A pilot declared a loss of power before the plane crash in Hemet
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) – A student pilot fatally injured in a fiery plane crash in Hemet says his engine quit just before the crash, leading to an attempted emergency landing which caused the single-engine aircraft to bounce down a road. and plow through a retaining wall, according to a federal report released Wednesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary findings on the June 7 crash near Hemet-Ryan Airport indicated a loss of power during a touch-and-go maneuver, as well as a failed forced landing from the airman, as apparent factors in what happened.
Federal investigators say the victim, whose identity has not been released, flew the low-wing Beechcraft 77 Skipper solo from Redlands Municipal Airport to Hemet-Ryan Airport – about 20 miles – to complete a string of touchdowns that morning. Touch-and-go maneuvers consist of landing an aircraft on a runway and taking off again without coming to a complete stop.
The student pilot’s plans had been approved by his instructor, whose identity was not disclosed. The plane’s owner was identified in Federal Aviation Administration records as Joseph Scarcella, who operates Scarcella Aviation Corp. in Redlands.
According to the NTSB, this was the victim’s second solo trip to Hemet-Ryan. Witnesses said he was using runway 23 and had performed two touch-and-gos, but at around 9:30 a.m. he executed a missed approach for unknown reasons.
A witness told the NTSB that the airman “did not land on the runway and remained about 30 feet above the ground.”
“Soon after, a distress call was transmitted on the (airport) frequency stating: ‘I am declaring an emergency, loss of power,’ the report said. “The witness recalled that the aircraft had made a left turn and landed on the soft surface of a plowed vegetation field.”
Investigators identified marks indicating that the two-seat Beech bounced twice in the dirt field just south of the airport and at one point rolled 660 feet into the dirt, heading to the right. The plane then crossed Warren Road and struck a cinder block wall behind a residence at Warren and Mustang Way.
“The engine, cabin, left wing root and right wing of the aircraft breached the retaining wall and sustained thermal damage,” according to the NTSB.
The aircraft was loaded with fuel in both wings, and this fuel ignited during the accident.
Hemet and Riverside County fire crews reached the scene within minutes and found the homeowner using a garden hose to try to stop the flames from spreading to his residence, officials said.
The pilot was pulled from the plane and taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center for treatment of extensive burns and other injuries, from which he did not recover. Authorities did not say when he succumbed to his injuries.
Firefighters brought the fire under control within minutes. The house was not damaged by the fire.
County-owned Hemet-Ryan Airport serves as the Cal Fire air attack base, with crews operating from the location year-round. It is also a popular recreational airfield, with general aviation enthusiasts flying in and out of the location daily. Glider activity is also common here.
The NTSB’s final report on the crash may not be released for two years.