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Thu, May 03, 2007

NTSB: Accident Pilot Talked Of Emulating Airshow Performance

Georgia BE-58 Accident Claimed Five

On April 22, Jesse Champion fired the engines on his Beechcraft Baron 58 at Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores, AL... concluding a weekend fishing trip with two friends, and two teenage boys.

According to a recently released NTSB preliminary report, about 2:45 pm that afternoon a witness fishing in his boat on a lake near Hamilton, GA "heard an airplane approaching his location from the southeast to the northwest" that "sounded as if the pilot was performing some acrobatic maneuvers" but he could not get a visual on the aircraft.

The noise increaseed in intensity, and the witness then saw Champion's Beech 58 "plunging toward the ground at a 45-to 60-degree, nose-down angle" as the plane came apart, according to the report.

The witness returned to shore and called 911. All five people onboard the Baron were pronounced dead at the scene.

The Safety Board also states two days earlier, Champion was talking with a friend at his shop in Griffin, GA. They talked about the BE-58, and about the fishing trip.

"I think I can roll this airplane," Champion reportedly told his friend, according to the NTSB. The friend also said Champion had flown with a retired airline pilot, who owns a Beech 55, and the pilot had rolled the airplane with him as a passenger.

The man -- who had planned to purchase a plane from Champion  -- also told investigators the accident pilot's "flying skills were below his standards because the pilot was known for overstressing the planes he flew."

Acquaintances of Champion's told the NTSB that the week before the accident, Champion had flown himself and three friends to Lakeland, FL for the annual Fly-In. There, the pilot reportedly watched a show performer roll a Beech 18.

Three days prior to the crash, Champion was flying the group home from Sun 'N Fun in his Beech 58, cruising at about 9,500 feet with the autopilot on.

"I want to try something," Champion told his friends, before switching off the autopilot and banking left then right. "I believe it is possible to roll this airplane."

He then pushed forward on the control and the plane plunged toward the ground. He pulled back and right causing the aircraft to roll half-way and climb sideways.

Champion's right seat passenger told NTSB investigators he then grabbed control, leveling the plane and said, "It got me out of my comfort zone, and I could not handle it."

According to the NTSB, Champion took control back from his passenger... but then powered back the plane's right engine and feathered the prop. He then restarted the engine, and the aircraft proceeded to its destination without further incident.

FMI: Read The Full Prelim Report

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