The Pilot Had Been Performing Maintenance On The Accident Airplane And Upgrading Various Systems

Location: Columbia, CA Accident Number: WPR22FA335
Date & Time: September 5, 2022, 09:48 Local Registration: N10EZ
Aircraft: Rutan Varieze Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On September 05, 2022, about 0948 Pacific daylight time, a Rutan Varieze, N10EZ, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Columbia, California. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot had been performing maintenance on the accident airplane and upgrading various systems. The weeks prior to the accident, he installed an Electroair electronic ignition system. The accident flight was the first flight out of maintenance. The radar and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) information disclosed that the airplane departed runway 17 about 0845. The airplane continued southeast about 8 nautical miles (nm) and then retuned back to the airport, landing on the same runway about 0858.

The recorded data then shows that around 0903, the airplane departed and continued southeast in a climb for about 35 nautical miles (nm). After about 18 minutes, the airplane made a 180° left turn while passing through 13,500 ft mean seal level (msl). The airplane climbed to a peak altitude of 16,475 msl and then began a descent, maneuvering into a left traffic pattern for runway 35.

The airplane made a high-speed pass over runway 35 and then continued north-northeast for about 5 nm. Thereafter, the airplane returned back to the airport and around 0945, it passed over the center of the airport at an altitude of 2,850 ft (see Figure 1 below). The airplane turned right and joined the right traffic pattern for runway 17. At 0946:56, the airplane turned onto the base leg and the airspeed decreased.

The recorded data further disclosed that at 0947:25, when the airplane was about 1.25 nm north of the runway, at an altitude of about 680 ft above ground level (agl), it turned onto final approach at an airspeed of about 70 kts. The remaining data stretched over a distance of 3,200 ft in 24 seconds, equating to a derived ground speed of about 66 knots and a descent of about 400 ft. The last ADS-B point was at an altitude of 195 ft agl and about 1,800 ft north of the accident location.

A comparison of the first flight and the accident flight revealed that the speeds were similar during the landing approach. The first flight passed near the location of the last recorded ADSB return about 75 ft higher.