Friday, July 06, 2018

Renegade Spirit, N955R: Fatal accident occurred December 13, 2014 near Malcolm McKinnon Airport (KSSI), St. Simons Island, Brunswick, Georgia

James “Ron’ Ronald Wood Sr.

James Ronald Wood, Sr., 68, husband of Leyla K. Wood, died December 13, 2014, at St. Simons Island, Georgia. Ron was a Safety Engineer with the Jacksonville Electric Authority. He was a private pilot with 45 years experience, former skydiving instructor, and was former owner and operator of Wood Aviation at Greenwood Airport. Ron was an active member of QB and Experimental Aircraft Association, and a member of Mt Bethel United Methodist Church.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Brunswick, GA
Accident Number: ERA15LA075
Date & Time: 12/13/2014, 1340 EST
Registration: N955R
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On December 13, 2014, about 1340 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built Renegade Spirit, N955R, was substantially damaged when it impacted a residence shortly after takeoff from Malcom McKinnon Airport (SSI), Brunswick, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was originating at the time of the accident.

An acquaintance of the pilot, who witnessed the airplane depart, reported that he and the pilot had been working on the airplane for several weeks and that the pilot was having trouble with the airplane's engine. On the day of the accident, the witness heard the pilot start the airplane; the engine began "coughing" and then shut down. The witness walked over to the pilot's hangar, and the pilot reported that the engine was idling "too high." The pilot also told the witness that he was having a problem with the brakes that was making it difficult to bring the airplane to a stop during taxi tests. The pilot adjusted the carburetor, which seemed to improve the engine's operation, and the pilot told the witness he was going to take the airplane out to the runway to taxi it and maybe fly it. The witness advised the pilot against this, stating that the engine was not operating consistently and that the brakes were not working correctly. The pilot replied that he could cut off the engine to bring the airplane to a stop and that the runway was "plenty long."

The witness watched the pilot taxi the airplane to runway 22 as the engine continued to "hesitate and cough." The pilot applied engine power, and the airplane accelerated down the runway. The airplane became airborne, settled onto the runway, and became airborne a second time. The witness stated that it appeared the pilot was having difficulty controlling the airplane and that it barely cleared trees at the end of the runway as it climbed. The airplane entered a left turn before it disappeared from his view.

A witness near the accident site stated that the airplane looked as if it had just taken off and was either attempting to turn back to the airport or land in a field. The airplane entered a steep descent and appeared to impact a nearby house.

A third witness, who was a pilot, reported that he heard the engine "cut off," and the airplane entered an "aggressive" left turn back toward the airport at an altitude of about 200 ft above ground level. The airplane began to lose altitude and then "dropped out of the sky as if it had stalled." 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 68, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/30/2012
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 3640 hours (Total, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued in October 2012. On the application for that certificate, he reported 3,640 total hours of flight experience and 0 hours in the previous 6 months. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N955R
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1995
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 103P
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
Engine Model/Series: A-65
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The airplane was manufactured in 1995 and originally equipped with a Formula Power Subaru EA-81 engine. The pilot purchased the airplane in 2011; the pilot's acquaintance reported that the pilot had never flown the airplane since purchasing it. According to the acquaintance, the pilot had replaced the engine with a Continental A65 and subsequently replaced the carburetor on the newly-installed engine; the engine had "never run correctly" since it was installed on the airplane. At the accident site, the airplane's Hobbs meter read 6.4 hours; according to the acquaintance, this time was accumulated during ground and taxi tests. No maintenance records or operating limitations were recovered, and it could not be determined whether the airplane had a current condition inspection. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SSI, 19 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1353 EST
Direction from Accident Site: 0°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  None
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: 
Altimeter Setting: 30.11 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Brunswick, GA (SSI)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Brunswick, GA (SSI)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1340 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The 1353 weather observation at SSI included wind from 210° at 4 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 18°C, dew point 0°C, and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury. 

Airport Information

Airport: McKinnon St Simons Island (SSI)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 19 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 22
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5584 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 31.145556, -81.388333 (est) 

The FAA inspector who responded to the accident site reported that the airplane appeared to have descended almost straight down in a flat, upright position, and came to rest against a house about 1,000 ft southeast of the approach end of runway 4 at SSI. Trees surrounding the house that the airplane impacted showed no signs of damage. The forward portion of the fuselage, from the instrument panel forward, was destroyed during impact with the house. The engine was separated from the airframe and laying at the front of the wreckage. One blade of the propeller was sheared off, and the other blade was split in half. Fuel was leaking from the left upper wing tank and had saturated the ground around the wreckage. Continuity of the flight controls was confirmed from the cockpit to the respective control surfaces.

The engine was rotated by hand and displayed continuity throughout and compression on all cylinders. The magnetos exhibited no anomalies. The fuel lines to the engine were unobstructed. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Division of Forensic Sciences Coastal Regional Lab, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Savannah, Georgia, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was listed as "craniocerebral injuries due to aircraft accident."

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicological testing on specimens from the pilot. Amlodipine, bisoprolol, and trimethoprim, were detected in blood and urine. Salicylate was detected in urine. Amlodipine and bisoprolol are prescription medications used to treat high blood pressure. Trimethoprim is a prescription antibiotic, and salicylate, or aspirin, is an over-the-counter analgesic used in the treatment of mild pain. None of these drugs are impairing.

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA075 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 13, 2014 in Brunswick, GA
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 December 13, 2014, about 1340 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built Johnson David Earl Renegade Spirit, N955R, was substantially damaged when it impacted a residence just after takeoff from Malcom McKinnon Airport (SSI), Brunswick, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured. 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.

A witness, who was also a friend of the pilot, reported that he and the pilot had been working on the accident airplane for several weeks, and that the pilot had been having trouble with the airplane's engine. On the day of the accident, the pilot stated that he was going to perform some high-speed taxi tests, and that he might attempt to fly the airplane. The witness observed as the pilot taxied to runway 22, applied engine power, and accelerated down the runway. The airplane became airborne and disappeared from sight behind a row of hangars. The airplane then re-appeared momentarily just over the trees at the end of the runway, and the witness stated that it was in a "nose-high" attitude and appeared to be "struggling." 

The airplane came to rest upright against a residence. The forward fuselage and cockpit area sustained significant aft crushing damage, and the empennage remained intact. First responders stated that fuel was leaking from the airplane. There was no postcrash fire.  

The airplane was subsequently recovered from the accident site, and further examination of the airframe and engine was scheduled for a later date.


  1. I sure hope this dude drank a six pack before climbing into that death trap.

  2. One magneto was running rough during runup, and my flight instructor said "It's ok, it'll clear up in the air".

    The flight instructor needed adjustment... Fired.

  3. why even do a runup, if you're not going to pay attention to the results?

  4. Never had a rough running mag check, I lean to the max after engine start, through taxi, up to the runup pad.