NTSB Says It Lacks Clues to Explain Bruce Wayne Crash
The exact cause of the crash that killed airborne traffic reporter Bruce Wayne earlier this month may never be known, the chief accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.
“Yes, in this case that’s a very good possibility,” said Don Llorente of the board’s Los Angeles office.
Critical evidence that could help pinpoint the exact cause of the accident was destroyed when Wayne’s plane slammed into a parked truck and exploded in flames, Llorente said.
Wayne, 52, had just taken off from Fullerton Municipal Airport June 4 to begin his morning traffic reports when his single-engine Cessna Cardinal began experiencing what witnesses described as some sort of engine trouble.
“The backfiring and misfiring described by some witnesses would indicate an ignition problem,” Llorente said. “But others described it as sputtering, which might mean fuel contamination or some other fuel problem.
“Of course, all those items to check were destroyed by the fire,” he said.
The investigation has also been somewhat hampered by the lack of maintenance records for the plane, he said.
“We finally contacted the mechanic and he said they (the records) were with the aircraft,” Llorente said. “But we found no remnants of them. We did find other remnants of other books, but not the maintenance records.”
The airplane’s propeller arrived Friday at its manufacturer’s East Coast headquarters where it will undergo inspection sometime within the next two weeks “just to see whether . . . there were any pre-failures that may have contributed to this occurrence,” Llorente said.
When Llorente completes his investigation, he will report all of his findings to the NTSB in Washington, which then has the responsibility to rule on a probable cause.
“My experience on cases like this is that the board, unable to have any other information than we, (would rule) that it was a power loss of undetermined cause,” Llorente said.
Wayne, a Fullerton resident, was just shy of having completed 25 years as an airborne traffic reporter when he died. He was a veteran pilot with more than 30,000 hours of flying time.
He became Boston’s first flying traffic reporter in 1961 and then moved to Southern California to set up San Bernardino radio station KRNO’s first airborne traffic reporting service in 1968.
Wayne joined KFI in Los Angeles in May, 1970, and, in addition to providing “KFI Eye in the Sky” traffic bulletins, he also reported on floods, fires and other natural disasters.