelei Peter, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (August 3, 2017)) addresses operations attempting to use the flight training exemption of part 119(e). The letter states "Discovery flights, introductory flights, orientation flights, and demonstration flights are operations involving the carriage of persons for compensation or hire." Also, the letter states "In the hypothetical scenarios you presented in your letter, the persons being carried for compensation or hire are not interested in flight training. It is therefore unlikely that the purpose of these flights would be student instruction. Furthermore, because the flights you describe are introductory flights, it is unlikely that the persons would be receiving flight training for the purpose of satisfying a training requirement outside of part 61." 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 37, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Rear
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 5-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/02/2014
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/10/2015
Flight Time: (Estimated) 7118 hours (Total, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N330MT
Model/Series: EA 300/L L
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Aerobatic; Normal
Serial Number: 1316
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/23/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2095 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 776.41 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: AEIO-580-B1A
Registered Owner: Vegas Extreme Adventures LLC
Rated Power: 315 hp
Operator: Vegas Extreme Adventures LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Does Business As: Sky Combat Ace
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: BVU, 2203 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 21 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1635 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 241°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 34 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 95 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 29.79 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 10°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: LAS VEGAS, NV (HND)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: LAS VEGAS, NV (HND)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1603 PDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  39.806667, -115.202778 (est)


  1. Code 5, the FAA should ban these hot dogs. Just the cost to the taxpayer to respond to all of the incidents, and oblivious violations of the FARs should be enough. Also I would hope that the insurance companies would end up regulating these companies and their spin offs by refusing to insure them. Too many innocent victims. No sympathy for company or its employees. Google these companies to see the numerous incidents, false advertising, inflated image, no refunds due to weather, etc. the last victim didn’t want to loose thier deposit! The company went for it with less than favorable conditions and the impaired pilot/instructor.

  2. The no refund due to weather says it all. Profit before client safety. I hope the victims can get some relief from these operators.