Pilot of glider plane killed in Lake Elsinore

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 9/14/2009 | Resource: MLG

Pilot of glider plane killed in Lake Elsinore

A 70-year-old pilot crashed and died Saturday after his glider plane became detached from the powered aircraft as it was towing him into the sky.

The unpowered glider plane went down about 2:50 p.m. Saturday and collided about 400 yards from the runway of Lake Elsinore’s Skylark Airport in the 20000 block of Cereal Street, according to Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

William Klesse, of Gardena in Los Angeles County, suffered serious injuries and was rushed to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died at 7:10 p.m., according to a news release from the Riverside County coroner’s office.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are jointly investigating the accident and are looking closely at the condition of the glider and the tow cables and hitches that connected the two planes, Gregor said.

Piloted glider planes or “sailplanes” have no engine and are typically pulled to a predetermined altitude by a tow plane. The glider pilot typically releases the tow rope once his desired altitude is reached, according to soaringsport.com, a Web site about glider planes and glider pilot certification. According to the Web site, gliders are designed to travel 20 feet forward for every foot they descend, thus gliding.

Gregor said investigators plan to interview witnesses of the crash as well as the pilot of the propeller-driven plane who was towing Klesse’s glider to a safe altitude.

Authorities still do not know how the two planes became unattached, Gregor said.

“It’s an active investigation and sometimes we find answers through a process of elimination,” Gregor said by phone early Sunday night. “Typically it takes months if not longer to come up with a probable cause for an accident.”

Gregor said inspectors will also look to Klesse’s flight log book to learn more about his experience flying glider planes and other aircraft.

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Jeffrey Marquart