Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rans S-12XL, N449JP: Fatal accident occurred December 15, 2020 near Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport (KPIL), Cameron County, Texas

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 did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas 

Location: Port Isabel, TX
Accident Number: CEN21LA088
Date & Time: December 15, 2020, 23:00 Local 
Registration: N449JP
Aircraft: RANS S12XL
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On December 15, 2020, about 2300 central standard time, a Rans S-12XL, N449JP, was located and involved in an accident near Port Isabel, Texas. The uncertificated pilot, who was the airplane owner, and a flight instructor were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 instructional flight.

An alert notice was issued due to the airplane being overdue. The airplane was located after about ½ mile south runway 35 at Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport, Port Isabel, Texas. The airplane was resting in a nose-down attitude, and all airplane components were at the accident site. The wing and empennage control surfaces were intact. There was no evidence of fire.

There were no witnesses that reported seeing the accident.

The airplane wreckage has not been recovered and is awaiting recovery at the time that this preliminary report was written.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: RANS 
Registration: N449JP
Model/Series: S12XL 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
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: PIL 
Observation Time: 15:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 0.5 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C /16°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots / , 40°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3400 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.8 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Port Isabel, TX (PIL)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 26.159381,-97.350071 (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

Grover Cleveland Abel, Jr.

Grover Cleveland Abel, Jr. passed away on December 16, 2020.

He was born in 1943 in Houston, Texas to Grover and Julia Abel. He attended Poe Elementary, Lanier Middle School and Lamar High School all in Houston, Texas. Grover graduated from the University of Texas in 1965. He owned and sold for G. C. Insurance Agency until sale in 1983. Grover also owned Las Llanes Ranch until 2010. He was an avid explorer and outdoorsman until his death.

He is survived by his wife Linda Wright Abel, his eldest Son: Christopher Bryan Abel (Kristen Jones Abel), and youngest Son: Jeffrey Steven Abel (Beth Kelly Abel). Grandchildren: Travis Abel, Patrick Abel (Sons of Chris), Maxwell Abel, and Carter Abel (Sons of Jeffrey).

He was preceded in death by his father: Grover Cleveland Abel, Sr., Step-Father: Meyer Lurie, and Mother: Julia Chavez Abel Lurie.

In lieu of flowers, the Abel family asks that donations may be made to the following: NAACP, Wounded Warriors, or the ACLU.

No services will be held at this time.

You may sign the online guestbook, light a remembrance candle, or send words of comfort to the family of Grover Cleveland Abel, Jr. at:

Funeral arrangements entrusted to the care of Thomae-Garza Funeral Home and Crematorium, 395 S. Sam Houston, San Benito, Texas.

Kai Uwe Wulff

Kai-Uwe Wulff, PhD

Successful serial entrepreneur, mentor to multitudes, and citizen of the world, PhD Kai-Uwe Wulff, died in a tragic airplane accident in Bayview, Texas on December 15, 2020, along with Grover Abel, of Bayview, Texas. Kai will best be remembered for his ability to challenge and change the status quo, his indomitable spirit and drive, and his desire to effect change for the betterment of humanity.

Kai Wulff was a serial entrepreneur, with a world vision to use business principles for the good of global citizens. Kai worked hard and played hard, giving his time and energy to all hosts of activities across the globe, from his service in the German Luftwaffe special forces and a successful computer company in Germany, the turn-around of The African Safari Club in Kenya, to the market altering creation of Kenya Data Networks, and further successful fiber network companies in Uganda and Ghana for Google, and the business plan for Google’s Loon project. Although a tireless globe trotter, since 2015, from his home in Harlingen, Texas, Kai invested in a variety of ventures, including the establishment of Wulff-Aviation, flight school, being a life-long passion. His innovative spirit, his indomitable drive and his exacting intellect are hallmarks of this irreplaceable man of action and kindness in our midst.

Although he never complained, Kai, for all his accomplishments, struggled with Crohn's a lifelong genetic disease, he felt a looming expiration date on his life, and instead of squandering his days in self-pity, he pushed himself and those around him to great accomplishments, with his tireless will, and voracious intellectual appetite. Kai leaves behind a towering legacy of achievements, while at the same time a gaping hole in our lives.

Kai is survived by his son Nils Wulff, (Brownsville, TX), former wife Michaela Wulff, his mother Ursula Wulff in Kaiserslautern, Germany (Kai's Birthplace); sisters Heike Wulff-Meyer, Anke Wulff and children, and his life partner Shea Williamson and furry babies Jed and Molly Williamson.

BAYVIEW — Two men were killed after the Rans S-12XL plane which they were flying crashed as it approached landing at a remote air strip late Tuesday night, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper said Wednesday.

