Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glasair III, DSB Inc., N655DB: Accident occurred October 23, 2012 in Byron, California

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA022
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 23, 2012 in Byron, CA
Aircraft: BEHNE GLASAIR III, registration: N655DB
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 23, 2012, about 1403 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Behne Glasair III, N655DB, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Byron, California. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and his private pilot rated passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The local flight originated from the Funny Farm Airport (4CA2), Brentwood, California, about 1400.

Witnesses reported that they observed the accident airplane flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet above ground level when it suddenly nosed over and began to spin to the left in a slight nose low attitude. The witnesses further reported that the airplane continued to spin until it impacted terrain where a post-crash fire ensued.

Examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the accident site, revealed that all major structural components of the airplane were present at the accident site. The inboard portion of both wings and center section of the fuselage were mostly consumed by fire. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

  Regis#: 655DB        Make/Model: EXP       Description: GLASAIR 
  Date: 10/23/2012     Time: 2103

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Substantial

  City: BYRON   State: CA   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   2
                 # Crew:   2     Fat:   2     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: OAKLAND, CA  (WP27)                   Entry date: 10/24/2012 

Sheriff’s deputies inspect the wreckage of Glasair III (N655DB) plane that crashed in Byron Tuesday, killing two people on board. Photo by Richard Wisdom

Michael John "Mike" Ritschard 


March 14, 1954 - Oct. 23, 2012 MISHAWAKA - Michael John "Mike" Ritschard succumbed to injuries sustained in an aircraft accident. He was the eldest son of John and (the late) Martha Ritschard. Mike was a graduate of Penn High School (1972), and received an Aircraft Mechanic degree from Vincennes University. He worked for Bendix in South Bend, testing aircraft fuel controls, then took a company transfer to San Antonio, TX. Mike and his wife Vicki enjoyed a life of travel as they worked in Holland, Germany, Nassau, Japan, Singapore and finally returning to Kelly Air Force base in San Antonio. Surviving family includes his wife, Vicki Ritschard; father, John Ritschard; stepmother, Lila (Kellems) Ritschard; sister, Carol (Wyn) Laidig; brother, Dave (Roberta) Ritschard; stepchildren, David Abdulky, Sulema (Abdulky) Bracaloni; and 4 step-grandchildren. Mike will be remembered for his great love of flying and sharing that love with others. A memorial service will be held at Osceola United Methodist Church (432 North Beech Road, Osceola) on Saturday, November 3rd, at 11:00 am. 
Guest Book:

A Space Systems/Loral engineer was one of two men who died when their experimental aircraft crashed near Byron on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

David Behne, 57, was identified on Friday, Oct. 26, by the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office following a review of dental records by the sheriff's coroner's division, said Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee.

Behne and longtime friend Larry Strobel, 56, both of Brentwood, were flying the two-seat, custom-made, single-engine, Glasair III plane, owned by Behne when the crash occurred.

The plane was heard whirring overhead by a witness before it fell in a corkscrew dive and crashed into a farm field shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday near Marsh Creek Road and Byron Highway.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

Behne worked at Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto on commercial satellites used by television companies, his son, Eric Behne, said. His father flew almost every day, including daily commutes from his airstrip in Brentwood to the Palo Alto Airport on his way to work, Eric Behne said.

Earl Hibler, a pilot and longtime friend of Behne, said today that he spent much of Thursday at the crash site with two others picking up pieces of the plane to return what is left to the Funny Farm airstrip, the private airport that Behne owned in Brentwood.

"It was a long and grueling day," Hibler said. "When your best friend dies and you have to pick up the wreckage, it's tough."

Hibler added that he himself was among those who helped Behne build the plane in 2008, and Hibler said he had flown it himself many times.

Behne and Strobel were longtime friends and avid pilots, according to Eric Behne. They also were accomplished engineers.

Strobel was the owner and namesake of L.D. Strobel Co. Inc., of Concord, a wireless and utility construction company that has completed 5,000 projects, including communications towers in Hawaii and San Francisco, since its founding by Strobel in 1987, according the firm's website.

Strobel's most recent projects included cell towers built on Treasure Island and atop the parking garage of the South San Francisco BART station.

Strobel owned two single-engine, two-seat aircrafts, a Vans RV-4, which he constructed himself, and Kenneth M. Browne Christen Eagle II, according to FAA registration records.

