On January 18, 1994, at 1555 hours Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28-180, N56811, collided with a power transmission pole after the pilot bailed out near Borrego Springs, California. The airplane, operated by Four Winds Aviation, Inc., Carlsbad, California, was destroyed by impact forces with the ground. The pilot was missing and his remains were found within one mile of the aircraft wreckage on December 21, 1994. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated from the Carlsbad-Palomar Airport at 1219 hours. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot arrived at Four Winds Aviation about 1130 hours on January 18, 1994. The pilot had scheduled the airplane on January 17, 1994, for a 3-hour rental from 1000 hours to 1300 hours. The pilot was seen loading two bags in the airplane. One bag was described as a green 2 foot by 2 foot sea bag and the other bag was described as a flight bag. Neither of the two bags were found in the airplane's wreckage after the accident.
A third bag described as blue in color was left by the pilot at Four Winds Aviation. The bag contained a motorcycle helmet, a military nomex flight suit, a leather U.S. Navy flight jacket, and a military checklist for an F-14. The blue bag was later taken into custody by the Carlsbad Police Department.
At 1531 hours, the pilot transmitted a distress call on an emergency radio voice communications frequency monitored by air traffic control. The pilot indicated the airplane was having fuel pressure problems.
At 1532 hours, air traffic controllers noted coded radar beacon transponder code 7700. Code 7700 is an emergency code (used by pilots to indicate a distress or urgency situation) that triggers an alarm or special indicator at all radar controller positions. The position of the code 7700 aircraft was about 5 miles north of the Borrego Springs Airport in an area, according to air traffic control, where the floor of radar coverage begins about 5,000 feet above mean sea level or about 4,500 feet above the Borrego Springs Airport elevation.
The radar data for the code 7700 aircraft indicated the airplane flew to a position about 1 1/2 miles west of the Borrego Springs Airport and orbited about three times before descending below the floor of the radar coverage and disappearing from radar about 1540 hours.
The accident airplane struck a power transmission pole causing a power outage at 1555 hours, about 3.6 hours after departure from Carlsbad-Palomar Airport. According to the airplane's Hobbs meter, only 2.8 hours had been flown since dispatch from Four Winds Aviation, Inc.
According to the glide distance chart, the airplane is capable of gliding approximately 7 1/2 miles starting at an elevation of 4,000 feet above the terrain. The airplane's engine was sent to manufacturer's facilities in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for examination and test run. According to the manufacturer, the engine ran satisfactorily.
According to the San Diego Police Department, the pilot's wife indicated that her relationship with her husband came under stress after an argument. The pilot's wife told police officers that she received a phone call from her husband about 0930 hours. Her husband indicated he was going to commit suicide.
The pilot's wife indicated about 1100 hours the pilot called again and indicated how he wanted to be buried. At 1330 hours, the pilot called again and stated he was coming home. The pilot's wife then left her home and went over to a friend's house. After she arrived, a recorded message was discovered on the telephone answering machine. The pilot stated in part to his wife, "I don't want to live anyway. Probably later when you get this message, it'll already happened so contact the police there and down in Borrego." The telephone answering machine tape was transcribed by the San Diego Police Department. A copy of the transcript is included in this report along with a personal message from the pilot to his wife that was found in the airplane by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Two Hispanic field workers stated to a local store employee that they saw a man parachute from an airplane north of Borrego Springs about the time of the accident. The pilot's wife indicated to the San Diego Police Department during a subsequent interview that her husband owned a parachute.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Office conducted an aerial and ground search of a 1,000 square mile area in the vicinity of the airplane's flight path. Neither aircraft nor ground teams with cadaver dogs were able to determine the whereabouts of the pilot.