Thursday, December 11, 2014

Man who once stole Beechcraft 36 Bonanza (N5470V) convicted of felony evading in a vehicle

ATHENS - A man who once stole an airplane, crashed it and then later told Athens police a deceased man was the pilot, has been convicted of felony evading in a stolen vehicle. 

Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee said Joshua Paul Calhoun, 34, of Athens, was convicted Wednesday of evading in a vehicle and using the vehicle as a deadly weapon during a police chase.

McKee said the latest crime occurred on June 18 when Henderson County Sheriff's deputies learned Calhoun was driving a stolen 2002 Dodge pickup on Texas Highway 155 south near Coffee City.

Calhoun ran from deputies topping 90 MPH before crashing the vehicle in a hay pasture and fleeing on foot.

McKee said a manhunt resulted in Calhoun's capture and information inside the pickup proved Calhoun was the person who stole the pickup. 

"The discretion, bravery and caution that these deputies used during this pursuit, safely ended what could have easily been a deadly situation," he said.

McKee said the deputies' investigation gave his office the tools needed to seek the conviction.

Calhoun stole a Beechcraft 36 Bonanza plane from the Athens Municipal Airport in March 2009, crashed it and fled the scene. 

In August 2009, Calhoun injured a federal agent with his vehicle at the Mexico border as he entered the U.S. and the Immigration Customs Enforcement agents learned he was not a doctor on a mission trip as he had said, but instead, a fugitive from justice. 

Records indicate Calhoun has a lengthy criminal history and he has claimed to be the CEO of a major corporation, a doctor, an astronaut and a tractor-trailer driver. 

McKee said Calhoun's sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 12 in Athens.

- Source:


NTSB Identification: CEN09CA186

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation 
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 04, 2009 in Athens, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/11/2009
Aircraft: BEECH A36, registration: N5470V
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

After jumpstarting the airplane, the non-certificated pilot elected to take off without the airplane owner's knowledge or permission. A short time later the airplane was found in a wooded area approximately 2 miles northeast of the airport. The airplane's right wing had been separated from the fuselage during the impact. The pilot was later apprehended by law enforcement officers while attempting to retrieve his automobile from the airport. Inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later interviewed the pilot at the county jail. When asked what had caused the accident, the pilot responded that he didn't know and that another person had crashed the airplane. A witness at the airport saw the pilot take off shortly before the accident and then called the owner of the aircraft, who contacted police. Although the pilot reported to FAA inspectors that he had accumulated 200-300 total flight hours, it could not be verified.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The non-certificated pilot's failure to maintain control during his unauthorized use of the airplane.

  August 2009:   Fugitive was sought by local and federal agents.

“The list of troubles continues to grow for a 28-year-old Brownsboro man.

Joshua Paul Calhoun, under indictment for the March theft of an airplane from the Athens Municipal Airport, was arrested in Wood County Sunday. He had eluded law officers in several parts of the state after driving away from a check-point on the Texas-Mexico border last month.

Calhoun was held in Wood County Jail Monday. Charges included

• theft and failure to appear in court from Henderson County;

• evading arrest with a motor vehicle and evading on foot from Canton Police Department and

• theft of property ($100,000 to $200,000) from the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.

Total bond on the charges was set at $46,500.

Calhoun was also held without bond an a federal warrant from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Saturday night Calhoun avoided capture in Henderson County after he was spotted on U.S. Highway 175 near Eustace.

“We had a sting set up,” HCSO Captain Kay Langford said.

Calhoun was driving east in a 97 model black and silver Dodge pickup, headed toward Athens when an officer shot out two of his tires. Calhoun left the vehicle and escaped on foot.

“The vehicle was located the following day on Porter’s Bluff,” Langford said.

Sunday, officers learned that Calhoun had taken another vehicle. The new truck had GPS that enabled law officers to determine his location and make the arrest without incident.

