Friday, August 21, 2020

Lancair Super ES, N997S: Fatal accident occurred August 20, 2020 near Ely Municipal Airport (KELO), St. Louis County, Minnesota

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Minneapolis

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ely, MN
Accident Number: CEN20LA354
Date & Time: 08/20/2020, 2306 CDT
Registration: N997S
Aircraft: Lancair LANCAIR SUPER ES
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On August 20, 2020, about 2306 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Lancair Super ES airplane, N997S, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Ely, Minnesota. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

N997S arrived at Ely Municipal Airport (ELO), Ely, Minnesota, about 1200, and the pilot was given a minivan to use. The pilot returned to the airport 1600-1700 and asked airport personnel if he could continue to use the minivan. The fixed base operator at ELO closed at 1700. The pilot was waiting for the destination weather at Grand Marai, Minnesota, which was fogged in, to clear.

The pilot had not filed a flight plan and there was no record he obtained weather through an automated flight service station. There was no air traffic control contact with N997S for the accident flight.

Two witnesses at White Iron Beach Resort stated they had gone out to sit on the end of the dock for the evening and star gaze. They had been out on the dock for about an hour and a half. When they first sat down, the sky was clear, and they could see the stars. However, a cloud layer began to develop, and they could not see the stars anymore. They continued to have very good lateral visibility and could see the island out in front of them from the dock. All was quiet while sitting on the dock. Then they heard the noise of an airplane, looking out past the island and to the left of it, they saw an airplane diving down toward the water; they could see lights from the airplane and its silhouette. The airplane then climbed up and disappeared into the clouds. The airplane then came back down through the clouds and was aimed right at them on the dock. The airplane noise had been loud the entire time. They thought the airplane was going to hit the water in front of the dock, but one wing was lower than the other, and the airplane pulled up just in front of them, turned left and climbed back into the clouds, disappearing from their view in a steep, straight-up climb. Seconds later, the airplane came down in a straight down nosedive followed by a "boom" and immediate silence. They immediately called 911 at 2306. From the first time they heard and saw the first dive, to the third impact dive, less than three minutes had passed. The airplane noise was loud through the entire time they had witnessed the airplane with no popping or sputtering.

The airplane impacted White Iron Lake, and the wreckage was about 25 ft under water, and about 5.5 nautical miles northeast of the ELO.

At 1945, the National Weather Service (NWS) Aviation Weather Center issued an Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) SIERRA advisory for instrument flight rule (IFR) conditions in mist and fog, ceilings below 1,000 ft, visibility below 3 statute miles due to mist/fog, for an area that included the accident location. This AIRMET was valid at the accident time.

At 1956, the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Duluth, Minnesota, issued an Aviation Forecast Discussion (AFD) that included a synopsis and forecast for aviation-specific weather for the region. The "Aviation section of that AFD, which was originally issued at 1645, stated:

Mainly VFR conditions were in place around the terminals this evening aside from low IFR conditions at DLH. A back door cold front was sliding to the southwest and moved through the Twin Ports late this afternoon, allowing the marine layer to move inland and bring low IFR ceilings and visibilities to DLH. Expect this activity to oscillate over the next few hours as waves of cloud cover move up over the hill. Heading into the overnight hours, temperatures are expected to cool and with a moist airmass in place, this will lead to the development of fog at all the terminals. Expecting IFR or low IFR ceilings and visibilities to affect DLH (Duluth, Minnesota), INL (International Falls, Minnesota), HIB (Hibbing, Minnesota) and HYR (Hayward, Wisconsin) in the hours around sunrise with marginal visual flight rules (VFR) conditions before then. Periods of very low IFR conditions cannot be ruled out as well. Have added a period of marginal VFR visibilities at BRD (Brainerd, Minnesota), but they could go even lower if temperatures are able to cool more than expected overnight. Improving conditions to VFR are expected by mid to late morning, although the lower ceilings may stick around a bit longer. Chances for showers and a few thunderstorms will arrive during the afternoon hours, but the best chances look to hold off until very late in the period or into the next period, so have held off mention at this point and have focused on the tonight's fog potential.

