The Lethality of Undetected Corrosion  
NTSB Identification: NYC05LA096
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 12, 2005 in Gloucester, VA
Aircraft: Hall Maxair Drifter, registration: N9238V
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

On June 12, 2005, at 1930 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Maxair Drifter, N9238V, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in Gloucester, Virginia. The certificated private pilot received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to witnesses, the pilot left a picnic he was attending because he "needed to take pictures." The pilot stated he was "going to get his airplane" and shortly after the witnesses saw the airplane pass overhead at an altitude of about 200 feet. Several seconds later, the witnesses observed the tail section of the airplane "wobble, and then break off." The airplane then pitched nose down and impacted the ground.

Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the airplane landed inverted in a nose low attitude. The empennage was separated from the fuselage at the tail boom attachment point; however, control cables remained attached. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage; however, cable supports were separated at the fuselage attach points. Corrosion was observed on the tail boom attachment points, as well as numerous other critical areas of the aircraft.

The aircraft was also equipped with floats, and was often operated in a salt-water environment.

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed the most recent entry was for a flight on May 26, 2004. At that time, he had accumulated approximately 1,000 hours of total flight experience.
Gloucester man killed in plane crash
The experimental aircraft plunged into a local marsh, killing the pilot.

(804) 642-1748

Published June 14, 2005

GLOUCESTER -- A prominent businessman died Sunday evening when his experimental aircraft crashed in a marsh in the Zanoni area.

John Douglas "Doug" Hall, 58, died upon impact about 7:15 p.m., a Virginia State Police spokesman said. Hall's aircraft plunged an estimated 200-300 feet before slamming upside down and nose first into ankle-deep muck.
The Accident Airplane

Hall was a Gloucester native and owner of the Broaddus & Hall furniture and appliance store in Gloucester Court House. He was piloting a two-seat Maxair Drifter, a home-built, licensed amphibious aircraft that he frequently flew, said Al Carpenter, a friend and fellow pilot.

The force of the impact sheared off one of the props of the propeller, located at the rear of the craft behind the passenger's seat.

Carpenter, 67, was joined by six other friends and fellow members of Southeast Virginia Ultralight Flyers on Monday in salvaging Hall's aircraft. The men used a rope and chain to heft the aircraft out of the mud before hauling it a few hundred yards through forest to a trailer.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Virginia State Police and Federal Aviation Administration.

Three state police investigators and two FAA investigators were at the site of the crash on Monday.

Witnesses reported the aircraft appeared to be operating normally, said Trooper George Thomas.

"Then it just went into a nosedive," he said.

The wreckage was spotted from the air about half an hour after it crashed, Carpenter said. The mosquito-infested marsh where the plane crashed is a backwash of Wilson Creek near White Hall Road.

Carpenter said he taught Hall to fly about 18 years ago.

"He was a good student and a good pilot," he said.

Hall frequently flew from the Piankatank River, where Hall's family had a cottage, near Carpenter's home, Carpenter said.

"I saw him fly by my house a couple days ago," Carpenter said.

At the time Hall was flying, Gloucester had clear skies.

"Conditions were wonderful," Carpenter said. "No problem."

Hall's aircraft is about the size of a Piper Cub.

"It's like driving a motor scooter or a motorcycle," Carpenter said. "You're in the open air, you're driving slow, the wind is in your face. It's a wonderful, exhilarating way to fly."

Hall is survived by his wife, Sharon, and three daughters. Hall was a member of Abingdon Episcopal Church and ran a jail ministry in Gloucester.
Seeking to Improve Safety despite the Tragedy

A victim's daughter offers urgent advice to ultra-light pilots (read from the bottom up in this email exchange)

To: ''

Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11:13 AM

Subject: RE: incorrect picture /3

OK Elizabeth, it's a plan.

I'll let you know when it's up and mounted.


From: Robson, Elizabeth []
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11:06 PM
Subject: RE: incorrect picture

I have no problem with that at all.  I’d be willing to list my e-mail address, as well, though not this one, please.  My “private” (aka non-work) e-mail address is so if anyone wants further info or to be directed to Al, who is the expert, they can contact me.

