Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rutan VariEze, N80681: Fatal accident occurred May 28, 2016 in Santa Paula, Ventura County, California

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Van Nuys FSDO-01

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA118
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 28, 2016 in Santa Paula, CA
Aircraft: MOORE JOSEPH O VARIEZE, registration: N80681
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 May 28, 2016, about 1515 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Moore VariEze airplane, N80681, reported a total loss of engine power and impacted power lines before coming to rest in a lemon orchard in Santa Paula, California. The owner/airline transport pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed in the postcrash fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area flight that departed the Santa Paula Airport (SZP), Santa Paula, California, about 1500. 

Two ground witnesses reported observing the airplane flying overhead, and heard the engine sputtering. The airplane was descending, and dropped out of their view as it passed behind a hill. The airplane came back into view in a steep left turn, which both witnesses estimated to be at least 45 degrees. The airplane struck power lines, and then then impacted the ground. Both witnesses reported hearing an explosion, and then seeing fire erupt from the accident site.

An ear witness to the accident reported that after the airplane took off, the pilot radioed him that his engine had quit. There were no further communications between the pilot and the ear witness.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site. Examination of the wreckage site revealed that the airplane had struck power lines about 162 feet from the final resting point of the airplane. The debris path was along a magnetic heading of 325 degrees. The airplane came to rest on a magnetic heading of 140 degrees. The entire airplane was located at the accident site.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Two people who were killed in an airplane crash between Santa Paula and Ventura on Saturday have been identified as Edgar Friederichs, 61, and Matthew Boutell, 21.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner said Friederichs lived in Castaic while Boutell was from Thousand Oaks.

Friederichs was piloting a single-engine VariEze aircraft when it crashed in an orchard near the 1600 block of Aliso Canyon Road north of Foothill Road on Saturday afternoon.

The National Safety Transportation Board is leading an investigation into what caused the home-built aircraft to crash.

The coroner's office said the cause of death was undetermined as of Wednesday afternoon. Officials could not say when they would have a cause of death.

The airplane had taken off from Santa Paula Airport before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Bob Hirsch, 62, a pilot who has a hangar next to the one Friederichs used at Santa Paula Airport, said the two had known each other since meeting at a picnic when they were boys.

"I was 6 years old at the time and our fathers worked for the same aerospace company," said Hirsch, as he fought back tears during at interview at his hangar on Tuesday.

Hirsch said Friederichs "was very meticulous and took extremely good care of his airplanes."

"He was probably as well rounded in aviation as anyone could be," Hirsch said.

Hirsch stayed in touch with Friederichs throughout the years.

"We lived parallel lives in many ways," Hirsch said, as he recalled working at Santa Monica Airport as a young man fueling aircraft, a job Friederichs also held there.

Friederichs went on to become a licensed aircraft mechanic and later an aeronautics engineer, Hirsch said.

Among the many projects Friederichs worked on, was the development of the MD-80 for McDonnell Douglas, a passenger jet that Hirsch flew when he worked as a commercial pilot. Hirsch is retired from American Airlines.

Hirsch eventually bought a hangar at Santa Paula Airport and later rented it to Friederichs. Friederichs ended up buying the hangar from Hirsch, he said, while Hirsch bought an adjacent hangar.

"Edgar didn't have to prove anything when it came to aircraft," Hirsch said. "He just knew it."

He said Friederichs quickly developed a reputation at Santa Paula Airport "for his deep knowledge of aircraft and flying."

Friederichs was flying a VariEze at the time of the crash, a homemade aircraft that takes some skill to pilot, Hirsch said.

Witnesses told investigators that the aircraft was in distress before going down, Kevin Donoghue, a sergeant with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, said Saturday. They also said the aircraft's engine started cutting out and the plane got tangled in power lines before crashing.

"He was looking for a place to land," Hirsch said. "Unfortunately, he didn't make it."

A preliminary report on the crash should be ready within the coming week to two weeks, Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB in Washington, D.C.

The report will be available online. A more comprehensive investigation also is being conducted. Such investigations take an average of 12 months to complete, Knudson said.

Those first to the crash site on Saturday afternoon said they saw flames and heavy smoke coming from the orchard where the plane went down.

Two people died Saturday afternoon after a small airplane crashed about halfway between Ventura and Santa Paula, officials said.

The Ventura County Fire Department said it responded just after 3:15 p.m. to the report of the downed aircraft near the 1600 block of Aliso Canyon Road, north of Foothill Road. Upon arriving, crews reported flames and heavy smoke rising from the orchard where the plane crashed.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said preliminary information indicated the single-engine, home-built VariEze aircraft crashed with two people aboard and then caught fire.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Donoghue said there were reports before the plane crashed that it was in distress. He said that as the engine started cutting out, the plane apparently got tangled in power lines and ultimately crashed.

Information about the two dead people was not available.

Dennis Rosenberg, a game warden with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, is a pilot and was listening to the aircraft frequencies on a portable radio when he heard about the crash as he was driving in the area.

“I heard all the pilots were out this way trying to find it,” Rosenberg said. He continued to listen to the radio traffic, thinking, “If I can find it, maybe I can get out there and help out,” Rosenberg said.

The warden called sheriff’s dispatchers for an accurate location and was able to get to the scene in a black pickup with his agency’s emblem on the side.

But Rosenberg said he didn’t do much of anything because fire crews were already on the scene.

A few hours after the crash, yellow police tape cordoned off part of the lemon orchard that held larger debris. Sheriff’s officials were securing the debris field, estimated at about 100 yards, until officials with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board arrived to investigate the crash.

As law enforcement officers waited for federal officials and staff from the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office, they were blocking Aliso Canyon Road at Foothill Road, limiting traffic to those who lived in the area or had business there.

Among the vehicles being allowed in were electrical utility repair trucks.


The VariEze is a “canard”-style home-built aircraft. The design later evolved into the Long-EZ, the type of aircraft that crashed and killed singer-songwriter John Denver as he flew it in 1997. According to Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, here are some specifications for the VariEze:

• Crew: One

• Capacity: One passenger

• Length: 14 feet 2 inches

• Wingspan: 22.21 feet

• Wing area: 53.6 square feet

• Empty weight: 580 pounds

• Maximum takeoff weight: 1,050 pounds

• Fuel capacity: 24 gallons

• Maximum speed: 195 mph

• Cruise speed: 165 mph

• Stall speed: 55.5 mph

• Range: 850 miles

• Rate of climb: 1,600 feet per minute

Story and video:

SANTA PAULA, Calif. (KABC) -- Two people died when an experimental aircraft crashed and burst into flames in an orchard in Santa Paula, officials said.

The crash was reported at 3:17 p.m. in the 1600 block of Aliso Canyon Road, just north of the city of Ventura. Fire officials said the plane was fully involved in flames when they arrived and two people were declared dead at the scene.

The FAA described the plane as a VariEze, am experimental aircraft first designed by Burt Ratan in the 1970s. The agency said the plane caught fire after crashing with two people on board.

Another pilot in the area reported hearing the pilot of the experimental aircraft report engine failure and say he planned to try an emergency landing.

Original article can be found here:

SANTA PAULA, Calif. (AP) — Two people have been killed in the fiery crash of a small plane in a Southern California orchard.

Ventura County fire Capt. Mike Lindbery says the crash was reported at 3:17 p.m. Saturday and arriving units found it engulfed in flames. 

The victims were deceased at the scene.

The site is in the agricultural Aliso Canyon area between the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula.

There's no immediate information about those who were aboard, the type of plane or its flight.

There are three civilian airfields in the region.

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