The surviving family of Newport pilot Doug Nebert and his step-granddaughter Zoey Wahl, who both died in the crash of their family airplane at the Toledo GP Mill last year, has filed suit against the aircraft’s designer Van’s Aircraft of Aurora, near Wilsonville.
The family lawsuit claims that the aircraft that took the lives of Nebert and Wahl was defective in that it was not designed to professional standards since it is an aircraft that is built by the owner that buys it as a kit. The family claims that home-built planes pose a danger to pilots and passengers because they are not held to the same safety standards as other professionally built aircraft.
Nebert, who was a highly skilled pilot, took off from Newport Airport on May 31st of last year, with his daughter April Gleason and his step-granddaughter Zoey Wahl aboard. Nebert was flying the two home to Seattle. But within a few minutes after take-off their plane began to sputter and lose power. Gleason told investigators that the plane fell nose-down and smashed into the ground next to a building at the Georgia Pacific paper mill. The impact killed Nebert and Zoey and seriously injured Gleason.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued this report as to the cause of the plane losing power:
Nebert had installed a fuel flow transducer about 2 to 3 weeks before the accident and used heavy applications of room temperature vulcanization (RTV) silicone to seal the fuel lines. A friend of the pilot, who was also a mechanic, reported that he had observed the pilot about a year earlier using heavy applications of RTV silicone to seal parts during a condition inspection and that he had mentioned to the pilot that this was an improper practice. A bead of RTV silicone was found in the fuel line, and it is likely that it blocked the inlet of the transducer and starved the engine of fuel. Additionally, after to the loss of engine power, the pilot failed to maintain sufficient airspeed while maneuvering to locate a suitable off-airport landing site and flew the airplane beyond its ability to stay airborne, which resulted in a stall and loss of airplane control.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation because of a blocked fuel line that resulted from the pilot’s improper maintenance practices and the pilot’s subsequent failure to maintain adequate airspeed while attempting a forced landing, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall.
Doug Nebert had worked as a Senior Advisor for Geospatial Technology for the U.S. Geological Survey and formerly for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Nebert also served on the Newport Airport Advisory Committee. He also owned the Tyee Lodge Bed and Breakfast at Agate Beach.