Monday, December 14, 2015

Rans S-12 Airaile, N6202N: Fatal accident occurred December 12, 2015 at Chilhowee Gliderport (92A) Benton, Polk County, Tennessee

Gary Wayne Church:

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA068
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 12, 2015 in Benton, TN
Aircraft: MCCORKLE ROBERT B RANS S 12 AIRAILE, registration: N6202N
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 12, 2015, about 1440 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built RANS S-12 Airaile, N6202N, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground shortly after taking off from Chilhowee Gilderport (92A), Benton, Tennessee. The sport pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight to a private airstrip in Athens, Tennessee. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

According to witnesses, the airplane was the third in a group of three to take off from runway 21. Witnesses noted that after the takeoff, the airplane made a "rapid" or "steep" climb, at the top of which, it began a left turn. One witness noted that it then entered a "steep wingover-like 180-degree turn reversing to the north." The airplane was then in "in a low energy state," about 150 feet in the air, at a high rate of descent, with "the left wing [then] lowering in what can only be described as a ½ to ¾ turn spin, impacting the ground with the left wing and nose." 

Another witness noted that the airplane "appeared to stall, hovered for a split second and twisted in a nose dive into [a] sod field." A third witness stated, "the airplane was in a 70-80 degrees of bank. It subsequently "descended rapidly then 'nosed over' and impacted the ground in a near vertical attitude." A fourth witness, in her office at the time, stated, "I heard the crash; the sound of the engine was loud and even right up to the moment of impact." 

Due to the accident's proximity to a road and the responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector's arrival the next day, permission was granted to move the wreckage to behind an airport building. The FAA inspector's subsequent examination of the airplane did not reveal any preexisting mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Nashville FSDO-19

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email


BENTON, Tenn. -- The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a fatal crash involving an Rans S-12 Airaile aircraft near Benton. 

Media outlets report that the crash happened Saturday at the Chilhowee Gilderport, killing pilot Gary Church. Sheriff Steve Ross says the two-seater aircraft went down around 12:30 p.m.

Witnesses say the Rans S-12 Airaile hit a patch of air causing it to veer and then crash into the ground. A group of bystanders attempted to help save Church before first responders arrived.

The FAA says it will release more information once the details are finalized. Church's body was sent to Nashville for an autopsy.

Story and video:
Gary Wayne 

December 12, 2015

Gary Wayne Church, age 61, of Athens, passed away tragically in an airplane accident on Saturday, December 12, 2015 in Polk County, Tennessee. Gary was born in North Carolina to the late George Donald and Iva Lee Cannon Church and spent the majority of his life in McMinn County. 

Gary attended Covenant Christian Fellowship and was a man of great faith. He never met a stranger and was devoted to his county. He is known as a remarkable artist and musician. He was an avid hunter and enjoyed flying his plane. 

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Debra (Debbi) Seibert Church of Athens; children, Israel Church and Heather Henderson of Athens; Rachel Anderson and Husband Mike of Hixson; Joel and wife Meghan Church of Athens; Micah and wife Courtney Church of Knoxville; and Jonathan and wife Kayla Church of Etowah; brothers, George “Donny” Church and wife Linda of Patterson, NC, Mike Church of Hudson, N.C.; sisters Charlotte Buff of Hudson, NC and Brenda Green and husband Dean of Gaffney, S.C. Fourteen grandchildren, several nieces, nephews, and other extended family members also survive. 

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, December 16, 2015 from the chapel of Serenity Funeral Home and Cremation Center of Etowah at 7 p.m. with Brother Steve Ward officiating. 

Family and friends will gather at 11 am on Thursday at Piney Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery for the committal service.

The family will receive friends from 5-7p.m. at the funeral home prior to the service on Wednesday.

Visit the Wayne family guestbook and leave a message of comfort.


BENTON (WATE) – Witnesses said a small aircraft crashed right after taking off at Chilhowee Gilderport just North of Benton in Polk County, Tennessee.

The plane crashed at the end of the runway at around 2:45 p.m. Saturday according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The pilot, Gary Wayne Church, 61, of Athens, was killed according to WTVC.

Church was flying a RANS S-12 Airaile experimental aircraft, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Deputies said Church was the sole occupant of the aircraft and he was pronounced dead on the scene.

The FAA’s Nashville office is investigating what caused the crash.

Funeral services for Church will be held Wednesday, December 16 from the chapel of Serenity Funeral Home and Cremation Center of Etowah at 7:00 p.m. Family will receive friends from 4-7 p.m. at the funeral home prior to the service.

The committal service is Thursday at 11:00 a.m. at Piney Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery. Online condolences may sent to

According to his obituary, Church spent the majority of his life in McMinn County. It states that Church “attended Covenant Christian Fellowship and was a man of great faith. He never met a stranger and was devoted to his county. He is known as a remarkable artist and musician. He was an avid hunter and enjoyed flying his plane.”

In 2013, the FAA recognized Church with an inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database. The database, which appears on the agency’s website, names Church and other certified pilots who have met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA.


Polk County — NewsChannel 9 has learned that an Athens man was killed over the weekend in Polk County after the small sports aircraft he was in crashed. Polk County EMS Director Steven Lofty says the victim is Gary Wayne Church of Athens.  The accident happened Saturday afternoon at about 2 p.m. at Chilhowee Gliderport in Benton.  Lofty says witnesses saw the aircraft veer and then hit the ground.  Bystanders say it was upside down when they got to it.  They righted it and tried to render aid.  The victim was declared dead by emergency responders.  His body was sent to Nashville for an autopsy.  The FAA is involved in the investigation into the cause of the crash.


No comments: