Saturday, November 13, 2021

Zenair STOL CH 701 SP, N984LD: Fatal accident occurred November 12, 2021 in Randsburg, Kern 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; Van Nuys, California

Location: Randsburg, California 
Accident Number: WPR22FA033
Date and Time: November 12, 2021, 14:14 Local
Registration: N984LD
Aircraft: Zenith STOL CH701 
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 12, 2021, about 1414 Pacific standard time, an experimental amateur-built Zenith CH-701, N984LD, was destroyed when it was involved in accident while landing at a back-country airstrip, near Randsburg, California. The pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The airport was located within a 1,500 ft-wide valley, at an elevation of about 2,450 ft. The runway was oriented on a southwest heading, with rising terrain to the north, and a parallel ridgeline to the south which fell away to an open desert playa.

A witness, who was located on a camping spot about ½ to the west, and overlooking the runway, stated that he had camped at that location many times before, and was familiar with aircraft landing on the airstrip. About 1410, he heard the typical sound of an airplane in the traffic pattern and saw a high-wing airplane flying northeast along the ridgeline at an altitude of about 300 ft over the runway. He stated that it was flying in a manner that seemed appropriate for an airplane approaching the southwest runway for landing.

A short time later he heard an engine revving up, and when he looked up, the airplane was at the north end of the runway, flying northwest. The airplane was wobbling, and it then began to bank left. It’s bank angle reached about 60° such that he could see the full wing profile; the nose then dropped, and the airplane descended rapidly to the ground.

Another witness, who was located within the runway valley, stated that his attention was drawn to an airplane flying northeast over the ridgeline. It was flying about 50 ft above the ridge and appeared to be bouncing, in a manner that he attributed to it encountering turbulence. He was concerned and continued to watch the airplane as it began a left turn consistent with it initiating an approach to land on the southwest runway. The airplanes bank angle then rapidly increased, reaching what he estimated to be about 90° such that the airplane was on a knife-edge. The nose of the airplane then suddenly dropped, and the airplane rapidly descended, and collided with the ground, erupting in flames. 

Both witnesses reported that they did not see the airplane emitting smoke of vapors at any time prior to the impact.

The airplane came to rest inverted on a heading of about 035°, in the foothills of the rising terrain to the north, about 750 ft short of the southwest runway landing threshold, and 275 ft to the right of the centerline.

The entire fuselage through to the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer, along with most of the right wing, and the inboard section of the left wing, sustained extensive thermal damage, melting most of the aluminum structure. The steel airframe components sustained varying degrees of crush and bending damage. The horizontal and rudder/vertical stabilizer remained intact, and came to rest in line with the burnt fuselage remnants.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Zenith
Registration: N984LD
Model/Series: STOL CH701 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
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: KNID,2230 ft msl
Observation Time: 13:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C /1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.25 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Inyokern, CA (IYK) 
Destination: Randsburg, CA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 35.429426,-117.73031 

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.

David Joseph Moynihan

David Joseph Moynihan, 31, passed away on Friday, November 12, 2021.

David is predeceased by his grandparents David Gohmann, and Vivian and Joseph Moynihan.

David is survived by his parents, Humphrey and Connie Moynihan; sisters Katie Moynihan Gray and Meghan Moynihan; brothers-in-law, Brian Gray and Cliff Martin. David is also survived by his much-loved nieces and nephews Evelyn, godchild Mabel, Gus, godchild Lucy, and Leon; numerous friends and extended family members including his grandmother, Margie Gohmann.

David was born in Covington, Virginia on September 30, 1990. He was an Eagle Scout, valedictorian of his Alleghany High School class, and earned his BA in Economics with a minor in Chemical Engineering, as a Rodman Scholar of the University of Virginia. He was kind, thoughtful, and never met a food he didn’t want to eat. Always adventurous, David loved time outdoors with his family and friends, taking on—and excelling at—recreational activities for all seasons. He eventually took this spirit to the skies, first as a novice with the Sandhill Soaring Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan and eventually as an aviator (call sign “Shands”) for the U.S. Navy, serving honorably and achieving the rank of Lieutenant. David dedicated much of his off time to mastering aviation, learning to fly nearly eighty different types of aircraft and sharing his passion for flying with his loved ones. The day before his death, David achieved his glider instructor certification and, in his last hours, was camping near a small California airstrip and flying with a friend.

A Mass of Christian Burial for David will be held on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, 5505 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, Ky. 40291 (visitation begins at 9 a.m. at the church) and interment at Calvary Cemetery, 1600 Newburg Rd, Louisville, Ky. 40205 to follow. A remembrance service will be held in San Diego on Friday, January 7 with details to follow.

