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N474JM accident description

Arkansas map... Arkansas list
Crash location 33.219167°N, 92.807778°W
Nearest city El Dorado, AR
33.207630°N, 92.666267°W
8.2 miles away
Tail number N474JM
Accident date 19 Aug 2010
Aircraft type Miller Charles W Vans RV-7A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 19, 2010, approximately 2045 central daylight time, N474JM, a Charles W. Miller Vans RV-7A, collided with heavily wooded terrain shortly after takeoff from the South Arkansas Regional Airport (ELD), El Dorado, Arkansas. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. A visual flight rules flight plan was filed with a destination of Georgetown Municipal Airport (GTU), Georgetown, Texas. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot was returning from a reunion in Ohio and was on his way back to his home airport in Texas, a 968-mile long flight. According to flight plans and fuel receipts, the pilot departed Norwalk-Huron Airport (5A1), Norwalk, Ohio, around 0930 eastern daylight time and stopped at Kennett Memorial Airport, (TKX), Kennett, Missouri, and purchased fuel at 1248. The pilot then flew to El Dorado, Arkansas, and landed around 1700. He purchased fuel and then waited 3 hours and 45 minutes for thunderstorms to pass through the area before he departed for Texas.

According to an airport employee in El Dorado, the pilot contacted the airport just prior to 1700. She talked to him via radio as he approached the airport. The pilot was confused and thought he was landing at a tower-controlled airport. Additionally, he stated his airplane's registration number incorrectly as N747JM. After he landed, the employee had another conversation with the pilot while she refueled his airplane. She said the pilot appeared tired and he had mentioned to her that he was "...tired from flying all day."

At 2045, another airport employee observed the airplane taxi out to the runway, perform a 5-minute engine run-up and then depart runway 31. He said the pilot used "very little" runway before initiating a climb to an approximate altitude of 300 to 400 feet before it made a left turn to the west. He said the engine was making power and everything sounded normal. There were no transmissions or communications from the pilot after he departed.

The airplane was later reported overdue and an alert notification (ALNOT) was issued. Search and rescue crews found the airplane four days later on August 23, 2010, approximately 500 feet west of the end of runway 31 in heavily wooded terrain.


The pilot, age 66, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical was issued on June 22, 2009. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that as of August 11, 2010, he had logged approximately 274.5 hours, of which, 5.5 hours were at night. The pilot's last flight logged at night (.7 hours) was on August 22, 2009.

A Lieutenant Colonel/Safety Officer with the Georgetown, Texas, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) reported to the FAA that he had flown with the pilot in an official capacity for the CAP. He said he had given the pilot a flight check and that it was unsatisfactory because the pilot had difficulty controlling the airplane and was "behind the airplane" during the flight.


At 2053, weather at the airport was reported as wind from 130 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 5,500 feet, temperature 27 degrees C, dewpoint 22 degrees C, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.88 inches of Hg. According to the Unites States Naval Observatory, the moon was in a waxing gibbous phase with 79 percent of the moon's disk visible.


South Arkansas Regional Airport is an uncontrolled airport located 8 miles west of downtown El Dorado. A review of the sectional chart for the airport and surrounding area revealed that the west side of the airport is mostly encompassed by dense woods.


Two FAA inspectors performed an on-scene examination of the wreckage. According to one of the inspectors, the airplane collided with the tip of one tree then made a sharp descent and hit another tree head-on with the right side taking the brunt of the impact. The airplane sustained extensive damage to the fuselage, both wings, and the tail section. Wreckage was strewn over an area of 500 feet from the initial impact point. The engine separated from the airframe and one of the two propeller blades exhibited damage. Flight control continuity was established for each flight control. No pre-mishap anomalies were noted with the airplane or the engine.


Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA's Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the toxicology report, fluids were not available for testing and only organ tissue was examined. The samples were subject to putrefaction and tested positive for Acetone, Ethanol, Isoprobyl, Methanol, N-Butanol, and N-Propanol.

