Saturday, August 08, 2020

Grumman American AA-5 Traveler, N7192L: Fatal accident occurred August 01, 2020 near Marion County Airport (X35), Dunnellon, Florida

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; Orlando, Florida
Lycoming; Georgia

Location: Dunnellon, FL
Accident Number: ERA20LA271
Date & Time: 08/01/2020, EDT
Registration: N7192L
Aircraft: American Aviation AA 5
Injuries:1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On August 1, 2020, at an unknown time, a Grumman American AA-5, N7192L, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain less than a mile west of the Marion County Airport (X35), Dunnellon, Florida. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot/co-owner held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. According to the airport manager, the pilot texted his girlfriend at 1527 eastern daylight time and said he was going to "fly a couple laps" around the X35 traffic pattern. The pilot did not file a flight plan and was not in communication with air traffic control. When the girlfriend did not hear back from the pilot later that afternoon, she contacted the airport manager, who in turn notified law enforcement. A search was initiated, and the airplane was located the following morning less than a mile west of the airport in heavily wooded terrain.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the wreckage at the accident site and reported that the airplane collided with several trees and came to rest inverted. There was no post-impact fire. The engine had separated from the airframe and both wings sustained extensive impact damage.

According to the airplane's co-owner, she and the pilot had recently purchased the airplane. She said it had not flown in 14 years and the airplane was "in pieces" when it was purchased. The unassembled airplane was transported to the pilot's home, where it was partially assembled by the pilot, and then moved to X35. The pilot did not hold an FAA-issued mechanic certificate but was known to restore, build and repair vehicles and boats. The co-owner, who is not a pilot, said the pilot performed a test-flight of the newly assembled airplane on July 14, 2020, and reported that some of the gauges were not working. She thought one of the gauges was a fuel gauge.

The airport manager said the pilot was a "staple" at the airport and liked to "tinker" with things. His goal was to get the airplane to a point where he could have a certificated airframe & powerplant mechanic perform an annual inspection. The airport manager said the pilot had flown the airplane a few times before the accident flight. On one flight the engine sputtered and lost power, but the pilot was able to land safely back at the airport. The pilot told the airport manager he had a problem with vapor lock and some of the gauges were "acting up." The airport manager said that on the July 14th flight, the pilot was taking off and landing numerous times on the 5,000-ft-long runway. During this flight, the airplane struck a runway light and had a tail strike.

The pilot's last FAA third-class medical was issued on November 21, 2017 and expired at the end of November 2019. He did not report his flight hours at the time the medical certificate was issued.

The airplane wreckage was recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: American Aviation
Registration: N7192L
Model/Series: AA 5 Undesignated
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: OCF, 89 ft msl
Observation Time: 1551 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 35°C / 19°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Dunnellon, FL (X35)
Destination: Dunnellon, FL (X35)

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: 29.061389, -82.397222

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

The wreckage of a single-engine aircraft that crashed sometime after takeoff Saturday afternoon and claimed the life of the pilot was found early Sunday morning near the county airport in Dunnellon.

Donald Cheek, 48, the sole occupant of the Grumman American AA-5 Traveler, died as a result of the crash, according to Mike Grawe, Marion County Airport manager.

The crash site was located in a wooded area on gated acreage in the 17000 block of County Road 484, and the airport is located at 14968 SW 110th St., off County Road 484, in Dunnellon.

Grawe said Cheek, who has flown out of the airport for about a year, was believed to have taken off around 4 p.m. and was going to “fly patterns” around the airport based upon remarks made to a family member.

Grawe said he was not aware of any weather concerns Saturday and winds had been calm.

A search was initiated around 8 p.m., and the wreckage of the aircraft was located by electronic tracking, including cell phone pings, Grawe said.

Grawe’s search party found the crash site, which was about a half mile away from an east-west runway at the airport.

Marion County Sheriff’s Office was involved in the search, and Marion County Fire Rescue responded early Sunday to assist family members, Grawe said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to NTSB spokesperson Terry Williams.


  1. Pilot-no medical. Airplane-no annual, therefore not airworthy. Not on a ferry permit. No valid pilot license, no valid airplane license = No insurance. It's a real shame.

  2. What a creep. Everything was illegal about this guy.