Saturday, January 04, 2020

TM-1 Thunder Mustang, N151WR: Fatal accident occurred January 04, 2020 in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles 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: 

Location: Santa Clarita, CA
Accident Number: WPR20FA057
Date & Time: 01/04/2020, 1009 PST
Registration: N151WR
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On January 4, 2020, about 1009, Pacific standard time, an experimental amateur-built TM-1 Thunder Mustang airplane, N151WR, was destroyed when it collided with terrain about 2 miles southeast of Santa Clarita, California. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The airplane departed Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Van Nuys, California, about 0955.

Several witnesses observed the airplane maneuvering at a low altitude with smoke trailing from the airplane just before impact. Additionally, the pilot made a distress call to the VNY controller stating a cockpit visibility issue and a loss of engine power.

Examination of the wreckage by the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge revealed that the airplane struck a tall tree and subsequently came to rest in a grassy field located in the median of an interstate off-ramp cloverleaf roadway. All major components of the airplane necessary for flight were located at the accident site. The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: THUNDER
Registration: N151WR
Model/Series: TM 1 THUNDER MUSTANG No Series
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: KVNY, 770 ft msl
Observation Time: 0951 PST
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.36 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Van Nuys, CA (VNY)
Destination: Van Nuys, CA (VNY)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.365833, -118.502500 (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 

Federal Aviation Administration

The pilot who died in a plane crash in Newhall on Saturday has been identified by officials at the Los Angeles County Coroner-Medical Examiner’s Office.

Wayne Richards, 73, of North Hollywood, was identified as the pilot of the plane that lost control near the 14 Freeway on-ramp at Newhall Avenue.

His manner of death was deemed an “accident” and the cause as multiple blunt force injuries, according to the report filed by the Coroner’s Office. 

Richards was flying a “homebuilt” TM-1 Thunder Mustang out of Van Nuys Airport that had some form of an engine failure mid-flight resulting in the crash landing.

The Thunder Mustang is a modern 3/4-scale replica of the P-51 Mustang, a single-seat fighter plane used during World War II and the Korean War.

Santa Clarita resident Shane Weeks of Castaic had said on Monday that he had known Richards through work, and described him as “soft-spoken” and well-respected.

“I did stuff for the cars in his hot rod shop Solo Performance,” Weeks said. “He was well-respected and liked in the hot rod industry. He was a soft-spoken guy that was always happy to see you.  I am real bummed I never took his offer to show his plane and hanger to my 12-year-old son.”

Richard Reyman, a Castaic resident and an also close friend of Richards, said over a phone call Monday that his friend and he would text every morning, wishing each other “good morning,” even if the other was away in another country or on vacation.

“He was a very energetic guy …  he was always immersed in stuff and when he wasn’t working on customer cars, he was working on his own stuff,” said Reyman. “We would always have fun, he was very lighthearted …  a very gregarious guy.”  

Reyman said that the plane Richards was flying was a kit plane that he had purchased from Florida and flown back close to a decade ago. The plane engine, according to Reyman, had been changed out due to mechanical issues, but mechanical issues had resulted in the original engine being inside the aircraft when it went down. 

“I don’t think you could say ‘pilot error,’” said Reyman, adding that Richards had decades of flying experience before his fateful crash on Saturday. “I think it was his experience that got him to keep it off the freeway. His original intent was to put it down on the freeway but I think there was way too much traffic in the last minute.”  

Witnesses on the scene first noted the plane in the sky do the smoke coming from the aircraft’s engine.

“All I know is it circled around and I heard a clicking noise above me,” Mike York, a witness of the crash, said in a previous Signal interview. “I saw that the motor wasn’t running and smoke was coming out of it.”

California Highway Patrol officers from the Newhall office said they had received a call at 10:11 a.m. that the plane was in trouble.

“Initial reports state a single-engine aircraft was smoking and falling from the sky,” said Josh Greengard of the California Highway Patrol Newhall-area Office.

