Aircraft Seen Performing Aerobatic Maneuvers At Low Level Prior To Accident

Location: PALMYRA, IL Accident Number: CEN20LA168
Date & Time: 05/02/2020, 1600 CDT Registration: N27YK
Aircraft: Yakovlev YAK 52 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Personal

On May 2, 2020, about 1600 Central daylight time, a Yakovlev YAK-52 airplane, N27YK, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Zelmer Memorial Airpark Inc (5K1), Palmyra, Illinois. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

A witness who was driving north of 5K1 observed the airplane descending towards the airport “way too fast to be landing.” He lost sight of the airplane as it descended behind a tree line. A few moments later he saw the airplane climb into sight 200-300 ft above the ground (AGL) about 1.5 miles, do a full revolution and then roll and descend steeply into the ground. A pilot witness observed the airplane make a low pass at 5K1 towards the south 20-30 ft AGL.

He described the airplane pitching up 5-10° to 100-200 ft AGL when it was past the end of the runway and making a slow roll to the left. As the airplane passed [180°] he did not think the pilot had enough altitude to perform the maneuver. He lost sight of the airplane as it descended and was passing about 270° of roll. Another witness was mowing his yard when he saw the airplane traveling parallel to the ground when it began a left roll and then “nose-dived” steeply towards the ground about ½ mile from his location.

The airplane wreckage was located about 20 ft from the initial impact point. The impact crater was 12-18 inches in depth and the direction of travel from the impact crater to the wreckage was about 240°. The wreckage was moved to a secure location for examination at a later date.