Sunday, April 12, 2020

Abnormal Runway Contact: North Wing 17M, N959RR; fatal accident occurred July 09, 2018 in Section, Jackson County, Alabama

Rodney Lynn Cagle

Photograph of wreckage and accident site.
Federal Aviation Administration

Photograph of wreckage showing cockpit seat resting on its left side.
Federal Aviation Administration

Photograph of runway looking northwest. Note large tree and wreckage in background. 
Federal Aviation Administration

Grass wrapped around landing gear.
Federal Aviation Administration

Tree with broken branches on ground near accident site. 
Federal Aviation Administration

Landing gear wheel tracks in grass bordering runway looking southeast. Grass is the same type that was found wrapped around landing gear. 
Federal Aviation Administration

Overhead view of runway and accident location.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Vestavia Hills, Alabama

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

on: Section, AL
Accident Number: ERA18LA188
Date & Time: 07/09/2018, 1845 CDT
Aircraft: NORTHWING 17
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Abnormal runway contact
Injuries:1 Fatal 
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On July 9, 2018, about 1845 central daylight time, an experimental light sport Northwing 17-M weight-shift-control trike, N959RR, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Section, Alabama. The noncertificated pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot's wife reported that the pilot purchased the aircraft about 1 month before the accident. The pilot told her that he had owned a similar aircraft about 25 years prior. She was unable to provide any additional details about the pilot's ownership history or flight experience but stated that he had flown it at least once with the previous owner and was planning to take flight lessons in the future from a local pilot. The accident flight was the first time he had operated the aircraft after purchasing it.

On the day before the accident, the pilot asked his neighbor if he could mow a grass runway into the property behind the residences and subsequently mowed a 45-ft by 650-ft strip in an east/west direction. On the day of the accident, the pilot asked his wife if she wanted to watch him taxi the aircraft; she did not realize he was going to fly it. At 1830, she saw him taxi back and forth a few times on the runway, then he taxied to the west end of the runway, turned toward the east, increased engine power, and took off. There were no apparent anomalies with the aircraft during takeoff. The pilot climbed the aircraft on a southeasterly heading before flying around the house five or six times. About 10 minutes later, the pilot returned for landing to the west. She saw the aircraft on final approach and stated that it approached at a slight angle to the runway, then abruptly touched down and bounced. The aircraft appeared to skip along the runway without settling down and never stayed on the ground. After the aircraft "jumped up," it remained airborne, turned to the right, and the right wing passed through the top of a large tree, slicing through several branches, before the aircraft turned further right then dove into the ground.

The pilot did not hold a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman or medical certificate, and whether he had previous flight training or experience could not be determined.

An FAA inspector conducted a postaccident examination of the trike, which revealed that the fuselage and wings were damaged during impact, and the seats were dislodged. There were ground scars immediately adjacent to the wreckage and tree branches spread nearby. The tubular frame was bent in several locations. The tension cables were connected, and the control bar remained connected and appeared functional. Fuel was found in the fuel lines and the fuel filter was clear and free of debris. The engine appeared clean and relatively intact. The canopy/wing was torn, and several ribs and tubular frame members were bent. All three propeller blades were delaminated and splintered; two blades remained attached to the hub and one blade section was discovered about 30 ft from the wreckage. Tall grass, about 9 to 12 inches in length, was wrapped around the landing gear wheels. There were landing gear tire marks leading off the southeast end of the runway for about 50 ft into the grass from the previous takeoff.

Upon request by the Alabama Department of Forensic Science, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Forensic Sciences performed the autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was blunt force trauma of the chest.

The FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory performed toxicological testing of the pilot. The specimens from the pilot detected no medications, illicit drugs, ethanol, or products of combustion that could pose hazards to flight safety. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 54, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s):None 
Second Pilot Present:No 
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed:Yes 
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  0 hours (Total, all aircraft), 0 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: NORTHWING
Registration: N959RR
Model/Series:17 M 
Aircraft Category: Weight-Shift
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental Light Sport
Serial Number: 39713
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 990 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 503
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 50 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: 4A6, 6503 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1755 CDT
Direction from Accident Site:355° 
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.18 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 21°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point:Section, AL 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Section, AL
Type of Clearance:None 
Departure Time: 1830 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

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: 34.522222, -85.986389

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