Wednesday, August 05, 2020

William “Bill” Jensen: Fatal accident occurred December 02, 2021 and Accident occurred August 04, 2020

Sport Copter Vortex, N425RD: Fatal accident occurred December 02, 2021 near Lampson Field Airport (1O2), Lakeport, Lake County, California 

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

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

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

Location: Lakeport, California
Accident Number: WPR22FA053
Date and Time: December 2, 2021, 11:15 Local
Registration: N425RD
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On December 2, 2021, about 1115 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur-built, Vortex gyrocopter, N425RD, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Lakeport, California. The pilot was fatally injured. The gyrocopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. 

Two witnesses, located about 2 miles west of the accident site, observed the gyrocopter in level flight, and then saw it tumble tail over nose, three times before they lost sight of it behind a tree line.

The gyrocopter came to rest on its left side on flat open terrain covered with brush. Except for a propeller blade tip that had separated and was not located during a search of the area; the wreckage was confined to the accident site.

Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit to the tail section. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand with no restrictions using the propeller blades. The main rotor blades were rotated with no binding. The fuel tank was breached; however, the smell of fuel was present at the accident site.

The gyrocopter was recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: RUSSELL W DYER 
Registration: N425RD
Model/Series: VORTEX
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KUKI, 601 ft msl
Observation Time: 10:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C /5°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Lakeport, CA 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.027041,-122.90724 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

LAKEPORT, California — It was business as usual, plane mechanic Chad Parlee thought, when he saw the  experimental amateur-built Vortex gyrocopter operated by William “Bill” Jensen, going up and down the runway as it prepared to take off from Lampson Field Airport on the morning of December 2, 2021. “Everything was routine,” Parlee said. Little did Parlee know that day would be the last time he would see the 68-year-old Hidden Valley resident in the  experimental amateur-built Vortex that usually was kept in a hangar across from where he worked.

The  experimental amateur-built Vortex gyrocopter crashed into a marshy area of Clear Lake near South Lakeport shortly after 11 a.m. Witnesses contacted the Sheriff’s Dispatch to report hearing a loud noise and seeing an aircraft going down in the direction of the Konocti Vista Casino but they were unsure whether it hit land or water, according to Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin, the first on the scene. Emergency crews responded by airboat and by foot to access the crash site estimated at the time to be about a mile from the shoreline where thick tule reeds blocked the shallow water, said Lakeport Fire Protection District’s Capt. Jordan Mills. An hour after the accident was reported, emergency personnel found the aircraft operator dead at the scene and the gyrocopter totally destroyed, Martin said. Jensen’s body was recovered from the lake at 4:12 p.m. A volunteer firefighter for the LFPD, Pardee said he also got his boat out to try and help with the search but by then, Jensen’s body had been found.

The fatal crash was reported to both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The FAA Registry identifies the 2019 rotorcraft as an experimental Vortex N425RD, a kit model from Sport Copter Inc.  NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Gabris said NTSB is the lead investigative agency. “Once on scene, the investigator will begin the process of documenting the scene and examining the aircraft,” Gabris told the Record-Bee. “Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, aircraft maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records. NTSB will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation.”

Gabris added that since the investigation is at an early stage, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available. “Investigations involving fatalities and other major investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete,” she said.

Reports indicate Jensen had previously been involved in an accident while operating an experimental two-seater Cavalon gyrocopter N635BC in August 2020. Jensen and his passenger sustained injuries when his gyrocopter fell through some trees to the ground, landing flat with the fuselage fully intact in Upper Lake, off Clover Valley Road and Bambi Lane.

The fatal crash on the lake has prompted questions about gyrocopters. The FAA refers to gyrocopters, autogyros or rotoplanes as gyroplanes and most are classified as light sport aircraft to be flown by licensed operators. The gyroplane is believed to have been invented in 1923 by Spanish engineer, Juan de la Cierva, as a means of flying safely at low speeds. While an engine powers a helicopter’s spinning rotor blades, an engine powers a gyroplane’s back propeller to move the aircraft forward. The forward motion causes air to pass through the rotor blades, which then lifts the aircraft. The way it works is much like a pinwheel which only needs air to rotate. The faster the blades spin, the more lift they create. For those who wonder what a gyroplane looks like, variations of such an aircraft have been used in feature films like the James Bond movie, “You Only Live Twice” and the Mad max movie, “Road Warriors.” In April 2015, a gyrocopter landed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. The operator, Douglas Hughes, wanted to deliver 535 letters to the members of Congress protesting what he perceived as government corruption and dysfunction.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation into the cause of a fatal experimental amateur-built Vortex gyrocopter crash on Thursday is underway and being led by federal aviation officials.

William “Bill” Jensen, 68, of Hidden Valley Lake, was the pilot who died in the crash, said Lauren Berlinn, the sheriff’s office’s public information officer.

Berlinn said the cause of the crash is pending an investigation that’s being led by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Jensen was piloting the aircraft which witnesses saw going down over Clear Lake shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday.

