Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lancair Evolution, N7569A: Accident occurred February 07, 2021 at Shively Field Airport (KSAA) Saratoga, Carbon County, Wyoming

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 Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Denver


Location: Saratoga, WY
Accident Number: WPR21LA108
Date & Time: February 7, 2021, 18:44 Local
Registration: N7569A
Injuries: 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On February 7, 2021, about 1844 mountain standard time, a Abbett Gerry Lancair Evolution airplane, N7569A, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident at near Saratoga, Wyoming. The pilot and the passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The pilot reported he was at cruise flight at flight level 270 when suddenly the front windshield departed the airplane. The pilot initiated an emergency descent and subsequently landed at Shively Field Airport (SAA), Saratoga, Wyoming, without further incident.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ABBETT GERRY
Registration: N7569A
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: 
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point:
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling:
Altimeter Setting: 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

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: 42.1,-107.58

Gerry Abbett was 27,000 feet in the air and traveling at approximately 350 miles per hour when the windshield of his Lancair Evolution, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

According to information from FlightAware, Abbett and his two passengers departed Afton, Wyoming around 6:12 p.m. and were expected to arrive in Cheyenne, Wyoming just after 7:30 p.m. The aircraft never made it to Cheyenne, but instead made an emergency landing at Shively Airfield around 7 p.m. on February 7.

"When I got up here, the plane had already landed," said Larry De Andredes, manager of Saratoga Jet Center. "There were three people on the airplane, two of the passengers were in the ambulance but he (Abbett) was actually standing at the airplane and I was just asking him 'Are you okay?' and he said 'Yeah, we're all okay'."

When Abbett and his passengers first departed Afton, they had every intention of returning directly to Valparaiso, Indiana. According to Abbett,  however, shortly after takeoff the plane was experiencing some drag while in the air. The culprit, Abbett and his passengers believed, was some snow packed into the retractable gear of the vessel.

"We believe it was because Afton had snow drifts on its taxiways and runway and we had to taxi through it and it prevented the gear door from shutting. We didn't feel it was safe to turn around and land back at the same airport with the runway conditions, so we decided to head towards Cheyenne. It's a place I land at frequently, it's a familiar place," said Abbett in an interview via phone with the Saratoga Sun. "The plane was flying fine. With the gear door not fully closed it was drag, so we were flying a little slower than normal but otherwise everything was fine." 

Abbett had been in the air approximately 32 minutes when things suddenly changed.

"People don't realize it, but when it happens in a pressurized airplane the glass goes outside not inside," De Andredes said. "I just can't even imagine what this guy was in for because, immediately, you have the relative wind in your face. Not to mention, if you use a standard lapse rate of two degrees per thousand feet ... it's going to be about 50 to 54 degrees colder."

For Abbett, as soon as the windshield of his airplane had disappeared, he immediately recognized that the vessel had lost its pressure.

"The very first thing that went into my mind was 'We just lost our pressure. We lost our pressure and we need to come down so that we won't pass out'," Abbett said.

With no oxygen available at 27,000 feet-for reference, Mount Everest's elevation is approximately 29,000 feet-Abbett had to descend quickly. Fortunately, turboprops like the LancAir are designed to move quickly and that includes their descent.

"With these types of airplanes, you can pretty much nosedive it," said Abbett. "Our initial descent was over 8,000 feet a minute."

Abbett took his Lancair Evolution, a plane which has a carbon fiber body, from 27,000 feet to 12,500 feet within minutes ... Medicine Bow Peak sits at approximately 12,000 feet-to get both him and his passengers at a level in which oxygen was available. That still left extreme cold, around minus 45 degrees celsius (minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit), and high winds coming into the plane. Through all of it, Abbett remained calm.

"I've never been the type of person that has ever panicked when something happens. Whenever something arises like that, it's almost like I get a heightened awareness. My eyes will get big and my brain will just become focused," said Abbett. "It's really hard to explain but that's just kind of the way I've always been."

