Monday, October 21, 2019

Sportine Aviacija LAK-17B FES, N830DK: Fatal accident occurred October 18, 2019 in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Tamaqua, PA
Accident Number: ERA20FA013
Date & Time: 10/18/2019, 1542 EDT
Registration: N830DK
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On October 18, 2019, about 1542 eastern daylight time, a Sportine Aviacija Lak-17B motorized glider, N830DK, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal local flight that departed Blairstown Airport (1N7), Blairstown, New Jersey about 0945. The glider was owned and operated by the commercial pilot, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

A witness was also a glider pilot stated that the accident flight was among a group of three other cross-county glider flights that intended to depart 1N7, fly over Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania, and then return to 1N7. The witness stated that he departed 1N7 around 0930, and the accident glider took off around 0945. He further stated that it was not common for the glider pilots to fly together but they would maintain radio contact throughout the day and help each other with geographical points and finding thermals for lift. He said that around 1400 the accident pilot radioed and said that he was at Burnt Cabins and turning around to return to 1N7. Around 1515, the accident pilot reported that he was climbing in a weak thermal near Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. That was the last communication he heard from the accident pilot.

According to another witness, he was working outside when he looked up and saw "an airplane" about .5 mile away heading straight down. He stopped and watched "the airplane" for a few seconds before it disappeared behind some trees.

The glider was located on the side of a ridgeline at an elevation about 1,100 ft mean sea level. The wreckage was inverted and on a 210° heading. The wings remained attached to the fuselage. The leading edges of both wings had tree limb impressions along the length of the wings. The cockpit, canopy and nose were crushed by impact forces. The instrument panel was destroyed. The 5-point harness remained intact and was cut by rescue personnel. The single landing gear was retracted. The flaps remained attached to the wings and were retracted. The ailerons were fractured off both wings. The tail section was fractured off the fuselage. The rudder and elevator remained attached to the tail section. Flight control continuity was established to all flight controls through broken torque tubes and cables. The torque tubes fractures were consistent with overstress separations as a result of impact forces. The electric motor was fractured off the motor mounts. The propeller blades were destroyed, and the motor would not rotate due to impact damage. The two battery packs were still mounted in the battery bracket behind the pilot seat. The battery posts were fractured off. A FLARM and LxNav avionics system was removed from the wreckage and forwarded to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorders Laboratory, Washington, DC, for data download.

The single seat motorized glider was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness certificate in the experimental category for the purpose of exhibition/air racing on June 8, 2015. It was equipped with a Front Electric Sustainer (FES) system, which was electrically driven by two lithium battery packs.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and glider. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on October 4, 2010. He reported 300 hours of total flight experience at that time.

The recorded weather at Jake Arner Memorial Airport, located 8 miles southeast of the accident site, at 1539, was: wind from 280° at 9 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clear sky; temperature 14° C; dew point 2° C; altimeter 29.93 inches of mercury.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N830DK
Model/Series: LAK17 B
Aircraft Category: Glider
Amateur Built: No
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: 22N, 1939 ft msl
Observation Time: 1939 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 280°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Blairstown, NJ (1N7)
Destination: Blairstown, NJ (1N7)

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: 40.743333, -76.018333

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

WALKER TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania -- It was just before 4 p.m. Friday when a glider plane crashed on Wildcat Mountain about a mile and a half behind a pond near Tamaqua.

According to the coroner, William D. Hanson, 65, of Queens, New York, was pronounced dead at the scene. Hanson was the only person on board. It took crews several hours to locate the glider plane in a rural wooded area of Walker Township. Officials believe Hanson was killed instantly.

"I heard an airplane, you know, a prop plane, you know, noisy, kind of loud for maybe five or 10 minutes, but like I said, not uncommon. There's helicopters, airplanes, military airplanes that go by," said Chris Houtz of Walker Township.

One neighbor was shocked to learn the sputtering noises he heard may have come from the fatal crash that killed Hanson.

Officials from the coroner's office say after a lengthy search, crews found Hanson's LAK-17 model glider plane in pieces. It appeared as though he crashed into a patch of bushes.

"From what we understand, it was an experimental glider, and I mean, it was made of fiberglass, so I guess when it hit it just kind of came apart," explained Schuylkill County Deputy Coroner Albert Barnes.

"He had extensive internal injuries from the head down to the toes, and there was damage to the spine. This was not a survivable injury," said Dr. David Moylan, Schuylkill County Coroner.

Moylan believes the flight left from New Jersey. Officials still don't know how the plane crashed.

Members of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have begun what they anticipate will be a three-day long investigation, which will include factors like weather, flight plan, and pilot qualifications.

The coroner's office will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to complete a toxicology report on the pilot.

"The maximum is eight hours from bottle to throttle. I'm sure this gentleman complied. We normally send our toxicology to the NMS Laboratories in Willow Grove, but the 
Federal Aviation Administration has requested we use their laboratories, so we're going to cooperate in every way," Moylan added.

Moylan believes Hanson intended to land his glider back in New Jersey after the flight, but the National Transportation Safety Board has yet to confirm those details.

Story and video ➤

The death of a New York City man in a glider crash in Schuylkill County has been ruled accidental.

The county coroner says 65-year-old William Hanson of Queens died of multiple blunt force trauma but his death was “as close as instantaneous as possible” in Friday afternoon crash in Walker Township.

Dr. David Moylan III said he believes the flight originated in New Jersey. Officials said the LAK-17 model glider plane was found in pieces after it apparently went down into a patch of bushes. Deputy Coroner Albert Barnes said the experimental aircraft was made of fiberglass and apparently ”just kind of came apart” in the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.


  1. "I heard an airplane, you know, a prop plane, you know, noisy, kind of loud for maybe five or 10 minutes, but like I said, not uncommon. There's helicopters, airplanes, military airplanes that go by," said Chris Houtz of Walker Township.

    So much for 'eye witness' accounts or the efforts of news media to get an 'eye witness'.

    Other than a little air noise if you are close, you will not hear the glider. If the electric sustainer was running you would only hear the 'odd' sound from the small prop and only if you were close to the glider. Not sure what this guy was hearing.

    Final glide west ... RIP

  2. Agreed Anon.....this was an electric sustainer....basically no noise due to electric motor.
    I knew the pilot, waiting for some facts on cause.
    Have heard info from others flying out of the same field and had radio communications with most flying that day.