When I read the article about Mr. Walton, I have to admit that I was a little weirded out.  Not only did they both die in experimentals, but they were the same age.  Then I got this mental picture of my dad and this guy sitting at a bar in the afterlife, swapping stories about flying and doing the whole, “Well, let me tell you about MY crash…” thing.  It made me chuckle and that doesn’t happen a lot these days.

Thank you for doing this.  On a personal side, it helps keep me from feeling so entirely helpless.  I couldn’t do anything to help my dad, but maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else.

Have a good week,



-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 10:53 AM
To: Robson, Elizabeth []
Subject: RE: incorrect picture

If you're agreeable, IASA will mount your letter below on that same page and add meta tags so that anybody searching for info on the Maxair Drifter or similar ultra-light aircraft construction will be easily able to locate it via a Google (or other) search engine.

Hopefully the very recent John Walton U/L accident (see below) was not due to something similar.

International Aviation Safety Association (IASA )




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
----- Original Message -----
From: "NTSB Press Releases" <NTSBPressReleases@NTSB.GOV
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 7:24 AM
Subject: Advisory-Wyoming Ultra-Light Crash


National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594

June 28, 2005




The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched an investigator
from the Denver regional office to monitor developments at the scene of
yesterday's crash of an unregistered air vehicle, reportedly an
ultra-light, near Jackson Hole Airport, in Wyoming. The sole occupant
of the vehicle, John Walton, was killed in the crash.

-----Original Message-----
From: Robson, Elizabeth [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 10:21 PM
Subject: RE: incorrect picture

Thank you, so much. 

The corrosion that caused the break in the fuselage was on the interior of the aluminum tube.  I've had an opportunity to inspect the wreckage and the corroded area around the break is only noticeable on the interior.  The chances of my dad finding it, even if he were looking for it, would have been slim to none.  
What gives that particular model's fuselage the necessary strength is the radius of the aluminum tube.  There is no central support beam or anything, it's just a hollow tube.   Because the corrosion was on the inside of the tube and not visible from the exterior, trying to locate it would have been like trying to locate corrosion on the inside of an inner tube.  You'd almost have to cut it apart and look inside to check for it.

After talking to Al Carpenter (a family friend and flight instructor for both my dad and myself), detecting and even preventing that kind of corrosion would be very difficult.  You'd have to strip all of the attachments off the fuselage, pour linseed oil into it and then rotate the entire fuselage to coat the interior thoroughly.  Rotating a pan in order to coat it with butter is one thing, rotating an entire plane is quite another.  Then, in order to strengthen the area, you'd have to slip a metal sleeve over the parts that were potentially corroded.  Al grounded his plane and his brother's plane (which were the same model as Daddy's) and is beginning the process of inspecting and shoring them up.

You guys may want to contact Al for more detailed information regarding this problem.  It's a potential problem for all Maxair Drifters and as I understand it, that company is no longer even in business.  If you guys could research it and put out an alert to flying clubs across the world, maybe we can keep other Maxair Drifter pilots and their families from suffering the same tragedy.

Thanks again for a good article about my dad.  How many men do you know that would give their daughters flying lessons for their 17th birthday?  LOL.  He loved flying and was so excited to share it with anyone who was interested.  The only silver lining that I can see in this whole mess is that maybe we can let other pilots know about the problem and save someone's life.

Elizabeth Robson

 -----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent:   Wednesday, June 29, 2005 6:41 AM
To:     Robson, Elizabeth []
Subject:        RE: incorrect picture

Dear Elizabeth

Thanks for the correction. The photo has been updated.
I'm sorry for your loss.

International Aviation Safety Association (IASA )

-----Original Message-----
From: Robson, Elizabeth [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 5:34 AM
Subject: incorrect picture
Importance: High

I'm Doug Hall's daughter and the picture in this article is NOT my dad's plane.  I've attached a photo of Daddy's seaplane (
original incorrect photo below).

   <<Dad's Drifter.jpg>>
Elizabeth H. Robson

It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and    occupation, that gives happiness. -- Thomas Jefferson                   back to  All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.  Hot Off the Press

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot. Mark Twain: _What is Man?_, 1906