A person who answered the phone at Strobel's company declined to comment on the founder's passing.

Hibler said he did not know Strobel well, but that Strobel was part of a group of airplane race fans that included Behne who drove to Nevada to watch Hibler compete in the Reno Air Races.

Behne owned about a dozen aircraft at the Funny Farm airstrip, Hibler said.

Eric Behne said that his father, who started out as a pilot at age 16, piloted the plane the day of the crash. His father took off from the private Funny Farm airstrip, at 2600 Penny Lane in Brentwood, with Strobel for a short flight for fun, he said.

David Behne had a long career as an aerospace and communications engineer, having worked on engines for the Space Shuttle program at the aerospace firm Rocketdyne and on airborne lasers for Lockheed Martin.

 BYRON -- Two Brentwood men have been identified as the victims in a fatal plane crash Tuesday afternoon near Byron. 
Using dental records, the Contra Costa County Coroner's office confirmed their identities as David S. Behne, 57, and Larry Strobel, 56. Behne was piloting the plane when it crashed, said Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jimmy Lee.

FAA records show the home built plane was registered to a company called DSB Inc. out of Fernley, Nev.

Behne is the registrant of a private landing strip, known as "Funny Farm Airport," in Brentwood, about four miles north of the crash site. The plane went down about 2 p.m. in a field near Marsh Creek Road and Byron Highway.

No one else was injured.

On Friday, Behne's ex-wife, Shelley Rose, said he will be missed by scores of friends and family, including their 23-year-old son, Eric Behne.

The airport had been in the Behne family since the '60s, Rose said.

Her ex-husband, who flew daily, was a mechanical engineer who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Most recently she said, he worked as a contractor for Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto.

"He was energetic, always had to be working. He had a lot of planes he worked on and he traveled a lot," she said. She called Behne an adventurer whose hobbies included flying and scuba diving.

Behne and Strobel had been friends for sometime, Rose said. She said Strobel got into flying when he moved to Brentwood a few years ago.

Behne is also survived by his father Joe Behne, of Las Vegas, his sister Julie Korhummell, of Livermore; his brother Daniel Behne, of Livermore, and a niece and a nephew.

A funeral, she said, had not been set as of Friday.

"We'll have a celebration for life out here (the airport)," Rose said. "That's what he would have wanted."

When the single-engine Glasair III crashed, it burned so badly that it took officials about five hours to discover that there were actually two bodies on board, not one as previously announced.

The National Transportation Safety Board is handling the investigation, with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration. A basic preliminary report may be released within a week, possible two, but it may take months for the NTSB to determine the likely cause for the crash.

Weather conditions in the area around the time of the crash were fair, with partly cloudy skies and light winds, according to the National Weather Service.

The Glasair III is a 21-foot two-seater, with a top speed of 327 mph and a 23-foot standard wingspan. It is sold in four "kits" that users assemble at home; the total price of the kits ranges from $60,711 to $65,735, according to the Glasair website. Users can also purchase a prebuilt wing or fuselage.

BYRON -- Authorities on Friday released the names of two men who died in the crash of a small plane north of the Byron Airport. 

 David Behne, 57, and Larry Strobel, 56, both of Brentwood died when the experimental Glasair III they were flying in crashed in a field 4 miles northeast of the airport about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Authorities did not say who was piloting the single-engine, home-built plane, which is owned by Behne. Both Behne and Strobel are licensed pilots.

The two people who died in a small plane accident in Contra Costa County on Tuesday afternoon have not yet been identified, authorities said Wednesday.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said the coroner went out about 8:30 a.m. to the field at Marsh Creek Road and Byron Highway, about four miles from the county airport, to collect the bodies. He did not know when they would be identified.

The people in the plane died Tuesday when the small amateur-built Glassair III crashed about 2 p.m. Originally, authorities thought that only one person had died.

Joshua McLean, 19, told Bay City News that he witnessed the plane fall from the sky after hearing the engine whirring overhead.

"It was about 1,500 feet off the ground and corkscrewing toward the ground," McLean said. "It seemed as though he had just lost control of the plane." 

 According to the the Federal Aviation Administration website, the registered owner of the plane is a company, named DSB Inc, located in Fernley, in Lyon County in Nevada.

The plane burned after crashing and billowing smoke could be seen by an NBC Bay Area helicopter shortly after the crash.  Lee said federal authorities have been notified and will investigate the cause of the crash.