Ken Rand, designer of the popular KR-1 and KR-2, died in the crash of his prototype KR-2, N4KR, on Wednesday afternoon, January 31, 1979: Returning home to Huntington Beach, California from the Sun 'N Fun fly-in in Lakeland, Florida, Ken made his last refueling stop in Van Horn, Texas. A few hours later he arrived -- VFR -- at high altitude over the LA area with the worst storm in years raging below him. At 3:37 p.m. he radioed a distress call indicating his engine had quit and that he was descending into the clouds. At 3:45 Ken reported he was icing -- at 8,000 feet. At 3:53 the last transmission was received: "I'm at three thousand and I'm going to hit!"
A land and air search was initiated immediately but the severity of the storm -- 200 feet and blowing snow were reported by George AFB at the time -- hampered efforts of search teams. The following day a second storm moved into the area with the result that it was Saturday afternoon before the wreckage was discovered near Phelan, California by a sheriff's helicopter. Ken had died instantly in the crash. He was 46.
Ken Rand came to the attention of the sport aviation world in the summer of 1972 when he brought his KR-1, N1436, to Oshkosh. It was a sensation and along with the KR-2, which was introduced at Oshkosh in 1974, turned homebuilding in a new direction -- toward the composite designs of today. Since 1972 more KRs have been built than any other design and the KR-2 remains at a peak of popularity.
Ken loved his tiny airplanes and he loved flying. He was a key sport aviation figure of the 70s and will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family and his many friends.