On April 30, 1995, at 1025 Pacific daylight time, a home-built experimental Knapp Packard Special aircraft, N55851, sustained substantial damage during a hard landing at Wheaton Springs, California. The aircraft was owned and operated by the pilot and was on a local solo flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The certificated commercial pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated from the Jean airport, Jean, Nevada, at 1000 on the day of the accident. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft on a 180-degree heading over the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed at approximately 20 feet agl. The aircraft was next observed descending abruptly and impacting the lake bed in a nose-low attitude. After impact, the aircraft nosed over and skidded approximately 150 feet before coming to rest in an inverted position. A postcrash inspection of the aircraft by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspectors revealed both main landing gear had been spread to the point of failure.
A witness stated that the pilot had previously reported having difficulty in judging his height above touchdown. The area of the accident site is flat without trees, foliage, or ground objects. The pilot's medical certificate required that he wear glasses; the coroner's investigator reported the pilot was found wearing prescription eyeglasses and a cloth-type helmet with goggles.
The pilot had recently begun actively flying again after approximately 17 years of inactivity. FAA inspectors reported that the pilot had a total of 596 flight hours prior to April 3, 1995. His last flight prior to that date was on March 26, 1978, when he flew 3 hours in an Aircoupe. Between April 3 and 7, 1995, he received instruction and a biennial flight review in a Cessna 205 equipped with tricycle landing gear. During that period he logged a total of 8.9 hours. Based on information provided by insurance investigators, it was estimated that the pilot had flown the accident airplane a total of 10 hours prior to the accident.
The San Bernardino County Coroner reported the results of a toxicological examination were negative. The coroner's investigator also reported the pilot's seat and shoulder harness were found buckled.