Airplane Rolled To The Right, And Completed A 3/4 Turn Right Spin And Impacted Terrain

Location: Wayne, NE Accident Number: ERA22FA233
Date & Time: May 20, 2022, 18:42 Local Registration: N76075
Aircraft: Cessna 140 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Air race/show

On May 20, 2022, at 1842 central standard time, a Cessna 140 airplane, N76075, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near the Wayne Municipal Airport (LCG), Wayne, Nebraska. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a representative with STOL Drag Events LLC., who was a participant organization in the 2022 Wayne County Mayday STOL Drag Races, the day before the accident the event began with short takeoff and landing drag racing (STOL Drag) training conducted on a course next to runway 5-23. The accident pilot had been signed off for competition at a prior STOL Drag event. On the day of the accident, additional STOL Drag training had been completed in the morning and qualifying STOL Drag races were planned for the afternoon. However, due to the northwest gusting winds, the qualifiers were postponed until the next day.

After the postponement decision was made, several of the competing pilots expressed a desire to perform traditional STOL (without any drag racing component) on the grass runway 31 given the favorable headwinds. A safety briefing was held with STOL Drag representatives, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors, and pilots that planned to fly in the traditional STOL. A representative with STOL Drag informed the pilots that the flying was optional, and it was not a part of the formal competition. In order to limit pattern congestion, multiple groups of 5 airplanes were organized.

According to multiple witnesses and video/photographic evidence, the accident airplane was the last airplane within the group of 5 and two landings had been performed without incident. During the third approach with the accident airplane on final approach and following a Zenith STOL 701 also on final, the accident airplane descended and appeared to be lower than the airplane ahead. Subsequently, the pitch attitude increased, the airplane rolled to the right, and completed a 3/4 turn right spin and impacted terrain in a near vertical attitude.

The STOL Drag representative that coordinated the pattern operations over the radio reported that about 45 seconds prior to the accident, he stated over the radio to the accident pilot, “lower your nose you look slow.” About 15 seconds before the accident, he stated again to the accident pilot, “lower your nose.” There were no communications received from the accident pilot and none of the other pilots in the pattern were talking on the radio near the time of the accident.

The airplane came to rest about 1,600 ft from the runway 31 threshold and about 250 ft right of the extended centerline. The airplane’s primary surfaces remained intact, and the forward cowling and engine area was crushed aft into the cockpit. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces. Fuel remained in both wings, there was no evidence of fire, and the fuel selector was found selected to the right tank. The throttle lever was found extended about 1 ¾ of an inch and had fractured. The carburetor heat lever was found OFF. The flap handle and latch sustained impact damage and could not be
correlated to a specific flap setting.

The airspeed indicator needle was found indicating about 57MPH and a rub mark at this speed was observed on the face of the instrument. The left seat lap belt was found belted. Shoulder harnesses were not installed. The engine displayed varying degrees of impact damage and the propeller remained attached to its hub. When the propeller was rotated by hand, crankshaft and camshaft continuity, and thumb compression was confirmed. Both magnetos produced spark when rotated by an electric
drill. The carburetor was found with fuel remaining in its bowl, which tested negative for water when water finding paste was applied. The mixture was safety wired to the full rich position. The carburetor heat baffle was found closed/ OFF.

About the time of the accident at the airport, an hourly observation reported that wind was from 290° at 15 knots, gusting to 21 knots, which was consistent with video that showed tall flags positioned at the runway threshold. The video showed that the gusting wind varied from about 290° to a direction nearly aligned with runway 31.

At the time of the accident, an airport and runway 31 closure Notice to Air Mission was in effect. An FAA Certificate of Waiver had been issued to STOL Drag Events LLC. from May 19-22 to conduct “Competition STOL Drag (Straight Line Air Race, (Non-Closed Course) at Wayne Municipal Airport, Wayne, NE. All racing will be below 100′ AGL, within the defined limits of the course adjacent to Runway 05/23.”