Sunday, July 07, 2019

Hughes Aero Corp Predator "C", N369SL: Accident occurred May 29, 2018 in Copemish, Manistee County, Michigan

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Grand Rapids, Michigan

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Copemish, MI
Accident Number: CEN18LA206
Date & Time: 05/29/2018, 1958 EDT
Registration: N369SL
Aircraft Damage: Minor
Defining Event:
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The sport pilot and a passenger departed in a powered-parachute from the pilot's airstrip with calm winds. No anomalies were detected during the preflight inspection. After departure, the powered-parachute would not climb above 8 ft above ground level and was approaching 20-ft-tall trees. The pilot attempted to land between a wire fence and the tree line, and the powered-parachute subsequently impacted the ground and a tree base. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions during the flight and stated that the air was "heavier" than expected.

The field elevation at a nearby airport was 634 ft mean sea level (msl), and the calculated density altitude was about 2,821 ft msl. A review of a recent aerial photograph of the pilot's property showed a mowed 600-ft-long runway with a northwest-southeast orientation. At the time of the accident, no runway could be seen on the property because the grass was between 6 and 12 inches tall and appeared unused except for the accident flight.

The unmowed runway and high-density altitude conditions likely affected the powered-parachute's takeoff performance, which resulted in the aircraft being unable to clear the trees near the runway. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's improper decision to take off with a passenger in high-density altitude conditions from a runway with tall grass present, which resulted in the powered-parachute's poor takeoff performance and its inability to clear a tree line and led to a subsequent forced landing.


Personnel issues

Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
High density altitude - Contributed to outcome
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information 

On May 29, 2018, about 1958 eastern daylight time, a Hughes Aero Corporation Predator "C" powered parachute, N369SL, impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing following a takeoff from a private airstrip near Copemish, Michigan. The pilot and passenger sustained serious injuries. The powered parachute received minor damage during the impact sequence. The powered parachute was registered to and operated by a private individual as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area about the time of the accident, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight was originating airstrip at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, the wind was calm all day of the accident flight. The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the powered parachute to a potential buyer. He called a local airport for recorded weather. The pilot arranged the powered parachute for a northwest departure from his property. He warmed up the engines and checked gauges. The pilot checked all lines and the condition of the parachute. The pilot explained the flight to the passenger, buckled him in, and put on his helmet. The pilot got in the pilot seat and put a helmet on. The pilot started the takeoff run. The pilot added that he has a landmark tree where he would abort a takeoff if he was not airborne by that point. However, on the accident flight he was about 8 ft above ground level at that point. The pilot realized that something was not right and that the powered parachute would not climb. The powered parachute was approaching 20 ft trees. The pilot attempted to land between a wire fence and the treeline. The powered parachute impacted the ground and a base of a tree. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions during the flight and stated that the air was "heavier" than expected or the passenger was pulling down on the tail lines. Pulling on the tail lines can cause the parachute to "stall or land."

At 1957, the recorded weather, about 17 nautical miles and 295 degrees from the accident site, at the Frankfort Dow Memorial Field, near Frankfort, Michigan, was wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 30° C; dew point 18° C; altimeter 29.87 inches of mercury. The field elevation at the airport was 634 ft above mean sea level and the calculated density altitude there was about 2,821 ft above mean sea level.

A Federal Aviation Administration Inspector examined the wreckage and did not detect any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded operation of the powered parachute. The Inspector reviewed a 2015 aerial photograph of the pilot's property that showed a mowed 600-foot runway with a NW-SE orientation. At the time of the accident no runway could be detected on the property as the grass was 6 to 12 inches tall and appeared unused but for the accident flight.

History of Flight



Emergency descent
Off-field or emergency landing

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Sport Pilot
Age: 49, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Sport Pilot
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N369SL
Aircraft Category: Powered Parachute
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: PC010853W406
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/01/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 900 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 79.9 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 582ULDCDI
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 65 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: KFKS, 632 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1957 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 295°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.87 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 18°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Copemish, MI (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Copemish, MI (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1958 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Private Airstrip (PVT)
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 1100 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Minor
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 44.509167, -85.840556 (est)

1 comment:

  1. I was expecting this to be a military drone ... Surprise !

    I hope the guys recover fully.