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N877UP accident description

Missouri map... Missouri list
Crash location 39.726667°N, 94.279167°W
Nearest city Cameron, MO
39.740280°N, 94.241057°W
2.2 miles away
Tail number N877UP
Accident date 27 Jun 2015
Aircraft type Christen Industries Inc Pitts S-2B
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On June 27, 2015, about 1353 central daylight time, a Christen Industries Pitts S-2B, N877UP, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain during an aerobatic flight at the Cameron Memorial Airport (EZZ), Cameron, Missouri. The airline transport pilot received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of the 14 Code of Federal Regulations as a Part 91 airshow flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the airshow demonstration flight that departed from EZZ about 1340. No flight plan was filed.

The pilot's flight demonstration card used during the airshow indicated that he planned to do 10 aerobatic maneuvers during the flight. For the ninth maneuver, it indicated that he planned to do a Lomcevak maneuver, an advanced aerobatic maneuver. An airshow pilot who was familiar with the accident pilot's airshow routine, reported that the accident pilot intended to do a 45-degree knife-edge climb, perform the Lomcevak maneuver, and then continue the knife-edge climb.

Video recordings taken by persons on the ground showed the airplane flying the planned routines. The eighth aerobatic maneuver was a steep climb maneuver to a near stalled condition that the pilot titled a "chopper (helicopter) pass." After the chopper pass, the airplane entered a dive to gain airspeed. It then flew straight and level for about 5 seconds before doing a course reversal by pulling up into a left climb and then turning back to the right before diving down to gain airspeed. Then it pulled up and flew straight and level for about 4 seconds before entering into about a 30-degree knife-edge climb. During the knife-edge climb, the airplane appeared to enter the Lomcevak maneuver by doing a climbing snap-roll to the left. The nose of the airplane pitched down and the airplane tumbled two times to the left while descending. The airplane entered a left spin and completed about two and a half revolutions before it impacted the terrain.


The 50-year-old pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with single-engine land, multi-engine land, helicopter, airplane instrument, and helicopter instrument ratings. He was also an instructor pilot with airplane single-engine, multi-engine, helicopter, airplane instrument, and helicopter instrument instructor ratings. He held a first class medical certificate issued in February 15, 2015. The pilot completed an insurance application on August 25, 2014, that indicated that he had a total of 11,000 flight hours with 200 hours in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot held a Level 3 Statement of Aerobatic Competency from the Federal Aviation Administration for solo aerobatics with a 500 ft base altitude limit in Pitts airplanes. The Level 3 flight evaluation was conducted on May 7, 2015.


The airplane was a Christen Industries factory-built, tandem two-seat, experimental single-engine Pitts S-2B biplane manufactured in 1985. It was equipped with a 300-horsepower aerobatic Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 engine, serial number L-22892-48A. The engine powered a 3-bladed MT propeller. The most recent annual maintenance inspection was conducted on May 1, 2015, with a total aircraft time on 1,806 hours. The airplane had 1,819 total hours at the time of the accident. The engine had a total time of 141.2 hours since the last overhaul.


At 1353, the surface weather observation at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), located 33 nm northwest of EZZ, was: wind variable at 5 kts; visibility 10 miles; sky condition scattered clouds at 4,500 ft; temperature 26 degrees C; dew point 16 degrees C; altimeter 30.10 inches of mercury.


The airplane impacted the trees and terrain in a shallow nose down attitude with a high vertical descent rate. The engine compartment, fuselage, wings, and empennage exhibited crushing and buckling from the ground impact, but the airplane remained intact. There was no post impact ground fire. The engine compartment exhibited upward crushing, and the leading edges of the wings did not exhibit aft crushing. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to their respective cockpit controls. The elevator trim continuity was confirmed from the elevator trim tabs to the elevator trim control.

The engine was shipped to the manufacturer for examination. The examination revealed that the damage to the engine would not preclude an engine run on a test stand. Due to impact damage, the following slaved parts were used during the engine run test: fuel servo, magneto harness, 2 spark plugs, 3 intake pipes, oil supply hoses, fuel supply hoses, oil filter base, fuel pump, and starter support. The engine was installed in an engine test cell for an engine run. The engine was started and operated at the following points: 1) warm up at 1,500 rpm for 5 minutes; 2) run at 1,800 rpm for 5 minutes; 3) run at 2,200 rpm for 5 minutes; 4) magneto check at 2,200 rpm; 5) rated run at 2,700 rpm for 10 minutes; 6) idle run for 5 minutes; and 7) manual acceleration check. The engine passed all points within the prescribed limits of the engine run.

The fuel pump was examined. It displayed significant damage, including several cracks in the body, and separation at the screw-fastened interface between two of the subcomponents, and with two of the screws no longer in their installed position, and others loose. The screws and their mating, threaded holes were examined. None of the screws were broken, but all of them had metallic material present in their lower threads, along with some hardened, blue colored nonmetallic substance consistent with a cured thread locking compound. The mating, internal threads in the pump body were severely stripped.


The autopsy of the pilot was performed at the Frontier Forensics Morgue, Kansas City, Missouri, on June 28, 2015. The cause of death was from multiple blunt force injuries sustained in an airplane accident. A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. No carbon monoxide was detected in the blood (cavity). No ethanol was detected in the vitreous. Azacyclonol was detected in the urine but not detected in the blood (femoral). Fexofenadine was detected in the urine and the blood (femoral). Ibuprofen was detected in the urine.

Fexofenadine is a non-sedating antihistamine available over the counter; it is commonly marketed with the name Allegra. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication available over the counter with the names Motrin and Advil.


The National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Vehicle Recorder Division received three image files containing video and audio that captured the accident. The recorder laboratory correlated the videos to local time and a summary of the flight was made. In brief, the video files showed the aircraft performing aerobatic maneuvers while producing a smoke oil trail throughout the flight.

At 1351:56, the aircraft was straight and leveled as it prepared for its next maneuver two seconds later.

At 1351:58, the aircraft began to climb. The smoke oil trail indicated a constant angle climb. Two seconds later the aircraft rolled left wing down as it continued its constant angle climb.

At 1352:02, the aircraft performed a 360 degree rolling maneuver which resulted in the aircraft tumbling toward the ground. The tumble was similar to an aerobatic maneuver known as the "Lomcevak". At this time, the sound of the engine became faint and the trailing smoke oil began to dissipate.

At 1352:11, the aircraft continued tumbling and smoke oil trails became visible again when the sound of the engine became noticeable again. The sound of the engine and smoke oil trails remained noticeable until impact.

At 1352:12, the aircraft ended its tumble but continued nose down descending toward the ground.

At 1352:13, the sound of the engine ends as the aircraft impacted the ground.


The Lomcevak is a family of aerobatic flight maneuvers where the aircraft, with almost no forward airspeed, rotates on chosen axes due to gyroscopic precession and torque of the rotating propeller. One type of Lomcevak is an when the pilot follows a knife-edge roll by flipping the airplane end-over-end and into a spin, from which the pilot then recovers control of the airplane.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control during a low-level aerobatic flight maneuver.

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