Sunday, September 29, 2019

Aircraft Structural Failure: Fisher Celebrity, N228LC; fatal accident occurred July 19, 2018 in Patriot, Switzerland County, Indiana

Robert (Bob) Dow Askins 
Bob Askins grew up in Louisville and after graduating from the University of Louisville in 1972, entered the United States Air Force. After retiring from the Air Force he joined Delta Air Lines. He retired from Delta in 2005, and went to work as an aviation safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration in 2006.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Patriot, IN
Accident Number: CEN18FA282
Date & Time: 07/19/2018, 1700 EDT
Registration: N228LC
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Aircraft structural failure
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On July 19, 2018, about 1700 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Fisher Celebrity biplane, N228LC, experienced an in-flight breakup and impacted terrain near Patriot, Indiana. The airline pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was privately owned and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that originated from the pilot's personal airstrip in Warsaw, Kentucky, shortly before the accident.

When the pilot failed to return home as expected, his wife notified authorities. The wreckage was located the following morning about 0930 in a cornfield on the west side of the Ohio River, about 4 miles due east of the pilot's airstrip.

There were no witnesses to the accident; however, a nearby resident, who lived along the straight-line course between the pilot's airstrip and the accident site, stated that he heard an airplane fly over his house about 1700. Shortly thereafter, he heard a loud "thud." 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Commercial; Flight Engineer
Age: 67, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: BasicMed
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/20/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  15020 hours (Total, all aircraft), 5 hours (Total, this make and model), 10 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft)

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land, type ratings in the Boeing 747-400, 757, 767, Douglas DC-9, and Cessna 500, commercial pilot privileges with an airplane single-engine land rating, and a remote pilot certificate. He also held a flight engineer certificate with a turbojet rating. His third-class Federal Aviation Administration airman medical certificate, dated April 20, 2016, listed the restriction, "Must have available glasses for near vision." On the application for that certificate, the pilot reported civilian flight experience totaling 15,020 total hours, and 10 hours in the previous six months. When his third-class airman medical certificate expired for all classes on April 30, 2018, the pilot completed the prerequisites for and was issued a Basic Medical Certificate (BasicMed) on April 20, 2018.

A copy of one of the pilot's logbooks was examined. It contained entries from August 25, 2017, to July 13, 2018. Forwarded totals indicated that the pilot had accumulated 256.2 hours. The pilot purchased the accident airplane July 4, 2018, and had completed 7 flights in the airplane (not including the accident flight), totaling 2.7 hours. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: FISHER
Registration: N228LC
Model/Series: CELEBRITY
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1995
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: AV1076
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/01/2018, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1100 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:  as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: C91 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-200-A
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The accident airplane, serial number AV1076, was issued an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate on May 23, 1995. It was powered by a 100-horsepower Continental O-200-A engine, driving a Tennessee 2-blade, fixed-pitch wooden propeller (model number 70-44). The data plate indicated that the airplane's gross weight was 1,100 lbs, and its empty weight was 601 lbs.

According to the maintenance records, the most recent condition inspection was performed on July 1, 2018, at a Hobbs meter reading of 442.0 hours and a total time-in-service of 589.0 hours.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: CVG, 896 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 1752 CDT
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 15000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 30°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 10°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Warsaw, KY (NONE)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Warsaw, KY (NONE)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1700 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The following weather observations were recorded by the Madison Municipal Airport, Madison, Indiana, Automated Weather Observation System, located about 30 miles west of the accident site:

At 1655, the observation included wind from 170° at 3 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 30° C, dew point 12° C, and altimeter setting on 29.99 inches of mercury.

The 1715 observation included wind from 150° at 5 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 30° C, dew point 13° C, and altimeter setting of 29.98 inches of mercury

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: 38.794722, -84.820278 

The airplane impacted a cornfield about 40 ft south of Indiana State Highway 156. Corn stalks were 7 to 8 ft tall. The airplane came to rest on its right side on a magnetic heading of 310°. The nose and cockpit area were fragmented from impact. The left horizontal stabilizer was undamaged, but the right horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer, and rudder were crushed. The upper tip of the rudder was located about 400 yards west of the main wreckage. The airspeed indicator read 103 mph; the Kollsman window indicated 30.04 inches of mercury. Other instruments were destroyed. The engine and propeller were deeply embedded in the ground.

The upper and lower left wings were attached to each other but were separated from the fuselage and thrust forward of the main wreckage. The aileron remained loosely attached to the wing. Part of the lower right wing was located with the wreckage, but not attached to the fuselage. Additional parts of the upper and lower right wing were found scattered throughout an area between 400 yards and 800 yards west of the main wreckage. A large portion of the upper right wing was not located. Most of the lower bottom wing was located. Small pieces of wing spar and webbing were scattered to the right of the accident site. Portions of the right wings were located about 3 days after the accident about 80 yards from the main wreckage, including a portion of the leading edge cuff and ribs.

The wreckage was recovered from the accident site and transported to AMF Aviation, LLC, Springfield, Tennessee, for further examination. One propeller blade had separated from the hub, but about 8 inches of the other blade remained attached. The propeller blades bore signatures consistent with rotation at impact.

The lower right-wing rear spar attachment fitting, lower right-wing main spar attachment fitting, and right aileron rod end were sent to the NTSB's Materials Laboratory for examination. "Each of the submitted attachment fittings had fractures intersecting the inboard wing spar attachment bolt hole. The fracture features for each attachment fitting were rough and matte gray in appearance, consistent with ductile overstress fracture" and with upward bending of the wing at the attachment location. The outboard end of the attachment fitting piece for the aft spar was also bent to the aft relative to the inboard end, consistent with the entire upper and lower right wings folding in upward and rearward bending and separating from the airplane. Upward bending of the lower wing attachment was secondary to a primary failure elsewhere, the locations of which could not be determined due the fact that a majority of the wing structure was not recovered. There was no evidence of any preexisting damage on the wing spar attachment fittings. 

Medical And Pathological Information

Highpoint Health, Department of Pathology, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, performed an autopsy of the pilot. According to its report, the cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries."

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA Forensic Science Laboratory detected 71 (mg/dL, mg/hg) and 117 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol in brain and muscle tissue, and N-Butanol and Propanol (N-) in muscle tissue. Putrefaction was noted in specimens. No drugs were detected in muscle tissue. Carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed.


  1. Structural failure accident during aerobatic maneuvers in 2013:

  2. Looks like these aircraft are not stressed for aerobatics,it is unusual for a biplane to fail in the area of lower wing to fuselage attachment as cabane strutting normally takes care of everything distributing the load, although crash of that first one mentioned above here lost the upper wing.
    Not good.

  3. The sound witness should be questioned more in detail like if he heard changing engine/prop noise like what one would expect from aerobatic maneuvers. It could have been some component or structural failure in straight and level flight too with something failing causing the aircraft to go out of control in flight and break up. The NTSB of course will hopefully find the root cause. Always so sad to read about retired airline pilots and former career military aviators who lose their lives in a simple aircraft after decades of such high demanding and high skill flying.