Two people died and another was injured after an experimental gyrocopter crashed into a retirement community in Highlands County, Florida, and exploded.
Pilot Christopher Lord, 45, and passenger Christopher Brugger, 52, took off Oct. 30 from Sebring Regional Airport and were headed to an airport in Manatee County when a witness said the aircraft appeared to be in distress before it clipped a power line and crashed into a mobile home in the Sebring Falls Retirement Subdivision. No one was in the motor home at the time of the crash, but a man working on a home next door suffered burns and was transported to a hospital.
The aircraft pulled down several power lines and snapped the power pole in half before exploding. One home was completely destroyed and two others damaged by the flames. The deaths are under investigation by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.
Lord owned Sebring Regional Airport-based Gyroplaneguy Inc. The company website states that Lord was a “pilot, instructor, examiner, test pilot.” He had experience flying various aircraft including fixed wing, helicopter, powered parachute, weight-shift trike, and several different models of gyroplanes.
A gyroplane, also known as an autogiro or gyrocopter, is similar to a helicopter but instead of using an engine to power its spinning rotor blades, gyroplanes engines power a back propeller that pushes the aircraft forward, causing air to pass naturally through its rotor blades, creating lift. Theoretically, if the engine failed, the gyroplane’s blades would already be rotating automatically, so the aircraft would gradually descend.
Lord was one of only a handful of instructors qualified to administer the U.S. practical test required to fly a gyroplane. Based on Lord’s extensive flying experience, FAA-certified gyroplane examiner Dayton Dabbs told 10News that he believed the crash was likely caused by mechanical failure.
ABC Action News