Plane's maker says crash probably caused by pilot Flier's brother rejects Viagra-impairment theory

November 25, 1998|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Manufacturers of the experimental mail-order plane that nose-dived into Beards Creek on Saturday defend the integrity of their product and speculate that pilot error, not mechanical problems, caused the accident that killed actor William Gardner Knight.

Federal investigators, tipped off by a prescription bottle found among Knight's belongings, suspect that the pilot made a fatal mistake while impaired by the side effects of Viagra, though they have not ruled out other potential causes.

They sent blood and tissue samples yesterday to Federal Aviation Administration laboratories in Oklahoma City, where a test is being developed to help determine whether Knight, 56, had the impotence drug in his system.

Knight's brother, Milton Knight of Ohio, blamed the accident on mechanics.

"I think it is ridiculous. [Viagra] doesn't have anything to do with it. To me it is a mechanical error unless Viagra got into the fuel system."

The Burgess RV-6 crashed Saturday evening as Knight was trying to land at Lee Airport in Edgewater.

There are 800 RV-6s operating worldwide. The National Transportation Safety Board has recorded 48 accidents involving the craftsince 1986, including 14 deaths.

Dick Vangrunsven, who manufactures the kits from which the planes are assembled in North Plains, Ore., said the RV-6 "has no identifiable problems. It is high-performance and more sporty, handling more like a sports car than a sedan."

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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