Sunday, August 16, 2020

Aerotek Pitts S-2B, N600DF: Fatal accident occurred August 16, 2019 near Lakefront Airport (KNEW), Orleans Parish, Louisiana

The family of a New Orleans TV newscaster who was killed in a stunt plane crash a year ago has filed a $23 million lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration claiming the agency cleared the aircraft to fly despite allegedly knowing of its history of mechanical problems.

The husband of Nancy Parker, a veteran anchor for Fox affiliate station WVUE-TV, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of himself and their three children.

Parker, 53, and pilot Franklin J.P. Augustus, 69, were killed on August 16th, 2019, when the Aerotek Pitts S-2B aircraft, registered to Drug Fighter LLC, crashed shortly after taking off from New Orleans' Lakefront Airport. Parker and Augustus were the only two people aboard the biplane, which was scheduled to do skywriting stunts, officials said.

Parker's husband, Glen Boyd, claims in the lawsuit that FAA workers were aware of airplane's "lengthy and well-known history of substandard maintenance, mechanical problems and scant flight time" when they cleared the flight for takeoff, according to the lawsuit that was filed on August 6th, 2020.

Despite allegedly knowing of the maintenance and operational problems with the aircraft, "appropriate steps were not taken by FAA officials to ensure [the plane] was airworthy prior to clearing the aircraft for flight," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit did not specify the maintenance history of the aircraft or cite specific evidence proving the FAA was aware of any alleged history of mechanical problems.

A placard had been placed in the aircraft in November 1983 warning that its smoke skywriting system should only be used on solo flights, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also states the plane had been modified with a 14-gallon auxiliary fuel tank under the passenger seat in February 1992.

According to the lawsuit, Parker was not notified by the FAA or employees at the Lakefront Airport of the "foreseeable risk of harm to life and limb associated with flying in the aircraft" nor was she advised of the plane's history of mechanical problems prior to boarding the aircraft.

On the day of the crash, the flight was delayed from taking off for several hours because of "mechanical problems with the aircraft engine which negatively impacted engine performance and safety of flight," the lawsuit reads.

Parker, who won multiple Emmy awards as a journalist, was filming a piece on the stunt plane with Augustus to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, a pioneering group of Black pilots who fought in World War II.

Shortly after takeoff, Augustus radioed the Lakefront Airport's air-traffic control tower requesting immediate clearance to return to the airport but did not specify why, according to a preliminary investigative report from the National Transportation Safety Board. As Augustus attempted to return to the airport the plane made a sharp descent and crashed into an open field bursting into flames, according to the NTSB report.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the NTSB. Shortly after the crash, the NTSB said the investigation could taken 12 to 24 months before a determination of probable cause for the crash is issued.

FAA officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

An initial statement from the FAA said the stunt plane was manufactured in 1983 and "crashed under unknown circumstances" in an empty field about a half-mile south of the Lakefront Airport.

"The NTSB will lead the investigation, and the FAA's investigation will become part of the NTSB's series of reports," the statement reads.

The federal government has 60 days from the date the lawsuit filed to respond, according to court records.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: New Orleans, LA
Accident Number: CEN19FA270
Date & Time: 08/16/2019, 1506 CDT
Registration:  N600DF 
Aircraft: Pitts S2
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On August 16, 2019, about 1506 central daylight time, a Pitts S2B aerobatic airplane, N600DF, registered to Drug Fighter LLC, was destroyed following a forced landing shortly after takeoff from the New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NEW). The commercial pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The passenger, who was a TV news anchor, was doing a documentary on the pilot. Part of the documentary was a local flight in the pilot's aerobatic airplane. The takeoff was filmed. The film shows the airplane's run up and takeoff from runway 36R at NEW. Initial review of the film shows the airplane lift off the runway and climb out, then turn to the left toward a downwind. Tower personnel at NEW reported that the pilot requested a return to the airport via radio shortly after takeoff. The pilot did not specify the reason for wanting to return. The tower acknowledged the pilot to return to the airport.

According to witnesses and tower personnel, the airplane was flying on what appeared to be a left downwind toward runway 36, heading south of the airport. The airplane continued flying south and did not return toward the airport. Witnesses observed the airplane in what appeared to be in a steep descent, before impact in an open field about .8 miles south of the airport.

Evidence at the accident site showed that the airplane impacted the ground about 45-degrees nose down. A post impact fire consumed most of the airframe. The accident site was documented and the wreckage was transported to a secure facility for detailed examinations of the airframe and engine. A review of the airplane's historical maintenance logs was conducted and no deficiencies were noted. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Pitts
Registration: N600DF
Model/Series: S2 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Drug Fighter LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: NEW, 10 ft msl
Observation Time: 1453 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 34°C / 24°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 320°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: New Orleans, LA (NEW)
Destination: New Orleans, LA (NEW)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 30.025556, -90.030000


  1. Another frivolous lawsuit by family members of dead pilots flying private planes. Nothing in this report so far leads to any failure by the FAA to take any action. As quoted in the preliminary: "A review of the airplane's historical maintenance logs was conducted and no deficiencies were noted."

    Hope the judge throws this out.

  2. ^^Slight correction: dead pilots dead passengers in this case.

  3. Seems frivolous as conveyed in the news story, but the lawsuit could be based on something specific, such as an A&P mechanic who had worked on that plane or eagle-eye hangar neighbor making written complaints to the FSDO over a period of time that were not followed up on or were investigated and dismissed.

    The claim that the FAA should have advised her about dangers from engine work done on the day of the accident flight has to be supported. The attorneys must have something to base it on, because it sounds completely unreasonable.

    Perhaps someone communicated concerns to the FSDO while the work was going on and stated "he is gonna take a reporter up after he gets it going - you need to shut that down right now". Repair work that requires A&P signoff but done by the pilot with no certified mechanic present would be enough.

