NTSB Identification: ERA11FA495
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 17, 2011 in Martinsburg, WV
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN T-28C, registration: N688GR
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
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. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On September 17, 2011, about 1434 eastern daylight time, a North American T-28C, N688GR, registered to and operated by a private individual, collided with terrain during a low altitude aerobatic maneuver being performed at Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show, at the Eastern WV Regional Airport/Shepherd Field (MRB), Martinsburg, West Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 airshow flight. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and the certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, was killed. The flight originated from MRB about 1425.
The intended 15 minute airshow routine of the accident flight consisted of six civilian airplanes. The accident occurred during an opposing pass of two of the airplanes (N688GR and N28XT); there was no damage to N28XT.
The pilot of N28XT who was flying in the No. 5 position reported that he and the accident pilot were laterally displaced and flying towards each other. Their flight paths were to cross at 300 feet above ground level, and then both were to perform an aileron roll. The pilot of N28XT was to roll to the right after crossing, while the pilot of the accident airplane was to roll to the left after crossing. The pilot of N28XT reported that after crossing and before the next pass, he radioed the pilot of the accident airplane because he did not observe him in the air but there was no response. Another member of the team also attempted to communicate with the pilot of the accident airplane but was unsuccessful. The pilot of N28XT then flew over the airport and noted movement of fire rescue vehicles but thought they were responding to a grass fire until he observed the empennage of the accident airplane. He informed the pilots of the other four airplanes of the crash, and joined up with them in formation, then all diverted to a nearby airport and landed uneventfully. The pilots of the other four airplanes later reported they did not witness the accident sequence prior to ground contact.
A military pilot who witnessed the accident sequence reported seeing a clean separation of the eastbound and westbound aircraft during the opposing pass. It appeared to the witness that both aircraft pitched up about the same time to begin the aileron roll maneuver; however, the eastbound aircraft (N28XT) appeared to pitch up slightly higher than the accident airplane which was flying westbound. The witness noted that the pilot of the accident airplane initiated a roll to the left which he described as more consistent with a slow barrel roll rather than an aileron roll. It appeared to the witness that the roll slowed as it approached the 90 degree point and appeared to stop at that point. From this point the airplane descended and impacted the ground.
Another military pilot familiar with aerobatic maneuvers reported that he observed the accident airplane following the opposing pass. He described seeing the initiation of an aileron roll which in his opinion degraded into a barrel roll. From this point the airplane descended and impacted the ground.
Still digital images, security camera video recordings, and a high definition video recording of the opposing pass were provided to NTSB for review and analysis. The video image recordings were sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders laboratory for evaluation. Preliminary examination of the high definition video recording revealed it captured both airplanes at about the point where their paths crossed, and continued recording the flight of the accident airplane from that point to ground impact. The video recorded the accident airplane pitching up and rolling left thru approximately 270 degrees; however, from about the inverted position, the airplane began a nose-low descent which continued to ground impact on airport property.
Further review of the video revealed no parts separating from the accident airplane before ground impact. Additionally, video and still digital images provided to NTSB depicting the bottom of the airplane immediately before the accident did not reveal any open panels.
The accident occurred during daylight conditions; there were no ground injuries.
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