National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board has determined today that popular entertainer John Denver fatally crashed his experimental aircraft into Monterey Bay because his attention during flight was diverted in an attempt to switch fuel tanks. The fuel selector valve on the amateur-built Adrian Davis Long-EZ airplane Denver was flying was behind the pilot's left shoulder, forcing him to turn in his seat to locate the handle. This action, the Board concluded, likely caused him to inadvertently apply the right rudder, resulting in loss of aircraft control.
On October 12, 1997 Mr. Denver was performing touch and go operations in his recently purchased aircraft at the Monterey Peninsula Airport located in Pacific Grove, California. The pilot touched down three times before turning west and heading out into Monterey Bay. Moments later witnesses reported hearing a reduction in engine noise. The pilot made no distress calls and the aircraft was destroyed when it impacted the bay. The pilot and the majority of the aircraft were recovered.
Contributing to the crash was the pilot's inadequate preflight planning, specifically his failure to refuel the plane. The Board further determined that the builder's decision to locate the unmarked fuel selector handle in a difficult to access location, combined with unmarked fuel gauges was a causal factor in the accident. Additionally, the Board found that the pilot failed to train himself adequately for the transition to this type of aircraft and was inexperienced flying the Long-EZ.
To prevent similar accidents the National Transportation Safety Board proposed the following recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:
The Board also recommended to the Aviation Insurance Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association that they work with the FAA to establish this training program so that pilots flying experimental aircraft have advanced, aircraft-specific training.
The Board's final report can be found on its Web page under Aviation: http://www.ntsb.gov/Aviation/aviation.htm
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.