NTSB Identification: CEN16LA281
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
***This report was modified on August 16, 2017. Please see the docket for this accident to view the original report.***
On July 22, 2016, about 1040 eastern daylight time, a Levon G King Vans RV9A airplane, N807LK, impacted terrain near Springfield, Ohio. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed near the accident site and the airplane was receiving visual flight rules flight following. The flight departed Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI), Bristol/Johnson/Kingsport, Tennessee, about 0850 and was en route to Grosse Ile Municipal Airport (ONZ), Detroit/Grosse Ile, Michigan.
A review of the air traffic control (ATC) and radar data revealed that while en route to ONZ, the pilot was in contact with ATC and attempted to navigate around the oncoming weather and precipitation. From 0957 to 1038 the pilot communicated with the controllers about avoiding the precipitation and requested assistance in doing so. The pilot stated that he could avoid the clouds if ATC could keep him out of the precipitation. The controllers gave the pilot several heading suggestions to the northwest to avoid the precipitation that they observed on their radar scopes. The pilot continued flying east toward the severe weather (figure 1).
In the final 3.5 minutes of the flight while flying east, the airplane made a left 360° turn while descending about 2,900 ft per minute (fpm), then resumed a climb while heading east. Less than one minute later, the airplane made a right 310° turn, descending about 1,200 fpm. The airplane then flew northeast and descended about 4,600 fpm to an elevation of 3,440 ft above ground level (agl). The descent rate increased to about 6,450 fpm until radar contact was lost (figure 2).
A witness observed the accident airplane above her house as it flew east-northeast (figure 2). She stated that the airplane was in a steep descent and disappeared behind a tree line when she heard the sound of an impact. She heard the engine operating before the airplane disappeared behind the trees.
The pilot built the airplane from a kit, which was configured for 2 occupants with side-by-side seating. The airplane received a special airworthiness certificate with an experimental designation on April 27, 2015. The pilot logged the airplane's first flight on July 30, 2015.
The airplane was equipped with a TruTrak electronic flight instrument system, a Garmin GTX 327 transponder, and Free Flight automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). A Garmin 795 handheld GPS was found onboard and was damaged to the extent that a download of non-volatile memory was not possible. An external Garmin GPS antenna was found by the FAA inside the pilot's hangar at ONZ.
The investigation did not find any evidence of a satellite weather subscription and could not determine if the pilot was receiving weather information to the cockpit instruments.
While en route, air traffic controller advised the pilot that two other airplanes had flown over Dayton, Ohio, but that route was located between two cells with heavy precipitation, and there was only 5 to 8 miles clearance on either side. The controller informed the pilot that she would request pilot reports (PIREPs) from the pilots. The air traffic controller informed the accident pilot that the pilots who had transitioned over Dayton indicated that they "didn't really have any problems" flying through that area.
A search of weather briefing sources revealed that the accident pilot contacted Lockheed Martin Flight Service at 0619 and 0804 and received weather briefings. During the first weather briefing, the briefer explained a Convective SIGMET (a weather advisory concerning convective weather significant to the safety of all aircraft) outlook which bordered the area along the western edge of the intended flight track and was valid through 1150. An Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) for moderate turbulence was current to the west of ONZ. It was anticipated that thunderstorms would continue to develop due to a frontal boundary in the area and turbulence was likely near ONZ.
During the second weather briefing at 0804, the briefer explained that rain had developed through northern portions of Ohio and was slowly moving east-southeast. A Convective SIGMET had been issued for the route of flight and an AIRMET for higher level turbulence had been issued for the northern portion of the route of flight. Additional Convective SIGMETs could be issued for Ohio northward during the accident flight and deviations to the west would likely avoid the SIGMET. Thunderstorms were moving southeast toward Columbus, Ohio. The briefer further explained that due to the weather conditions, the pilot would likely go direct Ohio State University Airport (OSU), Columbus, Ohio, then direct to ONZ in order to avoid the thunderstorms.
There is no record of the accident pilot receiving or retrieving any other weather information other than the information provided by ATC.
FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-24C, "Thunderstorms," defines the echo intensity levels and weather radar echo intensity terminology associated with those levels. For decibel (dBZ) values less than 30 the weather radar echo intensity terminology should be "light," 30 to 40 dBZ should be "moderate," and 40 to 50 dBZ should be "heavy." Any values above 50 dBZ shall be described as "extreme." From the National Weather Service, precipitation conditions at the surface can be inferred from VIP Levels described as:
• VIP 1 (Level 1, 18-30 dBZ) - Light precipitation
• VIP 2 (Level 2, 30-38 dBZ) - Light to moderate rain.
