Monday, February 11, 2019

Bellanca 7GCAA Citabria, registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local instructional flight, N11666: Accident occurred February 09, 2019 near Monterey Bay Academy Airport (CA66), Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, California

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Jose, California

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Watsonville, CA
Accident Number: WPR19LA100
Date & Time: 02/09/2019, 1039 PST
Registration: N11666
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On February 9, 2019, about 1039 Pacific standard time, a Bellanca 7GCAA airplane, N11666, collided with terrain short of the runway at Monterey Bay Academy Airport, (CA66) Watsonville, California. The flight instructor and pilot receiving instruction were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a local instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed Watsonville Municipal Airport (WVI), Watsonville, California, at an unknown time and was destined for CA66.

According to the flight instructor, they departed WVI to the southwest towards the coast and then set up on a left downwind for a simulated emergency landing at CA66 to runway 28; due to the recent rain, they were not planning to land. The flight instructor stated that during the turn from base to final, everything looked good and a go-around was initiated. He did not recall the subsequent accident sequence.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration inspector on scene, the airplane came to rest in a nose down and upright position about 420 ft short of the approach end of runway 28, and about 25 ft off the right side of the runway.

The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BELLANCA
Registration: N11666
Model/Series: 7GCAA
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
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: WVI, 144 ft msl
Observation Time: 1053 PST
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C / 7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 1500 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4800 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point:  Watsonville, CA (WVI)
Destination: Watsonville, CA (WVI)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  36.935833, -121.789722 (est)

WATSONVILLE, California - UPDATE (9:01 p.m. 2/10/19):  Crews rushed to the Monterey Bay Academy Airport, Saturday, when a small plane crashed onto its runway. The airstrip is a known training ground for Central Coast pilots.

"I used to land out on that strip in my training. It was just a fun, little grass strip that you'd land and practice your take-offs and landings off into the ocean," said retired pilot, Brad Darbro.

The scenic spot saw disaster over the weekend, leaving both the passenger and pilot in serious condition.

Santa Cruz-area pilot, Chris Gularte, said this specific type of plane, a Citabria, is commonly flown around the Monterey Bay. "People go out with these and have a lot of fun. They're really exciting to fly and they do special things. They'll land on a dirt strip like what the academy had," said Gularte.

Staff at the Watsonville Municipal Airport said the plane that crashed was kept there. The Watsonville Municipal Airport is a hub for smaller aircraft, typically used for recreational purposes. 

Although the cause of the plane's crash is still unknown, some pilots believe Saturday's rain and strong gusts could have been a factor. "They're a really lightweight aircraft and they're really affected by winds. I don't know if that's what caused the crash, but it was kind of a windy, stormy day," said Darbro.

The FAA lists the owner of aircraft as Aptos resident, Eva Twardokens. The San Jose Mercury reported this is the former Olympic skier. Whether or not she was flying her plane, at the time of the crash, is still unknown.

UPDATE (6:55 p.m. 2/9/19):

The two people injured in the plane crash Saturday morning outside Watsonville were in "serious" condition, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Harris. The female pilot and male passenger were air transported to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. Their identities have not been released.

The plane's owner is listed as an Aptos resident, according to FAA registry records. The plane is a Bellanca ​​​​​Citabria -  a fixed-wing single engine plane. 

Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the FAA says the plane crashed "under unknown circumstances while landing"  at the Monterey Bay Academy Airport.

Harris said the plane's nose and left side were damaged when it ended on the runway next to a farm field. Firefighters cut off the right wing while trying to pull the pilot and passenger from the fuselage.

The NTSB is leading the investigation. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's office was the immediate responding agency, and was joined by Cal Fire, Santa Cruz Fire, Watsonville Fire, Aptos/La Selva Fire, and AMR Paramedics. 


The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office reports that there has been a plane crash outside Watsonville off San Andreas Road.

The plane crashed on the property of Monterey Bay Academy shortly after taking off from the Watsonville Airport.

Two people were injured in the crash and taken to the hospital, but the cause is still under investigation.

Several local fire districts responded to the scene, but the Sheriff's Office has taken over the scene while they wait for the FAA to arrive.

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