On March 17, 1996, at 1000 hours Pacific standard time, a Bumford GR-7 homebuilt experimental formula one racer, N555GR, collided with the ground following an in-flight loss of control during climb out from the French Valley airport, Temecula, California. The aircraft was owned and operated by the pilot and was beginning a local area personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the airport and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft was destroyed in the ground collision sequence. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

FAA inspectors from the Riverside, California, Flight Standards District Office responded to the accident site, interviewed witnesses, and examined aircraft records and the wreckage. The aircraft was assembled in 1988 and had accrued a total time of 93 hours. An annual inspection was endorsed in the aircraft records on March 15, 1996. Prior to the annual, the aircraft had been stored in a disassembled state for an undetermined period of time. The pilot had recently purchased the aircraft and this was reportedly his first flight in it.

Ground witnesses stated the aircraft took off and climbed to about 2,000 feet agl in the traffic pattern. The aircraft suddenly performed a full right roll, and recovered. Then the aircraft entered a 2-turn spin to the right. The witnesses said the spin stopped, then started again, this time to the left. The left spin continued to ground impact.

The FAA inspectors stated that no discrepancies were identified during an examination of the wreckage.

The pilot is a military aviator assigned to fly Sikorsky CH53E helicopters. Review of available pilot records disclosed no evidence of recent fixed-wing flight activity.

An autopsy was performed by the Riverside County Coroner with specimens retained for toxicological analysis. The results of the toxicological tests were negative for alcohol and all screened drug substances.

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