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Vintage plane pilot in fatal Chino airport crash warned about flaps, NTSB says – Redlands Daily Facts

Ground personnel at the Chino airport signaled a warning to the two men in a World War II-era aircraft about a wing flap problem shortly before the Lockheed 12A Electra Junior took off and almost immediately crashed on June 15, killing both veteran airmenthe National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released Wednesday, July 10.

The aircraft, built between 1936 and 1941, belonged to the Yanks Air Museum, which operates at the airport. Museum officials said in a Facebook post that Michael Paul Gilles, 71, of Aliso Viejo was the pilot of the twin-engine aircraft and Frank James Wright, 67, of Riverside was the co-pilot. Wright was the museum’s chief operating officer.

Both men were licensed to fly multi-engine aircraft and had valid medical certificates, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.

The flight, in clear weather around 12:35 p.m., was in preparation for a three-plane formation to be flown during the Father’s Day weekend Yanks Air Pops & Props event.

“During the engine start, the ground crew alerted the flight crew using hand and arm signals that the flaps were extended,” the NTSB report said. “From the ground crew’s experience and observations with the accident aircraft, they felt that the flaps were fully extended during taxi and takeoff on runway 26R.

“According to witnesses and video, when the aircraft reached the departure end of the runway, approximately 200-300 feet above ground level, the aircraft pitched up, turned left and entered a nose-down attitude as it descended into terrain,” the report continued.

The NTSB did not issue an opinion on the cause of the crash because that finding is reserved for the final report, which could take two years to complete.

That the flaps were apparently fully extended is significant, said Robert Katz, a commercial pilot with 43 years of experience who often reviews accident reports. Katz said in an interview Wednesday that flaps provide drag and that it would be a mistake to have them more than partially extended on takeoff.

“My guess is that what caused this plane to crash was more than likely an engine failure and was exacerbated by the flaps being fully deployed,” Katz said, giving his opinion after reading the report. The plane could normally be flown with just one engine running, he said.

Katz also wondered why the 4,858-foot runway was used when the airport also has a 7,000-foot runway. Assuming the engine had failed, Katz said, the launch could have been aborted.

The museum, which displays hundreds of restored aircraft, closed for 12 days after the crash and reopened on June 27.

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