Friday, November 2, 2018

AutoGyro Cavalon, N198LT: Fatal accident occurred October 30, 2018 in Sebring, Highlands County, Florida

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Sebring, FL
Accident Number: ERA19FA034
Date & Time: 10/30/2018, 1448 EDT
Registration: N198LT 
Aircraft: Autogyro AUTOGYRO CAVALON
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On October 30, 2018, about 1448 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Auto-Gyro Cavalon gyrocopter, N198LT, was destroyed during collision with a power pole, wires, terrain, a residence and a post-crash fire following a forced landing in Sebring, Florida. The commercial pilot and the pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which departed Sebring Regional Airport (SEF) about 1440 and was destined for Manatee Airport (48X), Palmetto, Florida. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot-rated passenger had dropped his gyroplane at a repair station on SEF, and the purpose of the flight was to return him to 48X. Representatives of Auto-Gyro, the airport manager at SEF, and the repair station stated the pilot had flown the accident gyroplane earlier in day for approximately 2 hours, serviced it fully with fuel, and departed with the passenger.

Preliminary radar information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed the radar target identified as the accident gyroplane was acquired at 500 feet and its track depicted a climb to about 1,000 feet where it assumed a cruise profile on an approximate on-course heading (280°) for 48X. The radar track traversed the southern border of Lake Jackson, Sebring, Florida. About 1446, the radar data depicted a descent profile that began about 1,000 feet over the southwestern shore of the lake. The descent followed the curve of the shoreline to the northwest, and the radar target disappeared at 900 feet and 90 knots groundspeed, about 4 tenths of a mile southeast of the accident site.

In an interview and a written statement, a witness stated he was driving southbound on the highway that paralleled the shoreline of the lake at the time of the accident. He said the gyrocopter was travelling northwest bound, about 300 feet above ground level "with very little airspeed" and appeared to be turning to the east. The gyrocopter then "entered an autorotation" then, when it reached "… about 150 feet the nose of the aircraft dropped immediately turning toward [the] east then back toward the north." The gyrocopter descended from view before a large fireball was seen.

The Sebring Regional Airport was not tower controlled, but a commercial website monitored and recorded the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). At 1448, a MAYDAY call was recorded. Over the next 18 seconds, with some interruptions, the gyrocopter's registration number [partial] and a second mayday call were transmitted before the sounds of impact were heard. During the audible portions of the transmissions, sounds consistent with an engine increasing and decreasing in rpm were heard.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-gyroplane. He held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. His FAA 2nd class medical certificate was issued August 25, 2017. A review of the pilot's FAA Examiner Designation and Qualification Record revealed he had accrued 4,010 total hours of flight experience, 2,715 hours of which were in "rotortype" aircraft.

According to FAA records, the gyrocopter was manufactured in 2017. Airframe logbooks were not recovered, but photographs of maintenance entries revealed the most recent condition inspection was completed October 4, 2018 at 16.6 total aircraft hours.

At 1515, the weather recorded at SEF included clear skies, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 030 degrees at 6 knots. The temperature was 28°C, and the dew point was 13°C. The altimeter setting was 30.07 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was examined at the site, and all major components could not be accounted for at the scene. The damage at the scene included powerlines, a power pole, and residence. The power pole was replaced, and the powerlines were repaired prior to examination. Photographs of the scene revealed the pole was fractured into 3 sections, and powerlines were severed and entangled with the wreckage. The residence was consumed by the post-crash fire.

The wreckage path was oriented about 290° and about 39 feet long. The initial impact crater was about 25 feet beyond the power pole, which appeared to be the initial impact point. Identifiable components of the gyrocopter included the rotor system, the engine, and the main landing gear crosstube. The wreckage path ended at the engine where it was entangled with the residence. Landing gear wheels and tires could be seen scattered outside the residence. The remainder of the gyrocopter was consumed in the post-crash fire.

The rotor system was found between the impact crater and the residence still attached to the pylon structure. It was largely intact and displayed signatures consistent with impact and heat exposure. Spiral striations consistent with wire contact and signatures consistent with electrical arcing were also visible on the rotor blades. The rotor blades were secure in their grips, and the pitch and roll controls, and pre-rotator drive were all attached to the head.

