A recent NTSB factual report regarding a May 5, 2004 fatal accident involving a Rans S-12 XL Airaile just makes you wonder “What the heck were they thinking?” Apparently the pilot, and I use the term loosely because he did not hold an airman or medical certificate, wanted to go flying from the Mathis Airport after dark. Unfortunately, the runway did not have runway edge lights.
Undaunted, several witnesses aligned their cars along the end of the runway and turned on their headlights. The pilot then made three low approaches to runway 21, but on the third time around, the pilot had to bank the aircraft to the left to avoid a hitting with the wind sock. The aircraft descended into the night and the next thing the witnesses heard was the on-board ballistic rocket system detonating followed by a power line transformer explosion.
The airplane was located 275 feet, southeast of the airport in a nose low vertical attitude. The weather at the nearest reporting station was VFR at the time of the accident. The post-mortem toxicology report indicated levels of ethanol in the pilot’s system as well as acetaldehyde and fluoxetine.
Obviously, neither the pilot nor the witnesses who used their vehicles for runway lights were thinking clearly at the time of the accident. It just makes you wonder whether anyone had the minimal common sense to stop and say “Hey, this is a bad idea.” Unfortunately, the factual report doesn’t provide the complete story. We can speculate based upon what it does disclose, but we don’t know for sure. What we do know, is that some obviously poor choices resulted in a fatal accident.