Pilot Killed During Reno Air Races Engine Test

Creighton King was flying his Cassutt 111M, which he called ‘Last Lap Player.’

Creighton King with his Cassutt 111M. [Credit: KITPLANES]

"You are many steps from your dream, but start!"

These words appear on the web page of Cassutt Aircraft, owned by Creighton King. King, an aircraft builder and race pilot who was killed Wednesday in West Jordan, Utah, during a test flight of his Cassutt 111M race airplane, Race No. 15, Last Lap Player.

According to the West Jordan Police Department, the accident happened shortly after 12:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday. King had just taken off from Runway 16 at South Valley Regional Airport (U42) approximately 13 miles south of Salt Lake City. The runway measures 5,862 by 100 feet.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), "the plane went through a fence, crossed the street, and came to rest on the northern edge of the street. An NTSB investigator was on scene within hours of the crash."

One witness told the local media the airplane was at low altitude when it veered to the right and plunged to the ground. The images of the aircraft wreckage in the street show an aircraft that landed hard and disintegrated.

Two passersby attempted to provide CPR to King, but it was too late. 

King grew up in Salt Lake City. On his website, he describes riding his bicycle to the airport and washing airplanes in exchange for rides. He built and rebuilt several aircraft during his life and had been a pilot for more than 30 years, having earned his certificate as a teenager.

King's friends and family describe him as an experienced and skilled pilot and aviation mechanic who knew the airplane well, as he had built, rebuilt, and tinkered with it getting it ready for the upcoming National Championship Air Races at Reno. The airplane had been flown in other Formula 1 races around the world. 

According to posts on social media, the purpose of the flight was to test the engine, which he had overhauled in preparation for the Reno Air Races. The aircraft raced in the Formula 1 category where the airplanes can reach speeds in excess of 250 mph. 

The accident airplane, according to the website, was “a traditional Cassutt 111M with a 17-foot wing and an 0-200 [engine].” King rebuilt it, resulting in what he described as "a whole new design now known as the CassuTT. My CassuTT has been a blast, and I describe flying it like a first kiss in grade school. It is a big improvement over older designs."

In addition to the aircraft company, King also owned GripLockTies, the rubber-lined zip ties that are used by so many in the aviation industry and other places.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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