Figure 1 – Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) forecast imagery depicted sky condition and icing and mountain obscuration Graphical - AIRMETs. Issued about 2000 and valid for 2200. This GFA forecast imagery depicted few or scattered to broken sky conditions near the accident site with a point to the south of the accident site identifying overcast clouds at 1,800 ft above ground level (agl) and layered to 8,000 ft agl. The accident location is located within the red circle.

The ELO Automated Weather Observing System recorded at 1135: visibility - 10 statute miles, ceiling - broken at 700 ft agl, temperature and dewpoint - both 16 degrees Celsius.

Dark night conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. According to the pilot's business partner, the pilot received instrument airplane instruction in preparation for an instrument airplane examination that he planned to undertake in the Fall of 2020.

Post-accident examination of recovered airplane components revealed that the flight control cables exhibited features of overstress. The engine and propeller were not recovered.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Lancair
Registration: N997S
Model/Series: LANCAIR SUPER ES No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:Yes
Operator: Pilot
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: ELO, 1456 ft msl
Observation Time:2315 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 17°C / 16°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 3200 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 140°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 4100 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.87 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Ely, MN (ELO)
Destination: Grand Marais, MN (CKC)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 47.894167, -91.771389 (est)

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

Dr. Kyle Edlund found productive use of his extra time, volunteering his piloting/ co-piloting skills with Wings of Mercy Inc.

Authorities say a man was killed following a plane crash in Lake County Thursday night. 

The Lake County Sheriff's Office said first responders were called just after 11 p.m. on the report of a plane that had crashed on White Iron Lake.

The pilot had left Ely Airport after 9 p.m. and was headed toward Grand Marais. 

The sheriff's identified the victim as a 58-year-old man from Woodbury. A letter from Woodbury Dental Care to patients identified the man as Dr. Kyle Edlund. They say he was flying his plane to his cabin in Grand Marais, alone, to spend the weekend there with his son and friends. 

The sheriff's office confirmed his identified later Friday.

"We are going to take some time to process this devastating loss to our Woodbury Dental Care family," the letter said, in part.

The Minnesota Wild also issued a statement on the incident, as Dr. Edlund was their team dentist. 

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Kyle R. Edlund," the Minnesota Wild said in a statement Friday. "Kyle was a fantastic human being that positively impacted so many people during his life. His smile will be greatly missed at Woodbury Dental Care, at the hockey rink, and by all his family and friends. We offer our sincere condolences to the Edlund family and his loved ones."

Dr. Kyle Edlund

At approximately 2308 hours on August 20th, Lake County Dispatch received a call reporting a possible plane crash on White Iron Lake.

The pilot, and only occupant, left the Ely Airport shortly after 9:00 pm and ended up crashing into White Iron Lake.

The plane was heading towards the Grand Marais/Cook County Airport from the Ely Airport.

Responders found the victim, a 58-year old male from Woodbury, Minnesota, died on impact.

Responding to the scene were the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Rescue Squad, Morse-Fall Lake Fire Department and Ely Ambulance.

This accident is still under investigation.

The plane is in about 28 feet of water about 400 yards from White Iron Beach Resort.

Kerry Davis of White Iron Beach Resort reports debris from last night’s plane crash is being brought to shore by Lake and St. Louis County rescue squads and sheriff’s departments.


  1. Observing and seeing several crashes like this I do not like the way these monocoque contruction trend plastic aeroplanes break up with little in the way of structural integrity when something fails.

    1. Have had the same thoughts seeing fragments and blue foam strewn about. Composite construction does not absorb impact energy as a progression of deformation by bending as metal aircraft can. The monocoque structures hold the load until fracture and tearing takes over.

      The expectation of good bonding in layups gets kit builders in trouble because they typically are not fabricating in temperature and humidity controlled spaces. Poor adhesion goes undetected in some cases, as found in the post crash examination of the Hooley JetEZ (link below).

      One thing to keep in mind is that in a high speed straight in crash to dirt or water, you will highly fragment any type of aircraft. The Atlas Air freighter than went in the Texas bayou and ValueJet Flight 592 proved that.

    2. Airplanes are like egg shells. They fly through the air just fine. It's when they bump into something that the weakness of the structure surfaces.

  2. suggest due to spatial disorientation while maneuvering in dark night conditions.

