Sunday, November 08, 2020

Beechcraft J35 Bonanza N617Q and Beechcraft M35 Bonanza, N338Z: Fatal accident occurred November 06, 2020 near Gillespie County Airport (T82), Fredericksburg, Texas

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 traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas 
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas  

Location: Fredericksburg, TX
Accident Number: CEN21FA043
Date & Time: November 6, 2020, 16:38 Local
Registration: N617Q (A1); N338Z (A2)
Aircraft: Beech J35 (A1); Beech M35 (A2) 
Injuries: 1 Fatal (A1); 2 Minor (A2)
Flight Conducted Under:

On November 6, 2020, about 1638 central standard time, a Beech J35 airplane, N617Q, and a Beech M35 airplane, N338Z, were involved in a mid-air collision near Fredericksburg, Texas. The Beech J35 was destroyed, and the Beech M35 sustained substantial damage. The Beech J35 pilot sustained fatal injuries, and the Beech M35 pilot and pilot-rated observer sustained minor injuries. The airplanes were operated as Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flights.

According to the N338Z pilot and observer, the accident flight was a four-airplane formation flight that planned to practice formation operations in an area north of the Gillespie County Airport (T82), Fredericksburg, Texas. The airplanes were designated as A1 (N617Q; pilot and flight leader), A2 (N338Z; pilot and accompanied by an observer), A3, and A4. The flight was the third flight of the day for the A2 pilot.

The A1 and A2 airplanes departed T82’s runway 14 together and A3 and A4 followed their takeoff. Shortly after takeoff, the flight leader gave the signal to retract the landing gear and began a right turn. For an unknown reason, A2’s landing gear would not retract. At that time, either A3 or A4 notified the group via radio that A2’s landing gear was extended. A3 and A4 then rejoined to the left of A1 on the outside of the turning circle. A2 then moved to the “route” position (about 3 to 4 airplane widths away from A1) to troubleshoot the landing gear problem. While in the route position, A2 notified A1 the landing gear would not retract and thought it was in the down and locked position.

A1 acknowledged A2’s landing gear issue and cleared airplanes A3 and A4 to proceed to the practice area and maneuver as a two-airplane flight. A1 stated he would follow A2 back to T82, and A3 and A4 separated from the formation to the left and headed towards the practice area.  A1 directed A2 to take the lead and return to T82, and A2 acknowledged. A2 made a slight right turn away from A1 and leveled out on downwind for runway 14. A1 was about 3 to 4 airplane wingspans left (to the west) of A2.

At this time, A1 now became A2, and A2 became A1 per procedures due to the position of the airplanes for the remaining portion of the flight. Just prior to briefing the approach and landing plan, the pilot and observer (now A1) heard a loud “bang/wham” and the airplane violently shook. The airplane immediately pitched down, and the left wing dropped. A1’s engine sound went quiet which confused the pilot on what happened, as engine oil began to accumulate on the windscreen. The pilot reported that he and the observer were unsure of the damage to the airplane and constantly maintained cockpit resource management during the emergency descent. The pilot identified an off-airport landing area and was concerned about keeping the wings level and flying the airplane.

The pilot executed a forced landing to a grassy and small tree area. During the landing, the airplane impacted small trees, skidded, and came to rest upright. The pilot and observer exited the airplane, and rescue personnel arrived shortly thereafter.

Numerous witnesses reported observing or hearing the midair collision. According to the witnesses, after the collision, one airplane (N617Q) descended very rapidly towards the terrain and one airplane (N338Z) was headed in a westerly direction. Witnesses lost sight of N617Q behind trees and observed a fireball and smoke.

The N617Q accident site was located about 2.5 miles northwest T82, and 1.1 miles east of N338Z. N617Q sustained a postimpact fire and was destroyed.

The N338Z accident site was located about 3.6 miles northwest of T82, and 1.1 miles west of N617Q. N338Z sustained substantial damage to its left forward fuselage, and the left and right wings. Damage consistent with propeller impact marks was noted on N338Z’s left forward engine cowling, forward engine cylinders, and nose landing gear tire. N338Z’s three-bladed propeller assembly had separated from the engine crankshaft and has not been located.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information (A1)

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N617Q
Model/Series: J35
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information (A2)

Aircraft Make: Beech 
Registration: N338Z
Model/Series: M35 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VM
C Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KT82,1695 ft msl 
Observation Time: 16:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C /12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 150°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 

Wreckage and Impact Information (A1)

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: On-ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 30.248886,-98.944509 (est)

Wreckage and Impact Information (A2)

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 30.248886,-98.944509 (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

A 73-year-old Fredericksburg pilot and military veteran was killed last week while practicing formation flying in preparation for a Veterans Day event, according to various sources.

Jim "Flagman" Averett, who flew for the U.S. Air Force and then Delta Airlines before retiring, lost his life on Nov. 6 in a midair collision. 

A Texas-based formation flying team expressed its condolences in a November 7th social media post.

“It's with heavy hearts that Falcon Flight announces the loss of one of our own — Jim "Flagman" Averett,” states the post by Falcon Flying Formation Team. “Flagman was well known throughout the formation community in both the RV and Bonanza circles. His skill, easy-going demeanor and most importantly his smile were always on display. Our most deepest sympathies are with Jim's family during this difficult time.”

