The first day of a glider race across the United States was marred by the death of a veteran pilot Thursday when he apparently lost control of his sailplane and crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains.
Eugene Carapetyan, 61, of Corona del Mar, was among 45 pilots competing in the "Return to Kitty Hawk," a rare transcontinental race of non-powered aircraft from Los Angeles to Kitty Hawk, N.C. The event commemorates the Wright brothers' first propeller-driven aircraft flight.
Carapetyan, a retired aircraft equipment salesman, had just been towed aloft from a runway in Llano in his glider and released at 2,500 feet when he apparently encountered gusty conditions. His glider crashed just after 4 p.m. in the Angeles National Forest, about seven miles south of Big Rock Creek and Camp Fenner Road, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Authority.
"He was extremely well known and well respected as a pilot," said Fred Robinson, a friend and owner of Great Western Soaring School in Llano, east of Palmdale. "It was windy, gusty and turbulent in the mountains. Normally it's not a problem, but I think he got low in the mountains. I think it occurred a few minutes after release."