Former US astronaut Robert Overmyer was killed on 22 March while flight-testing a Cirrus Design VK30 kitplane. Overmyer was conducting full-flap stall tests of a VK30 prototype equipped with a new wing when the crash occurred near Duluth International Airport, Minnesota. A former Space Shuttle pilot, he had joined Cirrus as a test pilot in November 1995.
Cirrus had announced plans to develop a replacement wing for some 28 VK30 kits supplied to customers between 1987 and 1993, when the company discontinued production to concentrate on certification of its SR20 light aircraft. Overmyer was responsible for SR20 certification flight-testing, but Cirrus does not expect the accident to delay the programme.
The VK30 is an all-composite pusher-propeller aircraft. The prototype, which crashed was powered by an Allison 250-B17 turboprop, which had been installed as part of a research programme unrelated to development of the stronger wing.
A VK30 kit-plane, modified by its owner for aerial photography, crashed at Lake in the Hills, Illinois, in mid-1994.
Cirrus has flown two SR20 prototypes and certification is scheduled for 1997. The VK30 formed the basis of the ST50 single-turboprop business aircraft now under development by Israviation of Israel.