Sunday, July 11, 2021

Loss of Control in Flight: American Ranger 1 AR1, N14968; fatal accident occurred July 11, 2019 near Hawley Municipal Airport (04Y), Clay County, Minnesota

Bradley James Gibb 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Hawley, Minnesota 
Accident Number: CEN19FA218
Date & Time: July 11, 2019, 12:30 Local
Registration: N14968
Aircraft: Gibb AR-1 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot of the gyroplane departed on a local personal flight in visual meteorological conditions at an unknown time. Several witnesses saw the gyroplane descending straight down and impacting the ground near the departure airport. All major components of the aircraft were located at the accident site. No preimpact anomalies were noted with the gyroplane. The pilot had built the gyroplane from a kit about a year before the accident. As best as could be determined from his flight records, the pilot had received about 36 hours of flight instruction in the gyroplane. Autopsy and toxicology testing of the pilot revealed no evidence of physiological impairment or incapacitation, and the reason for the gyroplane's descent and impact with terrain could not be determined.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An in-flight loss of control and collision with terrain for reasons that could not be determined based on the available information.


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft (general) - Not attained/maintained
Not determined (general) - Unknown/Not determined

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Uncontrolled descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

On July 11, 2019, about 1230 central daylight time, a Gibb AR-1 gyroplane, N14968, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Hawley, Minnesota. The pilot was fatally injured. The gyroplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot departed Hawley Municipal Airport (04Y), Hawley, Minnesota, at an unknown time. Several witnesses to the accident were interviewed by local law enforcement. Three of the witnesses described the gyroplane descending vertically toward the ground. A fourth witness said the gyroplane spun about three times before impacting terrain. The gyroplane came to rest about 300 ft from the departure end of runway 16 at 04Y.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private; Sport Pilot 
Age: 69,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Gyroplane 
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: September 11, 2017
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 43 hours (Total, all aircraft), 43 hours (Total, this make and model), 8 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 6 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 6 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

The pilot held a sport pilot endorsement with a gyroplane rating. His third-class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman medical certificate was not valid after September 30, 2018.

A flight instructor at Rotorcraft Unlimited, LLC, Tampa, Florida, reported that he gave the pilot 25 to 30 hours of dual instruction in the accident gyroplane in January, February, and June 2018. The instructor flew the accident gyroplane to Hawley and gave the pilot an additional 5.5 hours of instruction between June 20 and June 24, 2019.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Gibb
Registration: N14968
Model/Series: AR-1
Aircraft Category: Gyroplane
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental (Special)
Serial Number: 0027
Landing Gear Type: 
Tricycle Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: July 12, 2018
Condition Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1232 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed 
Engine Model/Series: 912ULS
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 100 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

According to SilverLight Aviation, Zephyrhills, Florida, the pilot traveled to their facility on two different occasions to assemble the gyroplane from a kit under their supervision and using their tools. He completed the gyroplane in 2018 A test pilot conducted the phase 1 flight tests between May 28, 2019, and June 17, 2019. He then certified that "the prescribed flight hours [had] been completed and the aircraft [was] controllable throughout its normal range of speed and throughout all maneuvers to be executed, has no hazardous characteristics or design features and is safe for operation."

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: JKJ,918 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 13 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 12:35 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 270°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 9 knots / 14 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 190° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Hawley, MN (04Y) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Hawley, MN (04Y)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 12:30 Local
Type of Airspace: Class G

The 1235 weather observation recorded at Moorhead Municipal Airport (JKJ), Moorhead, Minnesota, located 13 miles west of 04Y, included wind from 190°; at 9 knots with gusts to 14 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 25° C, dew point 17° C, altimeter setting 30.03 inches of mercury.

Airport Information

Airport: Hawley Municipal 04Y
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 1210 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 16 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3398 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: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 46,-96(est)

The gyroplane impacted the ground on a magnetic heading about 175°. The evidence at the site was consistent with the left (retreating) blade striking the ground first and twisting the gyroplane clockwise. There was a 30-ft ground scar from the impact point to the main wreckage. All of the wreckage was contained within a 50-ft perimeter. All major components of the aircraft were accounted for, including both main rotor blades, the engine, and all 3 blades of the pusher-type propeller. No preimpact anomalies were noted with the gyroplane.

Medical and Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office, St. Paul, Minnesota. According to its report, the cause of death was "multiple traumatic injuries."

A toxicology screen performed by FAA's Forensic Sciences laboratory found salicylate and 31 (ug/mL, ug/g) acetaminophen in urine, both of which are over-the-counter analgesics that are not impairing.

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