Fatal Plane Crash in Norco

Photo Courtesy: Tim Felce/ Wiki Commons
Northrop N-9M Flying Wing that crashed in Norco.

Staff Reports

Norco – On April 22, a small plane crashed into a Norco prison, killing the plane’s pilot.  The pilot was identified as Dave Vopat, 51, of Chino. 

Vopat was flying a rare and historic Northrop N-9M Flying Wing that was registered to the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino.  The plane was built by Northrop in 1944.  Local reports state that the pilot was flying the plane to prepare for an upcoming air show at the museum. 

On that Monday afternoon, multiple witnesses reported observing the airplane “flying on a northeastern heading at a low altitude,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  The plane then performed a “barrel roll” and “wobbled [from] side to side,” before the airplane’s canopy separated.  At around 12:10 p.m., the airplane entered a steep right turn, and crashed into the outpatient-housing yard of the California Rehabilitation Center, which is located in the 1900 block of 4th street. 

The debris spread over 474 ft. in length and 200 ft. wide.  There were no reports of structural damage; sheriff officials stated that the area of the crash was currently under construction.  A report indicated that one inmate suffered from scratches, but there were no additional reports of serious injuries to the prison’s inmates or staff.

NTSB also reported that the flight originated from Chino Airport, at around 12:02 p.m.  In addition, “visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight,” stated NTSB.  The remaining parts of the airplane were recovered to another location for further examination and this incident is still under investigation.