Because Abbett remained calm, it also helped at least one of his passengers remain calm as well. Sitting next to Abbett was his nephew, who is also an instrument trained pilot.

"I wouldn't necessarily say he was panicked but, for good reason, he was seriously concerned. Once he looked over and he saw how I was operating and he saw what was going on, his words to me were 'That made me realize you were on it' and it helped relax him," Abbett said. "Now, the passenger in the back, he didn't know what was going on. I kind of feel like he had the worst of it because he was getting the majority of the wind. In the front, we were able use the avionics panel to kind of duck behind to prevent most of the wind from hitting us directly. He didn't have that luxury and, on top of that, he didn't have the luxury of knowing anything that was going on."

When Abbett landed his plane at Shively Airfield, that calm he had in the air remained.

"The EMT that took my blood pressure at the time just kind of shook his head and laughed," said Abbett. "He was like 'Wow, that's really good'."

Despite subzero temperatures and high speeds, neither Abbett nor his passengers were injured. This comes as a shock to both De Andredes and Bob Maddox, owner of Saratoga Jet Center.

"I am an experienced pilot and what this guy did was at the 'Captain Sully' level, maybe beyond," said Maddox in an email to the Sun.

"You just can't give that guy enough credit, really," said De Andredes.

For Abbett, however, it's difficult to see himself in a heroic role.

"If I was reading about someone else that went through that and did that, I guess I would probably think that of that person, but being myself I don't know," Abbett said. "It's hard for me to think of myself in that regard. I just did what I do."

While Abbett has returned to Indiana, his airplane has not. It is currently sitting at Shively Airfield, but out of the elements thanks to Brush Creek Ranch who has allowed Abbett to store his airplane in their hanger until he can decide what to do with it. Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident.

Abbett is thankful that he was able to land at Shively Airfield, which boasts one of the longest runways in the United States. He also credits his airplane for saving the lives of him and his passengers as much as others credit him. Along with the avionics, the heat put out by the Lancair Evolution kept Abbett's hands warm enough to operate the controls.

Said Abbett, "It did everything I asked it. WIthout that, I don't think we would have made it."


  1. 4:38 time to descend from 27K to 12K per flightaware. Cruising airspeed at 396mph, descent peaked at 448, and then leveled off at 260.

  2. Fantastic airmanship. The pilot really kept his head in the game and solved a very serious situation. Excellent stick and rudder -- someone who actually knows how to fly an airplane. Fantastic outcome.

  3. I believe this has happened previously in an Evolution.

    1. That was N846PM, blew out at 25,000 feet on May 15, 2017. Material analysis was done on the laid up windshield frame and residual windscreen remnants after cutting around the entire window frame and removing as a unit. There were locations noted where the remnants of acrylic material were not bonded to the frame.

      N846PM Report (See "NIAR Examination & Limitations" section):

      N846PM Docket:

    2. Lots of detail, diagrams and photos about the lack of bonding in the Group Chairman’s factual report:

    3. N846PM Aircraft Registration
      Certificate Issue Date2015-02-27
      Airworthiness Date2016-03-21
      Last Action Date2015-02-27

  4. Wondering how much time you have before passing out after a rapid decompression event like that up at 27,000 feet? At 8,000 fpm descent rate, it took 2 minutes to get down near 10,000 ... I thought it would only take a few seconds with no O2 onboard.

    1. FAA chart 1-1 (Pdf sheet 13) in link below says 1.25 to 1.5 minutes after rapid decompression at 28,000 feet. The 40,000 feet duration is 7 to 10 seconds.

      The pilot of N846PM went on his O2 bottle immediately so no passing out concern in that first windscreen failure.

    2. General rule of consciousness* with no supplemental O2 is 3-6 minutes at 25,000(AGL), 7-15 minutes at 20,000, and 20-30 minutes at 18,000. That is all of course dependent on the health of the individual. Mountain climbers routinely operate at 18,000 and up for several hours before hitting the bottle during a rest. Even healthy active people snow ski starting at 13,000' mountain peaks like I've skied in at Breckenridge CO - never missed a beat during heavy exercise up there but I did feel it.

      *Consciousness does not mean you may not have degraded senses and response times of course

      That said, this aircraft has an emergency O2 system on board similar to larger cabin class pressurized single turboprops like the TBM and Malibu where you have a mask known where to be and where to plug into the system. The question is did the passengers have time to find them in the chaos of suddenly hitting arctic temp 300+ mph winds in the face and who knows what flying around in the cabin. I'm pretty sure the pilot was too busy flying it down knowing he had a few minutes to get down to breathable air with the time of different altitudes referenced above (source is a mountain hiking guide book).

    3. ^^I totally forgot to take into consideration that a rapid decompression sucks the air out of your lungs like a vacuum cleaner, so those numbers can be considered cut in half. Still doable though with no emergency O2 in a rapid 8,000fpm descent rate from FL280.

    4. per flightaware, his flight time was 4:38 to descend from 27K to 12K.
      Sun 20:44:3242.0999-107.5846↘ 113°343395 27,000 
      Sun 20:45:0242.0818-107.5287↘ 114°344396 27,000-1,200 
      Sun 20:45:2242.0674-107.4882↘ 119°355409 26,000-6,805 
      Sun 20:45:4342.0413-107.4598↓ 162°372428 22,350-8,159 
      Sun 20:46:0342.0131-107.4332↘ 128°389448 20,425-4,622 
      Sun 20:46:3241.9780-107.3881↘ 136°339390 18,575-2,804 
      Sun 20:46:4941.9615-107.3656↘ 131°302348 18,275-2,711 
      Sun 20:47:2941.9382-107.3045↘ 112°289333 16,000-3,267 
      Sun 20:48:0241.9226-107.2510↘ 112°268308 14,300-2,836 
      Sun 20:48:3341.9090-107.2077↘ 113°251289 12,975-2,469 
      Sun 20:48:5041.9007-107.1843↘ 121°236272 12,325-1,662

    5. FYI, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Peak 8, Wheeler Trail, Colorado, USA
      Elevation: 3962m / 12999feet

  5. People climb Everest without O2, so certainly doable if you're remotely fit and just sitting in a cabin (as evidenced). But what a sensory rush that must have been! Temp, wind, noise all at once. Incredible job..

  6. Repairing N7569A is going to be a chore. Finding a replacement windscreen from someone's un-built kit or having one custom fabricated is just the first step. The lack of removable mounting system in the design is a huge problem.

    The layer of bonded-on fiberglass tape overlapping the inside of the windscreen has to be ground off. The old layer of hysol adhering to the inside surface of the fuselage that was bonding the windscreen to the opening has to be removed.

    If the replacement windscreen can be sourced, hysol'd in place and trapped there with a new layer of wet layup glass tape, the risk of de-bond and blowout experienced twice for the present design will still be there. A tough situation to be in.

    Owners of this model should take some time to read and fully understand the Group Chairman’s factual report in the N846PM docket.

    1. A coin tap test might audibly detect de-bonded areas. Easy to do.

    2. ref the above report. First, interesting that "A limited amount of technical information was provided by the manufacturer to support the
      investigation." Later, the issue of "significant structural flexing of the fuselage" described as "To the left there was paint cracking that extended to the firewall, the extensive cracking directly in front of the windshield was coincident with the delamination of the wet-layup plies that were applied to the fuselage after the two fuselage halves are joined together. The application of these plies in the manufacturing process is shown in Figure 9. These findings are consistent with significant structural flexing of the fuselage."

    3. The windshield didn't de-bond. That wasn't the issue considering the windshield was still in place all the way around the perimeter. The edges of the windshield were not properly prepped for the initial install thus causing stress risers. This was also found to be an issue with N846PM. The likelihood of another blowout is very low since the prep work done this time around was spot on.