• VIP 3 (Level 3, 38-44 dBZ) - Moderate to heavy rain.
• VIP 4 (Level 4, 44-50 dBZ) - Heavy rain
• VIP 5 (Level 5, 50-57 dBZ) - Very heavy rain; hail possible.
• VIP 6 (Level 6, >57 dBZ) - Very heavy rain and hail; large hail possible.
The GPS flight track indicated that the airplane flew through an area of 10 to 40 dBZ reflectivity values located along the route of flight before the accident time. Reflectivity values of 25 to 40 dBZ were located north of the flight path. The accident flight flew into an area of defined thunderstorms while an outflow boundary north of the accident site was moving south. As the outflow boundary moved south across the accident site there was a corresponding increase in the dBZ values in the base reflectivity data. There were lightning flashes and strikes surrounding the accident area with more than 900 lightning flashes associated with the thunderstorms between 1030 and 1040 EDT. The flight path was within 2 miles of the lightning flashes after 1037:02 EDT through the accident time (figure 1).
ATC Transcripts – Partial Summary
10:34:15 – (pilot) good morning Columbus, experimental November eight zero seven lima kilo we 're level (unintelligible) at nine point four
10:34:22 – (ATC) experimental eight zero seven lima kilo Columbus approach altimeter is three zero seven seven
10:34:28 – (pilot) three zero seven seven, seven lima kilo
10:34:35 – (pilot) and seven lima kilo we'd like all the help you can give us around this precip[itation]
10:34:40 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo say again
10:34:43 – (pilot) any help you can give us to avoid the precip[itation] we'd appreciate
10:34:47 – (ATC) seven lima kilo roger my radar scope you need to turn straight to the northwest about a three twenty to three thirty heading uh if you want to try and go through the least amount of precip[itation] on your present heading then your current heading looks good you might you might need to turn a little bit to the right but if you want to stay out of it completely then you need to turn to the northwest
10:35:09 – (pilot) seven lima kilo I think I'll maintain present heading
10:35:13 – (ATC) Roger
10:36:07 – (pilot) Columbus approach seven lima kilo [what do you show] as my present heading?
10:36:13 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo your present heading takes you through the uh worst of the precipitation heavy to extreme precipitation I suggest you turn to the south southwest
10:36:23 – (pilot) seven lima kilo
10:37:38 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo Columbus
10:37:40 – (pilot) seven lima kilo go ahead
10:37:43 – (ATC) I was just, are you turning back to the northeast?
10:37:46 – (pilot) I intended to turn to the southeast
10:37:50 – (ATC) okay your present heading is taking you straight eastbound again right into, at least on my scope, the worst of the precip[itation] so you need to turn the right, if you want to turn to the right to the southwest or southeast if you want to go through the least of it
10:38:04 – (pilot) okay we'll go to the right
10:39:50 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo I can see you continuing to the northeast at least on my scope if you turn a little bit to the left go northbound that you be a through the precipitation here in about twenty miles
10:40:10 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo Columbus
10:40:17 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo if you can hear me Springfield airport is off to your right or the Lisbon airport is just off to your left it's runway five two three one thousand eight hundred by seventy-five feet
10:41:10 – (ATC) experimental seven lima kilo if you can hear radar contact is lost, if you can hear me uh just uh respond
End of Transcript.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector reported that the airplane was found in a corn field (figure 3) about 7 statute miles east of Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport (SGH), Springfield, Ohio.
The main wreckage debris path was generally oriented north and contained the engine, propeller, left and right wings, fuselage, and most of the empennage. The debris path was about 25 yards in length beginning with pieces of a wing and ended with the main wreckage. The instrument panel and forward cockpit area separated from the airplane and were found near the middle of the debris path. The throttle, mixture, and propeller knobs were found near the full forward position. The engine separated from its mounts and sustained impact damage. The propeller was separated from the engine and sustained leading edge damage, S-bending, and rearward bending.
The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and several small pieces separated from the empennage and came to rest in separate locations 0.61 to 0.63 nautical miles southwest of the main wreckage. The vertical stabilizer and rudder (figure 5) and were found with overload signatures at all separation points. The vertical stabilizer separated near the bottom of the rear spar. The rudder was found separated in two large pieces with several small pieces also identified. The counterweight was laterally separated from the top of the rudder. The rudder hinge brackets remained attached to the control rod ends. Most of the hinge bracket rivets were pulled through the vertical stabilizer.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Clark County Coroner's Office, Dayton, Ohio, completed an autopsy on the pilot and the cause of death was blunt force injuries. The Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory at the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute conducted toxicology testing, which revealed 48 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of ethanol in the muscle and 23 mg/dL in the liver. No putrefaction was reported.
