Monday, February 01, 2021

Collision During Takeoff: Van's RV-8, N836JC; fatal accident occurred June 13, 2020 at Mandan Municipal Airport (Y19), Morton County, North Dakota

Joel Todd Pfliger

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota 
Van's Aircraft; Aurora, Oregon
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Investigation Docket - National Transportat
ion Safety Board:

Location: Mandan, North Dakota
Accident Number: CEN20LA227
Date & Time: June 13, 2020, 14:00 Local
Registration: N836JC
Aircraft: Vans RV8
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On June 13, 2020, about 1400 central daylight time, a Vans RV8 airplane, N836JC, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Mandan, North Dakota. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

One witness had a meeting with the pilot and others just before the accident flight. The witness walked over to the airplane after the meeting and noticed that the aft cockpit seatbelt was strapped around the control stick. The pilot said that this was done to hold the airplane's flight controls while parked with windy conditions present. This witness reminded the pilot to remove the belt from around the rear seat controls before departure. The witness walked away from the parking area on the ramp and saw the pilot turn around while in the cockpit, but could not see what he was doing. The witness noticed that the airplane's elevator was up as the airplane departed. The airplane became airborne quickly, flew straight up, rolled left, and then went straight down before impacting the ground; a fire ensued. The witness observed that the elevator was in an up position at the accident site and slowly lowered as the fire continued.

Another witness stated that it was very "windy," and he noticed that the wind swung the airplane around during its taxi for departure. The pilot continued a 360° turn on the ramp and then taxied the airplane to the runway for departure. The witness noticed that the airplane's elevator was up during this time and it stayed up throughout the takeoff. Upon lifting off the runway, the airplane "immediately" went straight up to about 50 ft above the ground, entered a left bank, then entered a nose-down, vertical descent to impact. The witness along with another witness tried to pull the pilot out, but the airplane was engulfed in flames.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 57, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 24, 2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: April 23, 2020
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1022 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans 
Registration: N836JC
Model/Series: RV8 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental (Special)
Serial Number: 81012
Landing Gear Type: 
Tailwheel Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: November 21, 2019
Condition Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 694.9 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed 
Engine Model/Series: IO-360-A1B6D
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 200 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane was a low-wing, tailwheel-equipped airplane with a tandem seating configuration. Both forward and aft seating positions were equipped with seatbelts and flight controls.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KY19,1946 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 13:55 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 100°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 18 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 130° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Mandan, ND (Y19) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Stanton, ND (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 14:00 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: MANDAN MUNI Y19
Runway Surface Type: Concrete
Airport Elevation: 1944 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 13 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 4399 ft / 75 ft 
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: Aircraft
Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 46.768054,-100.89444(est)

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors examined and documented the wreckage site. The inboard portions of both wings, the engine, and sections of the fuselage were thermally damaged consistent with a postimpact fire. A ground scar was present south of the wreckage. 

Linear gouges were observed within the ground scar. The propeller blades exhibited leading edge nicks and chordwise abrasion. The trim tab on the left elevator was displaced downward, consistent with nose-up trim. The cockpit interior was discolored, deformed, and charred. The seatbelt webbing was not identified.

Additional Information

The airplane kit manufacturer had a stated policy in place for all its company pilots that only the pilot’s stick is to be wrapped around the control stick whenever an airplane's controls are secured by wrapping. The copilot/passenger stick is not to be used to secure the controls under any circumstances.

Medical and Pathological Information

The North Dakota Department of Health State Forensic Examiner conducted an autopsy on the pilot and took toxicological samples. The cause of death was listed as blunt head and chest injuries with burning by fire.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory was negative for carboxyhemoglobin, ethanol, and drugs of abuse.


  1. So very hard to fathom, that a reasonably experienced pilot could make a mistake like this, even after being warned. It basically means that the pilot didn't attempt to move the control stick until takeoff speed was achieved. Soft field technique? Not sure since I'm not a tailwheel pilot, but with one pilot and 200 hp, that stick should probably come forward quickly in the takeoff roll. Control lock takeoffs happen with disturbing regularity, and it always amazes me that some pilots don't do any control check at some point between their body hitting the seat and lining up for departure. Horrible way to go, let's not forget anything on those checklists!

  2. yep complacency crazy to think you wouldn't feel that in either taxi or
    immediately after going full power

  3. Seems a “Before Takeoff” checklist was a mere nuisance.

  4. My question about this is why did he choose the rear seat to strap the stick with the seat belt? At the very least, and I know nothing about Van's aircraft, I'd put the belt in MY cockpit seat around the stick. Can't miss that when getting in the front seat. But of course if I had a stick aircraft like this, I'd have spent $200 on a gust lock for it and not half-assed my life on something so stupid.