Grover Abel, 78, of Houston and Kai Uwe Wulff, 51, of Brownsville were killed after Abel’s N449JP aircraft crashed as it tried to land at the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport at about 11:58 p.m. Tuesday, Lt. Christopher Olivarez and family members said.

“The cause of the crash is an unknown at this time,” Olivarez stated in a press release.

Troopers, state game wardens and sheriff’s deputies found the bodies of Abel and Wulff, his flying instructor, in a field near the airport outside of Bayview, Olivarez and family members said.

“It was a Rans S-12XL plane that crashed on landing,” Jeffrey Abel, Abel’s son from Houston, said after arriving in Harlingen. “He was an avid outdoorsman. It’s just shocking.”

Bill Wright, Grover Abel’s brother-in-law in Abilene, said Abel was taking his first flight in the Rans S-12XL.

“They had taken off from an airport on his first flight and he was coming in for a landing,” Wright said. “Evidently, it crashed on approach to the landing.”

The Federal Aviation Administration was investigation the crash, Olivarez said.

It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Kai Uwe Wulff. Kai, 51, the first CEO of the revolutionary Kenya Data Networks aka (KDN), was one of the pioneers who helped set up high-speed data networks. KDN, a member of the Sameer Investment Group of Companies, is a full service, data communications carrier licensed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) in January 2003 as a Public Data Network Operator. 

CIO East Africa spoke with one of KDNs founders over the great loss of Kai. “We met at work. Kai was like my elder brother,” said David Owino. “We rolled out the wireless network, built a lot of fibre and changed a lot of things. When we came in, landlords were not aware of KDN. They thought that it was only Telkom Kenya who laid down cables. We rolled out to connect buildings and customers with fibre optic cable. We were the first to do Mombasa to Ntororo.” Funded by Naushad Merali, Owino says that “It was a very new concept. Investors were very sceptical, and the business model wasn’t very clear to many people.”

It was here that Kai shone brightly. His hard-nosed courage, celebrates Owino, was exactly what was required in the industry along with the courage to try new things. “He was making promises to shareholders and I kept the promises. He would ask me first and we troubleshoot. In fact, some of the things Kai and I were trying then I now see Facebook implementing.”

On his LinkedIn page, Kai described himself thus. “Detail-oriented without losing sight of the big picture, analytical and methodical with insightful critical thinking to strategize solutions in addressing operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness or resolve process and people-centric work issues even under stress.” He was a man of many first.

 First to introduce full “build to order” PCs in 1985
– First PC manufacturer with a three-year unconditional warranty
– Implemented lean production innovations in car manufacturing
– Oversaw implementation of Novell/IBM Mainframe seamless connectivity in LAN and WAN environment
 Developed new yield management in charter airlines
– First airline with full “build your own meal” in every class

Kai proved to be so brilliant at his job that he presented a plan to the investment group that with an increase of the total investment profile to $4 million, the company could be revived with a new market strategy. He did this by re-building KDN from start-up phase to its renowned status as the leading carrier of carriers in East Africa within four years. He established KDN as a leader in commercial leased lines, frame relay and metro ethernet-based services in Kenya. Kai planned and secured vendor financing, overseeing the laying of over 5,000 miles of fibre cables in Nairobi and other major cities/towns. We have him to thank for the first fibre backbone in East Africa and the first Metro Cloud in Africa.

That is only part of it. When Liquid Telkom came a-knocking, KDN sold 51 per cent of its equity to them for $85 Million along with an earn-out to ALTECH, successfully returning $80 million to shareholders, in less than four years while retaining 49 percent of the business. “Kai would ask me what I thought, and I would say, ‘we can take a shot at this’ and I would get money and he would do it. By the time KDN was being sold, we were only second in profitability only to Safaricom. Of course, they were at a whole other level. If they were 90 per cent, we were at 55 percent and then there was everyone else. Celtel was making losses. Access Kenya made Kshs 200 million in a year and that was what we were making in a month.” The valuation of the company increased to over $240 million in 2009 when valued independently for Earn-Out calculations. Thanks to KDN’s singular CEO, the total return to initial shareholders was $236 million in less than five years.

KDN, an investment by Sameer Investment, was started with the intention of selling it as an exit strategy. But Owino says “We were investing in it assuming it wasn’t going to get sold. But then we got a really good offer and we thought, considering the fact that we started out with Kshs 4 million, Kshs 7 billion was not bad at all.”

Kai, he says, “reached some serious heights. He really changed the landscape in terms of infrastructure. The current Liquid Telekom network was built with money from our customers. In fact, in his LinkedIn, he talked about how we went to Europe and China to beg for money to modernise the infrastructure.”

Owino says Kai, a German Airforce man (1989-1994), a visionary with over 30 years’ experience in the industry, was exceptional because of his speed of execution, adoption of new ideas and ability to dare to dream outside the box. His most definitive quality being his conviction and the courage to try new things. After KDN, the pair consulted for Google. DO you want to know how we ended up with Google in Africa? Kai talked them into it. He convinced Google to roll out fibre in Africa. He became the Access Field Development Director (2012-2015) after their consultancy ended.