The large-scale hunt for Calhoun began after he failed to show for his arraignment in the 173rd Judicial District Court on July 23rd. District Attorney Scott McKee’s office requested a warrant for Calhoun.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court, the same day Calhoun was due in court he attempted to re-enter the United States at the international bridge between Mexico and the U.S. in Roma.

A check of a criminal database revealed an active warrant for his arrest. Bridge security asked him to step outside of his truck, but Calhoun took off instead.

Calhoun was arrested March 4 after he allegedly stole and crashed an airplane that was parked at Athens Municipal Airport. Athens Police Department reports said Calhoun drove a pickup to the Airport sometime after 7 a.m., and claimed to be the owner of the craft.

Calhoun reportedly told authorities at the time of his arrest that he had wired the plane’s owner $52,000 to purchase it.

Calhoun said he made the money to buy the plane working in the oil fields.

Calhoun said he had flown the plane to family property near Echo Lake in the Brownsboro area then gave the keys to a friend to fly back to the airport. He said it was the friend who crashed the plane.

Calhoun later learned from police that the man he claims flew and ultimately crashed the plane died in October 2008.

He was arrested later that morning after returning to the airport.

Salt Island Seaplanes: Naples to Key West offers fun, time-savings

Jon Rector
A new charter flight company in Naples pairs the glamour of seaplane travel with service to Key West in about an hour.

Salt Island Seaplanes, skippered by retired airline pilot Jon Rector, uses a Cessna 206 amphibious plane with room for up to four passengers.

It departs from land at Naples Municipal Airport and arrives in Key West on the water.

Flights run from Oct. 1 to April 30 every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

One-way tickets cost $210 per person, with bookings required at least two days in advance. Rector also offers charter flights in which clients specifiy other destinations. Prices for those vary.

Passengers accustomed to small aircraft flying will find the seaplane as "a different experience," Rector said.

First, you get a different perspective when taxiing from the airport.

"You're sitting much higher – at about the level of a 737 cockpit," Rector said.

Landing on the water can be highly variable.

"If the water's smooth, the touch down can be almost imperceptible.

"Conversely, if it's quite windy, it can be a very bumpy landing," Rector said.

Another difference is the time-savings. Rector can take folks from Naples to Key West in about 55 minutes – a trip that can take five hours to drive.

After landing on the water next to Garrison Bight Mooring Field, a boat will shuttle passengers to Conch Harbor Marina, about three blocks from Key West's downtown. That's another eight minutes. There's no dealing with the airport in Key West.

With all of the water in and around Southwest Florida, one might think Rector has a lot of competition.

He doesn't. Rector knows of only four seaplane charter operations in Florida other than his own: Those are in Key West and Miami.

A longtime seaplane operator, Capt. Mark Futch, of Boca Grande's pioneer Futch family, recently eased out of providing charter flights to focus on aviation work for the motion picture industry and instructing private students.

If you're interested in flying with Rector, know that this is seasonal service that will run in Southwest Florida from October through April.

From May through September, Salt Island Seaplanes moves to Houghton, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, to provide charter flights to Isle Royale National Park. There, it's known as Royale Air Service.

Rector and his family, the aircraft mechanic and family move along with the business.

"It's hectic at times, but it's nice to enjoy the better part of the weather in both places," Rector said.

Futch, who owns a restored 1941 Grumman G-44 Widgeon seaplane, long has combined work as a fishing guide and flying.

He said a lot of his seaplane students are from Germany, Italy and France, but have second homes in Southwest Florida.

He's friends with Rector and with local novelist Randy Wayne White. The three recently flew in Rector's Cessna seaplane for some oyster-collecting near Charlotte Harbor.

Futch loves seaplanes for "the freedom they give you to go places."

Rector added that for his passengers, "it's an adventure. It's not just going from Point A to Point B."

At a glance

•What: Charter air service from Naples to Key West

•Who: Jon Rector, Salt Island Seaplanes

•Where: Based at Naples Municipal Airport


•Phone: 239-263-7258

Story and photos:

Incident occurred December 11, 2014 near Henderson Field Airport (KACZ), Wallace, North Carolina

A pilot was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday afternoon, just miles from a local airport.

