National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Final Report
Date & Time:
08/20/2014, 1455 CDT
AIR TRACTOR INC AT-802A
Loss of control in flight
Flight Conducted Under:
Part 137: Agricultural
The pilot was applying chemicals to a soybean field when the airplane struck trees located at the edge of the field and then impacted the ground. Data from the onboard aerial spray operations computer revealed that the pilot was making spray passes to the east and west over the soybean field at low altitude and reversing course between each pass by making a left 180-degree turn. The data stopped before the tree impact; however, the wreckage path began just east of the north-south line of 50-ft-tall trees and was oriented to the east indicating the pilot was likely about to begin a spray pass to the east when the airplane impacted the trees. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of preexisting anomalies or malfunctions. The propeller blades exhibited signatures consistent with power at the time of impact, and several tree limbs were found along the debris path with smooth, 45-degree cuts. Toxicology testing and autopsy results on the pilot revealed no evidence of an incapacitating event.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to see and avoid trees during a low-level aerial application operation.
Altitude - Not attained/maintained (Cause)
Monitoring environment - Pilot (Cause)
Identification/recognition - Pilot (Cause)
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome (Cause)
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On August 20, 2014, about 1455 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N802BB, registered to Bonne Idee Aero Service Inc., was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and a bean field in Parsons, Tennessee. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the airplane, which departed Beech River Regional Airport (PVE), Lexington-Parsons, Tennessee, was not operating on a flight plan. The local aerial application flight began around 1440 and was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137.
A witness to the accident posted on a social media website that the airplane was flying "fast and low" over the witness's house, which was near the field. Then, the witness watched the airplane "[pull] up to miss the treeline, and seconds later [the airplane] hit the ground."
According to FAA records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He held a first-class medical certificate that was issued April 11, 2013. At that time, the pilot reported 3,600 total hours of flight time, of which, 250 hours were in the previous six months of the medical exam. At the time of this writing, no pilot logs have been located.
According to FAA records, the airplane was issued a restricted, agriculture and pest control airworthiness certificate in 1999 and registered to Bonne Idee Aero Service, Inc. on August 11, 2007. It was equipped with a Pratt and Whitney Canada, PT6-A engine. According to airplane maintenance logbooks, the most recent annual inspection was performed on May 15, 2014, and at that time, the airplane had accumulated 8,797.0 hours of total time in service.
The 1453 recorded weather observation at McKeller-Sipes Regional Airport (MKL) , Jackson, Tennessee, located approximately 38 miles to the southwest of the accident location, included wind from 220 at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 4,200 feet above ground level, temperature 34 degrees C, dew point 23 degrees C; barometric altimeter 30.01 inches of mercury.
The airplane was equipped with a Hemisphere AgJunction Satloc M3 Bantam, which was designed to programmatically control agricultural, aerial spray operations based on vendor and user specified prescription maps. The Satloc M3 recorded various parameters throughout the accident flight.
According to the data, the accident airplane flew multiple passes on a field 6 miles to the southeast of the accident location. Then, at 14:52, the airplane began spraying the field in the vicinity of the accident site. Multiple passes were performed with the lowest recorded altitude of 401 feet above mean sea level. Then, at 14:55:07, the last data point was recorded in the vicinity of the main wreckage.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The initial tree impact occurred on flat terrain in the vicinity of 35 degrees, 42 minutes, 28 seconds north latitude, 088 degrees, 8 minutes, 49 seconds west longitude, at an elevation of about 455 feet. The trees that were impacted were approximately 50 feet tall. The wreckage path, which began with a separated propeller blade was headed about 107 degrees magnetic. Approximately 65 feet beyond the initial tree impact point, there was a 1-foot-deep, 5-foot-long crater with three propeller blades that were separated from the propeller hub located in the vicinity. There were several yellow paint chips located on the ground in between the initial tree strike and the initial ground impact point. The main wreckage came to rest inverted on a heading of 208 degrees. The debris path extended approximately 340 feet beyond the initial ground impact point. An odor similar to Jet A fuel was noted in the vicinity of the wreckage. Several sections of soy beans in the vicinity of the wreckage exhibited blight, consistent with fuel spillage.
The airplane was fractured into multiple sections and pieces, with all flight control surfaces located at the scene. Flight control continuity was confirmed via the control cables from the cockpit to the rudder, and through push rod and bellcrank fractures to the ailerons and elevators.
The front section of the fuselage was impact damaged and bent in the positive direction. The canopy section was crushed and several pieces of the canopy were located along the debris path. In addition, sections from the top of the fuselage, cockpit instruments, and the cockpit panel were located along the debris path. The top section of the fuselage that spanned about 8 feet behind the canopy exhibited crush damage. The seat remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points. Both main landing gear were located about 160 feet beyond the main wreckage. The left and right main landing gear were about 50 feet apart.
The right horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer, and left horizontal stabilizer were partially separated from the empennage and exhibited crush damage.
The left and right wing remained attached to the fuselage. The entire span of the leading edge exhibited aft crush damage. The flaps and ailerons remained attached to the respective wings. The left aileron trim tab was partially separated but remained attached through the outboard attach point. The left wing tip was separated and located along the debris path.
Examination of the engine revealed that soil was found in the gas generator case and throughout the combustion section, the axial turbine blade tips exhibited smearing and the turbine shroud exhibited corresponding circumferential rubbing, and the compressor disc outer rim and blade platforms exhibited circumferential rubbing. The accessory section of the engine was separated and located approximately 30 feet beyond the initial ground impact point.
The fuel control was found separated in the debris path. Fluid similar in odor and color as Jet A fuel drained from the unit. The fuel pump was located along the debris path and contained a fluid similar in odor and color as Jet A fuel. Several sections of fuel lines were located along the debris path.
The five propeller blades that were impact separated from the propeller hub were located along the debris path and exhibited torsional bending and chordwise scratching. In addition, several pieces of the impacted tree were recovered that exhibited an approximate 45 degree angle cut and exhibited black paint transfer along the cuts.
Several instruments were separated from the panel and located along the debris path. The Hobbs meter was located and indicated 9047.0 hours of flight time. The flap actuator located underneath the cockpit was fractured and measured to a flap setting that corresponded to about 25 degrees of flaps.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on August 21, 2014, by the Office of the Medical Examiner, Nashville, Tennessee. The autopsy findings included "multiple blunt force injuries," which was also listed as the cause of death.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected in the vitreous fluid and no drugs were detected in the blood.
History of Flight
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Second Pilot Present:
Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
3600 hours (Total, all aircraft)
Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
AIR TRACTOR INC
Year of Manufacture:
Landing Gear Type:
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
05/15/2014, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
1 Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time:
8797 Hours as of last inspection
Pratt and Whitney
BONNE IDEE AERO SERVICE INC
Ag Air, LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
Agricultural Aircraft (137)
Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
MKL, 422 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
38 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Few / 4200 ft agl
6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
30.01 inches Hg
34°C / 23°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Parsons, TN (PVE)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Parsons, TN (PVE)
Type of Clearance:
Type of Airspace:
Wreckage and Impact Information
35.704722, -88.145278 (est)
Investigator In Charge (IIC):
Additional Participating Persons:
Gregory S Franklin; FAA/FSDO; Memphis, TN
Kyle Schroeder; Air Tractor; Olney, TX
The NTSB traveled to the scene of this accident.