NTSB Identification: WPR16FA067
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 10, 2016 in Springville, CA
Aircraft: FLIGHT DESIGN GMBH CTLS, registration: N911TS
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
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. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On February 10, 2016, at 1617 Pacific standard time, a Flight Design CTLS airplane, N911TS, while flying at low altitude entered a hard left turn and descended into terrain 4 miles southwest of Springville, California. The airline transport pilot and single passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed by a post-crash fire. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the Tulare County Sheriff as a public aircraft under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules company flight plan. The flight originated from Visalia Municipal Airport, Visalia, California, approximately 1440 as a local flight.
Witnesses reported seeing the airplane circling a nearby area then depart to the southwest. The airplane made a left turn, the wings dipped left and right, then the airplane descended into the ground in a sideways wing down orientation. The engine was heard operating in a steady tone until ground impact. A post-crash fire ensured, destroying the airplane.
The Porterville Municipal Airport automated weather observation system-3 (AWOS-3), located 11 miles southwest of the accident site, at an elevation of 443 feet mean sea level, recorded at 1556, wind from 300 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, and altimeter setting of 30.18 inHg.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fresno FSDO-17
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Following the fatal crash of a Tulare County Sheriff’s Office airplane, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office has grounded its recently acquired plane.
Sheriff One, a Flight Design Composite Technology Law Enforcement (CTLE) aircraft, crashed around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday along Highway 190 near Lake Success, just west of Porterville. The crash killed the pilot, 45-year-old Hanford resident James Chavez, and Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, of Visalia.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said the plane had assisted in catching a man brandishing a weapon prior to the crash. There was no distress call and the plane’s parachute was not deployed prior to the crash, the department said.
The plane logged more than 3,000 hours of flight time since it went into operation in mid-2011.
The Kings County Sheriff’s Office bought a Flight Design CTLEi aircraft in 2014 for about $471,000. Sheriff David Robinson said the plane, known as Sky King 1, is a newer, fuel-injected version of the one that crashed Wednesday.
Like the Tulare County plane, Sky King 1 features a parachute system that allows for safe landing in the event of engine failure.
For the safety of his pilots, Robinson said Sky King 1 has been grounded until more is known about the crash. He said he hopes to get the plane back into operation quickly.
Megan Rapozo, public relations officer for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, said the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash. She said there is no set timeline to determine the cause.
“We’ll be waiting for their results along with everyone else,” Rapozo said.
As of Thursday, the FAA’s preliminary accident and incident report website said the aircraft “crashed under unknown circumstances and caught fire.”
Robinson said the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the research and the purchase of Sky King 1. Chavez was one of two pilots who helped train pilots for Kings County’s air program.
“He knew all of our pilots and worked with every single one of them,” Robinson said.
Chavez was hired as a pilot for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office in 2014 and had volunteered for more than a year prior. The sheriff’s office said he was hired for his extensive aviation experience and exceptional piloting skills. He had previously served in the California National Guard, Navy Reserve and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Aerosquadron.
Robinson said Chavez was “truly an expert” with the CTLE aircraft.
Ballantyne started with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office in 1989. He became a deputy observer for Sheriff One, using high-tech equipment to guide deputies on the ground during pursuits.
“It’s just tragic,” Robinson said.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday that flags at the state Capitol would be flown at half-staff in honor of Ballantyne and Chavez.
“We are grateful for these men, who made the ultimate sacrifice doing what they did everyday – serving and protecting their community,” Brown said in a statement.