Although there has not been a fatal domestic commercial airline crash in nearly 15 years, the risk associated with private airplanes — including planes built from home kits — is substantially greater.
According to authorities, the pilot of one such craft was killed early Saturday afternoon when the plane crashed in Corona, a city located roughly 50 miles to the southeast of Los Angeles, California.
A statement from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that the plane was an “experimental homebuilt” single-engine aircraft, specifically a Van’s Aircraft RV-8 model sold as a kit.
NTSB is investigating the crash of an experimental homebuilt Vans RV-8 airplane in Corona, California.
— NTSB Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) December 16, 2023
The pilot was reportedly the only person on board when it crashed into a tree near the intersection of Auburndale Street and West Rincon Street, which is only about a block away from a regional airport.
A preliminary report by the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the plane had taken off from Corona Municipal Airport just minutes before it crashed.
Estimates suggest that roughly 80% of all plane crashes occur either within the first three minutes after takeoff or during the final eight minutes before landing.
There was no cause for the incident included in that report and the matter remained under investigation by the NTSB as of the most recent updates available.
The pilot was not immediately identified by authorities.
While the crash sparked a fire in the surrounding grass, officials say local firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and no one on the ground was injured.
Investigators noted that they will focus on a number of factors in an attempt to determine why the plane crashed, including the craft’s flight track the day of the incident, previous maintenance records, weather conditions at the time of the crash, surveillance footage from cameras in the area and statements from witnesses.
Authorities are also expected to investigate the pilot’s license status, ratings, and experience in the cockpit as well as perform a probe into the preceding 72 hours to determine if there were any potential factors that might have inhibited the individual’s ability to properly operate the plane.
Court records revealed that Van’s Aircrafts, the makers of the kit used to create the airplane, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization protection earlier this year.