Friday, July 13, 2018

Rutan Defiant, N17DR: Fatal accident occurred July 12, 2018 near Robertson Field Airport (4B8), Plainville, Hartford County, Connecticut

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Windsor Locks, Connecticut
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Plainville, C
Accident Number: ERA18FA189
Date & Time: 07/12/2018, 1042 EDT
Registration: N17DR
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On July 12, 2018, about 1042 eastern daylight time, a experimental, amateur-built Rutan Defiant, N17DR, impacted terrain while in the traffic pattern at Robertson Field Airport (4B8), Plainville, Connecticut. The airplane was substantially damaged. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to the pilot and was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The flight originated about 1037.

A witness reported that he was on the ramp at 4B8, preparing for an instructional flight. He observed the accident airplane climb out from runway 2 and immediately veer to the left. The airplane was 150-200 feet above the ground near the fixed base operator. The airplane continued in a steep (80-90°) left bank until it disappeared below the horizon and crashed. He may have heard at least one engine operating at the time of the accident. There was no smoke trailing the airplane.

The airplane collided with upsloping terrain inside a city-owned landfill, about 0.4 miles southwest of the airport center. The wreckage path was oriented on a 150° heading and was about 105 feet in length and about 25 feet wide. The airplane came to rest on a 060° heading. There was no fire. The forward engine, firewall, and instrument panel partially broken away from the fuselage and remained attached by cables and wires. The aft engine and wooden propeller remained attached to the fuselage; they were generally undamaged with the exception of minor non-rotational surface scratches on the propeller blades. Flight control continuity was established from the aft-mounted wing/vertical fin assembly control surfaces to the cockpit. Control surface continuity from the forward-mounted canards to the cockpit was not established due to postimpact damage to those components.

The nose landing gear was separated during the impact sequence. The left and right main gear struts remained attached to the fuselage. The right main gear tire remained attached to the right strut and the left main gear tire separated during the accident sequence and was located adjacent to the left wing tip.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine and multi-engine land ratings. The multi-engine rating was valid for the Rutan Defiant only. According to his pilot logbook, he recorded 765 hours total time prior to the accident. The pilot was listed in Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness records as one of the builders of the airplane.

The fiberglass-construction, four-seat airplane was equipped with two Lycoming O-320 series engines in a push-pull configuration. According to the airplane logbooks, a condition inspection was completed on December 1, 2017. The airplane had accrued about 286 hours of total time at the time of the accident.

Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD) was located about 10 miles east of the accident site. The 1053 weather observation at HFD included wind from 010ยบ at 7 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 28°C, dew point 9°C, and an altimeter setting of 30.17 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: RUTAN
Registration: N17DR
Model/Series: DEFIANT
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHFD, 18 ft msl
Observation Time: 1053 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 360°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.18 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Plainville, CT (4B8)
Destination: Plainville, CT (4B8) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 41.683889, -72.870000 (est)

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 

Donald Eckberg

PLAINVILLE, CT (WFSB) -  Plainville police identified the 67-year-old pilot who was killed in a plane crash near Robertson Airport on Thursday.

The twin-engine aircraft crashed just after 10:30 a.m., in a landfill near the airport. 

The Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot was the only person on board when the plane crashed, and that he died on impact.

He was identified as 67-year-old Donald Eckberg, of Burlington. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be taking over the investigation. They identified the aircraft as a Rutan Defiant, and lists the victim as the plane's co-owner.

Police said the surrounding area will be closed to the public during the investigation. 

Richard Marr, who helped Eckberg building the plane, said his friend was a great pilot, and a great man.

"We were like brothers. He was one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known," Marr said in a statement to Channel 3 on Thursday.

Marr says he plans to speak to the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigators on Friday morning at the crash site. He said because Eckberg was such an impeccable pilot, he believes a medical issue may have led to the crash. 

Robertson Airport is located off of Johnson Avenue, however, neighbors on Julie Road said the plane was flying awfully close to the ground before it crashed on Thursday morning, just several hundred feet from a nearby condo complex.

