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Experimental aircraft enthusiasts speak after pair of crashes, one fatal, in northern Utah

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 26, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — After a pair of experimental plane crashes in northern Utah this week, members of the Experimental Aircraft Association talked about the risks associated with flying those types of machines.

On Wednesday, a homemade plane crashed in Eden. The pilot took off from a field, but was unable to gain sufficient altitude and crashed into a fence post, then tumbled into a shed. Thankfully, no one was injured in that crash.

But an experimental plane crash in Centerville on Thursday claimed the pilot's life and left his passenger critically injured. Two other men who came to their aid also suffered injuries.

According to the EAA, there are about 30,000 home-built planes in the United States, the FAA's inspections for them are just as rigorous as those for factory-built planes and crashes are rare.

"[An FAA inspector] will look at the engine, he'll look at how it's built, he'll look at my logs, of all the things I've built and I've assembled and how I did it," said Max Cloward, an EAA member who is building a plane in his Draper garage.

EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said experimental aircraft need to be flown without passengers and over unpopulated areas for 25-40 hours as part of their testing.

Cloward said there is a risk in the hobby, but that's true with many other hobbies too.

"You'll see a lot more accidents of people on ATVs, motorcycles and boats," Cloward said.

Experimental plane pilots need to have private pilot licenses and undergo annual physicals. They say building their own planes costs about half as much as buying factory-built planes.