Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Bede BD-5, N501BD: Fatal accident occurred October 08, 2019 near Camarillo Airport (KCMA), Ventura County, California

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 


Location: Camarillo, CA
Accident Number: WPR20FA005
Date & Time: 10/08/2019, 1229 PDT
Registration: N501BD
Aircraft: Bede BD5
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On October 8, 2019, about 1229 Pacific daylight time, an amateur built experimental Bede BD-5, airplane, N501BD, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain about 3/4 mile south of the Camarillo Airport (CMA) Camarillo, California. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to the pilot who was operating it as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight that departed CMA about 1223.

According to preliminary data, the Air Traffic Control tower radioed the pilot, who was flying on downwind in the traffic pattern, that he was a little low. The pilot responded that he was having issues climbing and would need to stay at his current altitude. He also responded that he would need to make a full stop landing.

Several witnesses located near the accident site reported that the airplane was low, then made a right turn, and was rapidly descending towards the ground. One witness stated that the propeller was not moving.

A postaccident examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, revealed that all major structural components and primary flight controls of the airplane, were located at the accident site. The airplane came to rest inverted in an open field of produce. There was a post-crash fire, that was primarily contained, to the middle portion of the airplane's bottom. No damage to a nearby power line was noted.

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

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bede
Registration: N501BD
Model/Series: BD5 B
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: KCMA, 65 ft msl
Observation Time:1155 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 190°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.87 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Camarillo, CA (CMA)
Destination: Camarillo, CA (CMA) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.213611, -119.094444 (est)

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

WOODLAND HILLS—   John K. Lewis, 82, of the Reforma neighborhood in Woodland Hills was identified as the pilot aboard the Bede BD-5 that crashed into vegetation field terrain off Pleasant Valley Road & Las Posas Road in Camarillo Tuesday, October 8th.

Communications Manager Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration spoke to Canyon News and stated that the aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances at around 12:30 p.m. Pilot Lewis, who was the only person aboard, was killed when the plane burned after impact. After departing, Lewis reported that he was having trouble gaining altitude. The FAA declared in their preliminary report that the aircraft crashed while attempting to land at the Camarillo Airport. According to Gregor, Lewis departed from the Camarillo airport to fly locally, and planned to return to Camarillo after his flight.

The Flight Safety Foundation stated in their report of the fatal crash that Lewis experienced a loss of engine power and a subsequent impact when hitting the ground during his attempted return to his point of departure southeast of the Camarillo Airport. They concluded that the aircraft was partially consumed by the post crash fire causing Lewis to become trapped inside where he succumbed to his injuries. The distance between the vegetation field terrain off Pleasant Valley Road & Las Posas Road where the aircraft crashed and the Camarillo airport was 0.8 miles, a total of 4224 feet.

The FSF detailed that the Bede BD-5 Micro was created to be a small, single-seat homebuilt aircraft presented to the market primarily in kit form. The aircraft was experimentally built in the 1960’s, then quickly deemed defunct as of the early 1970s.

Gregor informed Canyon News that The FAA and The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. He stated that the NTSB is the lead agency and it typically takes the NTSB a year or more to determine a probable cause of an accident. Neither The FAA nor The NTSB identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.

Original article ➤ https://www.canyon-news.com

Officials identified a pilot Wednesday who died after his small plane struggled to gain altitude and crashed Tuesday in a Camarillo-area field, according to federal authorities.

The pilot was identified as John Lewis, 82, of Woodland Hills, according to James Baroni of the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office. Lewis died from a combination of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries, Baroni said.

The Bede BD-5 plane crashed around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday after taking off from the Camarillo Airport, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Lewis planned a flight in the Bede BD-5 that would return to the airport, according to Gregor.

“Shortly after taking off, the pilot reported he was having trouble gaining altitude and crashed right after that,” Gregor said. 

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Eric Hatlee said callers who reported the crash said the plane had been flying low before it went down in the field south of the airport. Filled with a leafy green crop and next to a lemon orchard, the field is immediately south of Pleasant Valley Road and west of Las Posas Road.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash along with the National Transportation Safety Board. The National Transportation Safety Board is the lead investigative agency, and it typically posts a preliminary report within a week to two weeks after an accident, Gregor said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration looks at aircraft maintenance and inspection records as part of every accident investigation, Gregor said. 