“Kai was an obstinate German. He could really be a pain and when I mentioned it he would say it was his job to be a pain. He was straight shooting.” Their friendship, despite, or perhaps in spite of themselves, worked. They were able to materialize great feats and they believed in each other. “The loss of Kai is great not just to the people who knew him, but to the industry as well. When he died, he was consulting on AI stuff (he was a strategic advisor with Volt AI) in the US.”

It was not strange for Kai to fly. He enjoyed it and flew on weekends. “The first time he flew me I got into the plane and asked him if it was a Volkswagen Beetle. It was that small and the door…. He had to reassure me that it wouldn’t pop open mid-flight. And he would flip it and let it drop and I would feel like my brain was going to come off.”

At the time of his death, Kai was teaching Grover Abel from Houston how to fly a craft glider. “I spoke to his wife yesterday. Kai has to be the only person I know who would teach a 78-year-old man how to craft glide! It is so him.” The pair was declared dead at the scene where Abel’s N449JP aircraft crash-landed at the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport at about 11.58 pm. It is reported that DPS Troopers, Texas Game Wardens and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office located the aircraft in a field within the airport property.


  1. could be...
    FAA Identifier: Private 73TA Reynolds Ranch, Bayview, Texas
    Latitude/Longitude: 26.1583 -97.3886
    Runway: 02/20
    Dimensions: 2000 x 50 ft.
    Surface: Grass, sod

    1. stand corrected, (KPIL) Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport Runways: 13/31, 08/26, 03/21, 17/35 Longest paved runway: 8,001 ft (2,439 m)

  2. Not an instructor for this thpe of aircraft, had a ASEL flight instructor certificate.

    1. The Rans S-12 is a single-engine land aircraft. So...?

    2. Needs the Sport endorsement: "ASES" (Airplane Single Engine Sport).

    3. It's a common misconception and I have to admit that I was confused when the Light Sport phenomenon came out. However, the links provided above relate to sport pilot students, not instructors. A garden-variety certified flight instructor (CFI) can instruct students in LSA without any new regulatory hurdles as long as the CFI is in good standing, meaning the CFI certificate hasn't lapsed and medical qualifications are met. Here's the relevant legalese:

      FAR 14 CFR 61.193 Flight instructor privileges.

      (a) A person who holds a flight instructor certificate is authorized within the limitations of that person's flight instructor certificate and ratings to train and issue endorsements that are required for:

      (1) A student pilot certificate;

      (2) A pilot certificate;

      (3) A flight instructor certificate;

      (4) A ground instructor certificate;

      (5) An aircraft rating;

      (6) An instrument rating;

      (7) A flight review, operating privilege, or recency of experience requirement of this part;

      (8) A practical test; and

      (9) A knowledge test.

      I don't know what the instructor held regarding qualifications so this could be moot. Somehow the early reporting confused the accident aircraft with a glider, maybe from a layperson not familiar with the aircraft? People are attracted to light sport aircraft because they are fairly docile and require slightly less from the pilot, though not so much from the owner (maintenance costs $ no matter what we fly). Despite their relatively mild performance, light aircraft do have a quirk in that they slow down rapidly when the engine quits. So it's absolutely critical to get that nose down if the engine fails because there's less time to react than heavier aircraft.

    4. One correction needed to earlier post: ASES is not sport endorsement, it is "Airplane Single Engine Sea".

      In the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) arena, sport pilot examiner authorization for single engine land is "DPE-SPE-ASEL", but you won't see that level of detail in search results from the Airmen Registry.

  3. Former student, we flew from KBRO to KPIL regularly for pattern work and touch and go’s. I wonder how long it will take for the NTSB report to come out.

    1. In past accidents I've seen the NTSB take up to a year.

  4. he will be missed but he is back in heaven where he was sent to us from.

  5. As a friend and fellow pilot who flew numerous times with Kia, I will miss him dearly. I can also personally attest to the great skill and mastery Kia displayed in all aspects of business, aviation instruction and piloting. The above positive comments on his personality are if anything, understated. He was a master and mentor of all he endeavored in. He practiced seeing only the positive and good in those he met.
    I for one, will never forget the short, yet momentous time I spent learning from him. I can only hope to make that precious time well worth his efforts to enlighten my own attributes.

    Billy Cesarano

  6. All the good things said about Kai Wulff is true in my humble opinion too. I was checking his name on the internet as I wanted to see him, in case he would be in Kenya. It is with profound sadness I have read the above. Kai was indeed an outstanding person and engineer. Honour be in his name as he ascend to heaven where he was sent from, as one of you above so eloquently said.


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