NTSB Identification: WPR12FA203
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 12, 2012 in Whitewater, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/29/2014
Aircraft: M SQUARED BREESE, registration: N51336
Injuries: 1 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.

The day before to the accident, the pilot flew from his home to a private airstrip about 60 miles away in order to attend a desert gathering of his ultralight association. The ultralight-like aircraft consisted of an aluminum tube framework with a single seat, an open fuselage, and fabric-covered aerodynamic surfaces, and was powered by a 60-horsepower engine and was equipped with a rocket-powered parachute. The next day, the pilot flew about 15 miles to another private airstrip and flew back to the gathering a few hours later. Although the gathering was scheduled to continue one more day, in the late afternoon, the pilot decided to depart for his home airport. Before his departure, he had a brief discussion about the headwind with another association member. When the aircraft was about halfway to its destination, in a region of mountainous terrain, two witnesses observed it flying about 400 feet above the ground. They believed the aircraft to be in trouble because the wings were rocking. The aircraft made a 270-degree turn, pitched up and over to the inverted position, and began a steep, nose-down descent. The pilot deployed the rocket-powered aircraft parachute, but the parachute did not arrest the descent. The aircraft struck the ground in a steep trajectory in a steep nose-down attitude. Examination of the aircraft did not reveal any preimpact mechanical failures or deficiencies that would have prevented continued flight or the deployment and functioning of the parachute system. Although all but one of the parachute system’s shroud lines were cut, their as-found location and appearance indicated that they were cut after the accident—most likely to prevent the canopy from inflating and disturbing the wreckage. About the time of the accident, a meteorological station 2 miles from the accident site recorded 31 mph wind , with gusts to 47 mph. Witnesses also reported that it was very windy, and one ultralight pilot familiar with the area reported that the area was notorious for strong winds and rotors. Although the pilot was not the owner, he was considered to be highly experienced and quite familiar with the aircraft. Although the specific reasons for the failure of the parachute to arrest the descent could not be determined, the high wind, turbulence, initial descent attitude and trajectory, and low deployment altitude likely all contributed to that failure. Additionally, the pilot regularly left the safety pin for the parachute activation handle in during flight, which may have delayed his activation of the system.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot’s decision to fly at low altitude in mountainous terrain in the presence of strong wind and turbulence, which resulted in an aerodynamic upset at too low an altitude for recovery.

Full narrative available

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