Federal Aviation Administration records categorize the Bede BD-5 as an experimental, amateur-built plane that was declared airworthy in 1998.

The Bede BD-5 was created in the 1960s by aircraft designer Jim Bede and marketed mainly in kit form in the 1970s, according to online accounts. It has a small, streamlined fuselage with space under a canopy for a semi-reclined pilot and an engine in the middle of the fuselage.

The Bede Aircraft Corp. went bankrupt in the mid-1970s, according to online reports.

The crash came several weeks after another crash at the airport killed two people. An amateur-built Wheeler Express 2000 stalled and crashed short of the Camarillo Airport runway on August 7th, killing a Salt Lake City couple, pilot John Wells, 60, and his wife, Tara Wells, 56. They had taken off from the South Valley Regional Airport in Salt Lake City.

Story and video ➤ https://www.vcstar.com

CAMARILLO, California - Authorities launched an investigation following a deadly plane crash miles from the Camarillo Airport Tuesday afternoon.

One person was killed in the crash, officials confirmed. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said that the pilot was the only person onboard the plane at the time of the crash.

The incident was reported near the intersection of Las Posas and Pleasant Valley roads which is about three miles from the Camarillo Airport around 12:30 p.m.

The Bede BD-5 crashed in a field south of the Camarillo Airport and caught fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

SkyFOX showed aerial images from the crash.

Story and video ➤ https://www.foxla.com

A pilot was killed when a small plane crashed and caught fire near Camarillo Airport Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

The crash was reported in a field near Pleasant Valley Road at about 12:30 p.m., and the fire was extinguished by 12:55 p.m., according to the department.

Authorities said the pilot was the only person aboard the plane.

Aerial video from Sky 5 showed firefighters surrounding a single-engine plane down in a field.

The Bede BD-5 fell about 1,000 feet west of the airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

It's unclear what led to the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

Story and video ➤ https://ktla.com

CAMARILLO, California - Authorities have released the identity of a man killed in a small plane crash just outside of the Camarillo Airport Tuesday afternoon.

John Lewis, 82, of Woodland Hills died Tuesday in the crash. He was the only occupant aboard the plane.

Ventura County Medical Examiner's office said Lewis' died from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

Lewis' plane crashed around 12:30 p.m. Roads were closed in the immediate vicinity of the crash.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.keyt.com


  1. Beyond sad. The DB-5 is a national treasure and a unique airplane. This one seems to have the propeller on it vs. the small jet engine.

  2. While Sir David Brown might agree that the DB-5 is something of a national treasure, the Jim Bede designed BD-5 is actually something of a deathtrap, in my humble opinion . . .


  3. Was recently described in Oct 2019 EAA Sport Pilot magazine- "Member Central". Not the first time this plane has had an issue.

  4. From cybermodeler:

    Markings are provided for N501BD, the first all-metal prototype BD-5A that crashed after an engine failure during a safety demonstration to the Federal Aviation Administration, and for a BD-5J in aerial demonstration team colors.

  5. I would hardly call the Bede BD-5 a national treasure,far from it,the chances of surviving a crash in one of these is remote,over the water in Ireland we lost a jet powered version which killed the owner pilot.

  6. Cybermodler (above)- the owner, John K Lewis, had applied for and received the original Jim Bede tail number, for nostalgia reasons for his plane, as it had been retired. He got it.

    This was not Bede's original N501BD aircraft. This one had an earlier in life engine bearing issue and crashed, and it had been "recently" been rebuilt.

  7. Wrong, original NBD501 was rebuilt as a non flying display model. Let’s try to be correct when correcting.

  8. Anonymous above- all I did was refer to the EAA article on the plane in the Oct 2019 Sport Aviation magazine, vol. 68. No. 10, page 90.

    John K. Lewis, owner, claims it with a picture and all published info. Kit # 5-1039. He claims the tail number came from "Jim Bede's first metal prototype".

