It Felt Like “Something Punched The Plane” Consistent With Turbulence

Location: Southern Shores, NC Accident Number: ERA22LA427
Date & Time: September 21, 2022, 10:00 Local Registration: N3283N
Aircraft: Northwing Design Apache Sport Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On September 21, 2022, about 1000 eastern daylight time, a Northwing Design aircraft, N3283N, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Southern Shores, North Carolina. The private pilot was fatally injured and the passenger sustained minor injuries. The weight-shift control aircraft was operated as a Title 14?Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The passenger stated that his step-father performed a thorough preflight inspection which he also performed, then the flight departed and flew north along the coast. After twice orbiting a house they were staying at his step-father turned and proceeded south just offshore to return to the departure airport. While en-route his father mentioned that the flight might encounter turbulence then about 5 minutes later while flying about 400 yards offshore at 3,500 ft mean sea level between 55 and 60 miles-per-hour, with scattered clouds below them, the passenger reported, it felt like “something punched the plane” consistent with turbulence. He felt an upwards jar, then the airplane was out of control. It started spiralling to the right and while descending towards the ocean he felt a force consistent with activation of the airframe parachute, but he could not recall what altitude that was at. After water impact he struggled but managed to release his restraint and remained in the water about 30 minutes before being rescued. He further stated that when he felt the jar he looked to the right wing and noted “bracing material” sticking out of the wing fabric and the right side of the wing was no longer stretched and was much smaller than the left side of the wing.

The fuselage portion of the wreckage without the wing washed ashore south of where the accident occurred and was first spotted on October 5, 2022. The wreckage was retained for further examination.