Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Sonex, N432SX: Fatal occurred November 08, 2021 in Malone, Jackson County, Florida

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 Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama

Location: Malone, Florida
Accident Number: ERA22FA051
Date and Time: November 8, 2021, 16:20 Local 
Registration: N432SX
Aircraft: Issitt Sonex 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 8, 2021, about 1620 central standard time, an experimental, amateur-built Sonex airplane, N432SX, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Malone, Florida. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to a friend of the pilot, on the day of the accident the pilot reported that the airplane had experienced engine issues, which included a total loss of engine power on two occasions during a flight earlier that day. The friend questioned the pilot to get more details, but the conversation was interrupted, and the pilot did not explain what actions he performed to restore engine power.

Another witness who spoke with the pilot before the accident flight reported that the pilot stated that he thought that he had found “the problem” and he was planning to remain in the airport traffic pattern at the Marianna Municipal Airport (MAI), Marianna, Florida. The witness reported the flight departed from runway 36 and continued straight-out after departure. He then diverted his attention and did not witness the accident.

A third witness, who was located about .65 nm south-southwest of the accident site reported that he was in the cab of a tractor plowing a field when he observed an airplane that he thought was a “crop duster” flying in a westerly direction at a high rate of speed towards the ground. He did not hear any sound associated with the airplane from inside the tractor cab. The airplane disappeared behind trees and about 1 to 2 seconds later, he saw a big ball of black smoke. Prior to the black smoke he did not notice any erratic movements, nor did he see anything trailing the airplane.

Examination of the accident site revealed the airplane impacted an oak tree about 25 ft above ground level. The airplane then impacted the ground west of the tree and came to rest inverted.

A postcrash fire consumed the cockpit and extensively damaged the engine, which was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Issitt
Registration: N432SX
Model/Series: Sonex NO SERIES 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
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: KMAI,108 ft msl 
Observation Time: 16:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C /4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.22 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Marianna, FL (MAI)
Destination: Marianna, FL (MAI)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 30.996557,-85.165864 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email witness@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

MALONE, Florida — The Federal Aviation Administration has released some information about a fatal plane crash in Malone.

The agency reports that the plane crashed “under unknown circumstances: while attempting to land and caught on fire.” The crash happened Monday afternoon.

One person was aboard the Sonex plane and died in the crash, the FAA wrote.

The aircraft had a registration number of N432SX. According to FAA records, the plane is an experimental, amateur-built fixed-wing single-engine. It was built from a kit and and registered to Greg Issitt in Saint Louis, Missouri.



  1. Photo from a happier time:


    With this Sonex Tri-gear crash report including fire, it is worth noting that the fuel tank location being inside the cockpit between the engine and the back of the instrument panel poses significant risk of cockpit fire during a crash when compared to designs utilizing wing tanks.

    Build photo example, tank shape:
    Build photo example, tank location:
    Build photo example, fuel line between rudder pedals:

    Condolences to family and friends.

    1. ^^^ Well, maybe. In most impacts, one might prefer the Sonex seamless plastic tanks over a nearby aluminum tank that may be more easily breached. It seems that when a Sonex tank gets ruptured, the impact is fatal hard enough to be fatal anyway.

    2. True enough that fuel cell placement is less of a concern when crash severity is too high for basic survival. Even so, having a tank in the cockpit is similar to the old pickup truck designs that had the tank behind the seat. Not done that way now, for obvious reasons.

    3. In YouTube videos of the Subsonex, it looks like the tank is behind the seat. Like the BD-5, given the velocities and minimal structure in front for impact absorption, forced landings and crashes are likely to be unpleasant. Sure look fun when all is working.

    4. I always wondered why so many aircraft like the piper cub had a fuel tank behind a hot engine in front of the pilot. Any frontal impact would shove that hot engine right into a fuel tank. I haven't found lot of crashes where those aircraft caught fire after impact where it wasn't a lawn dart type of crash. You would think find more fires from ground loop landings I didn't find many.

  2. A friend is buildig a Sonex and has had to remove his plastic tank and replace it with an aftermarket aluminum tank. Reason being, the plasic tank is a very tight fit and will deform when when it expands. A common problem with these tanks. The tank is located between the firewall and the panel.

  3. Anonymous who wrote about the fuel tank in the cockpit area was spot on. Upon impact most fuel tanks rupture giving the fuel a chance to atomize and easily ignite from many ignition sources popping off.

    Many years ago there was a day long "symposium" at EAA HQ about this very problem. Included in this gathering were folks from a company called Fomex as I recall.

    Quite a few experimental aircraft kit manufacturers were represented in the audience.

    FOAMEX produces a product which prevents fuel atomization resulting from rupturing fuel tank(s) during an aircraft's ground collision sequence. No explosive, lief-taking,fire. The product only takes up about 3-percent of the fuel tank's volume (small price for the safety factor).

    No idea why the product wasn't promoted by the EAA as a way to make homebuilt aircraft safer. The material is used in military aircraft, race cars and some police vehicles. Some "expert" incorrectly said the foam deteriorates requiring the fuel tank to be cleaned every so often because of fuel filter clogging.

    The cost is quite low for the benefit it offers (a C-150 tank material cost was, back in the 90's, about $250.00. Install was another $400.00- cheap for benefit folks.)

    "....Foamex’s director of research and development, told AVweb the foam is mostly air and displaces only three percent of the available tank volume. And, although air and fuel flow freely through the foam, it acts as a three-dimensional fire screen, preventing the spread of a fire. It also acts as a “plug” in the case of a fuel tank rupture, slowing the escape of fuel. Company spokesman John Galbraith told AVweb the military has been using Safety Foam, as it’s called, for 30 years." Quote from a 2006 AvWeb article.

    The stuff works. Too bad few know about it and/or, if they do, use it. It SAVES lives.

  4. I wonder if this had the AeroVee Turbo engine Sonex sells. It's a VW based turbo charged engine. I know some of these turbos get overheated easily because they have a water jacket which normally would be used in automotive keep the bearing from getting damaged after shut down most turbos on stock cars have them the water will circulate by convection after car is shut off. Sonex has a parts list and a design to add a small radiator, electric pump from a prius on their website forum post say turbo heat is much lower with that radiator cooling.


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