Saturday, December 11, 2021

Van's RV-3, N9YY: Fatal accident occurred December 11, 2021 near Bermuda Dunes Airport (KUDD), 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 did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Riverside, California 

James A. Wallace

Location: Bermuda Dunes, California
Accident Number: WPR22LA061
Date and Time: December 11, 2021, 12:30 Local 
Registration: N9YY
Aircraft: MOUL WILLIS RV-3 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On December 11, 2021, about 1230 Pacific standard time, an experimental amateur-built RV-3 airplane, N9YY, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Bermuda Dunes, California. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to a friend, the pilot planned a local flight with the intention to overfly the pilot’s home, which was located about 2.7 miles southwest of the Bermuda Dunes Airport (UDD), Palm Springs, California.

A witness located about a mile west of the accident site observed the airplane in a descending right turn, about a few hundred feet from her location. She recalled seeing the propeller wind-milling. A second witness, who was located about .3 miles north of the accident site, stated that he observed the airplane flying in a normal level attitude as it travelled from north to south at a very low altitude. He observed the airplane roll until one wing pointed straight up and the other point straight down. The airplane then descended in a steep nose down angle. Both witnesses lost sight of the airplane as it descended behind buildings.

The airplane came to rest upright in a residential driveway about 1.3 miles southwest of UDD, and about 1.4 miles northeast of the pilot’s residence. The first point of probable impact was a palm tree about 40 feet in height, located adjacent to a private home, and about 50 north of the airplane. Debris from the palm tree was scattered about the site leading to the airplane. All major components of the airplane were in the debris area of about 30 feet by 30 feet.

The airplane was recovered to a secure facility for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: MOUL WILLIS 
Registration: N9YY
Model/Series: RV-3 
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: PSP, 476 ft msl
Observation Time: 12:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C /0°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 90°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Bermuda Dunes, CA (UDD) 
Destination: Bermuda Dunes, 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: 33.740161,-116.29579 (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.

The pilot of a small plane has died after crashing into a neighborhood in Bermuda Dunes Saturday afternoon.

The coroner's office identified the pilot as James Wallace, 83, of Palm Desert. He was pronounced dead at Desert Medical Center in Palm Springs Saturday evening.

Now, friends and family of Wallace are mourning his passing and holding on to his legacy. Wallace became a pilot so young, friends of Wallace said his mom was scared when she found out he got his license.

“He was a real pilot. He was just one of these guys that when you think of a pilot, you know, confident," said Wallace's friend of seven years, Frank Barbec.

Both men are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1116.

“Any given weekend, and in the morning, I could hear his plane rumbling up the taxiway, and it was very distinctive, so I could tell it was him," said Barbec. "So he would come and he'd flip his plane around, and we'd sit at this table and talk about anything. Mostly about his kids that are pilots. He was just so so proud of them.”

Now, that same table served as a gathering place for those who knew Wallace to remember his legacy. Part of that legacy was constantly sharing his love for flying through the Young Eagle Rallies, which is a program that takes kids interested in aviation on a flight for no charge.

“Who knows how many of those kids that he flew those Young Eagle flights for went on to be pilots. We'll probably never know," said Barbec.

Elizabeth Witte met Wallace through the same chapter as Barbec.

“As a plane crash survivor, it was hard," said Witte. "You know you ask questions, why wasn't it me? Or why did he have to go? And it's tough to have to think about.”

Witte only knew him for a short time but was left with a lasting impact.

“When I look at him, that's like, that's who I want to be at 83," said Witte. "You know, it's just I want to be that person who's smiling and still has his plane who's like- I would say, the plane was the love of his life.” 

A man who bravely risked it all for the love of living life at full throttle.

“He absolutely loved it and I think I can be pretty confident in saying this, and that if I were to ask him right now if he were to go in this way, that he'd be okay with that," said Barbec.

Wallace had plans to see his granddaughter graduate as a pilot from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University next weekend.

As of now, the cause of the plane crash is still under investigation.



  1. Hope the pilot recovers. Good that there was no fire afterwards.

  2. Jim was a retired airline pilots with thousands of hours of flying experience. All of us (his friends) hope he fully recovers.

  3. fortunate the accident site covered by the rapid response of the EMS Riverside County Fire Department; not likely the possibility in rural locales.

    1. And since the above commenter didn't share where exactly the accident site was located, it appears to have crashed into the front yard of 78460 Discovery Bay Dr, Bermuda Dunes. Roughly an extended right base to runway 10 or a left crosswind off runway 28 at KUDD