An airplane crashed into the ocean off the California coast on Sunday. The aircraft had been constructed over a period of almost ten years, piece by piece. This incident highlights the growing popularity of home-built aircraft, which number in the tens of thousands and are becoming a popular hobby nationwide, according to the AP.
According to federal investigators, it is believed that four individuals were on board the single-engine Cozy Mark IV when it crashed in the vicinity just south of San Francisco during the evening hours. As of Thursday, authorities have identified only one body recovered from the waters near Half Moon Bay, with no survivors found. There have been no official statements regarding the cause, however, a witness has come forward and reported hearing an engine experiencing a loss of power and subsequently cutting out.
All home-built planes, just like commercial aircraft, must undergo annual inspections for airworthiness as mandated by the FAA. Aeronautical engineer Marc Zeitlin, who consults with the National Transportation Safety Board on crash investigations involving Cozy aircraft, stated that these individually constructed planes have a safety record comparable to commercially built planes of similar size. This particular incident is one of the cases he has worked on.
The number of amateur-built aircraft licensed by the FAA has seen a significant increase over the years, reaching over 33,000. This figure has tripled since the 1980s. The administration classifies all non-commercial, recreational aircraft as “experimental.” Planes can be constructed using kits that come with pre-made components or from blueprints where the builder purchases or creates and puts together all the necessary parts.
A favorite among aviation enthusiasts who enjoy constructing their own planes, the Mark IV is a four-seat aircraft measuring just over 16 feet in length and boasting a wingspan of 28 feet. Zeitlin personally owns one of these vehicles, which he uses for both short day trips and long cross-country journeys. “These are not hastily assembled with makeshift materials,” stated Zeitlin, the CEO of Burnside Aerospace, a California-based company. “However, they are constructed using techniques commonly employed in the aviation industry.”
Thane Ostroth revealed that he acquired the blueprints for his Cozy aircraft, the same one that tragically crashed on Sunday. He purchased the plans for approximately $500 and commenced construction in a friend’s basement located in Michigan back in 1999. Remarkably, by 2008, he successfully took to the skies in his completed aircraft. Last year, the aircraft was sold to an experienced pilot for approximately $100,000. This amount is believed to be close to the estimated cost of the project over several decades.
Ostroth stated that the plans include a roster of approved part suppliers. “Foam, fiberglass, and metal parts are purchased from various manufacturers.” And the puzzle gradually comes together. Online forums are a valuable resource for individuals seeking assistance, as they provide a platform for enthusiasts to share their tips and advice.
Ostroth reported being informed of the crash through an online chat group frequented by pilots and builders of Cozy aircraft. In a statement, he expressed his deep distress upon learning that the aircraft he had devoted countless hours to had tragically crashed, claiming the lives of those on board. Ostroth expressed his distress, describing it as a terrible sensation.