    No argument here- just published information from EAA before the accident

  9. Found a way to link the EAA article where i got my info


  10. the first poster has quite an astute grasp of the obvious, "it seems to have a propeller" your comments all cleared up so many things for the rest of us uninformed airmen so thank you so much! Have you ever flown an airplane in your life? sure doesn't sound like it opey! also have to agree with the other posters who feel that this ready made casket is hardly a national treasure. does anyone have any idea why these morbid pretend "pilots" like to lurk around these aviation accident websites? i believe those of us who actually fly review them in the hope of learning something.

  11. Good link to article. Thanks. I think the BD story is very interesting. You have to admit that the Octopussy scene was entertaining. I met Corey Fornoff once at Reno. Very good hearing him talk about flying the little jet. I have a complete unopened original kit that someday will be built into a display model only. May this pilot RIP.

  12. At the risk of being attacked, let me say that apparently the pilot did “fly it into the crash” rather than stall / spin, which seems to be so common. There is quite a long scar in the field where he slid along

  13. Just to clarify:
    - Yes, while the (arguably) most famous BD-5 is the jet version that flew in Octopussy, this was the prop version.
    - My father, John Lewis, secured the tail number of the original (?) prototype(?) -- in any case, when N501BD came available, he secured it for the BD-5 he purchased completely built from John Simmons. It is not Jim Bede's original.
    - My dad loved aviation history passionately, so if anyone feels moved to remember him, please contribute time or money to aviation historical societies, or the Wings over Camarillo airshow: https://wingsovercamarillo.com/

    1. Hello Lizbet, Greg Long here. I am so sorry to hear this really tragic news. John and I were hired by Don Short at Northrop (flight dept) at the same time [1979/1980ish] and we both took our checkrides which Don insisted be performed by a member of the FAA. We did our orals at the same time. John and I both received our Gulfstream II (G-1159) type ratings that day with Don in observation. I also got my ATP that same day and I'm sure John already had his. I'm 72 now and haven't flown in a couple of years. I'm living in West Des Moines, Iowa.
      I remember John as being a huge aviation fan with a super sense of humor.
      Before I met him he had been flying a vintage DC-3 for a freight company at LAX. We often worked together and were together at one of the Paris Air Shows when both G-II's were there.
      I think the last I saw and spoke with John was at the hanger for William Pennington' s G_IV in Reno where I was Chief pilot.
      If I remember correctly John was contracting a little bit at the time with Randy Gillette next door.
      John will certainly be missed. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  14. Elizabeth, your dad was someone I wish I had known, would have loved to hear his stories and perspectives. He would of been proud of you remembering and caring for the things that brought him so much joy, even thru your loss. It seems like they don’t make pilots or dads like they use to.

  15. As a long-time friend of John Lewis, I wanted to comment on his aviation background. He represented a unique generation of dedicated airmen, beginning as a U.S. Air Force pilot flying the North American F-86D Sabre, Boeing B-47 Stratojet, North American F-100D in Vietnam including being shot down and rescued, and finally the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. He then flew cargo DC-3s in California, and retired from a long career piloting Gulfstream executive jets for Northrop and Disney, among others. He was a consummate airman and true gentleman who will be missed.

  16. Mike -- I am so thankful for your friendship with my dad. You gave him a brand-new career in writing about the airplanes he loved. It meant the world to him.

  17. Hi Greg -- thank you for your memories. My father was something else indeed, and I wouldn't have had him any other way.

  18. Does anybody know what kind of engine this particular BD-5 had?

  19. I can't remember what engine Dad settled on for the plane -- I know that finding one that offered sufficient power without being too heavy was a long-standing problem.

  20. The few BD-5s I saw both complete and under construction were built like little battleships ... The weakness was the engine (recips that is)


  21. lower the nose and land in that field i dont get it ??? very sad r.i.p.

    1. Judging by the photo's it looks like that's exactly what he did but the front end dug in and it flipped.

  22. Spin stall in the pattern distracted by engine issue lesson learned Fly the plane forget about engine. Head for one of those fields going wreck the plane might walk away.