The Airplane Was In A “Very Steep” Or “Knifeedge” Tight Circle, Only About 100 Ft Above The Ground

Location: Colonial Beach, VA Accident Number: ERA23FA260
Date & Time: June 7, 2023, 10:15 Local Registration: N835BC
Aircraft: Vans RV6 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On June 7, 2023, at 1015 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Vans, RV-6, N835BC, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Colonial Beach, Virginia. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A witness stated he was a lifelong friend of the passenger, and the passenger’s son, the pilot. He stated the pilot, and his father flew to his house on June 6, 2023, about 1900, from Wilmington, North Carolina. The airplane landed at a neighbor’s house, on a 1700-ft long, grass runway. They went night fishing and on the morning of the accident, he dropped them off at the airplane about 0945. The pilot told him they were going to fly to Tappahannock Airport (XSA), Tappahannock, Virginia, to fill-up with fuel before returning to Wilmington, North Carolina. The witness then returned to his house. About 30 minutes later, while standing in his driveway, the witness heard the airplane flying overhead. He watched the airplane as it made two circles around his house. On the second circle, the airplane was in a “very steep” or “knifeedge” tight circle, only about 100 ft above the ground. The nose of the airplane dropped, and the airplane impacted the ground beside his driveway almost vertically. He further stated that the engine sounded like it was “running well” the entire time.

Another witness, the neighbor, stated that the pilot and his father previously flew to his runway about six times over the last couple of years. The witness owned an RV-10 and an RV-8. He reported that he had accumulated about 4,500 hours in the RV airplanes and several thousand hours flying US Navy jets. He further stated that on the morning of the accident he noticed the airplane circling his neighbor’s house while he was driving, so he stopped his truck to watch it. 

The airplane made a couple circles around the house and some up and down maneuvers. On the last circle around the house, at an altitude of 100 ft, the airplane was in a tight circle knifeedge turn. The airplane was “not going very fast” and the nose of the airplane dropped down about 20°. It then dropped to 80° and the airplane impacted the ground vertically next to the driveway.

The accident site was located between a driveway and a corn field. The airplane impacted the ground in a nose down attitude and came to rest upright on a heading of 345°. A postcrash fire consumed most of the airplane. The wreckage site was compact, and all four corners of the airplane were present. The wood propeller was fractured in several pieces and located near the impact point.

Both leading edge wings exhibited accordion crushing. The right-wing flap was separated and located behind the main wreckage. The right aileron was still attached to the wing by the linkage. The left-wing flap and aileron were attached to the left wing. The fuselage, instrument panel, cabin, seats, and inboard wings were all consumed by fire. The tail section was fire damaged; however; the rudder, elevator, and vertical stabilizer were all intact. 

The engine was fire damaged. All the accessories were fire damaged and mostly melted. The engine was rotated by the propeller hub and thumb compression was attained on three of the four cylinders. Engine continuity was established through the engine and accessory case. A lighted borescope was used to examine the cylinders internally and no engine anomalies were noted.