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N4017L accident description

Tennessee map... Tennessee list
Crash location 35.871389°N, 84.156944°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Knoxville, TN
35.960638°N, 83.920739°W
14.6 miles away
Tail number N4017L
Accident date 02 Apr 2017
Aircraft type Buckeye Aviation Dream Machine
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On April 2, 2017, about 1530 eastern daylight time, a Buckeye Aviation Dream Machine powered parachute, N4017L, collided with trees and terrain at Knoxville, Tennessee. The sport pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger was seriously injured. The powered parachute was substantially damaged. The powered parachute was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local, personal flight. The flight originated at a private, grass airstrip about 1415.

The passenger reported that the preflight portion of the flight was uneventful. The takeoff was accomplished on the grass airstrip, and the flight departed to the west. About 1an hour later, the pilot turned to the east toward the passenger's home. After overflying the passenger's home, the pilot maneuvered the powered parachute to the east over rising terrain and trees. The aircraft did not seem to be climbing quickly enough to clear the trees, and the landing gear struck about three trees before the aircraft dropped into the woods, striking tree limbs on the way down. The passenger did not notice any significant change in engine speed before the collision. The passenger egressed his seat; however, he was unable to walk and was met by first responders and transported to a local hospital.

The passenger's wife was outside her home at the time of the accident. She noticed that the aircraft was flying "pretty low," and she stated that "it looked like they were flying barely high enough to go over the woods behind my house." She heard the aircraft striking tree limbs, followed by the sound of a "horrific" crash. She called 911 after asking a neighbor, who was an emergency room physician, to find the crash site.

Several local residents observed the aircraft in flight and noted that it was flying at a low altitude. One of these witnesses reported that the aircraft was "barely over the tree tops" and another reported that it appeared to be about 20 ft above the trees.


The pilot, who was seated in the front cockpit seat, held a sport pilot certificate. He did not hold nor was he required to hold a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate. According to his pilot logbook, he had logged about 90 hours of total flight experience, all in Buckeye powered parachutes.

According to FAA records, on September 24, 2016, the pilot violated a temporary flight restriction (TFR) while flying the powered parachute near Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The TFR was established for a University of Tennessee football game. The aircraft was observed inside the TFR, at less than 1,000 ft above the ground, heading north to south. The pilot was not communicating with air traffic control and did not have an operating transponder.


The single-engine, tandem-cockpit powered parachute incorporated a fixed, tricycle landing gear. It was equipped with a Rotax 582E, two-stroke, two-cylinder reciprocating engine rated at 66 horsepower. Examination of maintenance records revealed that it was manufactured in 2005 and had accumulated about 139 hours since new. A condition inspection was completed on November 1, 2016.


McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), Knoxville, Tennessee, was located about 9 miles east-southeast of the accident site. The TYS weather at 1553 included wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 24°C, dew point 6°C, and altimeter setting 30.01 inches of mercury.


The wreckage of the powered parachute was found in a wooded area about 880 ft northeast of the passenger's residence. The elevation at the accident site was about 100 ft higher than the elevation at the passenger's residence. All structure and components of the powered parachute were accounted for at the accident site. The powered parachute was found in the upright position. There was no fire.

The tubular metal cart was buckled or bent in several places. The fixed landing gear remained attached to the cart. The parachute wing and lines were adjacent to the cart and were entangled with broken tree branches. Continuity from the parachute to the cockpit flight controls was established. Both occupants were wearing helmets at the time of the accident, and an intercom system was installed.

The engine mounts were broken. The three-blade composite propeller remained attached to the engine, and the outer section of each blade was broken and splintered. Continuity from the cockpit controls to the engine was established. The 8-gallon fuel tank contained about 4 gallons of fuel, and no leaks were observed.

The spark plugs were removed and examined. They appeared normal in color and wear when compared to a Champion spark plug inspection chart. The ignition leads were undamaged. The exhaust manifold did not appear to completely cover the cylinder exhaust ports; however, no evidence of exhaust leakage was found. The propeller was turned by hand, and no internal restrictions were noted. Compression and suction were observed on both cylinders.

The propeller blades were removed to prepare for a test run of the engine. The throttle was found in the full forward position. It was retarded to idle for the test run. The engine was equipped with a manual pull starter. The engine started on the second pull and ran smoothly and without hesitation. No leaks were observed at the exhaust manifold. The engine was run at no higher than idle power due to the impact damage to the cart and the lack of an intact propeller. The engine run was discontinued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge after about 2 minutes. Postaccident examination of the wreckage did not reveal evidence of a preimpact mechanical malfunction or anomaly.


The Knox County Regional Forensic Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries, and the manner of death was accident.

Toxicological testing of the pilot was performed by a private laboratory designated by the medical examiner. Testing was negative for ethanol and major drugs of abuse, and 2% carbon monoxide was detected in blood.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's decision to maneuver the aircraft at low altitude, towards rising terrain, which resulted in an inflight collision with trees.

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