Excessive airspeed breaks up Beech

Aircraft: Beech G35. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Byron, Ga. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot, 44, had logged about 400 hours, including 140 in the Bonanza. The accident happened during a cross-country flight.

When the airplane was at 9,200 feet MSL, the pilot cancelled VFR flight following and initiated a descent toward the destination airport.

Review of the radar data showed the plane descending at a rate of 2,000 feet per minute and a ground speed of 180 knots. At an altitude of about 3,000 feet, the ground speed was 178 knots and radar contact was lost. No radio transmissions were received from the pilot after radar contact was lost.

Witnesses who were working in a field said they heard a loud popping sound, looked up and saw an airplane and what looked like a wing separating from it. They continued to watch the airplane spin into the ground.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the wings had experienced high positive forces when the stabilizers broke in a downward direction. Once the stabilizers broke, the airplane immediately pitched down and changed rapidly from a high positive angle of attack to a high negative angle of attack. The high negative air loads on the wings caused the right wing to break in a downward direction and caused the left wing and fuselage to rotate left wing down.

There was no specific evidence of flutter.

During the examination of the airspeed indicator dial, it was noted that it was marked per the airplane flight manual with mph on the outside and knots on the inner ring. Never exceed speed (Vne) was marked as 202 mph with the caution range (yellow arc) depicted as 175 mph to 202 mph. The post-accident examination of the airspeed indicator found the indicator needle was stuck at the 192 mph position.

Investigators determined that it was likely that, as a result of the continued flight beyond the never exceed envelope during a steep descent, the airplane broke up in flight due to the exceeding design limits.

Probable cause: The pilot’s sustained flight at airspeeds in excess of the airplane’s never exceed speed during a steep descent, which resulted in a subsequent in-flight structural failure due to over-stress.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA431

This July 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Richard says:

    The 192 mph needle stick was probably the indicated speed at impact with mother earth. No telling how fast he actually got up to before airframe failure. As far as I’m concerned, after 60 years of flying, the yellow line is my red line in an old airplane and less than that if its in rough air. Seems like these old Bonanzas have a habit of folding their tails and then their wings if operated at high speeds in turbulence.

  2. One point of thought smooth air doesn’t exist in Georgia in July in and around Bryon. You pretty much have morning fog (or at least high humidity), followed by convection, followed by pop up thunder storms going on after 1700 EST. And the time of the accident 1319 EST is right at the time convection is happening. So if you are descending down and enter into a column of convection I could see it over stressing the airframe. Flying at the top end of the yellow arch in a descent in a 50+ year old aircraft to me just doesn’t seem advisable unless there is a situation that out weighs the risk (fire is the only thing I can think of)

  3. @ John
    The write up states that the Groundspeed was 180 KNOTS which is abut 207 MPH The VNE was listed as 202 MPH. So that is 5 MPH in excess of VNE also take into account if he was in a headwind of say 10 MPH that could have given him a relative airspeed of 217 MPH.
    It says the Air Speed Indicator was stuck at 192 MPH it didn’t say that his airspeed was 192. It is possible ASI malfunctioned and stuck at 192 causing the pilot to think he was still 10 mph below VNE.
    Thats just the way I read it anyway.

    • And a 10 mph tailwind would make 180 kt ground speed 197 mph. Below Vne. We will never know what the actual max IAS was. My point is don’t be to quick to assume it was over speed or some design flaw as the mooney drivers want to think. It was a 50+ year old airframe. Mine in 50 years old also. What was the structural condition? Corrosion? Were the ruddervators in balance? Older airframes require more though inspections. It seems to me blaming over speed due to pilot error is a bit of a stretch when there were may possibilities that were not ruled out in the NTSB report.

  4. Vaughn S. Price says:

    Mooney has it correct as to importance of medicals and pilotage.
    however The Bonanza from the first models up has always been known as the V tail disintegrator built for performance, Not G-loads

  5. 192 is less than the 202 Vne. It is safe to operate in the yellow arc in smooth air and not using abrupt, or full travel control inputs. Clearly the damage indicates an in flight structual failure. 192 mph should not have caused that. Was the stabilator “cuff” installed on this particular aircraft? Was corrosion in the tail structure missed in the last annual inspection? I wouldn’t be so quick to blame an overspeed.

    • You don’t think that age would decrease the loading the aircraft could sustain? Being the cautious sort I would’ve kept the speed not just below the caution range but 10% below. An intelligent limit would have been 150 mph.

  6. Mooney 9242V says:

    What a shame, and I bet the pilot had a current medical. Looking back, I wonder if GA safety would have been improved with an hour or so of dual instruction in flying for this pilot, not FAA airspace, rather than going through a nonsense medical exam. We all need periodic refreshers. Lets use our scarce resources wisely. Trade medical exams which empirically show no benefits to GA safety for instruction on emergency flying procedures where we will see safety dividends.

    “When will they ever learn?”

    • Really? $200 for a medical is a trade worth taking, empirically speaking of course. If you gave pilots an extra $200 they would spend it on instruction? Doubtful.

      I agree with John, it seems strange that one would push that speed limit unless there was some distraction or sudden bump, etc.

      While Dog Fighting in a T-34 my instructor had to pull power (he was in charge of power) several times as speed was getting too high. It could be simple pilot error of being inattentive of the situation and not intentional “let’s see how fast this thing will go!”.

      • Buford Suffridge says:

        I don’t know anything about Bonanza’s but it seems to me 2,000 feet per minute to be a bit excessive descent? Could he have been about to over run his destination airport? Being a low hour, 275, 182 pilot anything over about 500 scares the hell out of me and I’ve got a 2005 model. Without being a structural engineer, I would think keeping it well below the limits would be prudent for a 50 year old air frame? Of course there will never be any way to know what the situation was?

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