Sunday, July 14, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Kolb Twinstar II, N3135J; fatal accident occurred July 15, 2018 near La Porte Municipal Airport (T41), Harris County, Texas

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Houston, Texas 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: La Porte, TX
Accident Number: CEN18FA267
Date & Time: 07/15/2018, 0900 CDT
Registration: N3135J
Aircraft: Kolb TWINSTAR
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On July 15, 2018, about 0900 central daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Kolb Twinstar III airplane, N3135J, impacted terrain while maneuvering for landing at the La Porte Municipal Airport (T41), La Porte, Texas. The private pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was owned by the pilot who was operating it as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight, which departed T41 about 0855.

According to witnesses and local authorities, the airplane departed T41 and remained in the airport traffic pattern. While the airplane was on approach for landing to runway 23, several witnesses heard the engine power decrease then and immediately increase. Other witnesses stated that the airplane appeared to "stall" from a low altitude and impact terrain in a nose-low attitude. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 64, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 5-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: BasicMed
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/14/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 2400 hours (Total, all aircraft), 7 hours (Total, this make and model) 

According to acquaintances, the pilot had purchased the airplane about 1 or 2 months before the accident. The pilot would conduct "taxi tests" at T41 with the airplane. The day before the accident, the pilot and an unknown passenger experienced a runway excursion while conducting a high-speed taxi. It was unknown if any damage occurred during the excursion.

The pilot's logbooks were not located during the investigation. Based on the airplane purchase date, airplane logbook information, and witness accounts, the pilot likely accumulated about 7 hours in the accident airplane.

The pilot was also the owner of a Cessna 210 airplane. Whether the pilot obtained any transition training in the accident airplane could not be determined.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Kolb
Registration: N3135J
Model/Series: TWINSTAR III
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1992
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental Light Sport
Serial Number: 3-12
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/21/2018, Cndition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 8 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 582
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 64 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The two-seat, high-wing, tailwheel equipped airplane was powered by a 64-horsepower Rotax model 582 engine, equipped with a three-blade ground-adjustable propeller. The airplane met the light sport airplane requirements, and the airplane was not equipped with a stall warning system, nor was one required. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and maintenance records, the airplane was built in 1992 and certified in the experimental amateur-built category. The airplane's most recent condition inspection was completed on March 21, 2018. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 7.9 hours since the condition inspection.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: EFD, 32 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0950 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 210°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 2000 ft agl
Visibility:  8 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: 
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 25°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: La Porte, TX (T41)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: La Porte, TX (T41)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0855 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class E

Airport Information

Airport: La Porte Municipal Airport (T41)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 25 ft
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 
VFR Approach/Landing: Traffic Pattern

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 29.674444, -95.056389

The initial ground impact scar contained portions of the forward fuselage and instrument panel. The main wreckage came to rest inverted about 20 ft from the initial impact point. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, both wings, empennage, and engine. Both wings exhibited forward-to-aft accordion-type crush damage, and the flap and aileron control surfaces remained attached to each wing. The three-blade composite propeller assembly remained attached to the engine and fragmented blade sections were located in the debris field. The engine remained partially attached to the fuselage structure (see figure 1.).

Figure 1. Main wreckage

Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit flight controls to the flight control surfaces. The propeller assembly was rotated by hand, and mechanical continuity was established throughout the engine.

The instrumental panel was destroyed and several fragmented instrument components were located in the debris field near the initial impact. The seat assemblies were bent and deformed, and both seat restraints were found secured by rescue personnel.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operations. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Harris County - Institute of Forensic Sciences, Houston, Texas, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries.

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory identified diphenhydramine in urine and liver, 4.36 (ug/mL, ug/g) Tramadol in urine, 0.256 (ug/mL, ug/g) Tramadol in liver, 2.475 (ug/mL, ug/g) Desmethyltramadol (O-) in urine, and 0.145 (ug/mL, ug/g) Desmethyltramadol (O-) in liver. Testing was not performed for carbon monoxide or cyanide, and no ethanol was detected in vitreous.

Tramadol is a prescription medication used to relieve moderate to moderately severe pain. Tramadol is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. The medication has the potential to impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, e.g., flying, driving, and operating heavy machinery. O-desmethyltramadol is an active metabolite of tramadol.

Diphenhydramine is an over-the-counter, first-generation antihistamine used to treat allergic conditions and helpful as a sleep aid. This medication could impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, e.g., flying, driving, and operating heavy machinery. Because of adverse side effects that include somnolence, decreased alertness, and impaired concentration, attention and memory, the FAA recommends waiting at least 60 hours after the last dose before performing safety-related duties.

Additional Information

According to FAA Advisory Circular 90-109A, Transition to Unfamiliar Aircraft, Appendix 2, the Kolb airplane is considered a low-inertia and/or high-drag airplane, with nontraditional configuration and/or controls. Appendix 4 describes low-inertia and/or high-drag as airplanes that rapidly lose energy (airspeed and/or altitude) when there is a loss or reduction of power.

In addition, Appendix 4 d. Other Hazards, states,

Hazards of low-inertia/high-drag airplanes are not limited to power management issues. While all airplanes experience an increase in stall speed with an increase in load factor, such as during turns, these airplanes may also experience significant airspeed decay with increased load factor. This, coupled with low cruise speed to stall speed margin, make these airplanes particularly susceptible to unintentional stalls.


  1. Hey, ya'll wanna go for a ride in the plane I built and have never been trained to fly?

  2. The guy had a 210. Why on earth would you also want to own something that looks like some high school kids designed. Bizarre.

  3. These open cockpit airplanes been LSA or not are a lot of fun and freedom flight.. But your stick and rudder skills have to be good.. Cessnas are easier to fly than those LSA's..