Sunday, November 03, 2019

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Unregistered Hy-Tek Hurricane; fatal accident occurred May 04, 2017 in Redcrest, Humboldt 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; Oakland, California

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Redcrest, CA
Accident Number: WPR17LA126
Date & Time: 05/04/2017, 0945 PDT
Registration: UNREG
Aircraft: Hy-Tek Hurricane
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On May 4, 2017, about 0945 Pacific daylight time, an unregistered experimental amateur-built Hy-Tek Hurricane airplane collided with terrain during the final approach to landing on a riverbed near Redcrest, California. The noncertificated pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was owned by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight, which departed about 0925 from a sandbar on the river, which was near the pilot's home in Redcrest.

The pilot's father reported that, about 20 minutes after the flight departed, he heard the airplane returning to the area and noted that the engine was sputtering. He reported that the engine quit shortly thereafter and that the airplane subsequently nosed down into the ground along the shoreline of the Eel River.

Personnel from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Eureka, California, responded to the accident site about 1130. A deputy officer reported that the airplane wreckage had been brought to the shoreline of the Eel River by unknown subjects before he arrived on scene and that the pilot's body was not located within the wreckage.

On May 14, 2017, after an extensive search by the sheriff's office and volunteers, the pilot's body was recovered in a shallow area of the Eel River about 2.5 miles downriver from the accident site. On June 15, 2017, the pilot's father reported the accident to the National Transportation Safety Board.

During a postaccident interview, the pilot's wife reported that her husband had a problem with drugs and alcohol and that he was under the influence the day of the accident. She also expressed concerns about her husband performing maintenance on the airplane on the day before the accident while under the influence. She stated that he was attempting to troubleshoot and possibly repair a carburetor problem.

Rex Whitlow

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 61, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  2 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2 hours (Total, this make and model), 2 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft) 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) pilot database, the pilot did not have a pilot certificate or a medical certificate.

According to his father, the pilot had about 2 hours of total flight experience in the accident airplane make and model. The investigation did not identify any other flight time information. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hy-Tek
Registration: UNREG
Model/Series: Hurricane
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate:
Serial Number: 001
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 503
Registered Owner: Rex Whitlow
Rated Power: 50 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane had a high-wing, ultralight-like design with conventional flight controls. The structure consisted of an uncovered aluminum and steel tube framework with a single seat and a tricycle landing gear. The airplane was equipped with oversized tundra-style tires and was powered by a Rotax 503, 50-horsepower, 2-cylinder, 2-stroke engine that was mounted on top of the airframe. Preaccident photographs of the airplane showed a fuel tank that was larger than the manufacturer's 5-gallon fuel tank. Logbook maintenance records were not located. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Unknown
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFOT, 393 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0935 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 300°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 300 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts:3 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 320°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.96 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: -11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Redcrest, CA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Redcrest, CA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0925 PDT
Type of Airspace:

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: 40.338889, -123.833333 

The airplane wreckage had been recovered on the day of the accident by family and friends of the pilot and was stored at the pilot's residence. On June 26, 2017, an FAA inspector from the Oakland, California, Flight Standards District Office examined the wreckage. The instrument panel, wings, fuel tank, propeller, propeller hub, wheel assemblies, and one of the two carburetors/air filters had been removed postaccident and prior to the FAA's inspection. The brake handle had been disconnected, and three of the four spark plugs were missing. Some wiring and fuel lines had been cut, and the control cables had been disconnected.

The pistons in the engine did not move, but the inspector observed no damage or excessive discoloration. The available spark plugs showed a normal burn pattern. The lead shielding/insulation for the spark plugs was in poor condition; numerous wires were improperly spliced and routed. The rubber exhaust mounts were also in poor condition. Fuel, water, and oil were found in the engine. The fuel filter was clean. The throttle was in the fully open position, and the ignition switch was on.

The carburetors and air filters were intact, but the float bowls were missing. One of the two main carburetor fuel jets was missing; the pilot's father stated that one of the fuel jets was loose and fell out of the wreckage when it was moved.

Medical And Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed by the Office of the Coroner, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. The pilot's cause of death was drowning; blunt force trauma contributed to the death.

Toxicology performed by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office detected, in the pilot's specimens, ethanol in tissue at 0.08 gm/100 gm and methamphetamine at 0.70 mg/kg and its primary active metabolite, amphetamine, at less than 0.10 mg/kg in muscle tissue. Because of the delay in reporting the accident to the NTSB, no specimens were available for testing by the FAA's Forensic Sciences Laboratory.

Ethanol is commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. It acts as a central nervous system depressant. After ingestion, ethanol impairs judgment, psychomotor functioning, and vigilance. The effects of ethanol on aviators are generally well understood; it significantly impairs pilot performance, even at very low levels. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 91.17, Alcohol or Drugs, paragraph (a)(4), prohibits any person from acting or attempting to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while having 0.04 gm/dl or more ethanol in the blood.

Methamphetamine is a controlled substance that is used to treat certain medical conditions, but the drug can also be misused. Symptoms of recreational methamphetamine include motor restlessness, hallucinations, delusions, fatigue or drowsiness, and poor impulse control. As the initial effects wear off, users commonly experience dysphoria, restlessness, agitation, and nervousness; they may experience paranoia, violence, aggression, a lack of coordination, delusions, psychosis, and drug craving. Blood levels cannot be used to distinguish among phases of methamphetamine use. Because the effects of methamphetamines are impairing, methamphetamine use is a disqualifying factor for FAA medical certification.


  1. This is a very interesting case, I wonder why those things had been cut and spark plugs removed? Also he must have not been correctly belted in and maybe he was thrown from the aircraft into the river bed and knocked out and then drowned which is a bad way to go.

  2. No medical...check.
    No pilot certificate...check.
    Maintenance by unqualified personnel...check.
    Flying while under the influence of methamphetamine and alcohol...check.

    Was there any reason for this person to have lived as long as he did?