“All I know is it circled around and I heard a clicking noise above me,” Mike York, a witness of the crash, said in a previous Signal interview. “I saw that the motor wasn’t running and smoke was coming out of it.”

After crash landing near the Newhall Avenue off-ramp of Highway 14 around 10:15 a.m., the single-engine plane caught fire.

Richards, the sole occupant of the aircraft, was pronounced deceased at the scene. 

“The pilot was the only person on board,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Association. “We do not have any reports of injuries to anyone on the ground or damage to any structure on the ground.”

The National Transportation Safety Board will also be conducting an investigation of the incident, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Lt. Ethan Marquez said in a statement to press.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate, according to Gregor. “The NTSB is the lead agency and it typically takes the NTSB a year or more to determine a probable cause of an accident,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

The pilot of a TM-1 Thunder Mustang aircraft who died after crashing near the 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning is being remembered as a beloved member of the local aviation community.

Officials have not released his name, but friends identified the pilot as Wayne Richards. The aircraft, a home-built TM-1 Thunder Mustang, was registered under his name.

"Very sweet, very loving and very active in the community," Jennifer Pearl said of her fellow pilot. "It’s a big loss."

He was the only occupant of the plane that plummeted near the Newhall Avenue off-ramp just after 10 a.m. Saturday, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched a probe into what caused the aircraft to crash, but the answer likely won't be determined for months.

In an emergency call with an air traffic controller, the pilot indicated that he had low visibility and that he intended to land. Conditions in the area were clear at the time.

No injuries or damages on the ground was reported in the crash, which was witnessed by many people.

"He had flames coming out of his engine ... It looked like he was trying to land it. Once he impacted, I heard a loud bang and then a fireball, and that was it," said Brett Fox, who was cycling in the area when the incident happened.

Courtney Gonzales said she was hiking when she saw the aircraft drop and hit a tree before crashing.

“The next thing we saw was a big, black cloud of smoke," she told KTLA.

Story and video ➤

The pilot was killed when a small, homebuilt plane with engine trouble crashed near a 14 Freeway off-ramp in Santa Clarita Saturday morning, authorities said.

The plane nose-dived near the Newhall Avenue off-ramp off the northbound 14 Freeway just before 10:15 a.m., eyewitnesses said, and burst into flames.

One person was killed, Los Angeles County Fire officials said. It was believed the pilot was the only person on board, said Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration.

There were no reported injuries to anyone on the ground and there was no damage to structures, Gregor said.

The plane took off from the Van Nuys Airport, but the destination was unknown, Gregor said. The plane crashed about five miles north of the airport.

“He’s a hero, because he could have hit the freeway,” a man who was on his way to Lancaster when he saw the crash told a videographer at the scene.

The man, whose name was not available, said he looked up and saw the plane with smoke coming out the back before it nose-dived.

Air traffic control radio traffic from the Van Nuys Airport tower indicated the pilot was headed in the direction of the airport from the Newhall pass when he ran into trouble and told the tower he’d need to land quickly.

“Are you inbound, sir? Or do you need to land in the Newhall Pass?” the tower radioed to the pilot.

“I can’t see a thing, lost an engine,” the pilot is heard saying about 10:09 a.m. “I’m going to have to put it down.”

Just after 10:10 a.m., another pilot found the plane.

“It doesn’t look good at all,” he told the tower. “It’s off the 14 at Newhall Avenue in the exit area. There’s just flaming debris right now.”

The right lane of the northbound 14 Freeway and the Newhall Avenue on- and off-ramps were closed. Authorities said access to and from the northbound 14 Freeway from Newhall Avenue would be closed until at least 10 a.m. Sunday.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, Gregor said.

Story and video ➤

A pilot was killed in a fiery plane crash Saturday morning near the Newhall Avenue off ramp of Highway 14. 

“We have a report of a plane down with fire, and that is all we have right now,” said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Melanie Flores at 10:19 a.m.