An autopsy was conducted by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock, Arkansas, on August 25, 2010. The cause of death was determined as multiple blunt force injuries.


Though it could not be confirmed if the pilot slept during his layover in El Dorado, he did tell an airport employee he was tired. He also acted confused and appeared to be physically tired. According to FAA Publication #OK-07-193, Medical Facts for Pilots, fatigue from an operational standpoint can be defined as a "...condition characterized by increased discomfort with lessened capacity for work, reduced efficiency of accomplishment, loss of power or capacity to respond to stimulation, and is usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness.'

"Fatigue leads to a decrease in your ability to carry out tasks. Several studies have demonstrated significant impairment in a person's ability to carry out tasks that require manual dexterity, concentration, and higher-order intellectual processing. Fatigue may happen acutely, which is to say in a relatively short time (hours) after some significant physical or mental activity. Or, it may occur gradually over several days or weeks.'

"General aviation pilots are typically not exposed to the same occupational stresses as commercial pilots (i.e., long duty days, circadian disruptions from night flying or time zone changes, or scheduling changes). Nevertheless, they will still develop fatigue from a variety of other causes. Given the single-pilot operation and relatively higher workload, they would be just as much at risk (possibly even more) to be involved in an accident than a commercial crew. Any fatigued person will exhibit the same problems: sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, apathy, feeling of isolation, annoyance, increased reaction time to stimulus, slowing of higher-level mental functioning, decreased vigilance, memory problems, task fixation, and increased errors while performing tasks. None of these are good things to have happen to a pilot, much less if there is no one else in the aircraft to help out.'

"In a variety of studies, fatigued individuals consistently underreported how tired they really were, as measured by physiologic parameters. A tired individual truly does not realize the extent of actual impairment. No degree of experience, motivation, medication, coffee, or power can overcome fatigue."

According to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook, Chapter 10 - Night Operations, is states, "Good eyesight depends upon physical condition. Fatigue, colds, vitamin deficiency, alcohol, stimulants, smoking, or medication can seriously impair vision. Keeping these facts in mind and taking adequate precautions should safeguard night vision.'

"Night flying is very different from day flying and demands more attention of the pilot. The most noticeable difference is the limited availability of outside visual references. Therefore, flight instruments should be used to a greater degree in controlling the airplane. This is particularly true on night takeoffs and climbs. The cockpit lights should be adjusted to a minimum brightness that will allow the pilot to read the instruments and switches and yet not hinder the pilot's outside vision. This will also eliminate light reflections on the windshield and windows. After ensuring that the final approach and runway are clear of other air traffic, or when cleared for takeoff by the tower, the landing lights and taxi lights should be turned ON and the airplane lined up with the centerline of the runway. If the runway does not have centerline lighting, use the painted centerline and the runway edge lights. After the airplane is aligned, the heading indicator should be noted or set to correspond to the known runway direction. To begin the takeoff, the brakes should be released and the throttle smoothly advanced to maximum allowable power. As the airplane accelerates, it should be kept moving straight ahead between and parallel to the runway-edge lights. The procedure for night takeoffs is the same as for normal daytime takeoffs except that many of the runway visual cues are not available. Therefore, the flight instruments should be checked frequently during the takeoff to ensure the proper pitch attitude, heading, and airspeed are being attained. As the airspeed reaches the normal lift-off speed, the pitch attitude should be adjusted to that which will establish a normal climb. This should be accomplished by referring to both outside visual references, such as lights, and to the flight instruments.'

"After becoming airborne, the darkness of night often makes it difficult to note whether the airplane is getting closer to or farther from the surface. To ensure the airplane continues in a positive climb, be sure a climb is indicated on the attitude indicator, vertical speed indicator (VSI), and altimeter. It is also important to ensure the airspeed is at best climb speed. Necessary pitch and bank adjustments should be made by referencing the attitude and heading indicators. It is recommended that turns not be made until reaching a safe maneuvering altitude."

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance with trees on takeoff at night. Contributing factors were fatigue and the pilot's lack of recent nighttime experience.

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