Saturday, May 16, 2020

Ercoupe 415-CD, N3956H: Fatal accident occurred May 15, 2020 near Hawkins County Airport (KRVN), Surgoinsville, Tennessee

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Nashville, Tennessee

Location: Rogersville, TN
Accident Number: ERA20LA183
Date & Time: 05/15/2020, 1410 EDT
Registration: N3956H
Aircraft: Ercoupe 415
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 15, 2020, about 1410 eastern daylight time, an Ercoupe 415-CD airplane, N3956H, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Rogersville, Tennessee. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine airplanes, and an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate with inspection authorization. He had departed from Hawkins County Airport (RVN), Rogersville, Tennessee, at 1350. According to witnesses the pilot flew over a friend's farm and was returning to the airport,. They stated that the airplane's engine sounded normal and multiple witnesses reported "he got low" on final approach and clipped trees. The pilot did not make any distress call on the radio.

The airplane impacted in the front yard of a residential property about 1,000 ft from the threshold of runway 25, at an elevation of 1,214 ft mean sea level (msl). The wreckage debris path was about 20 ft long and oriented on a magnetic heading of 240°. The grass surrounding the wreckage path displayed fuel blight.

Ground scars at the accident site and damage to the airplane were consistent with the airplane impacting terrain in a nose-low, left wing-low attitude. A postimpact fire consumed most of the wreckage; however, all major structural components of the airplane were located within the debris field.

Flight control continuity was verified from the cockpit to all primary flight control surfaces. No crankcase anomalies were noted; oil was observed draining from the engine. One of the propeller blades was not bent, the other had torsional twisting from midspan to the tip.

Although the postaccident examination was limited due to postimpact fire damage, a initial examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of preaccident mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Ercoupe
Registration: N3956H
Model/Series: 415 CD
Aircraft Category: Airplane
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: K0VG, 1411 ft msl
Observation Time:1355 EDT 
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable / 11 knots, Variable
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.11 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Rogersville, TN (RVN)
Destination: Rogersville, TN (RVN)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 36.460833, -82.876667

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

James Hansford Summers

HAWKINGS COUNTY, Tennessee (WCYB) — A Ercoupe 415-CD aircraft clipped a tree and crashed in the yard of a home in the Surgoinsville area of Hawkins County.

The crash happened around 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

Investigators say the aircraft was on approach to Hawkins County Memorial Airport when the accident occurred.

The pilot was the only person onboard. The victim’s family has identified the pilot as 83-year-old James Summers of Kingsport .

They say the airport notified them that his plane went down and families rushed to the scene.

Witnesses say it was a fiery crash, with the plane landing in the front yard of a house.

Family members shared a photo of Summers with News 5. They say he has been flying all of his life, starting in the U.S. Air Force.

Summers spent his career working for Eastman in Kingsport. He lived in Kingsport all of his adult life.

He also has family members who live in Wise County, Virginia.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.

James Hansford Summers

UPDATE 5:05 P.M. HAWKINS COUNTY, Tennessee (WJHL)- Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have released a statement following a deadly small plane crash in Hawkins County.

The NTSB is investigating the May 15th, 2020, crash of an Ercoupe 415-CD, that occurred in Rogersville, Tennessee.  Although an NTSB investigator will not travel to scene, we are gathering information and evidence by working with the Federal Aviation Administration and local authorities who are at the scene. The Federal Aviation Administration will facilitate the removal of the aircraft which will be taken to a secure facility for further examination if necessary, at a later date.

News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel was at the scene Friday evening as the victim’s wife, Alta Summers, identified her husband as James Hansford Summers.

“He worked with airplanes where he was in the United States Air Force for many years,” said Alta. She and several of his sisters came in from Virginia to the crash site. “All my family is here… it’s hard,” she said.

Anslee also received a photo of Summers from his sister, Katie Jessee.

Shortly before that interview, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told media during a news conference that the victim in the crash would be taken to the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center at ETSU for positive identification.

“It was real big, it was popping and cracking and everything,” said witness Ronald Seals. He says he and his mother called emergency crews. “We all ran up there and I just kept saying ‘I hope and pray they got out,” said Deborah Seals.

