Sunday, May 29, 2022

Grumman G-164B Ag-Cat, N178LB: Fatal accident occurred May 28, 2022 in Whiskerville, Lawrence County, Arkansas

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 Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Little Rock, Arkansas 

Hackberry Flying Service LLC

Location: Whiskerville, Arkansas
Accident Number: CEN22FA215
Date and Time: May 28, 2022, 13:40 Local
Registration: N178LB
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On May 28, 2022, about 1340 central daylight time, a Grumman American Aviation G-164B airplane, N178LB, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Whiskerville, Arkansas. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight.

The operator reported that the pilot departed for training purposes from the operator’s airstrip near Beech Grove, Arkansas, at 0910, and flew west toward Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. She returned at 1010, refueled the airplane, and flew to the east of Walcott, Arkansas, where she configured her onboard systems and performed several practice aerial application passes over a rice field. The pilot returned to the operator’s airstrip at 1105 and shut down the airplane.

At 1210, another company pilot departed in the airplane and performed an aerial application flight to configure the onboard systems for the pilot. After several aerial application loads, the other company pilot returned to the operator’s airstrip, and the pilot departed in the airplane. She flew the airplane to the rice field she was scheduled to fertilize, located about 1.5 nm southwest of O’Kean, Arkansas. She performed several practice aerial application passes before she returned back to the operator’s airstrip. The hopper was loaded, and the airplane was refueled to about three quarters full of Jet A fuel. The fiberglass hopper had 2,500 lbs of dry product on board. According to the operator, this was the pilot’s first heavy aerial application load.

Shortly before the accident, the operator heard the pilot announce over the company radio frequency, that “I’ve got to land this airplane,” and there were no further radio transmissions from the pilot. The operator classified her tone on the last radio transmission as, “not distraught.” After several attempts to contact the pilot over the radio with no success, a fellow company pilot who was airborne, departed from his current rice field, and flew to the field where the pilot was scheduled to be. He observed black smoke rising in the air before arriving and then observed the wreckage once he arrived on scene.

A witness, who lives about 1.6 nm northwest of the accident site, reported that he was outside working on his farm when he heard the accident airplane flying nearby with a constant engine noise. The engine suddenly either “cut off” or “shut off,” and he heard no further engine noise. The witness believed that the engine “died.” About 5 seconds later, he heard a loud impact noise, and then shortly after he observed black smoke emitting from the accident site. The witness immediately contacted first responders to report the accident. While the witness did not observe the accident sequence, he reported he is familiar with the engine noise emitted from the various turbine-powered airplanes used to provide aerial application services in the area. The witness classified the weather conditions at the time of the accident as clear, the temperature was about 85° F, and the wind originated from the south at about 10 mph.

The airplane came to rest upright on a north to south oriented ditch, in between two large rice fields, about 1.8 nm to the southeast of the rice field and about 3.8 nm northwest of the operator’s airstrip. Based off ground impact marks, the airplane impacted the west side of the ditch, traveled across the area filled with water, and came to rest on the east side of the ditch. A postimpact fire ensued and the wreckage was destroyed. There was no evidence of any obstacle strikes in the area. All major structural airframe components were located at the accident site. The turboprop engine and the metal propeller separated from the airframe and were found buried in the dirt. The wreckage was recovered from the accident site for future examination.

At the time of the accident, the estimated density altitude for the accident site was 1,599 ft above msl.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N178LB
Model/Series: G-164B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural aircraft (137)
Operator Designator Code: NOSG

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KARG,273 ft msl
Observation Time: 13:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C /17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Beech Grove, AR (PVT) 
Destination: Whiskerville, AR

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: Unknown
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 36.133295,-90.80047 (est)

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances. 

Date: 28-MAY-22
Time: 18:47:00Z
Regis#: N178LB
Aircraft Model: G-164
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 1
Flight Crew: 1 fatal 
Pax:  0 
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 137
Aircraft Missing: No

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

Petra Sobotka
May 22, 1977 - May 28, 2022

Petra Sobotka, 45, of Orlando, Florida, passed from this life on Saturday, May 28, 2022. She was born in Plzen, Czechoslovakia to Marlowe Mure and George Sobotka. As a 10 year old child, her family escaped Czechoslovakia and made it to West Germany. After three years as refugees in Germany, her family were granted visas to Canada. 

Petra was a determined individual and even after all the hardships she endured as a child, she became a successful pilot. Her latest job was flying as an Ag Pilot. Prior to that, she was a pilot-first officer at Southern Air Inc. and KF Aerospace-Kelowna Flightcraft. 

Petra loved being in the air whether it was in an aircraft or skydiving. She also loved to cave dive and met Eric doing so. She loved life, freedom, her travels, family and animals.

Petra is survived by her husband, Eric Alexander, her mother and father, and thousands of friends she has made over the years.

No services are scheduled at this time.

Lawrence County, Arkansas (KAIT) - According to Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Yates, a pilot was killed in a Saturday afternoon plane crash.

