Dead pilot's friend urges NTSB to fully investigate crash

KUSA- Dave Biesemeier was flying his home-built plane on a clear November afternoon last year, when the wing fell off and it plummeted from the sky.

Friends say the crash was both tragic and concerning.

"Dave was one of the most conservative pilots I've ever known," said Rod Woodard. "He was a certified airplane mechanic."

Biesemeier built the Smyth Sidewinder plane 30 years ago, and made short flights several time a month to meet friends for lunch.

He is one of five people in Colorado who died in home-built aircraft crashes in the last three years. There were 26 crashes total, and the NTSB blamed the pilot in 66% of the investigations that have been completed.

Our partners at USA Today found nearly 1,200 people have been killed since 1985 in lightweight home-built aircrafts nationwide. The NTSB blamed 72% of the crashes on pilots, even as it was clear the rate of amateur-built plane crashes was much higher than the rate for other private planes.

READ: Part 2 of USA Today investigation

In a 2012 special study, the NTSB discovered many home-built aircraft crashes resulted from engine failure, inadequate flight testing that did not uncover design problems and malfunctions, or insufficient flight manuals.

"The National Transportation Safety Board is undermanned, understaffed, underfunded, and lacks the technical expertise to investigate properly general aviation accidents in this country," said Bruce Lampert, an aviation attorney who usually represents crash victims and pilots.

"Like in any organization you have a finite number of resources," said former NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "You have to prioritize what you investigate. Fatal accidents will rise to the top."

Biesemeier's widow and friends say they encouraged the NTSB to fully probe what happened in Dave's crash.

"All of us would like to know what happened," said Woodard, who is also an attorney. "That's just human nature. The family wants to know. I, as a friend and a fellow pilot, would like to know, so I appreciate the NTSB's efforts in doing everything they can to come out with an accurate conclusion."

Woodard says the NTSB looked at whether there was metal fatigue in the 30-year-old plane's wings, but he says there wasn't.

"Best anybody can tell, he probably came upon a flock of birds, turned real sharp to avoid hitting the birds, and in the process, put too much load on the wing and it failed," Woodard said.

The NTSB has released a preliminary report on Biesemeier's crash. Woodard hopes that the NTSB won't blame Dave's piloting when it releases its probable cause statement.

"I don't think it's productive to second guess the pilot in an instance like this," he said. "You really don't know which of the two evils was lesser of the two evils. Hitting a bird can be catastrophic, and you have to trust the judgment of the pilot in that situation."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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