Thursday, May 27, 2021

Grumman American AA-5A, N26889: Fatal accident occurred May 25, 2021 near Rockwood Municipal Airport (KRKW), Cumberland County, Tennessee

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 Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Nashville, Tennessee
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Location: Crossville, TN
Accident Number: ERA21FA232
Date & Time: May 25, 2021, 07:30 Local 
Registration: N26889
Injuries: 1 Fatal Flight Conducted
Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On May 25, 2021, about 0730 central daylight time, a Gulfstream American AA-5A, N26889, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Crossville, Tennessee. The student pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

Preliminary radar data obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an interview with the student pilot’s flight instructor, and telephone records revealed that the airplane departed Crossville Memorial Airport (CSV), Crossville, Tennessee on the second leg of its flight about 0715. The airplane’s next planned stop was Cleveland Regional Jetport (RZR), Cleveland, Tennessee, about 50 miles to the south of CSV. The airplane climbed on a southerly track to 3,700 ft msl before beginning a gradual descent about 0718. The airplane continued its descent on its southerly track until about 0723 and 3,000 ft msl, when the airplane entered a 450° descending right turn.

At 0726, about 2,300 ft msl, the student pilot placed a telephone call to his flight instructor’s cellular telephone. According to his instructor:

“He called me from the air. He said the airplane’s engine was not making full power; making 75 knots at 1,700rpm. Normal cruise was around 2,400rpm about 95 knots airspeed.

Initially, his demeanor was quite calm, and remained calm while he was talking to me.

I helped him with troubleshooting, I asked about fuel state, magnetos on, carb heat position, and the instruments were all in the green, but the engine was not making full power, and the airplane could not climb. From there, I asked where he was, what is your closest airport, and he thought he was 40 to 50 miles from Crossville and didn’t think he could make it back. I remember telling him to land at the nearest airport and I would pick him up, but he said he had slowed to 70 knots. I told him to make an emergency landing in a field, and he said there were trees and mountains and I asked if he was talking to ATC, and he said he was not. Soon after, I heard the sound of trees and impact and the connection went dead.”

The airplane completed its course reversal about 8 miles south of CSV, and traversed a large, open, cultivated field before impacting rising terrain on a heavily wooded ridgeline.

The student pilot had begun flight lessons about 1 month prior to the accident. According to his instructor, the student had accrued 44 hours of flight experience, all of which was in the accident airplane. The student pilot was a conscientious student who flew an average of 3 times per week. The instructor stated that the student was enrolled in an online ground school, and that they would discuss the lessons before each flight. The accident flight was the student’s first cross-country solo flight.

The airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed December 11, 2020 at 5,221.84 total aircraft hours.

Examination of the airplane at the accident site revealed the wreckage path was about 1,800 ft elevation, oriented about 030° magnetic and was about 75 ft. long. The initial impact point was in a tree about 50 ft tall, and pieces of angularly cut wood were found along the wreckage path.

The airplane was consumed by postcrash fire. Remnants of each wing and the main wing spars were found adjacent to main fuselage area. The tail section was impact damage but remained largely intact.

Control cable continuity was established from the control column and rudder pedals to the rudder and elevators. Continuity was established from the control column through breaks at each wing root, out to the ailerons. The cable breaks displayed features consistent with overload failure. The instrument panel and its contents were consumed by fire. The engine displayed significant fire damage, and the accessories along with their associated wires, hoses, and fittings, were consumed by fire.

One propeller blade displayed aft bending and the other appeared intact and undamaged by fire. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller. It was subsequently recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N26889
Model/Series: AA-5A
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: KCSV,1870 ft msl
Observation Time: 07:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C /17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 9 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Crossville, TN (CSV)
Destination: Cleveland, TN (RZR)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.8455,-84.97611 (est)

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

Vasile Ghelan

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WVLT) - Friends of Vasile Ghelan gathered in a Rocky Hill field to honor the life of their dear friend.

Ghelan died Tuesday in a crash near the Rockwood Municipal Airport.

”His absence will be felt just as much as his presence always was,” said friend Ahleasha McNeal.

A part of a volleyball group, Ghelan was a light and friend for all.

”The phrase full of life is what you’ll hear over and over he was always going from one adventure to the next, whether he was going down to the beach or to Colorado snowboarding, or going camping with his family, or coming here and playing volleyball... he was always doing something,” said McNeal.

The sheriff's office released the tail number of the single-engine plane and said it was used by a flight school based out of Knoxville Downtown Island Home Airport. FAA records show Ghelan was certified as a student pilot not allowed to carry passengers, and that the airplane was registered to another man.

The Grumman American AA-5A took off from Knoxville Downtown Island Home Airport at 7:39 a.m. ET, according to FlightAware, an aircraft tracking website.

Ghelan was a friend to all and an avid adventurer.

His friends who knew him best say he will be missed more than they can express.

”Everything he’s done has left such a lasting impression on me and we’re all just taking it, pretty hard,” said David Middlebrooks. ”It’s going to be hard coming tomorrow to Thursday league and him not being there.”

First responders initially reported a possible plane crash Tuesday morning around 8:55 a.m. Officials moved the search to Cumberland County Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the morning crews searched the area North of the Rockwood Municipal Airport near Camp Austin. Authorities also searched the Clarkrange area in Cumberland County.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has sent a helicopter to assist with the search. Multiple agencies joined the search efforts to locate the crashed plane.