Airplane Was Seen Flying At Low Altitude Over A Residential Area Before It Impacted

Location: Hitchcock, Texas Accident Number: CEN21LA080
Date & Time: December 8, 2020, 15:40 Local Registration: N69HF
Aircraft: Vans RV6 Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

Before the accident flight, the pilot was seen conducting maintenance on the airplane in front of his hangar. Witnesses heard the pilot start the engine and saw the airplane take off from the hangar/ramp area and stated that the pilot appeared to be struggling to control the airplane.

About 1.5 hours later, the airplane was seen flying at low altitude over a residential area before it impacted the ground. Witnesses stated that the engine was running normally before the accident and that the airplane appeared “out of control.”

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Postmortem toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot were consistent with the recent use of alcohol and a sedating antihistamine. It is likely that the pilot was impaired from ingested alcohol, which contributed to his loss of airplane control. Whether effects from his use of the antihistamine also contributed to the accident could not be determined.

Although family and friends described the pilot having episodes of unusual behavior in the years before the accident, no significant medical conditions were identified during the investigation.

Probable Cause and Findings:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s impairment by the effects of ingested alcohol, which resulted in the loss of airplane control and impact with terrain.