Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Van's RV-7A, N383DB: Fatal accident occurred February 22, 2021 near Mayfield Graves County Airport (M25), Kentucky

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.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Memphis, Tennessee
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Nashville, Tennessee 

Location: Mayfield, KY 
Accident Number: ERA21FA135
Date & Time: February 22, 2021, 17:56 Local
Registration: N383DB
Aircraft: BABENCO HENRY D. RV-7 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On February 22, 2021, about 1756 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Vans RV-7, N383DB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Mayfield, Kentucky. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Several witnesses observed the airplane as it conducted touch-and-go landings on runway 1 at Mayfield Graves County Airport (M25), Mayfield, Kentucky. Another witness who was in a vehicle traveling eastbound on a nearby highway saw the airplane climbing, and stated that “as the airplane went higher, the tail dropped and the plane went into a back flip.” The airplane then “headed nose first towards the ground.” The airplane impacted the ground about 1,000 ft north of the airport in an open field.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that all components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident scene and flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit controls to each flight control surface. In addition, there was an odor similar to aviation fuel in the vicinity of the wreckage. Examination of the airplane’s engine revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

An engine data monitor was recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BABENCO HENRY D. 
Registration: N383DB
Model/Series: RV-7 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
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: KCEY,578 ft msl
Observation Time: 17:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 7°C /-1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 200°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Mayfield, KY (M25)
Destination: Mayfield, KY

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 36.779157,-88.584105 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. 

Henry D. Babenco

WESTERN KENTUCKY - The pilot killed Monday in a plane crash northeast of Mayfield was set to go to trial in federal court in Knoxville on March 23, 2021.

Sixty-year-old Dr. Henry D. Babenco of Paducah, the victim of Monday's plane crash, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2019 on a charge of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs.

At the time, Babenco worked at LaFollette Wellness Center in Lafollette, Tennessee. He was one of eight people indicted in Tennessee and dozens nationwide in the fight against illegal prescribing and distribution of opioids and other drugs.

About four years ago, Babenco worked as an anesthesiologist at Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital.

His plane crashed Monday in a field near the intersection of Twin Hill Road and Spence Chapel Road, just north of I-69 and less than a mile from the north end of the Mayfield Graves County Airport runway.

On the Net:

GRAVES COUNTY, Kentucky — The Graves County Sheriff's Office says a man who worked as an anesthesiologist in the Paducah area was killed in a plane crash Monday.

Henry D. Babenco, 60, of Paducah, was piloting the Van's RV-7A experimental aircraft when it crashed into a field near the Mayfield Graves County Airport, said Sheriff Jon Hayden. The field is adjacent to Interstate 69 and near the intersection of Twin Hill Road and Spence Chapel Road.

Investigators believe the plane had recently left the airport when it went down, said Hayden. Calls about the crash came in just before 5 p.m. Monday.

"That's one of the worst calls that you can get, that a plane has crashed in your jurisdiction, and the only thing that you can think about is trying to get to that scene as quickly as you possibly can," said Hayden. "And hopefully there's someone there that you can help or that you can save."

But Babenco did not survive the crash, Hayden said.

"It was very devastating to see a crash like that, knowing that the person in the plane has family," Hayden said. "They're somebody's son, father, brother, and you know, it's very, very tragic. Very tragic for the family. It's tragic for the first responders that had to work the scene."

Hayden said the sheriff's office was first on scene, but did not see any fire, smoke, or debris field. The sheriff's office then contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board for guidance.

Monday night, Hayden and the coroner went to Babenco's home to notify his wife.

"It never gets any easier," Hayden said. "Situations like this, it's always best to try to do, make those types of notifications in person and not over the phone. That's very important that we do that in a manner that shows as much respect towards the family of someone that's deceased."

Babenco's name was withheld until 5 p.m. Tuesday so other family members could be notified.

Investigators with the FAA visited the crash site Tuesday morning. An NTSB team was slated to arrive on Wednesday. The agencies will work together, with the Graves County Sheriff's Office providing support, to determine the cause.

Hayden said investigators have interviewed a couple of people who saw the plane prior to the crash.

"One individual was actually driving down Interstate 69 and saw the aircraft, and thought the aircraft was going down," Hayden said.

Hayden urges anyone who saw the crash or has related details to call the Graves County Sheriff's Office, which will pass the information to the federal investigators.

A man who lives across the street from the crash said in 2019, there was another plane that made an emergency landing on a field next to his home. In that incident, no one was hurt.

Online records show Babenco used to be an anesthesiologist at Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital. But, he had not been on staff for nearly four years, said Kevin Compton, public relations and communications manager for Bon Secours Mercy Health.

Graves County Sheriff's Office

On Monday, February 22, 2021 at approximately 4:55 PM deputies from the Graves County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of an aircraft crash near the Mayfield/Graves County Airport.  Once in the area, an airplane was confirmed to have crashed in a field near the intersection of Twin Hill Road and Spence Chapel Road, just north of Interstate 69.  Further investigation confirmed that the pilot of the aircraft died as a result of the crash.  Further information is being withheld until notification of the family of the deceased can be made.  

Sheriff’s Office personnel will continue to secure the crash scene overnight.  A meeting with the National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled for Tuesday morning.  The NTSB will handle the investigate into the cause of the crash.  

Deputy Sheriff Zac Smith is leading the investigation into this incident for the Sheriff's Office. 

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the following agencies:

Mayfield Fire Department
Mayfield/Graves County EMS
Mayfield / Graves County Fire Rescue
Kentucky State Police
Graves County Coroner’s Office 
Graves County Emergency Management
Mayfield / Graves County Airport Board and Management


  1. https://www.casemine.com/judgement/us/5de4b24b342cca0c32fa3bc9

  2. forfeiture of real property


  3. Surrenders his medical license forever and permanently

  4. Suicide from the downturn his life had taken in recent years?

  5. Suicide or Poor Judgement ? I wouldn’t be surprised by either one.

    1. Why would someone doing touch and goes commit suicide? Likely messed up go around maybe didn't set the mixture control back to rich who knows.