One fatality was confirmed as a result from the crash, according to Fire Dispatch Supervisor Mark Marrujo. 

The sole occupant of the aircraft was pronounced deceased at the scene, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release says. 

Christina Pascucci, from KTLA/ATC, recovered emergency radio transmission from the pilot, right before the crash.   

“I’m going to have to put the plane down,” said the pilot, “…can’t see a thing.” 

Fire officials received the call at 10:12 a.m.. 

“All I know is it circled around and I heard a clicking noise above me,” said York. “I saw that the propeller wasn’t moving, engine wasn't running and smoke was coming out of it.”

A lot of smoke was visible from the 14, according to witnesses on the scene. 

“Our first call we got was at 10:11 a.m.,” said Josh Greengard of the California Highway Patrol Newhall-area Office. “Initial reports state a single-engine plane was smoking and falling from the sky.”

“The guy was really straight as it was coming in and I’m saying, ‘He’s going to crash,’ and he hit a tree,” said York. “It looked like he was trying to land. I saw a panicked guy in the plane, and that is all I noticed.” 

“He was in a smoking nose dive and I thought he got out, but he hit so hard he never got out,” said George Paramore, an additional witness of the crash.

A minute after a sheriff’s helicopter landed on the 14 freeway northbound on ramp, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials laid a single sheet over what appeared to be the body of someone who had been onboard the plane. 

“This remains an ongoing investigation with multiple agencies, including Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Aero Bureau and the FAA,” according to an SCV Sheriff’s Station news release. “The Newhall Avenue off ramp from the 14 freeway will remain closed as the investigation continues.” 

The National Transportation Safety Board will also be conducting an investigation of the incident, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Lt. Ethan Marquez said in a statement to press.

The projected re-opening of the Newhall Avenue on/off ramp of the northbound side of the 14 freeway will be Sunday around 10-11 a.m., according to Greengard. 

Story and video ➤

A pilot was killed after a small plane crashed and erupted in flames near the northbound 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita Saturday morning, authorities said.

Firefighters responded to the downed plane near the Newhall Avenue off-ramp following reports of an "aircraft emergency" at about 10:10 a.m. and found the aircraft completely engulfed in flames, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Photos and video posted online show flames and a thick cloud of black smoke billowing over a grassy area near the roadway.

Courtney Gonzales, who was hiking in the area at the time, said she saw the plane nose-dive down, clip a tree and crash near the freeway.

“The next thing we saw was a big black cloud of smoke," she told KTLA.

The pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. No other deaths or injuries were reported.

The plane was a home-built TM-1 Thunder Mustang, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Fire officials said the flames did not spread to surrounding brush.

California Highway Patrol closed northbound lanes of the freeway as well as the Newhall Avenue ramps until 10 a.m. Sunday.

It's unclear what led to the crash. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are all investigating the incident.

Story and video ➤

A small aircraft crashed and caught fire on Saturday morning near a freeway in Santa Clarita, California, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"Aircraft engulfed in flames," the sheriff's department tweeted Saturday.

The California Highway Patrol tweeted that the 14 freeway would be blocked for an "unknown duration due to police and Federal Aviation Administration activity."

Authorities said the "sole occupant of downed aircraft in #Newhall is deceased on scene" and asked the public to avoid the area.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was a "home-built TM-1 Thunder Mustang" and that it burned after crashing. They believe that only person on board was the pilot.

The Federal Aviation Administration will assist the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the cause of the crash.

"It typically takes the NTSB a year or more to determine a probable cause of an accident," the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. I would not want to be one of the individuals who's job it is to separate the human remains from that burned, smoldering mess. It would give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

    1. We aren't "one of those individuals"... We are called firefighters.... Whether a plane crash...home fire....or ?... we do our best to save life and property....and when we can't... we treat the human remains with honor and respect.... Go past the possible smoldering mess and look at this person as the hero he was by staying away from others while his aircraft crashed.... Being a firefighter isn't just a is a lifestyle... mindset...that not all are meant for....