The plane crashed in the front yard of a home on Main Street in Surgoinsville- right near the runway at the Hawkins County Memorial Airport.

“He had actually taken off from the airport and was returning to the airport,” said Surgoinsville Police Chief James Hammonds.

That crash bringing a federal investigation.

“From early indication-it seemed like he was having engine trouble. We have the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board coming and they’ll be doing an intense investigation,” said Hawkins Co. Sheriff Ronnie Lawson.

While crews worked the crash… planes continued to fly over to land at the airport.

“It’s a very rare occurrence for this county to have an airplane crash,” said Hawkins Co. EMA Director Jamie Miller.

The Federal Aviation Administration is set to begin their investigation Saturday morning.


UPDATE 3:18 P.M HAWKINS COUNTY, Tennessee - Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration released a statement following Friday afternoon’s fatal plane crash.

An Ercoupe 415-CD clipped a tree and crashed in the yard of a home in Rogersville, Tennessee, at around 2 p.m., today. The aircraft was on approach to Hawkins County Memorial Airport when the accident occurred. The pilot was the only person aboard; check with local authorities for the name and condition. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident. 


UPDATE 2:51 P.M. HAWKINS COUNTY, Tennessee - Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson confirmed with News Channel 11 that one person was dead following a small plane crash Friday afternoon.

That plane crash reportedly happened near the airport in Surgoinsville.

Sheriff Lawson said they will be issuing a news release about the incident Friday afternoon.

SURGOINSVILLE — The pilot of a Ercoupe 415-CD was killed Friday afternoon when he apparently clipped some trees while approaching the Hawkins County Airport and crashed in a residential yard about a quarter-mile east of the runway.

The victim was identified as James Hansford Summers, 83, from Kingsport. A family member at the scene described him for the Times News as a fixture at the airport. He reportedly had a hangar, at least two planes, and was an avid flyer.

The plane crashed in the yard of a home on West Main Street about a half-mile from the driveway entrance to the airport.

FAA statement on the crash

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement that an Ercoupe 415-CD clipped a tree and crashed in the yard of a home around 2 p.m. Friday.

The FAA report states, “The aircraft was on approach to Hawkins County Memorial Airport when the accident occurred. The pilot was the only person aboard. … The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.”

Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said the victim’s body will be taken to the ETSU Forensics Center for positive identification.

Lawson added, “It’s a very sad situation.”

Cause of the crash

“Early indication is it seemed like he was having engine trouble, but we have the FAA, National Transportation Safety Board coming, and they’ll be doing the investigation,” Lawson said.

Surgoinsville Police Department Chief James Hammonds said the plane had taken off from the airport and was returning to the facility when the crash occurred.

Among the agencies that responded to the scene were the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, SPD, Surgoinsville Fire Department, Hawkins County EMA, Hawkins County Rescue Squad, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.


  1. I know what happened.. he was 83. WTH is the reason he was still flying?? GTFOH.

    1. What is wrong with flying at 83? I plan on doing that.

    2. Why still flying ? BECAUSE HE WANTED TO !
      So tired of the juvenile regurgitations about a pilot's age if they crash.

    3. Under 25's have have the most car wrecks by age percentage. Why the hell do we let THEM DRIVE?

  2. I fly with, and provide a Flight Review, to a gentleman that mirrors Mr. Summers. This pilot is 88 years young, and does a wonderful job with the aircraft. Like Mr. Summers, he also owns an Ercoupe, and is meticulous with maintenance. Age is not germane to ability. Something went wrong, and Mr. Summers was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  3. I've flown with Jim in that very plane. He was a talented Mechanic, Pilot and a wonderful mentor. I have a place in Rogersville that we are moving to in the spring of 2021. Was trying to call Jim and unable to reach him, found this report. So sad to hear of his passing; condolences to his family & his airport friends; the Sunday bunch.

    1. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, Hugh. Jim sounds like a great guy *and* a great airman; I obviously agree with the (majority, thankfully) opinion that age is no litmus test for competence – at anything, not just flying.

      Fly high, Captain Summers.