"Seeing it pass the tree like that and it being that low, I figured something was going to happen, something was wrong," said Ashley Wolak, of Plainville.

Dr. Michael Teiger, who is an aviation medical examiner says the FAA designates Rutan Defiants as experimental aircraft, which means the plane was built by individuals, not in a factory, but that doesn't mean it wasn't safe. 

"These are experienced engineers and people who are in the trade, who know how to build planes. It takes several years to actually get a plane from the kit to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration" said Teiger. 

Story and video ➤

PLAINVILLE - One person was killed Thursday morning when he was ejected from a twin-engine airplane after crashing it near Robertson Airport.

The pilot, the sole occupant in the airplane, was identified as 67-year-old Burlington resident Donald Eckberg.

The impact occurred in the town’s landfill that sits just southwest of the airport, behind an apartment complex off of Julie Road. It was just before 10:24 a.m., when authorities received a 911 call about the crash. The first officer on scene had to hop a fence and run to the top of a hill, where the wreckage sat, and call out for any survivors of the crash.

“The officer tried performing life-saving techniques on Eckberg, but he had died on impact,” said police Lt. Nicholas Mullins.

Roger Knapp, who lives in an apartment about 100 yards from where the crash occurred, said he was working at home behind a glass sliding door when he could hear the plane coming.

“I heard it was too low - that’s for sure,” Knapp said.

Knapp, looking through the sliding door, said the plane first appeared as though it were heading directly for his home before it banked left and ended up in a wooded area.

“Oh, it was a huge crash,” Knapp said of the sound.

Mullins said both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have taken over the investigation. The agencies will determine what caused the crash.

“I know people saw the plane flying low in this area,” Mullins said. “I can’t tell you how exactly the dynamic of the crash occurred - that’s under investigation as we speak.”

When asked if he had any idea what caused the crash, Mullins said, “That would just be speculation at this point.”

On its Twitter page, the NTSB identified the aircraft as a Rutan Defiant - a four-seat, home-built aircraft. Mullins said the aircraft had taken off from Robertson Airport, but he was not sure where it was headed.

This is not the first time a plane has crashed near Robertson Airport. Just last September, an 80-year-old man, flying a single-engine aircraft, crashed into a tree and spun around before the aircraft settled into a parking lot adjacent to the airport. He walked away with minor injuries.

Mullins said there also was a crash several years ago near Northwest Drive.

When asked if authorities had any concern about the number of accidents in the area, Mullins said, “I’d rather not comment on that. Unfortunately, these things do occasionally happen. And we have seen plane crashes in Plainville over the years, due to the fact that we do have an airport in town.”

Original article can be found here ➤

A plane crashed in a landfill in Plainville Thursday morning and Plainville police said the pilot has died.

The pilot, identified by police as 67-year-old Donald Eckberg, of Burlington, was the only person on the twin-engine plane that crashed on Granger Lane at 10:24 a.m., near Robertson Airport and he was thrown from the aircraft.

A friend told NBC Connecticut he and Eckberg built the plane he was flying, which was classified as an experimental aircraft.

Richard Marr, who is the co-owner of the plane and Eckberg's best friend, said Eckberg was always very careful and took precautions while flying, so he's not sure what could have gone wrong.

A Tweet from the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane is a Rutan Defiant and the federal agency is investigating. The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating.

The plane crash is near condos and several residents reported hearing a plane flying very low then a boom.

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call police.

The area surrounding the crash will be closed to the public during the investigation. 

The last fatal plane crash in Connecticut was on Sept. 16, 2017 in North Branford, according to NTSB records. NASCAR champion Ted Christopher, 59, and the pilot, 81-year-old Charles Dundas, were killed in that crash. 

Story and video ➤


  1. Nothing yet from the NTSB. The co-owner indicated that there may have been engine trouble, but this was a multi-engine plane. More info here: