Aircraft: KR2. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Newberry Springs, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot had no previous experience in the experimental airplane, although he did have the last registered owner of the airplane give him a one-hour overview of the airplane, including a demonstration of the flight controls.
The previous owner stated that the airplane did not perform well in windy conditions due to its weight and design. The new owner appeared to be rushed. He did not do a test flight or get a weather briefing prior to takeoff.
The airplane took off to the south, leveling off about 9,500 feet MSL. For the next hour the airplane flew in meandering circles climbing and descending. During the last 12 minutes of the flight, the altitude fluctuated between 5,800 and 7,300 feet MSL. The final radar return was located one mile west of the accident location at 7,100 feet MSL.
The airplane debris field was comprised of large heavy debris (engine and landing gear) near the location of the initial impact and lighter debris that was distributed downwind. Two items, a 2-foot-long section of vertical stabilizer and an 8-inch piece of rudder skin, were found 1,820 feet and 2,880 feet downwind from the main debris scatter area, significantly farther from the main debris scatter area, which would indicate these two items were the first to depart the airplane. The debris pattern and lack of damage to the wings was consistent with an in-flight breakup of the airplane.
In the vicinity of the accident site, around the time of the accident, the surface winds were from the west at 40 mph, gusting to 56 mph. The highest surface wind was reported north of the accident location with wind gusts up to 73 mph. At 9,500 feet MSL, the wind was from 245° at 28 knots, which resulted in a strong local vertical wind shear capable of producing moderate or greater turbulence in the layer. Several pilots operating in the area of the accident site reported encountering updrafts and downdrafts, from 1,500 to 2,500 feet per minute, and unusually strong low-level wind and turbulence.
Probable cause: The airplane’s encounter with severe turbulence, which resulted in the in-flight breakup of the airplane. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning.
This March 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.