Sunday, April 07, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Zenair CH 601 Zodiac, N622DP, fatal accident occurred May 22, 2018 near Bolivar Municipal Airport (M17), Polk County, Missouri

James Donald “Don” Baker 

Don's happiest mornings during his retirement years were the ones when he could go flying. He believed that his desire to fly, which began when he was a boy, was something that God led him to fulfill after a 40-year wait. On several occasions, Don said that flying was a gift from God to him.

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Kansas City, Missouri 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Bolivar, MO
Accident Number: CEN18FA186
Date & Time: 05/22/2018, 0930 CDT
Registration: N622DP
Aircraft: James Donald Baker Zenith
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The private pilot departed for a local personal flight in the experimental airplane that he had built and flown for about 500 hours. A witness saw the airplane flying about 50 feet above trees with the nose oscillating up and down. According to the witness, the engine was not "making any strange noises [and had a] steady tone." The airplane struck trees and impacted the ground about 0.75 mile south of the airport.

Postaccident examination of the airframe, engine, and propeller revealed no discrepancies or anomalies that would have prevented normal operation.The damage to the propeller blades was consistent with rotation at impact. An autopsy of the pilot was not performed. According to the toxicology report, no ethanol or drugs were detected. Given the oscillations described by the witness, it is likely that the pilot did not maintain airplane control following the takeoff. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain airplane control after takeoff.


Pitch control - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

History of Flight

Initial climb
Loss of control in flight (Defining event)

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


On May 22, 2018, about 0930 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Zenith 601, N622DP, collided with trees and impacted terrain after takeoff from Bolivar Municipal Airport (M17), Bolivar, Missouri. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was owned by the pilot who operated it under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions were reported, and no flight plan had been filed. The local personal flight originated about 0925.

According to one witness, the airplane was flying "low above the trees," and the nose "going up and down about 50 feet above the trees." The witness reported that the engine wasn't "making any strange noises [and had a] steady tone."

The accident site was located about 0.75 mile south of M17 between the 16th and 18th holes at the Silo Ridge Golf and Country Club.


The 87-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He held a BasicMed certificate. The pilot reported having about 1,662 hours of flight experience of which about 507 hours were in the Zenith 601. The pilot also held three repairman experimental aircraft builder certificates.


The airplane was constructed by the pilot from a kit and was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate of airworthiness on June 21, 2007. It was powered by a Continental C85-12 engine, serial number 26363-6-12, rated at 85 horsepower, driving a Sensenich 2-blade, fixed pitch, wooden propeller, model number 68X54R. The Hobbs meter on the instrument panel indicated 506.5 hours.


At 0930, the reported weather at the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri, located about 21 miles south of the accident site, was wind, calm, visibility, 85 miles, ceiling, 400 feet broken; temperature, 22°C., dew point, 21°C., and altimeter setting, 30.08 inches of mercury.


Examination of the accident site revealed evidence consistent with the airplane striking the tops of trees on a magnetic heading of about 140°, descending in a nose-down attitude, and impacting terrain. The horizontal stabilizer was twisted 180° and displayed evidence of tree strikes. The leading edge of the right wing displayed numerous indentations consistent with tree strikes. A tree branch was embedded in the right main landing gear wheel pant. Broken tree branches lay scattered on the ground around the airplane. Flight control continuity was confirmed, and the shattered wooden propeller displayed evidence consistent with rotation at impact.


An autopsy of the pilot was not performed. The pilot's death certificate listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma. FAA's Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing, and no ethanol or drugs were detected. Cyanide and carbon monoxide testing were no performed.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 87, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: BasicMed
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/03/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  1662 hours (Total, all aircraft), 507 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: James Donald Baker
Registration: N622DP
Model/Series: Zenith 601
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental Light Sport
Serial Number: 6-3960-B
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1200 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 506 Hours
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
Engine Model/Series: C85-12
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 85 hp
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: SGF, 1268 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 22 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0930 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 180°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  85 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 400 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 21°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Bolivar, MO (M17)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Bolivar, MO (M17)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0925 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Bolivar Municipal (M17)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 1092 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 4000 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  37.610000, 93.410000 (est)

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