The NTSB has released the preliminary report on the STOL accident that claimed the life of Tom Dafoe on May 20, 2022, when he crashed his Cessna 140 near Wayne Municipal Airport (KLCG) in Wayne, Nebraska.
According to a representative with STOL Drag Events, who was a participant in the 2022 Wayne County Mayday STOL Drag Races, the day before the accident the event began with short takeoff and landing drag racing (STOL Drag) training conducted on a course next to Runway 5-23.
Dafoe had been signed off for competition at a prior STOL Drag event, the STOL Drag Events officials noted.
On the day of the accident, additional STOL Drag training had been completed in the morning and qualifying STOL Drag races were planned for the afternoon. However, due to northwest gusting winds, the qualifiers were postponed until the next day.
After the decision was made to postpone, several of the competing pilots expressed a desire to perform traditional STOL without any drag racing component on the grass runway 31 given the favorable headwinds.
A safety briefing was held with STOL Drag representatives, FAA inspectors, and pilots who planned to fly in the traditional STOL. A representative with STOL Drag informed the pilots that flying was optional, and it was not a part of the formal competition.
In order to limit pattern congestion, airplanes were put into groups of five.
According to multiple witnesses and video/photographic evidence, Dafoe’s Cessna 140 was the last airplane within a group of five. He performed two landings without incident.
During the third approach with the Cessna 140 on final and following a Zenith STOL 701 also on final, the C140 descended and appeared to be lower than the airplane ahead. Subsequently, the pitch attitude increased, the airplane rolled to the right, and completed a 3/4 turn right spin, hitting terrain in a near vertical attitude.
The STOL Drag representative who coordinated the pattern operations over the radio reported that about 45 seconds before the accident, he stated over the radio to Dafoe, “lower your nose, you look slow.”
About 15 seconds before the accident, he stated again, “lower your nose.”
There were no communications from Dafoe. None of the other pilots in the pattern were talking on the radio near the time of the accident.
The Cessna came to rest about 1,600 feet from the Runway 31 threshold and about 250 feet right of the extended centerline.
The airplane’s primary surfaces remained intact, while the forward cowling and engine area was crushed aft into the cockpit.
The throttle lever was found extended and had fractured. The carburetor heat lever was found off. The flap handle and latch sustained impact damage and could not be correlated to a specific flap setting.
The airspeed indicator needle was found indicating about 57 mph and a rub mark at this speed was observed on the face of the instrument.
About the time of the accident at the airport, an hourly observation reported that wind was from 290° at 15 knots, gusting to 21 knots, which was consistent with video that showed tall flags positioned at the runway threshold. The video showed that the gusting wind varied from about 290° to a direction nearly aligned with Runway 31.
NTSB officials note the report, which was issued June 1, 2022, “is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been complete.”
It usually takes NTSB investigators 18 months to two years to release a final report.
You can read the full preliminary report by searching for ERA22FA233 in the NTSB’s CAROL database.