NTSB says: plane descended like ‘corkscrew’ in fatal crash
One witness told investigators the Cirrus SR20 aircraft involved in a fatal crash last week at an Orcutt elementary school descended “like a corkscrew” as it fell to the ground, killing the pilot on impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its aviation accident preliminary report Friday on the May 20 crash that occurred near the playground of Ralph Dunlap Elementary School.
The pilot, later identified as 38-year-old Tigran Garabedyan of Burbank, was a student pilot conducting a cross-country flight, according to the report.
Mr. Garabedyan’s flight instructor told investigators the pilot had been in flight training since September 2019, accumulating about 50 flight hours. The May 20 flight was his third solo flight and his second cross-country endeavor, according to the report.
Mr. Garabedyan and his instructor, who was not named in the report, had flown the same route as the accident flight at least two times prior to the crash. Mr. Garabedyan flew the route one time on his own about one week before the accident.
Several witnesses observed the airplane prior to the crash. One witness reported the plane was flying “lower than normal” and observed the airplane “oscillate, followed by an engine power increase and then the airplane straightened out,” the report read.
“Shortly thereafter, the power decreased, and it started to oscillate as it went out of view,” the report stated.
Another witness reported observing the plane with its wings perpendicular to the ground as it descended out of view.
A third witness told investigators his attention was drawn to the plane when he heard a “loud hissing sound,” which the witness compared to a “large bottle rocket.”
“He looked up and saw the airplane abruptly turn left and descend like a corkscrew,” the report stated.
Though NTSB investigators did not visit the site of the crash and the aircraft was destroyed on impact, the wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.
At the time of the crash, which occurred around 10:45 a.m. May 20, students were not present at the school as the campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several videos emerged of crash on social media, with one showing the pilot deploying a parachute just prior to the plane touching down. A loud boom could be heard as the plane hit the pavement and flames and smoke shot into the air.
In the preliminary report, the NTSB noted that information is subject to change and any errors would be corrected when a final report is completed, which is typically released 12 to 18 months after the incident.