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Crash Likely Due to Pilot Error, Experts Say

By Jorge Casuso

September 5 -- An airplane crash last week that killed six Santa Monica residents near the Kern Valley Airport was likely due to a pilot error and not a mechanical failure, according to aviation experts.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the pilot, Santa Monica developer Adam Pasori, made two unusual turns as he prepared to land Friday evening, possibly reacting to wind conditions.

Although the agency will not release a preliminary report for several days and a final report for at least nine months, a description of the pilot’s maneuvers, the excessive weight reported on the plane and the hot weather may have caused the crash, a local pilot told The Lookout.

“It was unlikely that it was the engine that stalled, and there was likely no mechanical failure,” said Robert Chandler, a Santa Monica-based pilot who has four decades of flying experience.

“What is much more probable is the wing stalled, meaning not any kind of mechanical failure, but an aerodynamic stall caused by the way the aircraft was being flown,” Chandler said.

“This is a very common accident under such circumstances, unfortunately.”

Chandler’s scenario is bolstered by statements from Jeltje Nelson, who manages the airport for Kern County with her husband Eugene.

Nelson told a Los Angeles Times reporter that she saw the plane approach the runway, but heard no sounds of engine trouble.

"He was too high, and when he got a little way farther above the runway, he made a banking left turn to the west," Nelson was quoted in the Times.

"I turned my back and thought I'd talk to him on the (radio) about what the wind was doing, and then I heard two pops, and the plane was on the ground and on fire," she said.

According to NTSB investigator Thomas Little, the single-engine Lancair Columbia aircraft turned over the middle of the runway, then again at the departure end before crashing.

The maneuver indicates the hot air was not dense enough and the airspeed too low to keep the plane -- which was carrying four adults and two children, as well as camping gear -- in the air, Chandler said.

“This would typically be caused in a circumstance as described, by the pilot turning too steeply or climbing too steeply, or both, in hot temperatures at high mountain altitudes both of which make the air less dense and not able to provide as much lift as denser air,” Chandler said.

“If this were the case, it would be considered improper flying technique and thus, pilot error,” he said.

The passengers in the plane Pasori was piloting were his wife Sibel; his brother, David Pasori; his sister Mila Kuygusuzults and Kuygusuz's two daughters, Meriem, 2, and Nasrin, 5 months.

The plane departed from Santa Monica Airport at 4:20 p.m. Friday and was attempting toland on a runway at the Kern Valley Airport before 6 p.m. when it crashed, Nelson said.

The family members decided to fly up for the long holiday weekend to the lake area near Bakersfield, according to Sal Yaman, Adam Pasori’s nephew.

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“It was unlikely that it was the engine that stalled, and there was likely no mechanical failure.” Robert Chandler




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