    2. That would be the shared responsibility and protocol of the FAA and NTSB.
      "Separate the human remains from that burned, smoldering mess."

    3. From my direct experience as a first responder in LA County, no, the Fire department does not separate the human remains from the burned smoldering mess, whether an aircraft, car or home. After the scene is released by the investigator, that job is done by the Coroner.

  2. The pilot is a hero. He tried to make it to the 14 Freeway which is constantly jam- packed with traffic. Today could have been a much worse day. Prayers to the pilot's family, and Rest in Peace to the hero aviator aboard.

  3. Seems to be a lot of fatality's in these Thunder Mustangs when there's an engine failure probably do to such a high wing loading? Looks like the pilot lost total control and ended up in a fatal nose dive.

    1. i would NEVER trust my life to a Falconer powered aircraft. Far to many TM´s have crashed because of engine failure. And the FAA continues to allow these man killers to fly.

    2. That Falconer V12 is really packed into those planes. Very complex, big belt drive on aft end, gear reduction up front and many fluid connections/fittings. Probably is a big challenge to kept it all in proper readiness on 14 year old custom build. Here is a video of one with engine details shown at 1:20 and on:

  4. Photo of plane and pilot in 2007, had logged 40 hours on it back then.

  5. Thunder Mustang is pre-impregnated carbon fiber construction, high end kit.

    Extensive set of example Thunder Mustang build photos on two pages:

  6. Very sorry to see this loss of this pilot. Nice piloting skills to avoid the folks on the ground, but still very very sad.

    As to the comment about the engines- I too am not a huge fan but they are very nice planes. I don't love the high RPM gear reduced set up, but that is a personal preference (not that I can afford a $500K+ airplane). There is a youtube video of one over-speeding the engine at takeoff in Reno and floating the valves, and the ensuing grenading of the engine and emergency landing. In this event two rods departed the crank/case which then will dump all of the oil and can lead to a fire quickly.

    From the ATC, sounds like the pilot too lost the engine and could not see. Not sure if it was smoke or oil/fire but very, very sad.


    1. And later that Blue Thunder II from the overspeed video killed its pilot 1 May 2018. Water pump pulley attachment fasteners failed, then trouble with landing.

    2. The heads of socket head cap screws holding on the water pump pulley detached in that fatal 1 May 2018 Blue Thunder II accident. Both serpentine belts of the dual drive were disabled and adjacent coolant hose was knocked off the fitting. The aft-end serpentine system is more than just water pump drive:

      The engine's fuel pump, water pump, propeller governor, auxiliary alternator, and both the scavenge and pressure oil pumps, were driven by the engine crankshaft via pulleys and two parallel serpentine belts.

      One socket head cap screw is visible in post crash photo of the displaced pulley. It will be interesting to see what the final NTSB report evaluation of the socket head cap screw usage finds for:
      - basic strength (socket head vs solid head)
      - certified NAS/MS parts?
      - over/under torqued? (fracture analysis)
      - lack of safety wire?
      - owner team parts substitution?

      Terrible that a water pump pulley problem resulted in a fatal.

    3. If you love the look of the P-51 but can't afford a real one, better stick to a Titan T-51.

  7. These thunder mustangs as well as the titan's with the larger engines seem to always be fatal when have an engine out issues. Those big heavy engines produced all that power when they quit turn it into a lawn dart. Be better to bail if have a parachute on .

  8. RIP the pilot. His last words perhaps.

  9. The Thunder Mustangs are beautiful aircraft, and I had an opportunity to see one up close at a fly in. The sound was incredible when it started. But There is no way I would trust my life to that Falconer V-12 engine, it is so complex, a one off custom casted all aluminum engine made for offshore power boat racing. Give me my trusted Lycoming or Continentals any day.

  10. Just let me fly a simple GA plane that can get me from Point A to Point B. Even if I could invest in a plane this powerful @ 550k I would think buying a factory built aircraft would be the more sensible option for me. But we all have different itches!