    1. Seems likely. Crashing at White Iron Beach Resort put him 6 miles north of the departure airport, well off track from the path he needed to be on for Grand Marais Airport.

  3. Aug 20 @ 8:53 PM pressure @ 28.39 and conditions 'Fair.' Nautical Twilight @ 9:30 PM, New Moon August 18 @ 9:41 pm, on the 20th waxing at < 10% for Ely, Minnesota from 'history/daily/us/mn/hibbing/KHIB/date/2020-8-20 '

  4. I suspect spatial disorientation will be the cause. They reports locally are now saying that he left around 10:15pm, “after leaving his hotel.” He had arrived in Ely at noon earlier the same day.

    Weather around 10pm was close to 100% humidity.

    I was up flying in a CAP plane earlier the same evening, we were commenting that it was quite hazy over the St. Croix river and Missippi River. Granted, we were 200nm south of the crash site, but most of MN was under the same stable, and humid, air mass.

  5. N997S registered as "2010 MILLER STUART E LANCAIR SUPER ES," with likely full Garmin G900X glass panel with dual 10.6.
    Would a "full Garmin G900X glass panel with dual 10.6" provide a high level of confidence to lift-off in adverse weather conditions?

  6. Pilot did not have Instrument Airplane certification according to Airmen Registry.

  7. I'm familiar with the accident area (Ely to Grand Marais). There are no cities, very little light, and it is extremely barren. No fields and no lighted roads. Not a good area to fly over at night.

  8. Something doesn't add up. If he left the Ely airport at 9 PM (assuming that means departed), how did he crash, in Ely, at 11:08? Perhaps he departed Ely at 9 PM, flew over to Cook County, couldn't land, and returned to Ely only to find out it was fogged in too.

    Now, it's late, quite dark, he's alone in a somewhat powerful airplane, without an instrument rating and perhaps tired.

    1. Another post mentioned local accounts stating a later time of departure, based on leaving the hotel (link below).

      "Edlund was last at his hotel in Ely at 10:15 pm and flew out soon after."

  9. Question for a pilot. . .why is the flight not recorded on FlightAware like the first flight was recorded?

    1. Probably a better question for FlightAware themselves. My experience is that local VFR flights are hit or miss. Probably very dependent on how high/long you're up there, and where you are relative to their receivers. If you're talking with ATC and squawking a transponder assignment, they usually have it logged. If he wasn't IFR and was out in the boonies, FlightAware may not have even seen him take off.

    2. More specifically, you would need a unique transponder code. Either you'd need to be IFR or requesting flight following, which is uncommon for VFR pilots. It's also possible this accident occurred immediately after takeoff before he could request that service.

    3. How long does it usually take for the investigation to be completed? also, Is it common for pilots flying under VFR to pass through clouds or should they fly under the cloud ceiling? The eyewitness said that the "plane came down through the clouds". Wondering about spatial disorientation.

    4. The adsb signature is not always available until the airplane climbs high enough to communicate with adsb ground towers.

    5. Given the report of the atmospheric conditions along with the flight details/maneuvering prior to the crash is it thought by the pilots reading this that it was spacial disorientation?

    6. If the maneuvering over the lake was not from spatial disorientation in dark night conditions, one can mull over some possible explanations from other accidents.

      Keep in mind that his flight track after takeoff and details of climbout and turns is not reported. The crash location is 6 miles north of the departure airport.

      So, could the observed maneuvering at the lake be from:
      - Engine out? Witnesses said loud & continuous, climbed twice.
      - Medical event? Maybe, but continued controlling/maneuvering.
      - Controls/control surfaces? Two controlled descents/climbs.
      - Trim or weight & balance? Two controlled descents/climbs.
      - Door opened in flight? Top hinged (Need Lancair owner comment)
      - Bird through windscreen? Possible, very disruptive.
      - Attempting return to airport? Flight display: KELO 6 miles away.
      - Total electrical failure? Witnesses saw navigation lights.
      - Partial electrical failure / disabled panel? Possible.
      - Instrument error? Maybe, or not trusted (illusions).
      - Aerobatic performance for someone he knew at lake? Unlikely.

      Nothing listed seems more likely that the dark night SD possibility.

  10. The preliminary report witness description of twice under the cloud layer over the lake before the final pullup and crash is sobering.