Ethanol is primarily a social drug with a powerful central nervous system depressant. After absorption, ethanol is uniformly distributed throughout all tissues and body fluids. The distribution pattern parallels the water content and blood supply of each organ. Postmortem production of ethanol also takes place due to putrefaction processes, but vitreous humor and urine do not suffer from such production to any significant extent in relation to blood. Vitreous humor would normally have about 12% more ethanol than blood if the system is in the post absorptive state, and urine would normally have about 25% more ethanol than blood. The average rate of elimination of ethanol from blood is 18 mg/dL (15-20 mg/dL) per hour.
Air Traffic Control Information
Controllers are required to provide weather and precipitation information to pilots as stated in FAA Order 7110.65, Paragraph 2-6-4, "Weather and Chaff Services":
a. Issue pertinent information on observed/reported weather and chaff areas by defining the area of coverage in terms of azimuth (by referring to the 12-hour clock) and distance from the aircraft or by indicating the general width of the area and the area of coverage in terms of fixes or distance and direction from fixes.
NOTE - Weather significant to the safety of aircraft includes such conditions as funnel cloud activity, lines of thunderstorms, embedded thunderstorms, large hail, wind shear, microbursts, moderate to extreme turbulence (including CAT), and light to severe icing.
PHRASEOLOGY- WEATHER/CHAFF AREA BETWEEN (number) O'CLOCK AND (number) O'CLOCK (number) MILES, or (number) MILE BAND OF WEATHER/CHAFF FROM (fix or number of miles and direction from fix) TO (fix or number of miles and direction from fix).
b. Inform any tower for which you provide approach control services of observed precipitation on radar which is likely to affect their operations.
c. Use the term "precipitation" when describing radar-derived weather. Issue the precipitation intensity from the lowest descriptor (LIGHT) to the highest descriptor (EXTREME) when that information is available. Do not use the word "turbulence" in describing radar-derived weather.
1. LIGHT. 2. MODERATE. 3. HEAVY. 4. EXTREME.
PHRASEOLOGY - AREA OF (Intensity) PRECIPITATION BETWEEN (number) O'CLOCK AND (number) O'CLOCK, (number) MILES, MOVING (direction) AT (number) KNOTS, TOPS (altitude). AREA IS (number) MILES IN DIAMETER.
1. "Area of extreme precipitation between eleven o'clock and one o'clock, one zero miles moving
east at two zero knots, tops flight level three niner zero."
2. "Area of heavy precipitation between ten o'clock and two o'clock, one five miles. Area is two
five miles in diameter."
3. "Area of heavy to extreme precipitation between ten o'clock and two o'clock, one five miles.
Area is two five miles in diameter."
FAA Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Chapter 11, "Weather Theory," states the following:
"…if an aircraft enters a thunderstorm, the aircraft could experience updraft and downdraft that exceed 3,000 ft per minute…a good rule of thumb is to circumnavigate thunderstorms by at least 5 nautical miles…if flying around a thunderstorm is not an option, stay on the ground until it passes."FAA Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge - Chapter 11, "Weather Theory"
"…if an aircraft enters a thunderstorm, the aircraft could experience updraft and downdraft that exceed 3,000 ft per minute…a good rule of thumb is to circumnavigate thunderstorms by at least 5 nautical miles…if flying around a thunderstorm is not an option, stay on the ground until it passes."
FAA Safety Team FAA–P–8740–12 - AFS–8 (2008) "Thunderstorms – Don't Flirt…Skirt 'Em"
Pilots should observe the following rules for any flight routed even potentially near actual or possible thunderstorm activity:
• Avoid all thunderstorms.
• Never get closer than 5 miles to any visible storm cloud with overhanging areas, and strongly consider increasing that distance to 20 miles or more. You can encounter hail and violent turbulence anywhere within 20 miles of very strong thunderstorms.
• Do not attempt flight beneath thunderstorms, even when visibility is good, because of the destructive potential of shear turbulence in these areas.
• At the first sign of turbulence, reduce airspeed immediately to the manufacturer's recommended airspeed for turbulent air penetration for a specific gross weight (design maneuvering speed).
• If the aircraft inadvertently penetrates the thunderstorm, maintain a straight and level altitude on a heading that will take you through the storm area in the minimum time.