MONROE, Ga. — Cy Nunnally was helping the new owner of an airplane get it ready to fly when the unthinkable happened.
Nunnally died in a crash July 9 at the Monroe-Walton County Airport. The owner of the airport’s fixed base operation, Nunnally was an experienced pilot of both airplanes and helicopters.
The unregistered, experimental, amateur-built plane crashed about five minutes after takeoff.
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board shows the owner— who is not identified — bought the Hi-Max airplane about a month earlier and stored it at the Monroe airport.
The owner reportedly asked Nunnally if he would be willing to inspect and test-fly the plane. Nunnally agreed and performed a brief inspection, lasting about 10 minutes.
The NTSB said the owner was not a licensed pilot and also asked about getting flight training.
But about three weeks went by and the plane remained parked before the owner tried to crank it again, and the engine wouldn’t start. After multiple attempts, Nunnally offered to have his mechanic troubleshoot it.
The next day, the owner learned Nunnally had been involved in a crash.
The mechanic told investigators he performed a routine oil change and saw Nunnally put in a new battery, and he helped Nunnally start the engine, then helped him reinstall the engine cowing and watched Nunnally taxi the airplane around the taxiway and runway.
The mechanic said he saw the airplane take off and make a normal left turn to return to the airport, then go out of sight due to the terrain.
Then the mechanic heard the sound of a collision as the plane hit the ground.
A witness reported seeing a low-flying plane at a high rate of speed over a house make a “hard” left banking turn before disappearing behind the trees. He heard a loud “boom” then drove to the airport, when he saw the plane positioned sideways between the fence and a dirt pile.
The NTSB noted Nunnally held a commercial pilot certificate with multiple ratings, and a Federal Aviation Administration second-class medical certificate issued in 2018.
At the time, Nunnally reported 3,000 total hours of flight experience, including 200 hours in the previous six months.
The experimental airplane was built from a wood truss with plywood gussets and covered with doped aircraft fabric. It was equipped with a Subaru EA-81 automotive engine.
A representative of the kit manufacturer said the EA-81 engine was “too heavy” for the Hi-Max model and required the use of 20-30 pounds of ballast in the back to offset the extra weight of the engine.
An examination of the wreckage revealed no ballast.
Nunnally performed the most recent maintenance on the airplane, on the day of the crash and the day before. He replaced the battery, oil filter, air filter and fuel filter, and 4 quarts of oil.
Nunnally, 38, was the owner and operator of Fair Weather Flights, the fixed based operator at the city-owned airport. The company started in 2004 as a commercial helicopter flight service and later expanded with the fixed-wing maintenance facility.
He also operated Fair Weather Farms, an event space in Walton County.