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On November 6, 1993, approximately 1030 hours mountain standard time (MST), a Bird RAF-2000 experimental gyroplane, N70334, registered to and being flown by David E. Bird, a certificated private pilot, was destroyed during a collision with terrain following a loss of control on climbout at the Salina-Gunnison Airport, Redmond, Utah. The pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was personal, was to have been operated in accordance with the requirements set forth in 14CFR91 and originated from the Salina-Gunnison airport.
The pilot executed his first takeoff approximately 1010 hours from runway 20 and remained in a left hand traffic pattern. A VHS video recording of the pilot's approaches, landings and initial climbouts was made by the pilot's father and reviewed by the Investigator in Charge. The pilot's father, wife, and at least one other witness were located slightly west of the edge of the 60 foot wide runway and approximately 2400 feet southwest of the threshold of runway 20.
The first takeoff/landing was uneventful. During the second takeoff the aircraft diverged from the runway centerline and passed almost directly overhead the witnesses. The pilot's father remarked "smart alec" during this event. During the third takeoff the aircraft again diverged from the runway centerline and passed almost directly overhead the witnesses. The pilot's father remarked "he's crazy" during this event. During the fourth and fifth takeoffs the aircraft again diverged from the runway centerline and passed almost directly overhead the witnesses. During the sixth takeoff the aircraft remained relatively aligned with the runway centerline. During the seventh takeoff the aircraft again diverged from the runway centerline and passed slightly west of the witnesses. During this overflight the pilot's father stopped following the aircraft with the video camera and it was during this time that the aircraft crashed. The pilot's father, who witnessed the accident, reported that "on the last pass over my head the craft climbed" and that "instead of staying horizontal, it climbed to a vertical or almost vertical position." Additionally, he reported that "it stalled at the top about 200 or 250 feet" and that it "tipped to the left and fell basically straight down." He described the maneuver as "like a hammerhead stall" (refer to statement of Ernest Bird). The pilot's wife and another witness reported similar observations (refer to attached statements of Sandra Bird and Neal Coates).
The pilot's personal flight log was opened on September 30, 1985, and showed a private pilot check ride completion on April 29, 1986. The log showed sporadic flights up through June 19, 1992, all accomplished in single engine fixed wing aircraft.
The next log book entry was recorded on October 10, 1993, and was the first of a series of instructional flights in the RAF-2000. A total of nine flights between October 10th and 13th were conducted in the instructor's RAF-2000 at Avra Valley Airport in Tucson, Arizona. The remaining seven logged flights were conducted at the Salina-Gunnison airport between October 17th and the 31st. All but one of these flight were conducted in the accident aircraft. The pilot's total flight time of 23 hours in the RAF-2000 did not include any flight time he may have logged between the October 31st flight and the accident flight.
On October 23rd the flight instructor endorsed pilot Bird's logbook with the following entry: "90 day signoff for solo. Taxi & takeoff & landings only until landings are master(ed)." A total of 20 landings were logged on this 3.5 hour flight. Three additional flights were logged on the 27th, 30th, and 31st of October with 10, 30, and 4 landings logged respectively.
The RAF-2000 specification brochure accompanying the kit stated a climb rate of 1200 feet per minute (two occupants). A technical representative of the manufacturer reported to the Investigator in Charge that with a moderate airspeed the gyroplane could be transitioned from horizontal flight to a rapid vertical climb. He cautioned that inexperienced pilots should not attempt this maneuver.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On site examination was conducted by FAA Inspector Brent Robinson on November 10, 1993. He reported that he found no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunction with the gyroplane (refer to attached report and photographs).
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Post mortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Maureen J. Frikke, M.D., at the facilities of the Office of the Medical Examiner (State of Utah), 48 North Medical Drive, Salt lake City, UT 84113, telephone 801-584-8410. The report stated in part "No natural disease process sufficient to cause him (the pilot) to lose control of the vehicle were identified at post-mortem examination." Toxicological examination of samples from the pilot were negative (refer to attached Forensic Toxicology Report. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
On site investigation was conducted by FAA Inspectors Lew Olson and Brent Robinson who released the wreckage at the conclusion of their investigation. All aircraft logs and records sent to the NTSB were returned to Inspector Olson via certified mail on May 4, 1994.