Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Schleicher ASW 28-18E, registered to and operated by the pilot, N63KR: Fatal accident occurred May 26, 2017 near Ephrata Municipal Airport (KEPH), Grant County, Washington

Kyle Ray Roberson 

In 2015, Kyle allowed himself to follow a dream and learned to soar in a sailplane. He was very happy the morning of his last flight, May 26th, 2017. He loved, and is loved, by his wife of 43 years, Kaye Christensen Roberson.

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Spokane, Washington

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Location: Ephrata, WA
Accident Number: WPR17FA107
Date & Time: 05/26/2017, 1523 PDT
Registration: N63KR
Aircraft: SCHLEICHER ASW 28 18E
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


On May 26, 2017, about 1523 Pacific daylight time, a Schleicher ASW 28-18E motorglider, N63KR, impacted terrain about 9 miles west-northwest of Ephrata Municipal Airport (EPH), Ephrata, Washington. The pilot was fatally injured, and the glider sustained substantial damage. The glider was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which originated from EPH about 1420.

The pilot obtained a tow to altitude from an airplane operated by a soaring club at EPH. The pilot's towcard indicated that he released from tow at an altitude of 3,000 ft above ground level (agl).

The glider was equipped with a PowerFLARM portable GPS device/transponder, which documented its flight track, speed, and altitude. Data retrieved from the device showed a flight track that began northwest of EPH about 1436. The glider made several 360° turns and flew in a generally westward direction until it was about 15 nautical miles from the airport. The glider then established a generally eastward route of flight, again making several 360° turns as it tracked east. The data ended about 9 miles west-northwest of EPH about 1523. The glider reached its highest altitude of the flight, about 8,500 ft GPS altitude, about 1447; after that, the glider slowly descended until it leveled off temporarily about 3,900 ft before it continued to slowly descend until the end of the data. Throughout the flight, the glider's speed varied between 40 and 108 knots. During the last 8 minutes of recorded data, the glider's speed was gradually decreasing from about 76 knots to about 40 knots. There were no witnesses to the accident.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a glider rating, issued July 24, 2016. He did not hold a Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate, nor was he required to for glider operations. The pilot started glider training in August 2015 in Deer Park, Washington, and took an extended break before he finished training in Moriarty, New Mexico. The pilot's wife mentioned that his flight training was in two-seated gliders; she recalled him training in a Lark, DG505, and a Grob 103. The accident flight was the pilot's second flight in both the accident glider and in a single-seat glider.


The pilot purchased the glider on July 26, 2016; his first flight in it occurred on May 7, 2017 from EPH. The glider was equipped with a SOLO 2350, 2-stroke engine; and it has a stall speed of about 38 knots.


EPH is a non-tower-controlled facility located on an open plateau at an elevation of 1,276 ft mean sea level. The airport had three hard surfaced runways, one of which is for glider use only between April 1 and November 1. The accident flight was the pilot's second flight from EPH.


The glider came to rest in a dry, newly-plowed field that was sloped downward toward a patch of tall vegetation. The main wreckage came to rest about 75 ft from the vegetation, with the nose of the glider pointed toward the vegetation at a magnetic heading of about 324o. About 10 ft in front, and slightly to the right of, the nose of glider was a small impact crater and a long narrow trench that extended from near the crater. The glider's forward fuselage sustained heavy crush damage; the cabin area was slightly crushed and widened. The wings remained intact and attached to the fuselage. The right wing exhibited a dusting of dirt along the outboard leading edge of the wing, and the inboard trailing edge exhibited delamination. The left wing was shifted forward at the fuselage attachment point. Both airbrakes were found in the retracted position. The engine was found stowed and secured in place with no damage noted to the engine or engine compartment area; only a small amount of fuel was removed from the fuel tank. One of the propeller blades exhibited a line of dirt consistent with the crack of the engine compartment doors. The propeller was manipulated by hand and moved side to side with no binding or grinding. No fuel was observed in the fuel tank; however, a small amount of fuel leaked from the tank during the wreckage recovery. The aft fuselage was almost completely fracture-separated slightly forward of the empennage. The empennage was bent to the right and came to rest in the opposite direction. Control continuity was established throughout the airframe.


The Grant County Coroner, Moses Lake, Washington, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was listed as blunt impact of the trunk and extremities.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot with negative results for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles. Positive results were specified for atorvastatin, bupropion, losartan, and metoprolol in the liver and blood (cavity).

Atorvastatin (often called Lipitor) is a cholesterol-lowering agent. Losartan and metoprolol are used to treat hypertension; other common names are Cozaar and Lopressor, respectively. These three drugs are not considered impairing. Bupropion is an antidepressant also used to treat nicotine addiction and available as Wellbutrin and Zyban. Warnings for this drug include a dose-dependent risk of seizures, and a warning that it may impair mental and physical functioning. Further medical information, such as the reason for his use of bupropion or the status of any underlying depression, could not be obtained during the investigation.

Kyle Ray Roberson

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 64, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Glider
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 52 hours (Total, all aircraft), 3 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: SCHLEICHER
Registration: N63KR
Model/Series: ASW 28 18E NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Glider
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 28721
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tandem
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 760 Hours
Engine Manufacturer: Solo
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 2350
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None  

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KEPH, 1276 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1553 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 97°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 20°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / -2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Ephrata, WA (EPH)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Ephrata, WA (EPH)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1420 PDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Ephrata Municipal Airport (EPH)
Runway Surface Type: Dirt
Airport Elevation: 1276 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry; Soft
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
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:  47.329167, -119.709722 (est)

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA107
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 26, 2017 in Ephrata, WA
Aircraft: SCHLEICHER ASW 28 18E, registration: N63KR
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 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 May 26, 2017, about 1523 Pacific daylight time, a Schleicher ASW 28-18E motorglider, N63KR, impacted terrain about eight miles northwest of the Ephrata Municipal Airport (EPH), Ephrata, Washington. The pilot, the sole occupant, died and the motorglider sustained substantial damage throughout. The motorglider was registered to, and operated by, the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight originated from EPH at about 1420. 

There were no witnesses to the event. A tracking system located inside of the motorglider documented the motorglider's track at nonspecific intervals. The track indicated that the motorglider flew about 12 miles to the west, and slightly north, of the airport over a span of about 44 minutes. The motorglider then made a sharp turn and meandered generally eastbound for about 18 minutes before the data indicated the motorglider was at ground elevation. The motorglider's highest documented altitude was 8,008 feet, which occurred about 20 minutes into the flight; after that, most of the remaining data points indicated the motorglider was in a descent.

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