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N502RL accident description

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Crash location 41.843055°N, 85.119167°W
Nearest city Bronson, MI
41.872272°N, 85.194696°W
4.4 miles away
Tail number N502RL
Accident date 18 Aug 2018
Aircraft type Air Tractor AT502
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On August 18, 2018, about 1730 eastern daylight time, an Air Tractor 502B, N502RL, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering during an aerial application flight near Bronson, Michigan. The pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Lutes Flying Service, Inc. under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Wolfe Field Airport (IN65), near Shipshewana, Indiana, at an unconfirmed time.

A witness who was located about 0.4 miles and 150 degrees from the accident site reported seeing the accident. He stated that the airplane was making turns near his location in conjunction with spraying operations in a nearby field. The witness stated that he saw the airplane complete a spray pass to the east and then pulled up into a near vertical attitude, after which, the airplane then became inverted.The airplane then descended straight down and was starting to pull up when it hit the ground.

The airplane came to rest upright in a soybean field facing about 340 degrees. The wings, fuselage, tail, and all control surfaces were present at the accident site in their normal locations. The forward fuselage and the leading edges of both wings exhibited aft and upward crushing indicative of a nose low impact with the ground. Both main landing gear hand been torn from the fuselage and were found beneath the wreckage. The wing remained in one piece with the flaps and ailerons still attached. The fuselage was predominately intact with the previously noted crushing damage to the forward fuselage. The tail surfaces were located in their correct positions. The vertical stabilizer was still attached to the fuselage and the rudder was attached by the lower 2 hinges. The upper half or the rudder was bent to the left about 90 degrees. The left and right horizontal stabilizers were partially separated from the fuselage at the spar attachments. The elevators remained attached to the stabilizers.

The airplane's control system was examined. Continuity of the elevator control system was verified from the control stick in the cockpit aft to the elevator control surfaces. The rudder control cables were found to be intact from each of the rudder pedals in the cockpit aft to the rudder control surface. The aileron controls were examined and the mixing system for the drooping aileron system incurred impact damage and several of the control pushrods housed in the lower fuselage exhibited bending due to impact; however, no preimpact anomalies with regard to the aileron control system was observed. Measurement of the flap actuator corresponded to about 5 degrees of flap deflection.

The airplane's engine was a Pratt & Whitney model PT6A-34AG turboprop engine, turning a three blade propeller. The engine was broken in half at the "F" flange. The exposed broke shaft revealed fracture surfaces with 45 degree shear lips indicative of overload failure. One propeller blade was visible above the ground and remained attached to the hub. The remaining two blades were found buried beneath the engine. One of the buried blades remained attached to the hub while the other was separated. The separated blade showed chordwise scratching and a deep gouge in the leading edge a portion of the blade tip was separated.

Upon removal of the airplane from the site, an wing impact imprint was found in the soil beneath the wing about 2 ft. aft of the wing leading edge.

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