The Airport Manager Said The Pilot Had Flown The Airplane A Few Times Before The Accident Flight

Location: Dunnellon, FL Accident Number: ERA20LA271
Date & Time: 08/01/2020, EDT Registration: N7192L
Aircraft: American Aviation AA 5 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Personal

On August 1, 2020, at an unknown time, a Grumman American AA-5, N7192L, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain less than a mile west of the Marion County Airport (X35), Dunellon, Florida. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot/co-owner held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. According to the airport manager, the pilot texted his girlfriend at 1527 eastern daylight time and said he was going to “fly a couple laps” around the X35 traffic pattern. The pilot did not file a flight plan and was not in communication with air traffic control. When the girlfriend did not hear back from the pilot later that afternoon, she contacted the airport manager, who in turn notified law enforcement. A search was initiated, and the airplane was located the following morning less than a mile west of the airport in heavily wooded terrain.

An FAA inspector examined the wreckage at the accident site and reported that the airplane collided with several trees and came to rest inverted. There was no post-impact fire. The engine had separated from the airframe and both wings sustained extensive impact damage.

According to the airplane’s co-owner, she and the pilot had recently purchased the airplane. She said it had not flown in 14 years and the airplane was “in pieces” when it was purchased. The unassembled airplane was transported to the pilot’s home, where it was partially assembled by the pilot, and then moved to X35. The pilot did not hold an FAA-issued mechanic certificate but was known to restore, build and repair vehicles and boats. The co-owner, who is
not a pilot, said the pilot performed a test-flight of the newly assembled airplane on July 14, 2020, and reported that some of the gauges were not working. She thought one of the gauges was a fuel gauge.

The airport manager said the pilot was a “staple” at the airport and liked to “tinker” with things. His goal was to get the airplane to a point where he could have a certificated airframe & powerplant mechanic perform an annual inspection. The airport manager said the pilot had flown the airplane a few times before the accident flight. On one  flight the engine sputtered and lost power, but the pilot was able to land safely back at the airport. The pilot told the airport manager he had a problem with vapor lock and some of the gauges were “acting up.” The airport manager said that on the July 14th flight, the pilot was taking off and landing numerous times on the 5,000-ft-long runway. During this flight, the airplane struck a runway light and had a tail strike.

The pilot’s last FAA third-class medical was issued on November 21, 2017 and expired at the end of November 2019. He did not report his flight hours at the time the medical certificate was issued.

The airplane wreckage was recovered for further examination.