Saturday, 13 April 2024

NTSB releases preliminary report on crash between glider and plane

MIDDLETOWN – Federal officials have released a preliminary report outlining the circumstances in a fatal midair collision on Nov. 28 that claimed the life of two area pilots.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the findings late Friday.

The crash, at Crazy Creek Air Adventures in Middletown, killed Hidden Valley Lake pilot Robert Sean Boylan, 44, and Harold Harvey Chouinard, 63, of Cotati, as Lake County News has reported.

The report, completed last week by aviation accident investigator Eliott Simpson, explained that Chouinard's Schleicher ASW-27 glider and the Piper PA-25-235 tow plane piloted by Boylan collided at about 11:15 a.m. Nov. 28 during the landing approach at the Crazy Creek gliderport.

The two aircraft had departed to begin their flights only about 10 minutes before the crash, with Boylan towing Chouinard, Simpson's report stated.

Witnesses at the scene observed Boylan release Chouinard's glider about six miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, the report explained.

After the release, Boylan turned back toward the airport, with Chouinard flying north along an adjacent ridgeline before turning southeast toward the airport, the report said.

“According to witnesses, both aircraft entered the downwind leg of the northwest runway about the same time, with the glider on the right downwind and the airplane on the left downwind,” the report stated. “The witnesses observed both aircraft continue on the downwind, and turn onto their respective base legs about the same time. As the aircraft simultaneously turned to final they collided.”

The report added, “The witnesses reported that neither aircraft performed any abrupt or evasive maneuvers prior to the collision.”

The wind at the site was reported to be between 25 and 35 knots from the north, Simpson noted.

Simpson's investigation – which had run close to two days at the crash site – found that both the glider and plane came to rest about 1,300 feet east of the approach end of the runway.

The report said that the airplane was located 40 feet north of the runway centerline, with the glider located 400 feet to the southwest. The debris path consisted of outboard sections of the glider’s right wing, and a three-foot section of the airplane's right wing tip.

A 2-foot-long section of the glider’s right wing tip was located with the main wreckage of the airplane, adjacent to the right wing leading edge, Simpson reported.

Simpson told Lake County News last week that it could take several months for the National Transportation Safety Board to issue a final report on the crash's probable cause.

According to NTSB records, there have been 20 fatal air crashes in Lake County since 1962.

In those 20 crashes, 40 people have died. Four crashes in the Lakeport area accounted for a total of 14 deaths, the most of any area in the county.

The worst crash in terms of loss of life occurred on Sept. 29, 1990, near Lakeport, when a Lockheed PV-2 nose-dived into Clear Lake after a low pass – estimated at about 50 feet over the lake – over a gathering of seaplanes.

The plane stalled and went into the lake, killing the pilot and seven passengers.

The board's final ruling on that crash's probable cause was that the pilot failed to maintain air speed while pulling up from the low pass.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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