The engine was entangled and partially buried in burned debris. All external accessories were destroyed by fire. The flywheel was melted, and the remaining slag made rotation of the crankshaft impossible. The propeller hub remained attached, and the composite blades appeared to be uniformly severed at their roots prior to fire exposure.

The engine cylinder heads were removed, and the pistons were removed from their connecting rods to obtain visual access to the crankshaft and connecting rods. The signatures observed were consistent with normal wear and lubrication. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Autogyro
Registration: N198LT
Model/Series: AUTOGYRO CAVALON No Series
Aircraft Category: Gyroplane
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: KSEF, 63 ft msl
Observation Time: 1515 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 30°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Sebring, FL (SEF)
Destination: Palmetto, FL (48X)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  27.480556, -81.480278 (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 email

Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian Rayner 
Investigator In Charge
 National Transportation Safety Board

National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration

Christopher Lord

SEBRING, Fla. — The gyrocopter pilot killed in a crash Tuesday in Sebring was a father, husband and avid test pilot with thousands of hours of flight time, officials say.

According to Chris Lord's website, Lord was certified to fly more than 34 different types of gyroplanes.

Lord is listed on the site as a "pilot, instructor, examiner, test pilot."

The site goes on to say that, "Chris has flown many aircraft to include fixed wing, helicopter, powered parachute, weight shift trike, and thousands of hours in over 34 models of gyroplanes. Chris has trained and examined hundreds of students and has touched nearly every state traveling across the USA."

A video posted on his website shows Lord taking a self-proclaimed aviation enthusiast out for a flight in an ELA 07 Cougar gyroplane. Lord and the passenger taking off and landing at Sebring Regional Airport in a six and a half minute video posted on Youtube of October of last year.

The Executive Director for the airport told ABC Action News over the phone, "they are saddened by the loss," Mike Willingham said. "Chris was a great guy, he was a great father, and husband."

Lord was taking his passenger, identified as Christopher Brugger, to Manatee County when they were both killed in the crash.

Dr. Chris Brugger was a chiropractor in Bradenton, "a successful practice in Bradenton with many long-term clients turned friends and vice versa," a former employee told ABC Action News. He is described by friends as a great father, husband, grandfather and friend. 

"He didn't just leave behind a grieving family — he leaves behind a grieving community of friends," said an ABC Action News viewer, who asked to remain anonymous. 

The official cause of the crash is still under investigation. 

Original article can be found here ➤

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — A day after his tragic death in a gyroplane crash in Sebring, family and friends of Manatee area chiropractor Chris Brugger shared memories and tried to come to terms with his sudden passing.

Brugger, 52, will be remembered as a father, a husband, and a healer.

A chiropractor for more than a decade in Manatee County, Brugger has helped ease the pain for hundreds of his patients. 

Today, they’re all dealing with the pain of his sudden and unexpected death. 

Brugger was onboard a gyroplane Tuesday in Sebring when it crashed into a mobile home park shortly after takeoff from Sebring Airport. 

Both Brugger and the pilot Christopher Lord were killed in the fiery crash. 

“He gave from his heart. He loved to help people,“ said longtime family friend Kathy Wyatt. “Even back in our high school days, he was just the sweetest most caring person. That translated into his chiropractic business.” 

Brugger pursued an interest in becoming a chiropractor after he was in an accident and needed chiropractic services.

“He was in pain and he went to chiropractor after chiropractor and no one could help him,” said Shawn Ram, who works as a chiropractic assistant in Brugger’s office. “Finally, he was like, 'alright, this is it. I found someone who could help me, and I want to help people' so he's been doing this ever since then.” 

Ram spent much of Wednesday canceling appointments and answering calls from patients offering their sympathies. 

Meanwhile, federal authorities have taken over the investigation into what caused the crash. NTSB officials say the pilot did make a mayday call just moments before the gyroplane crashed.

Investigators say much of the wreckage was destroyed in the explosion when it crashed, but they’re hoping what’s left of the engine will offer clues into what might have caused the aircraft to go down so soon after takeoff.

Original article can be found here ➤


Anonymous said...

