NTSB Identification: LAX00FA230.
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Accident occurred Friday, June 16, 2000 in WILLOWS, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2001
Aircraft: Maule M4-210C, registration: N377BC
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
A witness saw the airplane complete the second and last set of two 360-degree turns just above treetop level over a herd of antelope and then descend to ground impact in a steep nose down attitude. This airplane was the last in a group of six other aircraft going to the same destination. Initial responders to the accident site said that a herd of antelope was in the immediate vicinity of the wreckage. Interviews with the other pilot's in the group revealed that both the pilot and passenger were avid animal lovers. They heard the pilot announce in a normal voice that he was turning downwind to base on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). No other transmissions were heard from the airplane. The ground witness saw the airplane flying northbound at low level, and then enter the first set of steep 360-degree turns. The airplane ended this maneuver descending towards the ground in wings level flight and then rising up again, with a turn southbound. The airplane climbed above the tree line, leveled off, and then entered the second set of steep 360-degree turns, which culminated in the accident. Winds in the area were recorded from the north-northwest at 32 mph gusting to 42 mph. As the pilot turned from crosswind to downwind while in a steep turn about the antelope herd on the ground, it is likely that the airplane encountered strong wind shear like tailwind condition, which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin. There were no discrepancies noted with the aircraft and engine.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: Failure of the pilot to maintain an adequate airspeed margin while maneuvering in steep turns at low altitude in gusty and strong tailwind conditions, which lead to a wind shear encounter and a stall/spin. A contributing factor in the accident was the pilot's diverted attention due to looking at antelope on the ground, and, his decision to attempt the steep turns at low altitude. Full narrative available
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