    1. "The attorneys must have something to base it on, because it sounds completely unreasonable."

      ???????? Attorneys make baseless claims and unreasonable allegations all the time. Since when has truth or reason ever influenced a plaintiff's attorney?

  4. No, they are grasping at straws. Apparently the aircraft owner didn't have any insurance or very little.

  5. Another greedy attorney, another fool for a client and a reporter that just acts like she is only reporting the news. Maybe you could bring up the idea that before you just go climb into an aircraft, you should and could do a little research to determine the safety of the situation and not count on some no talent government agency to determine the safety of the situation when it’s is your life one the line.

  6. The scum of the earth all file lawsuits for the victims.

  7. Any documented complaint made to the FAA about the pilot or plane prior to the accident would be of interest to the attorney's team.

    Was someone alerting the FAA about real problems, or was it someone who wasn't satisfied with just bird-dogging other residents back at their condo?

  8. The FAA has the deepest pockets here, so that is who the law firm will go after.

    1. Correction...........the FAA has no "pockets". The "pockets" belong to me and you.

  9. Every time you fly the decision is yours,if the aircraft is unserviceable for any reason then you simply do not fly ! it is no good harping on about a past problem with the aircraft,every aircraft has a history of something that should have been corrected,approved and signed off.A risk assessment after the event is useless,it does not say what category the aircraft was registered in ? no operating certificates for a skywriter that does not sound right either ? too many 'if's and 'buts' here and a tongue in cheek claim to the FAA is useless and trying to attempt to find a reason for past maintenance is worthless.

    1. The Regs say the owner/operator is responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft. That attorney is going to lose this one. He better go find another ambulance to chase.

  10. This video here shows it struggle off the runway and several puffs of smoke emit as it gets airborne on accident flight.

    1. That first blast of blue smoke raises the question of whether he did a runup/mag check before rolling for takeoff. Run up was likely to have had the same oil burnoff smoke going on - time to go back to the hangar when you see that.

      The bouncing/yawing takeoff rotation seems odd for RW36 with wind 6 knots from 320°.

    2. I was thinking the first couple blasts of smoke may be from the tires, burnt rubber. It slide sideways a couple times during the porpoising.

      But once it was in the air, there was definitely more smoke during the upwind and downwind.

    3. Maybe the smoke at 25 seconds is tire side-skip, but the blast of blue smoke at 19 seconds is throttle up.

  11. Most likely no insurance was needed on the plane and the pilot had none. The A&P mechanic or shop might also be out of range due to lack of insurance... that leaves the taxpayers to pay any tort strategy to extract money using the civil system and its intricate procedures.
    Technology now can help: Always carry a body cam like I do for anything. Document in video and recordings any class as a CFI. Document in video and recordings any maintenance performed. Document. Document. Document.
    And when a lawsuit happens provide all the video evidence and more.
    Document document document.
    I envision an age where insurance rates will be 90% lower if everyone videotapes and keeps evidence of everything.

  12. looked like he Was sorting out the engine problem maybe even about to abort. then lost control and yanked it off the ground to avoid A groundloop . Possibly he turned the smoke pump on while taking off and that caused some issue? I would imagine he would have used smoke on takeoff since this was for the news . Also that man is huge gotta be 250 with all that equipment , then her with her parachute . Loss of mag under powered over weight aft c.g. it looked like he had alt and could have dove and turned for the runway. Nothing at all to do with the FAA sorry scumbag lawyer!

    1. He made it all the way through downwind before crashing. He took off northbound on runway 36R but crash site was .8 miles south of the airfield.

    2. Does look like he flew out of a ground loop onset. Too long a glance at the instruments, probably.

    3. exactly my thought or she hit a pedal or brake?

    4. She may have. Considering the number of years Mr. Augustus had flying that type of aircraft, there is no explanation for that messy takeoff on RW36 with wind 6 knots from 320°.

      Maybe she "braced" and pushed the rudder inadvertently. Don't know if the S-2B has heel or toe brakes, but maybe F-16 Guy will comment. He should remember the brake arrangement from having hundreds of hours in one.

    5. PDF sheet 92 in the parts catalog shows toe brake mechanism parts. Hydraulic cylinders on sheet 52. She conceivably could have nudged rudder or brake if not mindful of feet position.

      Not the cause of the crash, but could influence the messy takeoff.

  13. If you're flying downwind, there's no excuse to hit the ground in a 45 degree dive, as reported.
    Pitch down for airspeed should be the first reaction, then do a power off landing.
    Judging from the takeoff (I have hundreds of hours in a Pitts S-2B), this flight was cursed from the start. RIP.

    1. 45 degree angle at impact does not mean he held 45 degrees from power loss all the way to the ground. He crashed in the Morrison Road Wharf Storeyard (see links below - pinned location on map and videos).

      He did not have a nice clear area to do a power off landing with all those poles and wires around. On the google map, you can move the street view man onto the storage yard driveway inside the fence and look south to see the space where he came down.

  14. did they not have a camera on the airplane? did i miss that ?

  15. "The attorneys must have something to base it on, because it sounds completely unreasonable."

    ???????? Attorneys make baseless claims and unreasonable allegations all the time. Since when has truth or reason ever influenced a plaintiff's attorney?

    1. Lawsuits always wave the bloody shirt, so just examine the claim that "the FAA knew..." The attorney is making that claim because he has somebody lined up who had been contacting FAA about the pilot.

      Whoever was trying to get Augustus in trouble before the accident has a folder of letters that he sent to FAA about it all. Might all be nonsense, but the "FAA knew" claim comes from something.

      Extra credit: Look up "swatting"

    2. Interesting angle to it.