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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA17FA145
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, April 04, 2017 in Micanopy, FL
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 April 4, 2017, about 0910 eastern daylight time, a Pipestrel Virus SW, N155CL, was destroyed when it impacted a pasture in Micanopy, Florida. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed Sebring Regional Airport (SEF), Sebring, Florida, at 0800, destined for Oconee County Regional Airport (CEU), Clemson, South Carolina. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Preliminary radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the airplane was on a northerly track from SEF toward Micanopy about 8,000 feet mean sea level. The track ended at an east-west oriented line of severe thunderstorms and rain showers that extended about 100 nautical miles to either side of the track, according to preliminary National Weather Service (NWS) weather radar data. The pilot was in contact with air traffic control throughout the flight, he did not transmit any distress calls.

A witness located at his residence about 200 yards from the accident site reported that he had had been outside in the pasture when it started to rain. He went inside his house and 3 to 5 minutes later he heard an airplane engine. He indicated that the engine sound was smooth and continuous and sounded as though it flew over his house. The engine noise abruptly stopped, followed by "a loud pop sound, similar to a lightening crack." He looked outside and saw the airplane in the pasture and asked his wife to call 911.

The airplane impacted about 90° nose down in a grass pasture. All major components were accounted for at the scene, except the left wing and flaperon. The main wreckage was fragmented and confined to an area about 75 feet in diameter, a majority of which was within a wingspan to either side of the engine. The empennage was separated from the aft fuselage. The rudder and horizontal stabilizer were separated from the T-tail style vertical stabilizer. Flight control continuity was established from the rudder pedals to the rudder control horn, which was separated from the rudder. Flaperon and elevator control continuity could not be confirmed due to impact damage.

The engine was buried in the initial impact crater, 3 feet below the surface. All three carbon fiber propeller blades were fractured at or near their root. One of the blades was not located. The gearbox and propeller hub were separated from the engine crankcase. The crankshaft could not be rotated due to impingement with damaged engine mounts and external components.

A large section of the left wing was located on a farm about 4.5 miles south of the main wreckage. The left flaperon was not found.

According FAA records, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, single engine sea and glider. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued October 28, 2013, at which time he reported 12,100 total hours of flight experience. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accrued 92 total hours of flight experience in the accident airplane as of April 2, 2017.

At 0853, the reported weather at Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV), Gainesville, Florida, about 15 nautical miles north of the accident site included thunderstorms, moderate rain, mist and wind from 100° at 10 knots gusting to 18 knots. The ceiling was broken at 4,300 feet and overcast at 7,500 feet. Visibility was 5 statute miles, the temperature was 19° C, and the dew point was 18° C.

A NWS Aviation Weather Center convective SIGMET for the area surrounding the accident site issued at 0755 warned of severe thunderstorms with tops above flight level 450, and wind gusts up to 50 knots.

An electronic flight instrument system was recovered from the accident site and forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder laboratory for examination.