David’s family thanks the first responders, the U.S. Navy, the men and women of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron-6, and David’s many friends from Virginia to San Diego who have shared their memories and given their wonderful support in so many kind and helpful ways.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to the Soaring Society of America Flight Training Scholarship Fund or the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Hal Wood

Marjo and Hal Wood

Marjo Wood was visiting relatives in Holland when she got the news.

Her husband, Hal Wood, had died in a November 12 plane crash as the passenger of a Zenair STOL CH 701 SP near Randsburg. He was 68. The pilot, David Joseph Moynihan, 31, died at the scene, as well.

Both were connected through their service to the Navy and the love of flying, Marjo said. Moynihan was an active helicopter pilot and Hal Wood was a retired Navy SEAL.

However, retirement didn’t suit her husband, said Marjo, who became his wife on November 8, 1975.

After all, “Once a navy SEAL, always a SEAL,” she added.

Surfing, skiing, hang-gliding, bass guitar-playing, rollerblading, bodybuilding and teaching Krav Maga were only some of his favorite activities.

“There was never any downtime,” she said. “Hal never sat still.”

Born in Minnesota, he enlisted into the Navy around 1972 quickly after high school. The enrollment only came after superiors assured him he could join the SEALs.

“Hal liked things that were a challenge,” Marjo said.

Operations called him away without notice, and he didn’t know when or if he would arrive home. By then, the Vietnam War was winding down, she added. Hal, who served as a hospital corpsman, was also called away to Korea, the Philippines and other places for missions.

After four years of active service and four years in the reserves, Hal jumped from job to job before landing a spot at Southern California Edison, working there for 33 years.

Over the last 20 years, Marjo said, Hal’s passion became flying. He became obsessed with the CH-701 and finally bought one.

Moynihan was a “nice, congenial friend” of Hal’s and they had planned to meet up in Kern County to spot a campground Nov. 12.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings Friday of the crash and said the Zenair STOL CH 701 SP took off at about 2:14  p.m. from Inyokern and flew toward Randsburg.

Another witness said he saw an airplane flying northeast over the ridge, and it was “bouncing,” according to NTSB’s report. He attributed the movement to turbulence.

Concerned, the same witness watched as the plane started to initiate “an approach to land on the southwest runway,” the report said. However, the bank’s angle began to increase, to about 90 degrees.

“The nose of the airplane then suddenly dropped, and the airplane rapidly descended and collided with the ground, erupting in flames,” the NTSB report stated.

Witnesses said the plane did not emit smoke before impact, per the report.

Hal leaves behind his wife, two children and three grandchildren. Moynihan’s family could not be reached Friday for comment.

DECEDENT’S NAME: David Joseph Moynihan

CASE #: C04364-21


AGE: 31 years

TYPE OF CASE: Aircraft Fatality                

DATE OF INCIDENT: November 12, 2021

TIME OF INCIDENT: 1413 hours  

LOCATION: Open desert north of Garlock Road and west of US Route 395, Ridgecrest (GPS Coordinates 35.427893, -117.73723)

DATE OF DEATH: November 12, 2021

TIME OF DEATH: 1413 hours

PLACE OF DEATH: Scene               

INVESTIGATING AGENCY: National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration                                            

DETAILS: David Joseph Moynihan was an occupant of an aircraft that crashed at the location mentioned above. He was determined to be deceased at the scene.

COMMENTS: Family notified


The Kern County coroner’s office identified the second person killed in the Garlock plane crash as David Joseph Moynihan, 31, from San Diego.

BAKERSFIELD, California — Kern County Fire confirms a two-seater plane crash southwest of Ridgecrest kills two people.

Authorities identified on Monday one man killed in the crash as Hal Derwin Wood, 68, of Murrieta, California. The identity of the second man killed in the crash is still pending.

The crash happened at 2:15 p.m. on November 12 near Garlock Road, north of Randsburg.

Kern County Fire has passed the case off to the Bureau of Land Management, and now National Transportation Safety Board is in charge, and said they are investigating the crash of the Zenair STOL CH 701 SP.

The Kern County Sherriff's Office has closed off the area near the site.

A plane crashed Friday afternoon, killing two people north of California City, according to the Kern County Fire Department.

The incident occurred near Garlock Road, east of Highway 395 in Randsburg, a Kern County Fire Department spokesperson said. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said in an email that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The identities of the deceased have not been released.

The Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said the plane was a kit-built Zenair STOL CH 701 SP. 

The Kern County Fire Department responded to the scene at 2:43 p.m. 

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office provided site security.

