Space Museum Head Dies in Crash

By BRENDAN RILEY Associated Press Writer

MINDEN, Nev. (AP) -- The head of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum was killed Tuesday when the glider he was in broke apart and crashed, authorities said.

Killed along with Donald Engen, 75, was William Ivans, an internationally known pilot from La Jolla, Calif., who was piloting the motorized glider.

Sheriff's Sgt. Lance Modispacher said witnesses reported seeing the glider breaking apart at about 11,000 feet and falling to the ground near a dirt road. There were no apparent weather disturbances at the time.

The area is a mecca for glider pilots because of wind conditions that allow for long, high-altitude flights, but it can be difficult as well.

``The same conditions that produce world-class gliding can challenge you as well,'' said Larry Sanderson, president of the Soaring Society of America.

Engen had been director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington since 1996. He also was administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration from 1984 to 1987, and earlier served for two years on the National Transportation Safety Board.

A much-decorated Navy pilot, Engen retired as a vice admiral in 1978. He also was a test pilot for many years and had served as general manager of Piper Aircraft Corp.

He took over as head of the Air and Space Museum after his predecessor, Martin Harwit, resigned in May 1995. Harwit left amid criticism that a planned Enola Gay-atomic bomb exhibit would have depicted the United States as the aggressor and Japan as the victim of World War II.

Air and Space is one of 16 museums and galleries operated by the Smithsonian Institution, and is the most visited museum in the world.

At the FAA, Engen levied a series of fines against airlines, including a $9.5 million penalty against Eastern Airlines for alleged safety violations.

Engen also revised the way the FAA kept track of near-collision reports to make it more accurate. But critics said that under Engen, the FAA continued to react to safety issues instead of being on top of them.

Both Engen and Ivans, 79, were top officers in the Soaring Society of America.

Ivans was considered a soaring pioneer who had won top soaring awards for high-altitude flights.

Sanderson said both victims were top pilots in ``an extremely well-built aircraft. So it had to be a very unusual set of circumstances that stressed the aircraft.''


AP-NY-07-13-99 2332EDT


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