Gold’s Gym Owner, Family Killed In Costa Rica Crash


Gold’s Gym owner Rainer Schaller and his wife and two children, all from Germany, were among six people believed killed in the crash of a German-registered Piaggio Avanti that crashed into the ocean off Port Limon Airport in Costa Rica on Friday. The pilot and another passenger, also a German, were also onboard. Their identities weren’t immediately released. Wreckage from the aircraft was spotted early Saturday morning in the Caribbean about 20 miles northeast of Limon, just off the coast. 

The aircraft was on a flight from Palenque, Mexico, and crashed at 5:47 p.m. local time, about two hours and 20 minutes after taking off. According to FlightAware, almost all of the flight was over land but the aircraft headed out to sea as it approached its destination. It had turned back toward the airport when the crash occurred. Weather was benign at the time of the crash.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Canard palnes are not what you want to fly into bad weather.
    “A search started immediately but was called off temporarily due to bad weather. “

    • The forward surface is not a canard, it is a forward wing. A canard is a movable surface, which on the Piaggio it does not. That surface has nothing to do with flying in bad weather. I have over 3000 hours in the Piaggio and it handles bad weather just fine as long as you mind the planes’s limitations, just like any other plane certified for IFR weather.

      • The forward wing is mounted at a slightly greater angle of attack than the main wing so that it will stall first and allow the nose to drop. It also has flaps on the trailing edge to counter the nose-down pitching tendency of the flaps on the main wing. It may not be affected by the weather like the canard on a Rutan-designed aircraft, but it certainly works like one. So, I’d say the front wing is a canard. But since the plane also has a conventional tail, it’s not a true canard aircraft like the Beech Starship.

        • Since there is no pitch control on the front wing and the pitch control is on the aft horizontal stabilizer, the front wing is not a canard.

          Maybe you can call it a biplane with huge stagger.

          • Well, the forward CANARD is not there to just look cool. I just remember that the airfoils at lower Reynolds numbers (like turning onto a final approach) can be seriously affected by rain. I doubt if it could be causal but it might be a big distraction if it suddenly lost lift.

          • Your comment on it being a biplane is technically correct. I did training in the airplane so I can tell anyone the stall characteristics are pretty benign since the FORWARD WING stalls first then the nose will drop straight ahead with no tendency to drop a wing. By the time you get to the stall point the plane shakes and vibrates well above stall giving the pilot plenty of warning the plane doesn’t like what you are doing. Stalls are so unevenful (just like a Cherokee) that there is no stick shaker or pusher on the Piaggio Avanti. As soon as you reduce angle of attack the plane is flying again. Yes flying in rain can affect the forward wing but if you are that slow you have other issues to worry about.

      • C’mon guys. Let’s be a bit more forgiving on the terminology policing. Your not going to like it when the grammer and spelling wars comence.


      • I like how the keyboard kommandos are telling the guy with 3000 hours time-in-type that he’s wrong.

    • I’d like to get the weather source if you have that information. The initial incident brief didn’t mention weather as a factor. That region is near the Tropical Convergence Zone, so there are storms regularly developing. Do you know what the forecast was? METAR, PIREPS?

    • The 3 surface design used for the Avanti is much more stable than a 2 surface canard, hence the certification. The weather was described as “benign” at the time of the crash.

  2. The way the article is written it implies a single pilot in the plane. Although the Avanti is certified as a single pilot airplane it is a lot of plane for just one pilot to handle especially if something goes wrong. We’ll just have to wait until the investigation is complete to find out what happened. RIP.

  3. Well, there is data, and most of that data describes a normal descent until the plane was out over the ocean. If the timeline is correct, this mishap occurred at night. During a rapid descent, as the plane neared the water, there was a momentary pitch upward, then a resumption of the rapid descent to impact at speeds (Groundspeeds..) which were not in a stall range. No distress calls noted by investigators, and it appears weather was not a factor. I’ll suggest that flying over open oceans at night looks like the inside of a cow. Unless you’re sharp on the gauges, or the moon is full and bright, you won’t have any horizon to reference.