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Sat, Sep 07, 2013

Updated: Only US SkyCraft MiniSport Down in Utah Test Flight

Test Pilot Perishes After Reports Of 'Aggressive' Maneuvering

ANN RealTime Update, 090713, 1121 ET: Another witness statement has added detail to what was occurring when the SD-1 MiniSport, being flown by Jay Lessley, departed controlled flight and went down, killing him. Tyler Ives told media reps that he watched the accident. "The first roll went well, but the second roll was faster, and at that point the pilot appeared to lose control of the airplane. We were all puzzled. Rolls are not something it was designed to do, and he was pushing the airplane faster than it should go. Not to take away from the fact that Jay was an excellent pilot.' Ives also noted that, "He knew the limitations of the airplane, but he may have felt comfortable enough with the airplane that he did it anyway."

Original Report: An experimental Skycraft SD-1 MiniSport (file photos, shown) is reported down in Spanish Forks, Utah, with the death of the test pilot.

Gathering heavy interest at the recent AirVenture 2013 EAA Fly-In, the inexpensive SD-1 is a small, single, seat, single-engine kit-built aircraft utilizing wood, carbon fiber, and other composite materials. powered by a 50 HP Hirth engine, the SD-1 reportedly burns less than 2 GPH to turn in cruise speeds of 120 mph. The aircraft is to be available in both trike and tailwheel configurations.

Local reports from the scene indicate that the accident occurred as the aircraft, the only one flying in the US at the moment, was being run through some flight test protocols, which one airport observer said included "stalls and spins." The Pilot, also a local law enforcement officer as well as a flight instructor, apparently impacted the ground whereupon the aircraft was observed to break up aggressively. Air to ground pictures of the crash site show a highly fragmented aircraft with very little structure remaining of any significant size.

The pilot, Police Sgt. Jay Lessley, was 40 years old and a highly respected member of the local as well as flying community. In addition to his LEO responsibilities, Lessley was a certified flight instructor at the Spanish Fork-based Diamond Flight Center since March of 2009.

ANN reached out to Skycraft officials and their Director of Marketing, Paul Glavin, called back and was able to add quite a bit of detail. According to Glavin, this aircraft, N123SD, was one of the aircraft that had been on display at Oshkosh last month (but not owned by the company) and was engaged in test flying when the accident occurred. The last flight, following two prior flights in which stalls and spins were reportedly examined, included some attempts at the what were described as "barrel rolls."

It was in the middle of one such maneuver, at what was described as a "reasonable" altitude, that the aircraft encountered some kind of difficulty, departed controlled flight and the parachute was actuated but failed to deploy. Glavin believes the aircraft's predicament pushed the GRS Parachute system beyond its deployment limits -- which may have played a role in its reported failure. Glavin believes the aircraft was intact up until impact and heard no reports of inflight structural failure, and also noted that the maneuvers that preceded the accident were not part of the Approved maneuvers listed for the aircraft.

The NTSB has tweeted that it is investigating the accident. ANN will follow up with additional info when substantive data becomes available.

FMI: www.skycraftairplanes.com

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