A crop duster plane crashed in Lawrence County Saturday.

The plane crashed around County Road 605. An exact location was not given.

According to Yates, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been contacted.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, FAA, and NTSB will be investigating the crash.


  1. R.I.P. PETRA! You will b missed by many

  2. RIP Petra You will be missed here in Bainbridge Georgia. Eric I will put a permanent memorial up for Petra.

  3. Sorry we were never able to get you into that Long Eze I mentioned to you. Lots of canard folks are sad today. - Pops

  4. R.I.P Petra. You were a very cool chick. Gone too soon.

  5. Replies
    1. TFA says the aircraft was equipped with a turboprop.

  6. Was this a training school? Petra was quite accomplished but she didn't hold a US Private or Commercial Single Engine Land rating, only a Private Single Engine Seaplane rating plus her ME ATP certificate according to the faa airman record website (

  7. ATP certificate supersedes Private and Commercial Single Engine Land Cert.
    You must have accomplished both along with having an instrument rating plus additional time and flight experience.


    Airman opted-out of releasing address
    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: Second Medical Date: 2/2022
    BasicMed Course Date: None BasicMed CMEC Date: None

    Certificates Description
    Date of Issue: 12/22/2020


    Type Ratings:
    A/B-737 A/DC-10 A/DHC-8

    B-737 CIRC. APCH. - VMC ONLY.

    1. Not Correct - A multi-engine ATP supersedes multi-engine Commercial and Private, but does not bestow any single engine privileges. Her single engine privileges according to the FAA database are for private, single engine sea.

  8. Following up - Not to say that she was flying a single-engine land airplane illegally, but probably that she had passed her single engine land check-ride recently, and the FAA database did not reflect her current status with her temporary airman certificate. The AG operator would have checked her credentials, because they know they would be hung out to dry by the insurance company and the FAA if they were to hire someone to fly their planes with only single engine sea privileges.

    1. The FAA does report the dates currently being clerked, so it will be possible to know whether there was a temporary certificate issued as the date rolls past the accident. Just looked and got this status:

      "We are currently processing permanent Airmen Certificates for temporary certificates that were issued approximately April 28, 2022."

      Link used for checking clerking date progress:

  9. Petra completed the Rutan Aircraft Flight Experience (RAFE) in 2019, and flew the RAFE Speed Canard to OSH2019 where she spent the week talking to visitors about the unique aircraft. The owner-operator-president of RAFE runs a tight ship operation teaching qualified pilots to fly Rutan's canard designs out of a Covington, TN home base. There is no way Petra was even enrolled at RAFE, much less grad from the course, unless her ASEL pilot credentials weren't in-place in 2019.

    1. Let’s hope this is a case of the FAA database being incorrect for many years, and that Petra was indeed qualified to fly single engine land airplanes.

    2. Your take:
      "There is no way Petra was even enrolled at RAFE, much less grad from the course, unless her ASEL pilot credentials weren't in-place in 2019."

      My take:
      Girls (much less semi-pretty girls) get special treatment regardless of your insistence of no wrong doing (i.e. over-sight) by RAFE.

      This is here Certificate:
      Date of Issue: 12/22/2020

      This is mine:

      If she was an ASEL she would have had it mentioned by the FAA. Land and Sea are not the same. Amphibian or not. It would have been separated and listed on her certificate.

      Her date of last ISSUE is well after the time you reference.

    3. Based on condolences in earlier comments from Bainbridge, Ga. and an informal look in business records finding a first name match to a contact at one of the Ag pilot training schools there, watching the registry a little bit longer for a lagging update that adds ASEL to the record may be worthwhile before presuming misdeeds by the pilot or the business operator.

    4. ATP is NOT a rating. It is a certificate grade under which ratings are issued.

  10. Okay, this back and forth debate as to whether Petra had a SEL endorsement can be proven in this very accident report. Watch the YouTube video of her teaching "Eric" how to "Hand Prop" her Aeronca Champ, dated May 15, 2021.

    Re: Anonymous above. "Let's hope this is a case of the FAA database being incorrect for many years, and that Petra was indeed qualified to fly single engine land airplanes."

    Ha, what's new with the FAA database being incorrect for many years? RIP Petra, you cleared up the confusion right from the start.

    1. There are YouTube videos of people flying airplanes, but that does not prove they are rated in the airplane. Sometimes flying without a rating is deliberate, sometimes it’s due to ignorance. I had an ex military pilot come to me for a flight review in his Cessna 210 that he’d owned and had been flying for years. It was during our review of the regs that he learned he needed a complex and a high performance endorsement to be legal to fly the plane he owned. He just didn’t know he needed it.

    2. He had been flying his Cessna 210 for years? He must have skipped all the BFR's until he came to you. Bet he did know all about high performance and complex ratings, but figured his military flight experience superseded civil aviation requirements.

