Pilot’s Friends Commented That The Pilot Normally Flew Low And Followed The Same Route

Location: Oxford, MS Accident Number: CEN23FA144
Date & Time: March 29, 2023, 18:53 Local Registration: N43414
Aircraft: Zenith STOL CH701 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On March 29, 2023, about 1853 central daylight time, a Zenith CH-701 airplane, N43414, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Oxford, Mississippi. The pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The manager of the New Albany/Union County Airport (M72) reported that airport surveillance video footage depicted the airplane departing about 1820. Further review of the available video indicated that the airplane did not return.

Two friends of the pilot observed the airplane fly over about 1900; neither was certain of the exact time. One had sent the pilot a text message about 2050 that evening and called him 4 times the next day. The pilot did not respond to the message or the calls. Later that evening (the day after the accident), when the pilot’s daughter reported she had not heard from him, the local authorities were notified. A search was initiated based on the pilot’s cellphone location, and the wreckage was subsequently located about 2140 that evening (March 30th).

The pilot’s friends commented that the pilot normally flew low and followed the same route. They were able to see the pilot and his son in the airplane as they flew over. One friend noted that it was unusual for the pilot to fly in the evening; normally he flew earlier in the day. Preliminary GPS data indicated that the pilot departed M72 about 1821 and proceeded south and then southwest. About 16 miles southwest of the airport, the pilot reversed course and proceed toward the northeast, in the general direction of the departure airport. About 1852:50, the airplane entered a right turn. The final data point was recorded about 1853:01 and was located approximately 0.36 mile north of the accident site. The airplane impacted trees and terrain about 14 miles southwest of M72. Tree heights in the vicinity of the accident site were estimated at 75 feet tall. Tree branches with fresh breaks were on and adjacent to the wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, right wing, empennage, and engine. The left wing and landing gear were separated from the fuselage and suspended in a tree about 15 ft from the main wreckage.

An initial on-scene examination did not reveal any evidence of an in-flight structural failure and flight control continuity was confirmed. Detailed airframe and engine examinations are planned following recovery of the airplane.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov