Rough Landing

Updated June 22, 2002

Finally...."The Reason" for the accident!

(Button on the right is new)

Cardinal Pictures The Reason

First of all I want to sincerely thank Dave for being able to exit the plane as rapidly as he did, and being able to assist Donna in getting out of the damaged aircraft.  I was hanging upside down and it took a while to get my fat carcass out of the wreckage.  Donna, I hope your dislocated elbow recovers quickly.  I wish that the injuries were to myself, and not you.  Take the pain killers until I can get you the promised wine supply.  It was a long tough day for the two of you and your families.  Please accept my heart felt thoughts for the two of you and your families.

This is my favorite picture.  It was on the front page of the Orange County Register.  The little boy is my 5 year old Grandson, Jacob, looking over the wreckage of Grandpa's Airplane.  Two days later he was asking me to take him flying.  Grandpa is going to wait a week or two.


The roof of the plane was missing, and the wing ended up next to my left ear.  The door was flipped forward, replaced by the wing.
God was with us.  As you can see, the rear right seat had metal protruding to where the "fourth" passenger" would have been sitting.
Dave was seated in the front right seat.  His head was inches from the ground at impact.

Somebody up above is watching out for Dave!

The engine.


The culprit.


The entire case was crack like an egg.

The "Tough" call to the insurance company.
The roof was completely removed!
When the wing separated, the cables opened the leading edge of the wing, like a coffee can.
It was a "New" paint job!
The FAA and NTSB, overseeing the operation.
The spinner was completely flatten when the airplane was flown directly into the fence.

Cessna 177b convertible.
The leading edge of the wing hit 3 3" pipes simultaneously, smashing the wing all the way to the wing spar.


The dents were vertical, indicating that the aircraft was flown in level flight, into the fence.

This is what happened...........(This is my preliminary submittal to the NTSB)

The following is the pilot’s attempt to document the events on the morning of April 26th, 2002.  The information is as accurate as possible.  It is believed that all times (i.e. 4:44 am) are accurate to within 2 to 3 minutes.  All periods of duration (i.e. 30 seconds) are accurate to within 15 seconds.  Altitudes are accurate to within 100 feet.  Headings are accurate to with 10 degrees.

4:44 am       Pilot calls Riverside Flight Service for weather briefing.  As usual, pilot receives a standard flight briefing.  In addition, the briefer gives the pilot additional information, based on my many prior requests, as this is a daily event (five times a week).  This includes the current conditions at John Wayne, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Hawthorne.

5:30 am       Pilot arrives at Corona airport.

5:31 am        Pilot performs preflight inspection and aircraft walk around.  No unusual conditions are noticed, including fluid leaks of any type (on the aircraft or ground).

5:36 am       The aircraft is boarded and started.

5:37 am       Aircraft is taxied to the run up area for runway 25.  No unusual operational parameters are noticed during this process, including oil pressure, oil temperature, carburetor heat or propeller cycle response times.

5:41 am        Departure for Hawthorne Airport is initiated.  The pilot confirms on the take off roll that the indicated speed is 55 knots, as I pass the first off ramp on the runway.  This is a go-no go point which the pilot established many years ago, in order to do a quick assessment that the aircraft is operating at 100%.  The speed was exactly where the pilot expected.  Immediately after take-off, 65 knots is attained (best angle) to an altitude of 700, where the speed is increased to 80 knots (best rate).  The pilot then flies a heading of 240 degrees, while climbing to 1,800 feet (MSL).

5:44 am       The aircraft levels off at 1,800 feet near the 91 (Riverside) Freeway and the Coal Canyon off ramp.  The pilot then reduces the manifold pressure to 21 inches and adjusts the r.p.m. to 2450.  All gauges are checked during this power change, and all indicators are normal.  At this point a turn to 270 degrees was made.  This heading usually intercepts the Hawthorne localizer (109.1) at between 12 and 16 miles from the Hawthorne Airport.       

5:48 am       Pilot immediately sensed a surge in r.p.m. to approximately 2,700/2,800 r.p.m..  The throttle was reduced to approximately ½ throttle, within 4 seconds of the anomaly.  The initial thought of the pilot was that he had experienced a propeller governor failure.  Within 5 seconds, after this overrun condition, the pilot increased the power very slowly to verify that the governor would limit the r.p.m..  Again, 2,700/2800 r.p.m. was experienced, confirming to the pilot that some failure had occurred.  At this point in time, I made an immediate decision to land at Fullerton Airport.  I made an immediate 20 degree turn to the left (approximate heading of 250 degrees).  I used to fly daily to Fullerton Airport, and I knew instinctively, that I was within a ½ mile of center line for runway 24 at Fullerton (I was, most likely ¼ mile south of centerline).  The current location was approximately 7 to 8 miles from Fullerton Airport near the centerline final course for runway 24.

5:49 am       Pilot set the throttle to about 17 inches of manifold power (my assumption, accurate or not, was that that was about 40 to 50% power).  The intent was to help the engine last to Fullerton Airport, which was 3 to 4 minutes away.  The engine was running smoothly at this setting, and at this point I was assessing the problem.  At this point the pilot noticed that the oil pressure was at zero.   This is noticed within 30 to 45 seconds of the initial over run condition.  This information also was interpated by the pilot as the reason for the propeller governor, not working appropriately.  During the next 30 seconds the pilot notified the front seat passenger (David Cymbor), which was wearing a headset, to notify Donna, who was riding in the left rear seat, to prepare for an emergency.   In addition, the pilot was concerned that if an accident occurred, nobody would know what had happened, therefore a transmission was made on frequency 123.025 to see if contact could be made to any traffic helicopters/airplanes, news helicopters/airplanes or police helicopters.  Scott Rieff of channel 7 responded.  In addition, I lifted one earpiece of my headset, and confirmed that a tapping sound was coming from the engine.  This noise was increasing dramatically over a 30 second period.  In addition, vibration was detected and grew very rapidly.

5:50 am       Scott was told that I had lost oil pressure, the engine was vibrating, and that I was landing in Fullerton.  At this point I was crossing the 57 Freeway and Yorba Linda Boulevard on final approach to Fullerton (heading 240 degrees).  The altitude was approximately 1, 600 feet.  After about 45 seconds of engine vibration and terrible engine noise, the engine made an abrupt stop.  My immediate assessment was that if I continued on my current heading towards Fullerton Airport, I would, most likely; only make it to Fullerton Junior College, or possibly Fullerton High School.  Between these locations and my present location the ground is heavily populated. 

5:51 am       My current location was approximately ¼ to ½ mile west of the 57 Freeway.  My decision was to turn to the south, and setup for a left downwind landing in the parking lot of the University of California, parallel to the 57 Freeway (my estimated landing location was going to be 400 to 600 feet west of the Freeway, landing on an approximate heading of 340 degrees, just north of Nutwood.  I traveled south, short of Chapman Avenue, then turned back to the college.  As I rolled out on final, this landing sight came into view, and it was not nearly as attractive, for a forced landing, as I had visualized during the proceed 20 seconds.  There were too made lamp standards, parked cars, trees and potential students.  I immediately realigned for landing in the northbound lanes of State College Boulevard.  This thought lasted for only 10 seconds as I assessed the amount of traffic in the southbound lanes and the fact that it was still dark out, and made the identification of power lines very risky.  

5:52 am       By now my altitude was down to 500/600 mean sea level (400 to 500 above ground level).  At this moment I was just passing Troy High School, which was in my 8:00 o’clock position.  I made a tight left turn and cross controlled the rudder and ailerons to drop into the center of the field.  There are tall buildings and trees just east of the field at Troy High School.  In addition, my constant concern was power lines.  My airspeed was stable at 65 knots.  I did not want to go any slower, based on the fact that I had the controls in a full crossed position.  I did not want to stall the aircraft.  The propeller was locked in a fixed location (not spinning for the prior 2 minutes).  I was extremely nervous about the induced drag of the propeller and its potential negative influence on my glide ratio.

5:53 am      As I approached the middle of the yard, I kicked the controls to level flight.  This was done at about a 30 feet elevation above the ground.  I was in line with the longest available strip of land.  This is where large amounts of fear kicked in, and I was concerned about hitting a home.  I was traveling at about 73 miles per hour (65 knots).  Two seconds later, in an attempt to avoid striking a home,  I made the conscious decision to make a small course correction to the right and fly the airplane into a high chain link fence, with a tennis court type netting.  This was the first time that I realized that this was going to be a crash (not a smooth forced landing).  I flew the aircraft, at 73 mph directing and squarely into the fence. 

5:54 am       Found ourselves hanging upside down in the seat belts.  Donna was screaming for help.  I lost my glasses during the impact, therefore could not see very well.  The roof of the aircraft was missing and the wing was located where my door should have been.  The grass of the field was below my head.  It took about 30 to 45 seconds to get out of the aircraft.  The smell of fuel was very strong.  David apparently helped Donna out of the airplane.  When I walked from the aircraft, David and Donna were about 100 yards removed from the debris.

5:55 am       Called my wife to let her know about the incident, and fact that we were safe.

5:56 am       Called my Father.

Additional Notes:

  • The last refueling occurred on April 24, 2002 at 3:52 pm at Corona Air Services.  The amount dispensed was 29.99 gallons of 100 LL aviation fuel.  This filled the tanks to within 6 gallons of full (calculated total fuel in the tanks after refueling would have be 44 gallons).  Total flight time since the refueling, at the time of the accident, was exactly 1 flight hour.  Fuel consumption was 10 gallons per hour.  The estimated fuel on board, at the time of the accident would have been 34 gallons (44 gallons, minus 10 gallons).  This fuel would have been distributed evenly between the left and right wings tanks (approximately 17 gallons in each wing).  

  • It was dawn at the moment of the accident.  It was light enough to see major areas and landmarks.  There were layers of clouds, which minimize the light level, which made it difficult to see things like power lines.  The landing light was used during the accident for two reasons.  To see objects on the ground, and to warn anybody which may see the light during my descent.

  • Shell 100 weight oil was used in this aircraft.  The level of the oil was checked daily.  The oil level was maintained between the 7 and 8 quart level.  The level for this flight was between 7 ¼ and 7 ½ quarts.



Initial flight path out of Corona.
The last 4 minutes of an "EXTREMELY" tense flight!
  • I am feeling better, but every few hours I visualize approaching chain link fences at high speeds.  Hoping this goes away soon!

  • David is feeling good.

  • Donna is up and around (although I believe she is sticking with her pain pills, and has not yet switched to wine).

    Pilots may find the following two links interesting:

    The link to the right is a web page of our last vacation to Florida. 

    We were allowed to fly N177DP over the Kennedy Space Center.

    After the events of 9-11, I doubt if this will be allowed again!

    On to St. Augustine

    This goes to "Our Commute" Page. 

    It contains articles about flying to work!

    Our Commute

    More pictures later.............

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