Sheriff’s Light Sport Crash Kills Two


Despite some eyewitness reports, including one from a longtime pilot, it’s still not clear what led to the crash of a law-enforcement version of a Flight Design light sport aircraft in California last week. Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, and James Chavez, 45, a pilot for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, died when the specially equipped CTLE aircraft crashed into a hillside near Visalia, which is between Fresno and Bakersfield. The aircraft had been taking part in the arrest of an armed suspect in the area. The onboard ballistic parachute was not deployed and no distress call was heard. The county bought the aircraft in 2014. It is equipped with a gyro-stabilized sensor pod giving it a wide range of airborne surveillance capabilities and is sold as a cost-effective alternative to similarly equipped larger aircraft and helicopters. Les Pinter, a 40-year pilot who saw the airplane just before it crashed, said it was about 300 feet AGL.

“It was yellow and I could almost make out the numbers. And I thought, ‘if someone reports this guy’s tail number he’s going to lose his license, because you’re not supposed to fly at 300 feet if you’re not on final approach,'” he told ABC News. Moments later the aircraft hit about midway up a hill behind a local truck stop and was consumed by a post-crash fire. Another witness told the TV station she saw another aircraft in the area at the time of the crash but it’s not clear if it had anything to do with the accident. Both the NTSB and FAA are investigating.

AVweb toured the Flight Design CTLE at the 2012 Sport Aviation Expo and prepared this video.