ARLINGTON — A Bothell aviation enthusiast died in a small-plane crash Thursday north of Arlington, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Ronald Borovec, 73, was identified as the deceased. He was flying an amateur-built, single-engine Odyssey aircraft.
A friend of the pilot first notified the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office around 8:30 p.m. that Borovec was overdue.
According to FlightAware, a database that tracks flights, the plane departed Tacoma Narrows Airport around 4 p.m. Thursday. The northbound two-seat plane was tracked until after 5 p.m., after traveling about 100 miles.
The friend gave deputies an approximate location of the plane — a patchwork of logged forest east of Highway 9. Around 10 p.m., the sheriff’s office helicopter SnoHawk1 located wreckage and the deceased pilot off N Cedarvale Loop Road.
Borovec died of blunt-force trauma, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Friday. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
The pilot was a longtime advocate of experimental aviation. In the early 1990s, he published bi-monthly Roadable Aircraft Magazine. He was a past president of an Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter in Seattle.
— Flying Car News (@FlyingCarNews) July 28, 2016
Fellow EAA chapter member Ron Wanttaja knew Borovec for 35 years. He said Borovec was meticulous and excelled at understanding the mechanical side of aircraft. Wanttaja recalled annual seminars Borovec gave at the national EAA convention on “roadable” aircraft, which can also be driven on a street — essentially a flying car.
“He never built one himself, but he was a real aficionado of that,” Wanttaja said.
In a 1994 Christian Science Monitor article, Borovec discussed the conveniences and challenges of the futuristic automobile.
“’Landing in a driveway is very appealing, (but) these things just don’t land any place,” he said.
As the article explained, the downdraft would wreak havoc on debris below.
“The grass might survive, but the flowers won’t,” Borovec quipped.
There are risks inherent in flying such planes.
“Homebuilt aircrafts are built by amateurs, maintained by amateurs and quite often even designed by amateurs, so that is all part of the sport,” Wanttaja said. “We try to reduce the accident rate as well as we can, but it is going to be higher than production airplanes.”
Just before the accident, Wanttaja said, Borovec was getting a transponder installed in Tacoma.
The National Transportation Safety Board described the plane that crashed as an “experimental” aircraft. NTSB investigators were arriving on scene Friday.
An NTSB official said a preliminary report should be available within a few weeks. The full investigation could take more than a year.
Borovec was public in his support for Democratic candidates in recent elections. He sent The Daily Herald occasional letters to the editor encouraging engagement with elected officials and supporting worldwide action to fight diseases.
In May, he wrote The Herald urging representatives to favor a global health approach during COVID-19 recovery.
On social media, he wrote that he worked as an engineer for a dental equipment manufacturer in Bothell.
“As the United States and the world face the COVID-19 threat, we must not forget our partners in low-income countries,” he said.
Thursday’s crash was the second fatal aviation accident in the region this month. On Nov. 11, two men died in a small plane crash near Langley on Whidbey Island after an apparent engine failure.
Herald reporter Caleb Hutton contributed to this report.
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.