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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA13FA201
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 14, 2013 in St. Lucie, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2015
Aircraft: SCHOONOVER JOHN D KIT FOX IV 1200, registration: N117S
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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.

Witnesses reported that the airplane took off from runway 27, turned north, then circled back to a left downwind to land on the same runway. One witness noted that, during the downwind leg, the airplane was “very close in” to the runway and that, although the airplane had taken off in conditions that were a “little hazy,” he subsequently saw the airplane “popping through clouds” on the downwind leg. Another witness reported that, during the airplane’s turn toward the final approach to the runway, she saw the airplane’s nose drop and then the airplane heading “straight down” before it disappeared behind a tree line. Multiple witnesses reported hearing the engine operating at a high-power level. No preexisting mechanical anomalies were found that would have precluded normal operation. The airplane’s close, downwind track and the wreckage location relative to the runway were consistent with a cross-controlled aerodynamic stall. However, the witness statement of the airplane’s nose dropping straight down and the heading of the airplane at ground impact were more indicative of a straight (relatively balanced flight) aerodynamic stall. Toxicology testing on the pilot detected low levels of the sedating antihistamine diphenhydramine and therapeutic levels of the sedating antihistamine doxylamine. The combination of the two drugs may increase side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, and memory problems, and the pilot’s combined use of both drugs likely impaired his performance and contributed to the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during the turn to final, which resulted in an exceedance of the wing’s critical angle-of-attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s combined use of two sedating antihistamines, which resulted in his impairment.