Saturday, May 09, 2020

Controlled Flight into Terrain: Cessna 150M, N6AF; fatal accident occurred May 27, 2018 near Bainbridge Island, Washington

Pilot Lee Elliott, 70, and his girlfriend Joan Burns (passenger) were sightseeing over Elliott Bay near Bainbridge Island in the Cessna 150M on May 27th, 2018 when the aircraft crashed.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle, Washington

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Bainbridge Island, WA
Accident Number: WPR18LA151
Date & Time: 05/27/2018, 1705 PDT
Registration: N6AF
Aircraft: CESSNA 150M
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 27, 2018, about 1705 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 150M airplane, N6AF, was substantially damaged when it impacted water near Bainbridge Island, Washington. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the passenger, before departure from Harvey Field Airport (S43), Snohomish, Washington, the pilot used his iPad for navigation via the ForeFlight application. They took off and landed at Vashon Island, Washington.

After takeoff from Vashon Island, while flying over the water, the passenger told the pilot that she thought the airplane was too low. The pilot replied that they were fine and that they were able to fly safely 200 ft above the water. The passenger stated that the pilot looked down at the iPad and she saw him push the flight control yoke forward. The airplane subsequently impacted the water and flipped over. The passenger reported that she blacked out for a short time. When she regained consciousness, she saw the pilot still restrained by his seat belt and slumped over; he appeared to be unconscious. The passenger was able to egress on her own as the airplane began to sink. The passenger reported that there were no mechanical problems with the airplane before the impact. An individual on a boat in the area of the accident site saw the splash of water when the airplane impacted the water, marked the location via a GPS device, and rescued the passenger.

A witness on the shore was looking out toward the water when she saw a low-flying airplane. The airplane came into view and was descending in a nose-low attitude. She initially thought it was going to skim the water and perform a loop, but the airplane continued its descent until it impacted the water. The airplane flipped over and quickly sank.

Radar data captured the airplane as it departed to the south from Vashon Island, then turned northbound over the waterway on the west side of Vashon Island. The flight continued north over the water at an altitude of about 700 ft mean sea level (msl) until radar contact was lost about 0.1 nautical mile from the accident site.

Search efforts on the day of the accident were unsuccessful in locating the wreckage. On June 14, an independent dive team located the wreckage inverted on the sea floor at a depth of 176 ft below the surface. The airplane was not recovered at that time. When the dive team returned to recover the wreckage, it was no longer at that location and could not be located again.

The pilot's remains were not recovered. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present:No 
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/16/2016
Occupational Pilot:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N6AF
Model/Series: 150M M
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1974
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility
Serial Number: 15076185
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1601 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
Engine Model/Series: O-200 SERIES
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 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: KSEA, 434 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 19 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1653 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 151°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4000 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR): 
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 15°C / 8°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Snohomish, WA (S43)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Bainbridge Island, WA
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire:None 
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 47.723889, -122.543889 (est) 


  1. Extremely fortunate the passenger was able to get out - no mean feat in that kind of situation.

  2. no kidding!

    Guess he WAS too low. Who knew an ipad could malfunction?

    Really was kind of a jerky thing to push the yoke forward when your passenger is already concerned you're too low.

    1. Don't think that the push forward was intentional. It's not unusual for a person's body to tend to follow ones eyes. I think that the relaxation of the yoke was an unconscious response to looking down at his iPad.

  3. Been flying over 20 years. Why would you be looking anywhere but OUTSIDE in such a vertically confined space.... RIP to the pilot and thank goodness the PAX lived as she was just along for the ride.

  4. She didn't try to wake him up, or pull him out of the plane?

    1. Probably busy saving her own life. She was in a very dangerous situation. She was very fortunate.

    2. "Probably busy saving her own life." Exactly right.

      This was a violent impact with the water. It was not an intentional ditching where you might steer into the wind, lower flaps, flare the airplane, and in the case of a 150 perhaps get your speed over the water as low as 45-50 MPH. Instead this was cruise flight. They hit at 95 - 110MPH, nose low, flipped over, and quickly sank.

      Worth mentioning that this lady appears to be in her 50s or 60s. Just incredible that she was able to withstand the impact and then get herself out of the airplane that was now upside down.

      You can be sure that she's in top physical shape ... otherwise it would've been game over.

  5. Flight over very smooth water, depth perception (no pun intended), sad story, @ or below 200Ft AGL, it's "enemy territory" - period.....don't care how good you are or how many hours.....


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