This Was A “Test Run” For A Flight He Planned To Conduct

Location: Boaz, AL Accident Number: ERA20LA314
Date & Time: September 10, 2020, 12:43 Local Registration: N656BN
Aircraft: Zenair CH750 CRUZER Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On September 10, 2020, about 1243 central daylight time, an experimental amateur built, Zenair CH750 Cruzer airplane, N656BN, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Boaz, Alabama. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

On the day of the accident, the pilot planned to fly from Tom B David Field Airport (CZL), Calhoun Georgia, to Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP), Tupelo, Mississippi, to Northeast Alabama Regional Airport (GAD), Gadsden, Alabama, and then return to CZL. According to a family member, this was a “test run” for a flight he planned to conduct on September 14, 2020 to Cantrell Field Airport (CXW), Conway, Arkansas.

The pilot had never flown to CXW, and the pilot thought the flight to TUP would be a good test, as the flight leg to TUP approximated half the distance to CXW. During the flight, the pilot texted a family member that he had reached TUP and was on his way back. She believed that the pilot texted her during the flight and that he had not landed at TUP.

Later that day, when the family member did not hear from the pilot and learned that the airplane had not returned, she asked the airport manager at CZL to call the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At 1804 the FAA issued an alert notice for the overdue airplane. The airplane was subsequently located on September 12, 2020, about 1030, by a first responder.

Examination of preliminary radar and automatic dependent surveillance data by the NTSB revealed that about 0917 on the day of the accident, a target consistent with the airplane was first identified as it departed runway 25 at CZL, and then turned westbound until it was about 6 nautical miles (nm) east of Tupelo, Mississippi (around the area of Mooresville, Mississippi); the airplane then reversed course and flew east-southeast in the general direction of GAD at varying altitudes during cruise between about 2,500 to 5,400 mean sea level (msl).

As it passed Nectar, Alabama, the airplane turned to the north, until reaching the area of Cleveland, Alabama, and then turned to the east-northeast in the direction of CZL. Then about 22 nm later, when the airplane was about 10 nm north-northwest of GAD (about 1.7 nm from the accident site) the airplane descended through 2,325 feet, and radar contact was lost. The pilot obtained a weather briefing the evening before the accident flight. He did not file a flight plan and there was no contact with air traffic control during the accident flight.

Examination of the accident site and wreckage by an FAA inspector revealed that the airplane had impacted about 45° nose down, after striking treetops in a heavily forested area. There was no indication of an inflight fire or explosion. The left wing was bent downward at the wing root, and a corresponding bend was visible on the lift strut for the left wing. The right wing displayed crush and compression damage, and the right aileron was separated from its outboard attachment fitting but was still attached to the inboard attachment fitting. The engine was pushed back into the firewall. The throttle control was at idle, and the fuel selector was selected to the left tank. The wreckage was retained for further examination.