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N701XL accident description

Missouri map... Missouri list
Crash location 39.334444°N, 91.685833°W
Nearest city Laddonia, MO
39.242540°N, 91.645438°W
6.7 miles away
Tail number N701XL
Accident date 27 Jul 2017
Aircraft type Zenith CH701SP
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On July 27, 2017, at 0452 central daylight time, a Zenith CH 701SP, N701XP, was destroyed when it impacted a bean field about 6.5 miles north of Laddonia, Missouri. The sport pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal cross-country flight. The flight originated from Mexico Municipal Airport (MYJ), Mexico, Missouri, about 0440, and was en route to Whittman Regional Airport (OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

According to the airport manager at MYJ, the airplane with the pilot and his passenger on board arrived late in the day on July 26, 2017. The pilot said he wanted to get an early morning start because he wanted to arrive at OSH when the control tower opened at 0700. A self-service fuel receipt charged to the pilot's credit card indicated that he purchased 17.8 gallons of fuel at 2038 on July 26. The manager said he believed the pilot and his passenger camped that evening next to the airplane. When the manager arrived at the airport the next morning, the airplane was gone.

According to radar data provided by the U.S. Air Force/Civil Air Patrol, the airplane first appeared on radar at 0443:46 when it was about 5 miles east of MYJ. According to the data, the airplane's altitude varied between 2,000 and 2,800 feet above ground level (agl) as it maintained a northeast heading. The airplane then entered a right descending turn and had completed about 180° when radar contact was lost. The last radar return was at 0452:46, when the airplane was about 6.5 miles northeast of Laddonia, Missouri.

A family member later reported that the airplane was missing and an Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued on the evening of July 27. Search teams located the wreckage early on the morning of July 28.


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a sport pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. A copy of the pilot's logbook contained entries from December 28, 2014, to July 19, 2017. The pilot's logbook entries were inconsistent: some of the entries were entered in tenths of an hour, and other entries were in minutes. The logbook revealed that the pilot had accrued the following flight experience:

Pegasus powered parachute, 162.9 hours

Cessna 150, 5.1 hours

Piper PA-28, 5.0 hours

Aeroprakt A22LS, 0.8 hours

Zenith CH 701SP, 98.3 hours

No night or instrument flight time had been logged. According to 14 CFR 61.315(c)(5), sport pilots are prohibited from flying at night.


The experimental light sport airplane was constructed by a private individual in 2003, and later purchased by the pilot. It was powered by a 100-horsepower Rotax 912ULS engine, driving a 3-bladed Warp-Drive 70-inch fixed pitch composite propeller.

A copy of the maintenance records contained entries from December 11, 2013, to May 1, 2017. A condition inspection was performed on the airframe and engine on May 1, 2017, with 1,142 flight hours recorded in the logbook.

The airplane was not equipped nor certified for instrument flight rules (IFR) flight.


There was no record that the pilot had obtained a preflight weather briefing.

At 0414, MYJ reported a visibility of 1-1/2 miles in heavy rain, broken clouds at 1,100 feet, and overcast at 1,900 feet.

At 0435, MYJ reported winds from 240° at 7 knots, visibility 7 miles in light rain, broken clouds at 600 feet and 1,200 feet, and overcast at 1,900 feet. The temperature-dew point spread was 1° (23/22). There was distant lightning in the north through east quadrants, and in the west quadrant.

At 0455, MYJ reported winds from 230° at 7 knots, visibility 7 miles, with a thunderstorm and rain in the vicinity. There were scattered clouds at 600 feet, broken clouds at 3,300 feet, and overcast skies at 4,800 feet. The temperature-dew point spread was 1°, and there was distant lightning in the north through east quadrants and in the west quadrant.


The accident site was located 6.5miles northeast of MYJ in open level farm land. Green position light lens fragments were found at the beginning of a ground scar that was 36 feet long and aligned on a magnetic course of 121°. At the end of the ground scar was a water-filled impact crater, followed by a debris path that extended 252 feet on a magnetic course of 130°, which was about the direction to MYJ. The crushed right wing and lesser damaged left wing were located farther down the debris path, preceded by a flap and aileron. The fuselage, cockpit, and empennage were located 84 feet from the impact crater and to the left of the debris path. The engine was located 210 feet from the impact crater.


The Boone/Callaway County Medical Examiner's Office, Columbus, Missouri, performed an autopsy on the pilot. According to the autopsy report, death was attributed to "blunt force injuries." The toxicology screen on the pilot performed by St. Louis University's Toxicology Laboratory Berkeley, Missouri, revealed the presence of 0.040 gm% (40 mg/dl) ethanol, 0.11 micrograms/ml temazepam, 33 micrograms/ml acetaminophen, and 0.91 micrograms/ml sertraline.

FAA's Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology screening that revealed the presence of 10 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol in urine, and 36 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol in blood. Propanol, a metabolite of ethanol, was detected in blood and urine. The presence of propanol is consistent with postmortem alcohol production. The report noted that putrefaction had occurred, and the blood was unsuitable for carbon monoxide analysis. Also detected were 114.72 (ug/ml, ug/g) acetaminophen in urine; 0.007 (ug/mL, ug/g) dihydrocodeine in blood and 0.067 (ug/mL, ug/g) in urine; 0.144 (ug/ml, ug/g) hydrocodone in urine but not in blood; 0.054 (ug/mL, ug/g) hydromorphone in urine; 0.36 (ug/ml, ug/g) oxazepam in urine but not in blood; an unknown quantity of sertraline in urine and 1.23 (ug/mL, ug/g) in blood, and an unknown quantity of salicylate in urine.

According to the pilot's medical records, the pilot had a history of chronic insomnia that was being treated with temazepam. (Oxazepam is a psychoactive metabolite of temazepam. Temazepam (Restoril) is "a sedating benzodiazepine available by prescription and intended for short-term treatment of insomnia." The drug carries several warnings, including "concomitant use of benzodiazepines, including temazepam and opioids, may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death." There is also a warning that the drug can cause "behavior changes, such as increased aggressivity, and patients using it may engage in complex behaviors while under its influence, such as 'sleep driving'" that they may later not recall.

The pilot was also being treated for anxiety with sertraline, and had been regularly prescribed hydrocordone. Sertraline (Zoloft) is a prescription antidepressant that is not considered impairing.

Hydrocodone, an opioid analgesic, is considered impairing and carries warnings about risks of central nervous system and respiratory depression, particularly when combined with benzodiazepines. In addition, the drug information warns that it "may impair the mental or physical abilities needed to perform potentially hazardous activities such as driving a car or operating machinery."

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's decision to take off at night and continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions. which resulted in the pilot becoming spatially disoriented and losing control of the airplane. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's degraded decision-making due to his use of a combination of impairing prescription drugs, and the pilot's lack of instrument and night flight experience.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.