(Witness) Observed The Airplane Flying Low Over The Water From West To East

Location: Buford, GA Accident Number: ERA24FA072
Date & Time: December 21, 2023, 17:14 Local Registration: N23VS
Aircraft: Hawker Beechcraft Corp G36 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On December 21, 2023, about 1714 Eastern Standard Time, a Hawker Beechcraft Corp. G36 (File photo, below) airplane, N23VS, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Buford, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by the pilot as a personal flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

According to the pilot’s family, the airplane was based at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK), Atlanta, Georgia, and the purpose of flight was to perform a local flight in the area. According to preliminary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Automatic-Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data, the airplane departed PDK at 1701 and navigated north cruising at 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl). About 5 minutes into the flight, the flight track turned northeast toward Lake Lanier, Georgia, and continued to maintain 3,000 ft msl and about 160- 170 knots groundspeed.

At 1712:32, the flight track turned east and continued to maintain 3,000 ft msl, but groundspeed slowed to 98 knots. Subsequently, groundspeed and altitude began to decrease, and the flight track continued east over Lake Lanier. At 1714:19, the final position recorded was .1-mile north of the accident site; the airplane was about 100 ft above ground level, the airplane had turned to the right (south), and groundspeed was 70 knots. Figures 1 and 2 provide an overview of the final few minutes of the ADS-B flight track.

According to a witness located near the accident site, he observed the airplane flying low over the water from west to east. He observed the airplane enter a right bank towards a tree line along the shoreline. The airplane subsequently impacted the trees, then abruptly descended and impacted a parking lot. Simultaneously with the impact, the airplane exploded, and a large fire developed around the entire airplane. One additional witness located near the accident site heard the airplane’s impact with trees. Neither witness heard the sound of an airplane engine. 

The airplane impacted a line of trees along the Lake Lanier shoreline. A ground scar was located about 50 ft from the initial impact with trees. The wreckage debris path was oriented on a 220° magnetic heading and was about 110 ft in length. All major portions of the airframe were located in one compact area. The airframe sustained severe thermal damage, however, the engine sustained limited thermal damage. Flight control continuity was established from all primary flight control surfaces to the cockpit except for separations consistent with impact forces or thermal damage. The cockpit sustained severe thermal damage and all switches, levers, and flight instruments were thermal or impact damaged. The Garmin G1000 sustained severe thermal damage and the SD card installation areas were located; however, three of the four slots did not contain SD cards. The one card located sustained severe thermal damage.

The flap actuators were consistent with a retracted flap position. The landing gear was found retracted. The majority of the fuel system was not observed due to thermal damage. The fuel selector valve was not observed in the wreckage. The fuel strainer screen normally housed in the fuel selector was found loose in the wreckage and it had sustained thermal damage. About 10 gallons of fuel was recovered from the right main tank. The left main tank was consumed by fire.

The firewall largely protected the engine from severe thermal damage. The No. 6 cylinder rocker cover was cracked, consistent with impact related damage. There was no other major external damage noted to the engine. The propeller flange and hub had separated from the engine and was located in the debris path. All three propeller blades remained attached to the hub. One blade exhibited s-bending, tip curling, and chordwise scratching. A second blade exhibited tip curling and chordwise scratching. The third blade remained relatively straight and contained a lesser amount of chordwise scratching.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov