Witnesses Observed The Top Of The Vertical Stabilizer Sheared Off By The Powerlines

Location: New Rockford, ND Accident Number: CEN23FA412
Date & Time: September 19, 2023, 12:32 Local Registration: N502NB
Aircraft: Air Tractor Inc AT-502B Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On September 19, 2023, about 1232 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-502B airplane, N502NB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near New Rockford, North Dakota. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight.

Four witnesses reported the airplane flew underneath powerlines while spraying a field of sunflowers. The witnesses observed the top of the vertical stabilizer sheared off by the powerlines, and the airplane continued to fly straight ahead westbound. About ¼ mile west of the powerlines, the airplane made a left turning dive and subsequently impacted a cornfield. The airplane came to rest inverted on a southerly heading about 10 ft from the initial impact point. Both wing leading edges were crushed aft. All airplane components were located except for a majority of the wire deflector cable and a 10 inch section of the top of the vertical stabilizer, which were not recovered.

Wire impact marks were observed about 18 inches below the top of the vertical stabilizer.The rudder separated from the vertical stabilizer and was found underneath the left wing. The inflatable restraints (airbags) were deployed. No preimpact anomalies were observed with the flight control system. The three propeller blades exhibited rotational signatures. 

The SATLOC and handheld Garmin GPS units were recovered for data download. 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov