The 85-year-old commercial pilot was conducting a local pleasure flight in his experimental, amateur-built Sonex.
A witness near the accident site in Marion, S.C., saw the airplane flying at low altitude before it entered a “straight up” climb followed by a descent and continued “straight down” toward the ground.
According to the witness, it did not appear that the pilot attempted to pull out of the dive. The pilot died in the crash.
Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no mechanical discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation.
Despite the pilot’s age, his daughter stated that he had no known medical issues that would interfere with his flying, and no evidence of incapacitation or impairment were identified by the autopsy and toxicology testing.
The reason for the airplane’s impact with terrain could not be determined based on the available information.
Probable cause: Impact with terrain for reasons that could not be determined based on the available information.
This September 2018 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.