The pilot, Christopher David Lord, was, according to the FAA's Airman Registry website, a certificated Private Pilot with an Airplane Single Engine Land category and class rating. His certificate does not appear to have a Rotorcraft - Gyroplane category and class rating as required by 14 CFR Part 61. Nor does he hold a Flight Instructor certificate with a Rotorcraft - Gyroplane category and class rating. He was, in short, not qualified to be flying the gyroplane that crashed let alone carrying a passenger. His Third class medical certificate, issued in 2005, appears to have expired a number of years ago.

Mr. Lord's website ( describes Mr. Lord as "Chris Lord pilot, instructor, examiner, test pilot. Chris has flown many aircraft to include fixed wing, helicopter, powered parachute, weight shift trike, and thousands of hours in over 34 models of gyroplanes. Chris has trained and examined hundreds of students and has touched nearly every state traveling across the USA..."

As stated above Mr. Lord was not properly qualified (i.e FAA certificated and rated), according to the FAA's data, to be a pilot-in-command of, nor instruct in, a gyroplane. Nor does Mr. Lord appear to be an FAA designated examiner as alluded to in the description of Mr. Lord's qualifications and activities.

This comment is being posted by a retired FAA aviation safety inspector and aircraft accident investigator.

Anonymous said...

The previous post should be removed. Chris was in fact a DPE and was one of the most qualified gyro pilot in the US. The public FAA database appears to be incorrect and not updated. Chris worked closely with the FAA in many cases and trained and certified many gyro pilots and instructors. His class 2 medical was reportedly recently renewed.

Anonymous said...

Should be cleared up when the preliminary report is issued.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to clear up. Christopher Curtis Lord, not Christopher David Lord.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to clear up. Christopher Curtis Lord, not Christopher David Lord.

Anonymous said...

Yep ... That cleared things up.


Charlie Rodz said...

Thank God that "retired FAA aviation safety inspector and aircraft accident investigator." is actually retired. He jumped to conclusions so quickly that I don't know how he worked as an accident investigator to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Careful there Charlie ... He might send some of his still employed friends after you. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

^ Correctamundo. Right on ... You got it ;)

Anonymous said...

The AutoGyro Cavalon N198LT was reputed to have been previously rolled over, and then repaired by AutoGyro USA in Maryland.

According to a gyro CFI on Facebook, "this accident aircraft I understand was an accident re-build and was known to be a pig to fly & called a "death-trap" by many who spent a few minutes in it - landed & vowed ...never to fly it again! ....YES ...that IS hearsay! ..... but from more than one source!"

I've also heard a report that N198LT had a very bad rotor shake, and that Lord filmed the shake and sent the video to AutoGyro USA, asking for repair advice. Somebody with a copy of that video should post it.

Finally, I hope that the FAA will scrutinize the rebuild/repair records regarding the rollover. I'm wondering if some original control parts were imprudently left in, which later failed on that horrible day?

Anonymous said...

I inspected and flew a gyroplane that Chris Lords test flew and signed out of Phase I into Phase II. It was not airworthy when I inspected it. He attempted to take an un-airworthy gyroplane and fly an unsuspecting passenger in this aircraft. Chris Lords ability to determine if a gyroplane was airworthy was beyond his capability. I warned his boss (at the FAA) that he was incapable of preflighting and flying a gyroplane to private pilot standards even though he was a designated examiner for gyroplanes. That was 2 years before this accident. The FAA has culpability in this tragic accident that could have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

It's a lot more fun to beat up on a dead guy that can't defend himself than to sit patiently and let the Fedaralies do their job and see what the come up with.


Anonymous said...

Nobody is beating up on a dead guy. Just stating facts and trying to get people to recognize dangerous careless patterns. His wreckless attitude and the FAAs behavior to ignore the obvious were chains in this event that took a passengers life too. When someone observes a person falsifying logbooks, flying passengers in unairworthy aircraft and the FAA does nothing there is an obvious problem that needs to be corrected. It’s a terrible outcome that could have been avoided. How a person with so little gyroplane experience could become an examiner is a question the FAA should be forced to answer!

Anonymous said...

Well ... I think you were beating up on a dead guy. I guess it doesn't matter. You seem to have a 'Chip' on your shoulder.

I would suggest doing something more productive like sending an email to the NTSB with all of you 'facts'. They will look at it.