The crash of a vintage military jet flying over Tehachapi’s Fourth of July celebration last year was caused by the pilot’s mistake, an investigation ruled Tuesday. One of the pilotos on board had been falsely certified to fly the jet by a training pilot who lied on documents, according another investigation.
Two men on the two-seat jet were killed, but since each pilot position had flight controls, the National Transportation Safety Board was not able to determine who was operating the plane when it crashed.
The NTSB issued its final report Tuesday, ruling the accident was pilot error. An extensive examination of the wreckage found no pre-impact problems with the plane, and weather was not a factor.
The plane, a restored 1960s-era Czechoslovakian jet fighter, was one of three flying in formation over the Independence Day parade in Tehachapi. It was supposed to fly on the right wing of the lead plane but, after flying over downtown Tehachapi, it suddenly pitched up and to the left and crashed between houses Old Town Road in Golden Hills.
"They came very, very close to crashing into houses," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said Wednesday.
Killed were Tehachapi’s assistant manger David Zweigle, 42, and Robert Chamberlain, 62, of Colorado. Chamberlain was a retired airline pilot and Air Force test pilot who had set many records in the B-1 bomber.
Zweigle owned the plane that crashed, an Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin retired from the Czech air force.
He had restored it but, the FAA said, he wasn’t thoroughly checked out on the plane. The FAA said pilot instructor Douglas Gilliss signed a license document that said he had been on a test flight with Zweigle, and Zweigle knew how to fly the plane.
But, the FAA said, Gilliss never had checked Zweigle out, the FAA said, according to documents obtained by Channel 17 News under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
"On or about July 4, 2009, you signed a Flight Review Endorsement sticker indicating David Zweigle had completed a flight review in an Aero-Vodochody model L-29 aircraft on July 4, 2009," the FAA wrote Gilliss.
"Your entry was fraudlulent or intentionally false since, at no time on or about July 4, 2009, had you give David Zweigle a flight review in an L-29," the FAA wrote.
In September, the FAA revoked Gilliss' airline transport pilot's license and ground instruction certificate. He is a former Vietnam war pilot who has been a trainer for decades. He has appealed the decision.