One Killed Traveling To Eclipse Viewing
The pilot of a homebuilt Wheeler Express was killed when the engine reportedly “sputtered” in the traffic pattern, and the aircraft subsequently crashed in rugged terrain about a mile from Madras airport. The San Carlos, California-based aircraft was traveling to Madras, Oregon, for Monday’s solar eclipse. News reports originally stated that two people had been killed in the crash based on parking reservations made at the airport, but family members confirmed that the pilot was the sole person on board. Airports near the route of the eclipse in central Oregon—with their predictably clear skies and reasonably close proximity to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco—have been bracing for an onslaught of general aviation arrivals over the weekend and into the big day. Most airports are requiring parking reservations for transient arrivals and are sold out.
San Carlos Airport staff reported that the aircraft departed around 11 a.m., and Oregon officials report that the aircraft crashed around 1:50 p.m., evidently making the flight nonstop. Although homebuilt, and therefore subject to extensive modification, the Wheeler Express customarily has sufficient useful load to fill its 92-gallon fuel tanks with 800 pounds to spare. An area resident told Oregon KTVZ News that the aircraft was engulfed in flames and black smoke, starting a small wildfire in the canyon where it came to rest.