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Pilot who buzzed the Santa Monica Pier crashes plane in China

September 18, 2013|By Dan Weikel
  • A 1973 Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros owned by David Riggs sits at the Apple Valley Airport.
A 1973 Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros owned by David Riggs sits at the Apple… (Federal Aviation Administration )

A pilot who twice lost his flying license for buzzing the Santa Monica Pier and illegally selling rides to the public was missing after he crashed his small plane in China, state news media reported.

David G. Riggs was reportedly flying a Lancair 320, a high-performance single-engine aircraft made from a kit, when he struck the surface of a lake outside Shenyang, where he was planning to perform in an air show.

An 18-year-old woman serving as his translator was killed in the crash, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Witnesses said Riggs was practicing a stunt in the rain that required him to gently touch the wheels on the water to produce a skiing effect. Apparently, the landing gear or another part of the plane caught the water.

Xinhua News Agency reported an investigation was getting underway Tuesday as teams recovered the wreckage and searched for Riggs. The body of the translator was found, the agency reported. 

Riggs, whose aviation company is based in Studio City, is one of the most notorious private pilots in Southern California.

In November 2008, Riggs made several low-level passes over the Santa Monica Pier in an Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros, a Czechoslovakian-built jet trainer once popular with Soviet bloc air forces.

The Federal Aviation Administration revoked Riggs’ flight privileges for a year and he was convicted of recklessly operating an aircraft, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 60 days of community service and 60 days in county jail, but he only served a few days due to overcrowding.

Last November, Riggs lost his pilot’s license for another year for selling rides to the public in an L-39 without FAA approval. The enforcement action stemmed from an accident in May 2012 in which another L-39 crashed in the desert outside Boulder City, Nev., killing a veteran pilot and his passenger.

Authorities said Riggs was flying with another passenger in his own L-39 next to the ill-fated plane shortly before it crashed. He and the other pilot had sold rides to eight people who traveled to Boulder City Municipal Airport.


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