Saturday, May 09, 2020

Bellanca 8GCBC Scout, N4116Y: Fatal accident occurred May 09, 2020 at Byron Airport (C83), Contra Costa County, California

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Oakland, California

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances.

Date: 09-MAY-20
Time: 20:00:00Z
Regis#: N4116Y
Aircraft Make: BELLANCA
Aircraft Model: 8GCBC
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 91

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

A pilot who died after his single-engine plane towing a glider crashed as it took off from Byron Airport on Saturday has been identified by the Contra Costa County coroner's office as 68-year-old Concord resident John Scott.

The two-seat Bellanca 8GCBC flipped over and caught fire at about 1:20 p.m. Saturday, while the trailing glider landed safely, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The plane crashed on the edge of the runway, according to the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, which responded to the fiery crash alongside firefighters from Byron Airport.

"Unfortunately the pilot who was the sole occupant of the glider tow airplane perished in the crash," ECCFPD said.

Scott was on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Soaring Association. The NCSA is a volunteer glider club that owns five gliders, a tow plane, and operates out of the Byron Airport.

Saturday's fatal crash is to be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, with the NTSB as the lead agency, according to Gregor.


A pilot died Saturday after the plane he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff from Byron Airport just south of Discovery Bay.

The crash occurred around 1:30 p.m. when a tow plane with a glider attached took a nosedive and flipped before catching fire, said Gil Guerrero, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District battalion chief.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane was a Bellanca 8GCBC Scout.

Witnesses said the plane was fully engulfed within 20 seconds and they heard several explosions, Guerrero said.

The glider was able to land safely without incident but the tow plane pilot was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Airport rescue firefighters extinguished the flames before his team arrived, Guerrero said.

The pilot, a 68-year-old man, is not being identified until his family can be contacted.

Local officials turned the investigation over to the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, which will work to determine a probable cause. Such investigations often take a year or more to complete.

The pilot of a Bellanca 8GCBC Scout plane died when the aircraft crashed and burned at Byron Airport, Saturday, May 9th.

The identity of the pilot has not yet been released.

Firefighters from the airport responded to the crash at the north end of runway 12 that was reported shortly before 1:30 p.m. and found the plane upside down at the edge of the runway. They extinguished the fire, but the body of the pilot was found in the cockpit.

According to East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Gil Guererro, the pilot was towing a glider before the accident. The glider pilot landed without incident.

No information regarding a possible cause of the crash was available. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration reported to the airport, and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were also expected.

The plane carried the insignia of the Northern California Soaring Association (NCSA) on its tail. According to its website, NCSA is a volunteer club headquartered at the airport and also owns five gliders and a tow plane.


  1. A friend who was present described the situation as:
    The aircraft took off towing a glider. The glider climbed abruptly about 200 feet after departure, pulling the tail of the accident aircraft into the air. The tow plane cut the cord and tried to recover but it was too late.


  2. I may have the altitudes from his recount wrong, it may have happened lower than that.

    1. I hear it happened at 100 ft AGL. The end of the runway was still under the towplane when the glider went up so high.

  3. Basic rule ... If you lose sight of the tow plane RELEASE IMMEDIATELY


  4. never flown a glider do both the glider and tow plane have a cable release
    dont think I could put my life in another pilots hands

    1. Ever been a passenger on an airliner?

      R.e. the article. Very sad situation preventable by earlier glider release. RIP.

    2. Nice false equivalence there, being a passenger on a commercial airliner is nowhere comparable to putting your life into the hands of the glider pilot connected to your tail with a cable (as this situation clearly shows).

  5. Yes, both gliders and tow planes have releases. Very sad that this happened.

  6. I have been in this situation before, luckily at altitude. It happens fast! I was at 1,000' towing a glider who lost sight of me, got slack in the rope, then BAM! When the rope came tight I was looking down in an instant pulling hard to no effect. Until the glider got down I wasn't able to do anything. And even if the pilot had time to release, at low altitude it's not enough to recover. Plus, it the tow hitch is a standard Schweitzer hitch installed per most STC's, with the release tongue on the bottom, a glider higher than the tow plane will put enough force on the hook making it physically impossible to release. But again, it happens so fast there isn't time to react. And usually the glider pilot says, 'I don't know what happened ... I hit some turbulence and then lost sight of the tow plane, then the rope released–I turned back to land and there was a big fire on the runway . ..' Usually the rope has either broken or back-released as the glider passed over the wreck. So sad and completely preventable.

    1. I fully agree with your assessment. I have over 4,000 hours towing gliders and could not release 3 separate times as there is too much pressure on the tow hook.

  7. Not much left forward of the leading edge, indicating that it impacted the runway nearly vertical with the momentum carrying the tail over.

  8. There's definitely more risk being the tow plane. Truly a sad circumstance.

  9. I heard the same thing, shortly after liftoff the glider abruptly kited way up above the towplane. The towplane's tail was probably pulled up very suddenly, causing the crash. It's another matter for why the glider kited up.

  10. The tow plane is at the mercy of the glider until sufficient altitude is reached. I had a "friend" flying a glider while I was in the towing in a Super Cub. At 3,000 feet the glider pilot yanked back on the elevator to get a little more altitude before releasing. The sudden ensuing nose-dive pinned me against the belts unable to reach the release the tow line. As soon as the glider released, I was able to recover with significant altitude loss. Not fun. RIP tow pilot.

  11. I was a member of the NCSA club where this happened at. My last tow I had up was from that man last june. I am so shocked. I dont even know what to say right now. He was the reason I actually left the club. I got tired of the altering flying schedules for learning so he told me about arizona soaring in Maricopa where they do immersive training. I think it was definitely glider error. Terrible tragedy. I'm at a loss for words

  12. Unknown, you learned faster at Maricopa? Flying the same instructor and more days in a row. NCSA is slower, different instructor every weekend and you can't fly again and again. Learn is slower and not thorough.