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On April 19, 2009, at 1728 Pacific daylight time, an Extra Flugzeugbau GMBH EA-300, N101PK, crashed about 3 miles offshore of the El Capitan State Beach, Santa Barbara, California. Otter Enterprises owned and operated the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, as a personal flight. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was killed. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area flight that had departed the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), Santa Barbara, at 1714. No flight plan had been filed.
According to a witness, he had gone outside and saw the airplane doing aerobatics over the water. He sat down and watched for about 10 minutes, and observed the airplane do a maneuver four times that he described as "flying straight up, flipping over, coming back down, and then flying straight up again." He then saw the airplane enter into a 45-degree descent toward the water, and expected the airplane to pull up again into same maneuver; however, the airplane impacted the water. From his residence, the airplane looked to be only about an inch in size, and he was not able to see a lot of detail. He also reported that it did not appear to be flying close to the water, but rather high up. The witness has viewed helicopters flying to the oil platforms, and estimated that the airplane was "four times higher than the helicopters," which flew closer to the water.
The airplane was located and recovered in the El Capitan channel from a depth of about 210 feet. A private company hired by the family recovered the pilot and airplane wreckage on April 27, 2009.
A review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman and medical records on file in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the 61-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings.
He had been issued a third-class medical on June 13, 2007, with no restrictions. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight time of 3,000 hours. According to a family friend, the pilot flew several times during the week, as well as the weekend, and did not perform aerobatics below 3,000 feet.
The airplane was a 1994 Extra Flugzeugbau GMBH, EA-300, serial number 051. A review of the airplane’s logbooks revealed that a total airframe time of 774 hours at the last annual inspection. An annual inspection was completed on March 12, 2008; there were no further entries in the logbook.
The airplane was powered by a Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-L1B5 engine, serial number L-25253-28A. A review of the engine's logbooks revealed that the last 100-hour inspection was completed on March 12, 2008, at a total time of 774 hours.
The airplane was in contact with the Santa Barbara airport traffic control tower (ATCT). According to the FAA transcripts, the pilot requested and received permission for a visual flight rules (VFR) departure for the west practice area, between 1714 and 1720. At 1720, the pilot contacted Santa Barbara departure, Elcap sector, where he was told by the controller to resume own navigation and appropriate VFR altitudes. At 1727:27, the Elcap sector controller advised the accident pilot that radar contact had been lost. During the next 15 minutes, the Elcap controller made numerous attempts to contact the pilot, with no response.
The Harbor sector controller coordinated search efforts for the accident airplane with the Elcap sector controller and the Santa Barbara county fire helicopter crew. After the airplane had entered into the west practice area, the Elcap controller lost radar contact with the airplane. Normally the pilots in that area will listen in on the frequency for traffic calls, but once they start their maneuvers, they are not in constant communication with the controllers. The Harbor controller reported that no distress calls were made. The Harbor controller indicated that the airplane had disappeared off the radar and did not reacquire, and that a lot of times the airplanes would disappear because they are doing low altitude maneuvers, and that they will reacquire the radar contact. After a few minutes went by the airplane had still not been reacquired by radar, and they attempted to contact the pilot with no response. The Harbor controller reported that the airplane was lost off radar around 2,300 feet, about 8 to 9 miles off the extended final runway departure corridor for runway 25 and runway 7.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner, Santa Barbara, completed an autopsy of the pilot on April 28, 2009. The autopsy report noted the “Cause of Death” as “Massive multiple blunt force trauma.”
The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens from the pilot. The report contained the following positive findings for tested volatiles, 20 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the heart, 20 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the blood, 15 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in the lung. No ethanol was detected in the muscle or liver. The toxicology report also noted that the ethanol "found in this case is from sources other than ingestion."