    3. He had several flight reviews prior to the one with me, but evidently the prior instructors didn’t check or question. The guy knew his plane and everything WRT complex and high performance aircraft, so the sign-off was simple. Stuff slips through the cracks.

    4. Copy that. Thanks. Glad you signed him off.

  11. G-164 empty weight is around 2,700 lbs. Adding 2,500 lbs fertilizer load in the hopper changes the power-off handling characteristics. Lost power is a tough break for the very first loaded run, particularly if there may not ever have been any practice landings done with a full hopper.

  12. Flying an overloaded airplane is very different. You have to keep the power on on those turbacks they do. You have to widen the turn to avoid turning too steep and stall, but that delays you, so you dont widen it as required, then you turnback, but feel that have to shallow the bank, whick makes you overshoot the alignment, then You cut the power, because you are overshooting, ect. You simply stall it. For me, that is what happened. She cut the power on a turnback to align. Many never practice accelerated stalls, and.. surprise, STALL. Im the CFI for EFATO and Emergencies on you tube channel called
    Emergercy LowManeuvering.

    1. The reason the pilot's tone of voice was not distraught when she radio'd in the statement “I’ve got to land this airplane,” was because she had would have satisfactorily performed the skills demonstration at max weight required by Part 137 prior to beginning her first run for a customer.

      Not credible to suggest that additional field turnbacks and drop passes were done after the radio call. Presumption that she lacked stick and rudder skills in the Ag plane is just speculation that is to be expected from those who are unaware of the Part 137 requirements.

  13. Really odd to see Ag training with completion paper photos in her May 11 2021 and July 26 2021 Facebook posts but no ASEL in the Registry. Seems like the training outfit that provided the April-May 2021 Aerial Application would have photocopied her card and verified certs before seating her in their Pawnee. Spray operators would have photocopied her card for insurance. May be an airmen database problem.

    1. "airman database problem." Certainly wouldn't be the first time.

  14. I'm a retired airline APD, and was a DPE on the non airline side. I have never seen an error in the FAA database available to the public EXCEPT for a rating that was issued just prior to the "look up date" and FAA medical records that were incorrect because the medical examiner was still doing paper copies and hadn't sent them in. In 25+ years in checking the status of airmen I gave checks to I've never seen a rating just be omitted. If it's not in there, now that everything's pretty much electronic and comes from multiple sources, I'd say, in my opinion, the rating was not granted. The next NTSB report will likely be telling.

  15. As of today, the FAA has at least a 6-week delay for processing airman certificates.
    I would say that is longer than "just prior to the look-up date"

    From the FAA Airmen Certification page:

    "We are currently processing permanent Airmen Certificates for temporary certificates that were issued approximately May 10, 2022"

    Over the years, I have seen many mistakes int the database.

    Another point. Although not impossible, it seems Very, Very unlikely, at least from a cost standpoint, that she could have achieved all of her advanced ratings in Twins or greater and Never have been rated as an ASEL pilot.

    In my opinion, it is some sort of oversite or, inaccurate data entry.

  16. The missing ASEL may have an explanation in her training and experience progression originating in Canada. Looking at a just-found solo photo and TCCA to FAA pilot cert conversion regulation turns up an interesting angle. (This isn't offered to start a flame war, so please read fully before responding. All references except her Facebook are linked so you can see & read them yourself.)

    - A 2010 photo under "Graduates" shows her on the wing of a Cherokee (registration GCEP) after completing first solo at Langley Flying School, British Columbia:,%20First%20Solo%20Flight.html

    - Facebook employment sidebar sequence includes flying a Piper Warrior for Island Express Air of British Columbia. Her TCCA license (yes, Canada calls it a license) would have to be Commercial for that purpose. No reason to believe that she did not complete that single engine training as a graduate in British Columbia. Her pilot duties listed for Island Express also includes piloting a Navajo.

    The conversion of TCCA license to FAA certificate is governed by:

    Interestingly, Chapter 3.0 "Information about Special Conditions" has:
    (c) On the aeroplane licence, TCCA does not issue an ATP licence with a single-engined aeroplane only rating. An FAA ATP certificate holder with a single engine aeroplane only rating (meaning no multiengine aeroplane class rating) will be eligible only for the issuance of a TCCA Commercial Pilot licence with the appropriate single-engined aeroplane rating.

    Also, Chapter 2.1 "Eligibility Requirements" has:
    (d) The FAA, upon converting a TCCA pilot licence, does not require, in any way, the surrender of that TCCA pilot licence.

    My take on this is that she had a proper TCCA Commercial ASEL license to work as an revenue pilot flying that Warrior in Canada. Similarly, she had Commercial AMEL under TCCA for the Navajo. Her TCCA license progressed to ATP, but it appears that TCCA ATP doesn't split out ASEL and AMEL separately.

    Maybe she had a letter from FAA telling her to show her TCCA license and the letter if ASEL was in question while FAA was trying to figure out a redo of the conversion. She obviously had ASEL previously under TCCA - why not still?