ST. GEORGE — A St. George man who was killed in a Gyroplane crash in Nevada Thursday has been identified.
Kevin Eaton, 58, was piloting a kit-built helicopter near a remote Nevada dry lake bed about 75 miles north of Las Vegas when he crashed, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said in a media statement Friday.
Eaton and a friend trailered the aircraft to Delamar Dry Lake – a dry lakebed located in the Dry Lake Watershed –about 12 miles east of Highway 93, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.
The U.S. Air Force now refers to Delamar Dry Lake as “Texas Dry Lake” because of its resemblance to the state of Texas from the air.
At about 10:30 a.m., Eaton’s friend heard an unusual “pop” sound before watching the experimental-style aircraft plunge about 100 feet to the ground, Lee said. Eaton’s friend then notified authorities.
Lee said the crash appears to have been an accident. An autopsy, requested by the Federal Aviation Administration, was planned for Friday.
Eaton held an aircraft operating license, Lee said. However, his experimental aircraft wasn’t licensed. Eaton was piloting a single-seat Gyroplane when he went down.
On Oct. 15, 2015, Eaton posted a video on Facebook captured at the Delamar Dry Lake accompanied with the following caption:
After 3 years of building and training I was finally able to get my Ultralight Gyroplane off the ground. This was also my first solo Gyroplane flight.
While a Gyrocopter, or Gyroplane, looks like a small helicopter, the main difference is there is no engine turning the rotors, according to the Gyrocopter Experience website. The rotors self-propel – or “autorotate” – due to the way that the air flows through them.
The Gyrocopter is capable of flying lower and slower, according to the website, and is safer than most other forms of flying machines.
In the past, Delamar Lake Landing Strip was one of the designated emergency landing sites for the X-15.
In 1962, X-15 pilot Neil Armstrong – later a Gemini and Apollo astronaut – flew an F-104 to Delamar Dry Lake in preparation for an X-15 flight, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The F-104 was damaged in the landing attempt at Delamar when the landing gear began to retract. Armstrong got the plane back in the air and diverted to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.