Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Visual Flight Rules encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions: Beechcraft 77 Skipper, N3815Z; accident occurred June 20, 2020 in Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: ELIZABETHTON, Tennessee 
Accident Number: ERA20CA222
Date & Time: June 20, 2020, 08:00 Local
Registration: N3815Z
Aircraft: Beech 77
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC 
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The student pilot and his passenger departed on a visual flight rules cross country flight and entered instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot decided to continue climbing, and when the airplane exited the clouds, the student pilot saw the top of a mountain and trees directly in front of him. He “stalled” the airplane to reduce speed and the airplane impacted trees at a speed of about 60 knots before it descended to the ground. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, but the student pilot and the passenger were uninjured. The student pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures of the airplane what would have precluded normal operation. The pilot further stated that he made a mistake and took full responsibility for the accident.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The student pilot's decision to continue from visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a collision with trees and mountainous terrain.


Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Student/instructed pilot
Environmental issues Clouds - Decision related to condition

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise VFR encounter with IMC (Defining event)
Enroute-cruise Aerodynamic stall/spin
Uncontrolled descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Student 
Age: 24, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: June 3, 2020
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 150 hours (Total, all aircraft), 40 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N3815Z
Model/Series: 77 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1981
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: WA-219
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: June 24, 2019 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6547.4 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed 
Engine Model/Series: O-235 L2C
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 115 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument (IMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: A09,1592 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 08:35 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 245°
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2100 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Morristown, TN (MOR)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Newport News, VA (PHF)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 07:00 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class C

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 36.406944,-82.02111(est)

Preventing Similar Accidents

Reduced Visual References Require Vigilance

About two-thirds of general aviation accidents that occur in reduced visibility weather conditions are fatal. The accidents can involve pilot spatial disorientation or controlled flight into terrain. Even in visual weather conditions, flights at night over areas with limited ground lighting (which provides few visual ground references) can be challenging.

Preflight weather briefings are critical to safe flight. In-flight, weather information can also help pilots make decisions, as can in-cockpit weather equipment that can supplement official information. In cockpit equipment requires an understanding of the features and limitations. 

We often see pilots who decide to turn back after they have already encountered weather; that is too late.

Pilot's shouldn't allow a situation to become dangerous before deciding to act. Additionally, air traffic controllers are there to help; be honest with them about your situation and ask for help.

Even when flying at night, visual weather conditions can also be challenging. Remote areas with limited ground lighting provide limited visual reference cues for pilots, which can be disorienting or render rising terrain visually imperceptible. Topographic references can help pilots become more familiar with the terrain. The use of instruments, if pilots are proficient, can also help pilots navigate these challenging areas.

The NTSB presents this information to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. Note that this should not be considered guidance from the regulator, nor does this supersede existing FAA Regulations (FARs).

CARTER COUNTY, Tennessee (WCYB) — Two people are uninjured after a small plane crashed in Carter County near Iron Mountain.
The Carter County Rescue Squad first received calls of the crash involving a Beechcraft 77 Skipper aircraft at approximately 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

The rescue squad was able to reach the two people shortly before 11:15 a.m.

"We had some inclement weather," says the pilot Luis Andrade. "We got some instructions. I followed the instructions. We encountered a mountain and didn't have enough time to climb to go above the mountain and we unfortunately crashed."

Andrade told News 5 he was traveling from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Newport News, VA.

In a statement, The FAA confirms the plane took off from Morristown, Tenn. as part of his cross country flight.

"A Beechcraft BE-77 crashed in the Cherokee National Forest near Doeville, Tenn., today at approximately 9 a.m. The flight departed Morristown Municipal Airport in Tennessee enroute to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia. Contact local authorities for information on the pilot and passenger. The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident."

The 77 Skipper is a small, fixed wing, two-seat aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation. It has a length of 24 feet, and a wingspan of 30 feet. The plane is able to fly around 400 miles on a tank of fuel. It is a lighter aircraft than some of it's general aviation counterparts and has tricycle landing gear. It was designed for flight training but has been used by pilots for personal flying and touring over the years.

Iron Mountain is located to the west of the Northeast Correctional Complex, near Stoney Creek.

The Carter County Rescue Squad says the hilly terrain has made it hard to get to the plane.

"The terrain is very, very steep," says James Heaton with the Carter County Rescue Squad. "The plane crashed at almost 4,000 feet in elevation. We're probably about 1,800 feet here so it's about a 2,000 foot vertical climb here."

"Anytime we have a rescue in the mountains, it can be potentially dangerous because of the terrain. This area had some trails in the vicinity. They were covered by trees. Very steep. Very rocky. Very difficult trails."

Fortunately, Andrade and his counterpart had no injuries.

"The only scratch I got was after I got out of the plane and walking through the thorns," says Andrade.

The FAA is investigating the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.



  1. Treetops decelerated the plane, no fire and they walked away. They did good.

  2. This is going to be a good story with all the late night and early AM flying. Since they lived, without any injuries, the report will be quick and easy.

    Waiting to see what WX briefings this guy got, especially when trying to navigate 4-5000 ft peaks at 3700 ft.

    1. The video from the local news story shows passenger with hoodie on, adding to the intrigue - is either person a rated pilot?

      Crash being 24 hours after the flight began and only stopping for fuel, sleep deprivation could have contributed even if the second person was a pilot.

  3. Controlled flight into terrain. Probably below radar coverage trying to avoid IFR conditions with NOTAMS indicating mountain obscuration and repeated warnings from ATC. "We got some instructions. I followed the instructions." ain't going to relieve him of responsibility.

  4. No current Luis Andrade pilot in the FAA Airmen database, just two long-lapsed individuals with date histories that don't work for a 24 year old.
    Could be a no cert or fresh-file student cert.

    Wonder what the circumstances are behind the straight-thru no sleep flight.

  5. Well there you go, just following those instructions. "If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?" Anton Chigurh

  6. Just putting two and two together here. The company that the registered owner works for, the age/nationality of the pilot(?) and passenger, the destination all >seems< suspiciously like Antifa. Just a theory mind you.

    1. If it's this guy, doubtful he is Antifa. https://talkbusiness.net/2017/08/21-year-old-uafs-student-and-trump-supporter-running-for-fort-smith-mayor/