Cody Colombo, 22, and his 16-year-old brother rode their dirt bikes near the crash Friday afternoon. They saw a small, black and red plane turn in the air and disappear behind a hill around 2 p.m., Colombo said. It sounded like a normal plane, he added.

Both brothers began to ride and saw the California Highway Patrol officers with other first responders canvassing an area, Colombo said. They both wondered what had prompted the large presence.

Cody said he then saw a body bag next to the mangled heap of metal, thought to be the previously spotted plane.

“It was a crumpled up mess,” he said. “It didn’t look like a plane anymore.”


  1. My condolences to the families.

    I was struck by the comment: " “It was a crumpled up mess,” he said. “It didn’t look like a plane anymore.” "

    The Zenith aircraft do not use a rigid steel cage for their fuselage or cockpit area.

    Some aircraft have a very rigid steel "skeleton" so to speak that forms the fuselage including the cockpit area. Planes like the Rans S-20, KitFox 7, Bearhawk Patrol (all 2 seat high wing Experimental ), have a fuselage configured using a rigid cage architecture employing materials such as 4130 Chromemoly Steel. Other designs do not.

    I am looking at building a plane from a kit, and have looked at the Zeniths. I am still at a crossroad so to speak. I value safety. do cages provide a slight edge? I don't know what to think.

    Again, my condolences to the families.

    1. This airplane hit hard to be so deformed. The Zenith uses a cage between the firewall and aft cockpit area. This cage provides a lot of protection to the occupants. Look at other accidents of Zenith aircraft and in many instances, the occupants walked away unharmed. In this case, the impact appears severe.

    2. Your question on frame/cage strength can benefit from a simple thought experiment, as follows: Compare a fabric over tube frame fuselage design to the Zenair semi-monocoque stressed-skin fuselage design.

      At the basic level of understanding, a fabric or polysheet covering is not a significant contributor to the structural integrity of a fabric skin aircraft's strong fuselage frame. In a semi-monocoque stressed-skin design, the stressed metal skin fastened to the framing allows for lighter framing that by itself could not be covered in fabric and have enough strength to be flown.

      At a more sophisticated level of understanding, the combination of lighter framing and attached stressed-skin work together to provide precisely the structural performance that the aircraft designer has calculated in a semi-monocoque stressed-skin design.

      All designs are compromises, so a tube cage designed with a goal of maximum occupant protection will weigh a lot, while a stressed skin design with a goal of minimal weight will provide less crash protection.

      Meanwhile, the reality of serious crashes is that the human body can't withstand extreme impact forces. It is possible to build a rigid frame that crumples less than a lighter design, but the same crash can be fatal in either one.

      Survivable crashes have other risks. Concern over seeing fuel tanks present in the cockpit in front of or behind the pilot can rule out some designs due to personal risk perception.

      Good luck in your choice that you end up building. Keep in mind that the more difficult the build effort is to complete, the less likely it is that you will ever fly a finished aircraft. That reality should also be considered in the decision on which kit to choose.

    3. If you lawn dart any aircraft likely won't be survivable. Most fatal accidents can be avoided by good decision making.

  2. I knew Dave, we were friends, he was a Navy Helicopter Pilot. I had flown with him before and I know for a fact that he was a great pilot. I'm almost certain that the fault in this mishap must have been from the aircraft and not from pilot error. This is terrible news. No amount of money will ever get me into a kit plane. Knowing the training, experience, and expertise that Dave had. I'm completely devastated that this could have happened to someone like him. At least he passed away doing something he loved, but I'm just so confused that this happened to him. He was a great pilot. We had just flown to Catalina together in September. He took the flight planning and preflight very seriously and didn't skip over things in the checklist. Constantly checking weather and the aircraft instruments while airborne. I suppose when it's your time it's just your time. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Rest in peace my friend.

    1. Kit planes have their risks, but seems like 2nd owners where lot of the crashing happens with kit planes not as much with the original builder. You never really know if the person who built it did a good job. I rather build it myself verify each part is correctly installed. Lots of certified aircraft that crash also every year even with highly experienced pilots just the risk you take go into the air. Even in military aircraft crash you would think with all the training, unlimited budgets, and dedicated maintenance there would never be a crash.

  3. I am shocked to just learn of the tragic demise of Hal Wood through the So California Edison newsletter. He worked at the Edison nuclear plant at San Onofre with me until I retired in 1997. A great individual,very knowledgeable in his area of expertise, Health Physics, always soft-spoken and professional, he was a great asset to the organization, dedicated to his family with a deep belief in his Faith. My heartfelt condolences to Marjo and the entire Wood family. Rest in Peace!


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