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Old July 22nd 03, 08:22 PM
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Pilot killed when experimental plane crashes

By STEVEN MAYER, Californian staff writer

Sunday July 20, 2003, 11:04:23 PM

TEHACHAPI -- A Tehachapi man was killed Sunday morning when an
experimental airplane he spent years building crashed on its maiden

As his wife and children watched, horrified, from the ground, 38-year-
old David Robert Thompson took off in the single-engine plane at just
before 10 a.m. from Mountain Valley Airport, south of Tehachapi. As
he gained altitude, the aircraft wavered, then crashed and burned
alongside one of the airpark's runways. Thompson was alone in the

"He was taking off, got into the air, then appeared to be having
control problems," said longtime pilot Dick Reichel, who witnessed
the crash.

"We went out to watch him take off. It was a mistake," Reichel
said. "Something like this leaves a rather indelible impression on
your brain. It's not something you want to watch."

The tiny airport's runways, often used by glider pilots, were shut
down for several hours as Kern County firefighters, sheriff's
deputies and an investigator from the coroner's office examined the
scene. The plane was reduced to a misshapen mass of blackened
material by the fire.

Aviation enthusiasts and airport workers said Thompson had been
building the plane for several years in a hangar at the airport. Many
said they only knew him by sight.

No one expected his labor of love to end in tragedy.

Airport co-owner Jane Barrett wiped away tears as she waited for
emergency personnel to complete the difficult work ahead of them.
Barrett and others expressed reluctance to speak about Thompson or
his family.

Diners in the airport cafe said Thompson was employed by Scaled
Composites Inc. in Mojave, an aviation-based company founded by Burt
Rutan, the designer of Voyager, the first and only aircraft to
complete a nonstop, nonrefueled flight around the globe.

There was no one at the company offices Sunday.

Everyone at the airport appeared unanimous in their regret that
Thompson's wife and children had to witness the crash and ensuing

"This is very tragic," Reichel said, shaking his head. "This guy
spends years building his airplane -- and crashes it on the first

According to the avweb database there is a Quickie QZ registered to a
David R. Thompson in Tehachapi.