Monday, July 27, 2020

Air Tractor AT-502B, N502KJ: Fatal accident occurred July 25, 2020 in Grant, Perkins County, Nebraska

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 Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lincoln, Nebraska
Air Tractor; Olney, Texas
Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company; Aurora, Nebraska

Location: Grant, NE
Accident Number: CEN20LA306
Date & Time: 07/25/2020, 1136 MDT
Registration: N502KJ
Aircraft: Air Tractor AT502
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On July 25, 2020, about 1136 mountain daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-502B airplane, N502KJ, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Grant, Nebraska. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 137 agricultural flight.

According to the airplane operator, the pilot was flying an aerial application flight at the time of the accident. The track data downloaded from the airplane's Satloc GPS guidance system showed most of the flight. At 1108, the airplane departed runway 33 at Grant Municipal Airport (GGF), Grant, Nebraska, and then flew southbound to the field to be sprayed. After arriving over the field, the pilot completed several orbits of the field before he began spraying the field using a series of east/west flight paths.

According to the recovered track data (Figure 1), the pilot entered a climbing left turn after each spray pass, with the airplane routinely climbing 400-500 ft during a course reversal turn. The airplane's average ground speed during the spray passes ranged between 155 and 165 mph, and the ground speed decreased to between 104 and 120 mph during each course reversal turn (Figure 2). At 1136:48, the final recorded track point showed the airplane climbing on a west heading near the end of a spray pass at the north edge of the field. The airplane's final ground speed and altitude above ground level (agl) were 152 mph and 70 ft agl, respectively. According to a Satloc representative, the GPS guidance system had a 6 second delay between data acquisition and when the data was saved to non-volatile memory. The final position report was located about ¼ mile northeast of the accident site.

Figure 1: Plot of GPS Track Data

Figure 2: Plot of Altitude and Ground Speed

A pilot of another agricultural airplane was operating in a nearby field when the accident occurred. He reported that he and the accident pilot had maintained radio contact throughout their respective flights using a common traffic advisory frequency. The pilot reported that the accident airplane consistently climbed 450-500 ft agl during its course reversal turns following each spray pass. The pilot stated that the last time he saw the accident airplane it was flying westbound in a climb before it rolled right into a 90°-100° bank turn with a nose-high pitch angle of 10°-12° above the horizon. The pilot stated that the accident airplane was turning toward north as the nose of the airplane pitched down through the horizon, consistent with a Lazy Eight flight maneuver. The pilot stated that he lost visual contact with the accident airplane when he entered a left turn at the end of a spray pass. After completing several additional spray passes, the pilot was unable to contact the accident pilot over the radio and subsequently spotted the airplane wreckage in the cornfield (Figure 3) as he was returning to GGF.

Figure 3: Aerial Photo Taken of Accident Site

The accident site was in a cornfield located about 8.7 miles south-southeast of GGF. According to a Federal Aviation Administration inspector and an Air Tractor accident investigator who responded to the accident site, the airplane impacted terrain in a nose down pitch attitude. The corn stalks immediately surrounding the accident site exhibited damage consistent with a 45° nose down flight path angle. There were no ground impacts or a discernable debris path preceding the wreckage. The airplane was found upright with significant impact damage to the forward fuselage and the leading edge of both wings.

The fuselage was oriented on an east-southeast heading. The aft fuselage and empennage exhibited minor impact-related damage. Both wing fuel tanks had ruptured during impact, and the odor of Jet-A fuel was present at the accident site. Flight control continuity could not be established due to damage; however, all observed separations were consistent with impact-related damage. The flap actuator measured 2.125 inches and was consistent with a 20° flap extension at impact. The aileron drooping system was continuous from the flap torque tube to the aileron bellcrank support assembly. Both landing gear legs had separated from the fuselage during impact. The engine and the propeller were found buried about 3 ft below ground level. The postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal airplane operation during the flight.

Figure 4: Overview Photo of Main Wreckage at Accident Site

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Air Tractor
Registration: N502KJ
Model/Series: AT502 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Aurora Cooperative Elevator Company
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: IML, 3276 ft msl
Observation Time: 1153 MDT
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 19°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Grant, NE (GGF)
Destination: Grant, NE (GGF)

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: 40.747222, -101.710000

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

Alex Watson Tuttle

Mr. Alex Watson Tuttle, age 31, of College Grove, Tennessee died Saturday, July 25th, 2020 in Grant, Nebraska.

Alex was born in Nashville Tennessee and was a graduate of the Class of 2007 from Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, TN. He continued his education at Middle Tennessee State University where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Aviation and a Minor in Agribusiness.

Alex’s passion was flying and he was a natural born pilot. He was an aerial applicator and was recognized as one of the best in his profession. In the off season of flying, he would return home and back to farming where he worked for Hatcher Family Dairy near College Grove.

Alex was a very active member of the Eagleville Soaring Club. He loved the outdoors and had a very special love for animals. He also had deep respect for his heritage and his ancestors.

Mr. Tuttle is survived by his parents, Ronald and Elizabeth Tuttle, College Grove, TN, brother, Robert Nelson Tuttle, Franklin, TN; aunts, Romayne Williams, Lebanon, TN, Marie (John) Brumbach, Sandy Springs, GA, Jane Mills, Franklin, TN; uncles, Frank C. Tuttle, Rally Hill Comm., Lynn H. (Charlotte) Tuttle, Brentwood, TN, Alan (Linda) Tuttle, Brentwood, TN.

Graveside services for family and friends will be conducted on Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. at Simpson Cemetery in the Rover Community of Bedford County.  Burial will follow in Simpson Cemetery.

In Lieu of Flowers, Memorial Donations may be made in memory of Alex Tuttle to Battle Ground Academy, 336 Ernest Rice Lane, Franklin, TN 37069 or Tennessee Kidney Foundation, 37 Peabody Street, Suite 206, Nashville, TN 37210 (

GRANT, Nebraska (KMTV) — A male pilot is now dead after a crop duster crash in Perkins County over the weekend.

According to the Perkins County Sheriff James Brueggema, he said the office received a call about 12:05 p.m. mountain time on Saturday.

When authorities arrived to the scene, they said a crop duster was found in a corn field near Road 328 and Road 753, about six miles south and half a mile west of Grant.

The pilot was identified as 31-year-old Alex Watson Tuttle of College Grove, Tennessee.

No word yet on what caused the crash, federal agencies are now part of the investigation.

The Grant volunteer fire department, along with the Madrid volunteer fire department also assisted with the crash.


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