Richard Roiland, 10-03-08

Homemade plane crashes, killing its pilot

EKLUTNA: Investigators say early reports indicate that weather wasn't a factor.

By JAMES HALPIN,, October 4th, 2008

The pilot of an experimental airplane that took a nose-dive into woods near Eklutna on Friday afternoon was killed in the second fatal aircraft accident in Anchorage this week, according to police and federal officials.

Witnesses described the home-built craft as flying about 100 to 200 feet over the treetops when it suddenly plummeted into trees near a gravel pit along the Alaska Railroad tracks at about 3 p.m., said Clint Johnson, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator.

"It was a very quick event," Johnson said. "Witnesses indicated that the airplane essentially nose-dived, actually became inverted, and then went into the trees from there."

Johnson said the pilot was the sole person on board. He was not identified Friday pending notification of next of kin.

It was unclear where the pilot came from or where he was going, Johnson said. The man apparently had not filed a flight plan.

Nor did the pilot radio regarding any distress before the accident, Johnson said, and, judging from witness accounts, the plane went down too quickly for any radio communication during the descent.

The Challenger 2 airplane, a single-engine home-built model, was equipped with a "ballistic" parachute release device that did not deploy prior to the crash, Johnson said. That explosive device remained intact with the wreckage for some time Friday afternoon as a layer of dead leaves soaked up the spilled jet fuel. A mechanic who works for the Federal Aviation Administration came and diffused it without incident, Johnson said.

The wreckage did not burn following the crash, unlike an accident Wednesday in which a plane went down near Merrill Field, claiming two lives. Thomas Blake, 55, and his wife, Paulette Blake, 64, died when their Cessna 206 lost power and nose-dived into an unoccupied building. The cause of that crash is still under investigation.

By Friday evening, Johnson had started examining the mangled wreckage at Eklutna to determine what went wrong. Though the crash took place as a front of stormy weather was moving in on Anchorage, the weather in Eklutna at the time was not bad and it appeared not to have been a factor, he said.


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Authorities identify airplane crash victim

Anchorage Daily News, October 6th, 2008

EKLUTNA -- Anchorage police on Monday identified the body of a man killed when his experimental aircraft crashed in woods near a gravel pit last week.

Wasilla resident Richard Roiland, 61, died after his Challenger 2 aircraft suddenly took a nose dive in the area along the Alaska Railroad tracks at about 3 p.m. Friday, police said.

The home-built aircraft was traveling west several hundred feet above the tree tops when it went down, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Federal investigators say Roiland did not make a radio distress call before the crash and that the aircraft appears to have gone down too quickly for him to deploy a rocket-propelled parachute it was equipped with.

Weather does not appear to have been a factor. The investigation is continuing.