According to the FAA, Averett was piloting a Bonanza J35, which was destroyed. The other plane, which sustained substantial damage and crash-landed in a pasture following the collision, was a Beechcraft M35 Bonanza. Averett was the sole occupant of the Beechcraft J35 Bonanza, and there were two people in the other plane, according to the FAA. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Averett also used to race cars, and had been serving on the board of the Sports Car Club of America just prior to his death, “in addition to being a fixture at SCCA events in the Southwest Division,” according to an article on As a driver, he earned Southwest Division Championships in Formula Vee in 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1987, according to the article.

“SCCA extends its deepest sympathies to Jim’s wife Madeline, daughter Amanda and their extended family,” states the article. 

A possible mid-air plane collision led to the death of one pilot in Fredericksburg on Friday, November 6th, according to Gillespie County Airport Manager Tony Lombardi.

According to various sources, Jim "Flagman" Averett, 73, who flew for the U.S. Air Force and Delta Airlines, lost his life in the collision. 

The crash occurred over a property on Hayden Ranch Road and Tivydale Road during an annual formation training. During a flight, one of the aircrafts had a gear issue.

“The procedures are to break the mishap aircraft out and send another one to be a helper,” Lombardi said. “One was supposed to be in a trail position, kind of overseeing the other airplane. Then somehow, but nobody knows, they collided.”

The pilot of one of the planes was able to conduct a safe emergency landing.

Planes involved, according to a Twitter post from the National Transportation Safety Board newsroom, were a Bonanza M35 and a Bonanza J35.

The crash is being investigated by the NTSB. 


  1. The public calendar for the Gillespie County Airport shows "TX VTails" event 6, 7 and 8 November. May 18 Advisory board meeting minutes lists TX V-tails formation training – 6-8 Nov.

    Unfortunate accident involving two ships from the formation flying training event.

  2. Here are the Two aircraft involved in this accident

    N617Q 1958 Beech J35 Crashed with 1 Fatality

    N338Z 1960 Beech M35 Landed safely off airport on dirt road

    Link to ASIAS accident info,P96_MAKE_NAME,P96_FATAL_FLG:09-NOV-20,BEECH


  3. Jim was the best pilot that I knew. He will be missed by a lot of people.


  5. Replies
    1. Wasn't a failure to see or be seen. Was formation flying that didn't end well.

    2. Formation flying where one ship was dealing with a gear problem and another "escorted". Both left the planned flight track. Collision likely with two objects moving in 3 axis plus speed differentials while one was dealing with the gear issue.

    3. Which airplane had the landing gear problem?

  6. a distraction inside can create spatial disorientation, the loss of exterior visual references.
    example of "Undetected Spatial Disorientation.
    With his head down inside the cockpit, correcting for improper autopilot and GPS settings, the pilot most likely didn't notice the airplane entering an unusual attitude. When bank and pitch changes at rates slower than 3 degrees per second, your inner ear (the vestibular system) has a hard time detecting the change, especially in cases where visual references are totally lost."

  7. Whichever pilot was dealing with the gear problem faced a big challenge holding steady position if he was pulling the breaker and hand cranking the gear down (see demonstration video below).

    So far there is no info given about relative positioning and whether the collision was a speed differential hit, above vs below, turn across, etc.

  8. So sad and so incredibly unnecessary. Four Bonanza's flying formation? And one of them has a landing gear issue and a second airplane continues to fly formation with the airplane with the maintenance issue? WHY? A Bonanza with a gear problem does not require a "wingman" to be there to observe the trouble shooting or backup extension procedure.

    If flying Bonanzas in formation is your thing and you're qualified to do it, that's great. But when someone in the flight has a mechanical, you don't need to "watch his six" to ward off Tojo or the Red Baron. Just let the crew fly their airplane, work their problem, and RTB without incident.

  9. Collision was from up-close inspecting N338Z's gear, not watching his six.

    Report states: "Damage consistent with propeller impact marks was noted on N338Z’s left forward engine cowling, forward engine cylinders, and nose landing gear tire."

    This means that N617Q collided underneath N338Z. N338Z pilot had the gear issue, "thought it was in the down and locked position" and was returning to land.

    Collision from underneath when both were supposed to be flying straight and level strongly suggests that N617Q's pilot was having a look from underneath to verify gear over center mechanisms had reached full lock position on N338Z.

    Makes more sense than believing that the experienced flight leader in N617Q collided with A1 from underneath when both were station keeping in straight and level flight before the landing plan brief.

  10. Has happened before:

    As Heinz's aircraft neared Philadelphia, on final approach to Philadelphia International Airport, pilot Richard Shreck noticed that the nose landing gear locked indicator was not illuminated. Shreck executed a missed approach and entered a holding pattern north of the airport. The two pilots began troubleshooting the problem and alerted air traffic control. They executed a low pass over the tower whose personnel all agreed the gear was extended. A passing Sun Oil Company Bell 412 helicopter, headed to the company's headquarters, was enlisted to identify if the gear was indeed down and locked.

    The crew of the Bell 412 couldn't identify the condition of the landing gear from a safe distance so moved closer for a better look. At 12:10 p.m., the two aircraft collided over Merion Elementary in Lower Merion, with the helicopter's rotor clipping the left wing and fin of the Aerostar from underneath. The helicopter spun out of control and the Aerostar dived to the ground, disintegrating on impact in the elementary school grounds. Two schoolgirls were killed and five others injured by the debris, which fell in a 250-yard (230 m) radius around the school and surrounding area.


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