Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Zenair CH 601 XL Zodiac, N601KS: Fatal accident occurred November 23, 2021 near French Valley Airport (F70), Riverside 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; Riverside, California


Location: Temecula, California
Accident Number: WPR22FA048
Date and Time: November 23, 2021, 10:32 Local
Registration: N601KS
Aircraft: Zenith Zodiac CH601XL
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 23, 2021, about 1032, an experimental amateur-built Zenith Zodiac 601XL, N601KS, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident in Temecula, California. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A witness, who was located in the front yard of a residence, in a new housing development, about 3 miles southeast of French Valley Airport, reported hearing a loud bang, and then looking overhead to see an airplane flying in a northwest direction. The airplane then began to roll inverted while diving diagonally into the ground. After the airplane impacted, debris started falling from the sky almost directly above her.

Multiple other witnesses within the area of the housing development recounted similar observations of hearing a loud booming sound followed by observing an airplane dive toward the ground while debris fell from it.

The airplane came to rest nose down in a field, about 250 ft north of the housing development.

The airframe was compressed aft, such that the engine and firewall were in line with the trailing edge of the wings. Both wings sustained crush damage through to the aft spar, both fuel tanks had been breached, and the smell of fuel was present in the soil surrounding the site.

A 70-ft-long debris field consisting of fragments of canopy plexiglass material, shards of aluminum, and fragments of flight instruments, emanated from the main wreckage west. The pilots flight bag, a sun visor, and a fuel sump jar were located about 400 ft east of the main wreckage, and an iPad was located about halfway between.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Zenith
Registration: N601KS
Model/Series: Zodiac CH601XL
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: KHMT,1512 ft msl 
Observation Time: 10:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C /-6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots / , 240°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Temecula, CA (F70)
Destination: Temecula, CA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.548991,-117.09208 

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

Marshal Whatley (R) has been identified as the pilot killed when his small plane crashed in an open field just outside a Temecula residential neighborhood.


TEMECULA, California — Authorities say a local man was killed when a plane he was piloting crashed into an open field about six miles southeast of the French Valley Airport in Temecula, yesterday morning, Tuesday, November 23.  

The field where the plane came to rest was barely 100 yards away from a nearby residential neighborhood; where area residents and curious onlookers were seen while officials worked at the scene.  

Deputies from the Southwest Sheriff’s Station, Cal Fire – Riverside, and other emergency personnel were dispatched to an open field near the 32100 block of Everview Terrace around 10:30 a.m. after receiving reports of an aircraft emergency with a downed plane.  

When deputies and other officials arrived, they found a single-engine Zodiac 601XL overturned on its roof and found that the pilot and sole occupant of the aircraft had already succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

The Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office today identified Marshal Whatley, 48, of Murrieta, as the pilot killed in the crash. A Coroner’s release indicated he was pronounced deceased at 10:47 a.m.  

Officials work at the scene of yesterday’s fatal plane crash in Temecula that killed a a 48-year-old Murrieta pilot. Temecula, Murrieta, And Camp Pendleton Wildfire Incidents photo  

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified of the fatal crash and have since assumed the investigation.  

No information about the plane’s flight plan was immediately available and the investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing.   No streets were directly impacted or closed as a result of the crash, according to Sheriff’s officials.  

In a social media post this morning, Temecula Valley VFW Post 4089 wrote, “It’s with a heavy heart that we inform our brothers and sisters of Post 4089 that we lost one of our own.”  

“Marshal Whatley was taken from us in a plane he was piloting yesterday morning that crashed,” TVVFW went on to say; adding, “He will be sorely missed by all of us.”  

A meeting to be held at the VFW Post tonight will honor Marshal and “mourn … our loss of this former Marine, husband, father and friend.”  





A Murrieta man died in a small plane crash in an open field in Temecula on Tuesday morning, November 23, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

The plane crashed at around 10:35 a.m. in a field near the 32000 block of Everview Terrace, Sgt. Brandi Swan said. When deputies arrived, they found the man – the sole occupant of the plane – dead inside of the aircraft, she said.

The pilot was identified as 48-year-old Marshal Whatley, according to the Riverside County Coroner’s Office.

There was no damage to property besides the plane itself, according to Swan

The plane was a Zenair CH 601 XL Zodiac, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.

It was not immediately known what led up to the crash.

The crash site is southeast of French Valley Airport.

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