A search with ground and air resources began immediately, and the aircraft was located just before 12:30 p.m. Thursday in tules along the shoreline, between Konocti Vista Casino and the city of Lakeport, according to radio traffic.

Jensen was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff’s office said.

Sheriff Brian Martin had told Lake County News on Thursday that rescue personnel were challenged in reaching the site.

Part of the issue was the low water, which meant sheriff’s Marine Patrol boats could not reach the downed craft, according to reports from the scene. During the search an air boat responded to help with the recovery.

The Federal Aviation Administration accident and incident notification on the Thursday crash identified the aircraft Jensen was flying as an experimental Gyrocopter Vortex, registered to an owner in Grass Valley.

The notification’s description of the incident states, “Aircraft crashed into marshy area due to unknown circumstances.”

In August 2020, Jensen had been involved in a gyrocopter crash near Upper Lake.
Both Berlinn and NTSB records confirmed that the aircraft involved in the August 2020 crash was not the same as the one that crashed this week. The gyrocopter in the earlier incident belonged to Jensen, according to federal records.

In the 2020 crash, Jensen had a male passenger from Windsor riding with him as they were flying over the Clover Valley area in his two-seat 2017 Autogyro Cavalon.

His own narrative of the flight explained that he had dropped down for a closer look while passing over a ranch belonging to an old flying friend when, as he was making a pass, he looked backward and accidentally pulled the stick backward as well, causing the aircraft to slow down and drop altitude.

The account said the gyrocopter fell through the trees and hit the ground. While the fuselage remained intact, much of the rest of the aircraft was destroyed.

The sheriff’s office reported at the time that both Jensen and his passenger were conscious and alert, and later airlifted out of the county for medical treatment.

Federal aviation investigations can take months to complete, so a finding on the Thursday crash’s cause is not expected immediately.

Meantime, the sheriff’s office said it is conducting a coroner’s investigation.

Low Altitude Operation/Event:  Cavalon, N635BC; accident occurred August 04, 2020 in Upper Lake, Lake County, California

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Upper Lake, California 
Accident Number: WPR20CA253
Date and Time: August 4, 2020, 09:30 Local 
Registration: N635BC
Aircraft: Robert D Carr Jr Cavalon 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Low altitude operation/event 
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot of the gyroplane reported that, while maneuvering at low altitude over a friend’s property, he looked down and backwards to the ground and inadvertently pulled back on the control stick, slowing the gyroplane to about 20 mph. He attempted to correct by applying full engine power and descending to reestablish airspeed. Concerned the gyroplane would impact trees, he flared just above a wooded area. The gyroplane fell through the trees to the ground substantially damaging the tail section.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the gyroplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s distraction and failure to maintain adequate airspeed during a low altitude maneuver, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control and collision with terrain.


Personnel issues Task monitoring/vigilance - Pilot
Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft Airspeed - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Low altitude operation/event (Defining event)
Emergency descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Sport Pilot
Age: 67, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Gyroplane
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None None 
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 853.8 hours (Total, all aircraft), 71.8 hours (Total, this make and model), 803.3 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 71.3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 24.8 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Passenger Information

Age: Male
Airplane Rating(s): 
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Second
Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification:
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robert D Carr Jr 
Registration: N635BC
Model/Series: Cavalon
Aircraft Category: Gyroplane
Year of Manufacture: 2017
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental light sport (Special)
Serial Number: VO0320
Landing Gear Type: 
Tricycle Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: January 15, 2020 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1234 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 272 Hrs 
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: C126 installed 
Engine Model/Series: 914 UL
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 115 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC) 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KUKI, 617 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 74 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 
Direction from Accident Site: 265°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility 50 miles
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / Terrain-Induced
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  / Light
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Lakeport, CA (1O2) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Upper Lake, CA 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 08:30 Local
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 39.163612,-122.88277

Preventing Similar Accidents

Manage Risk: Good Decision-making and Risk Management Practices are Critical

Although few pilots knowingly accept severe risks, accidents can also result when several risks of marginal severity are not identified or are ineffectively managed by the pilot and compound into a dangerous situation. Accidents also result when the pilot does not accurately perceive situations that involve high levels of risk. Ineffective risk management or poor aeronautical decision-making can be associated with almost any type of fatal general aviation accident.

By identifying personal attitudes that are hazardous to safe flying, applying behavior modification techniques, recognizing and coping with stress, and effectively using all resources, pilots can substantially improve the safety of each flight. Remember that effective risk management takes practice. It is a decision-making process by which pilots can systematically identify hazards, assess the degree of risk, and determine the best course of action. Pilots should plan ahead with flight diversion or cancellation alternatives and not be afraid to change their plans; it can sometimes be the difference between arriving safely late or not arriving at all.

See for additional resources.

The NTSB presents this information to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. Note that this should not be considered guidance from the regulator, nor does this supersede existing FAA Regulations (FARs). 

1 comment:

  1. Came to rest upright in a field, two occupants found awake/alert, treated on scene, then airlifted, extent of injury not stated.


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