Emergency Services Director Reed Sutherland says that a pilot from Maryland heading to Wilmington, made an emergency landing on River Road in Wallace.

Sutherland says the pilot was two miles shy of the Wallace airport, when he instead decided to make an emergency landing. The road is a low traffic area of Wallace, according to Sutherland.

Sutherland says the pilot believes there may have been an oil issue with the plane.

Wallace Fire Department, Wallace Police, Highway Patrol and Emergency Management all responded to the scene.

Sutherland says the pilot was the only person on board the Piper aircraft. No injuries were reported.

Story and comments:

Fears rise that Qantas' financial success is coming at a price

Nigel Richardson has no fear of flying, but his heart began to race when Sydney-bound Qantas flight QF2 was forced to make a rapid descent from 40,000 to 10,000 feet within minutes.

Cabin crew ran through the aisles to their seats after the plane's captain announced the "emergency" response to a failure in the air-conditioning system, which controls cabin pressure. If it stops working, what is termed "cabin altitude" can rise to unsafe levels, triggering oxygen masks to fall.

Two computers that control it had tripped offline, but were eventually restarted while the plane was still in flight.

But because the plane had burned through too much fuel by flying at low altitude, it made an unscheduled landing as a precautionary measure.

When the plane, which had come from Dubai, landed in Perth early on Monday morning, it refuelled and changed crew, while Richardson posted on Twitter. "Fastest descent I've ever experienced in a plane. Always interesting when you see cabin crew running too".

The Qantas aircraft was one of four diverted within 48 hours this week – around the same time the airline reported a dramatic turnaround in its finances.

It was about eight hours into the flight when Richardson, an IT consultant and father of two from South Melbourne, said he was jolted out of a half-sleep.

"We came down bloody quick but it didn't feel like we were going to crash," he said.

"The captain came over the intercom and said, 'cabin crew this is an emergency descent, the aircraft is under full control at this time'. The things that concerned people about that sentence was the word emergency and 'at this time'.

"I wished it hadn't happened, but in defence of the crew, they actually did a really good job telling people what was happening through the whole thing."

News of the early morning incident broke around the same time Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was trumpeting an expected pre-tax profit of up to $350 million in the six months to December. It was the first glimmer of good news for the airline since it reported a $252 million loss for the same period last year.

A $2 billion restructuring program, which involves cutting 5000 jobs over a three-year period, was credited as the main reason behind the change in the airline's fortunes. Cheaper fuel prices and a weaker Australian dollar had also helped.

But only 12 months ago, Qantas was knocking at the federal government's door for a guarantee on its debts. Despite public pressure to help the iconic flying kangaroo, the government refused to provide a bail out.

Joyce denies he cried wolf, saying the company lost $2.8 billion last year. "It was a record loss for the company".

But unions have raised questions about whether the outcome was orchestrated from the start and have linked the spate of in flight turn backs to staff cuts and cost efficiencies.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon, a strong critic of the Qantas cuts, said the airline was to be congratulated for its financial success "but at what cost?"

While he didn't want to compare Qantas to Aeroflot, he questioned the level of maintenance it was now able to provide, measured against its own immaculate record.

"There is definitely a maintenance issue," he said.

"It is and has been one of the safest airlines in the world and now we are seeing changes being made where these sorts of incidents are becoming more of a regular occurrence.

"There is a need for the company to get the right balance. A profitable airline also needs to sustain itself into the future."

Qantas rejects any links between its restructure, staff cuts and maintenance standards. It explained in detail how each of the four incidents could not have been prevented or detected in advance by a maintenance check.

The computer components controlling the air conditioning that failed during the Dubai to Sydney flight are contained in a black box and not touched. Data readings from the computer are monitored, but provided no warning of dysfunction.

The company says the four incidents were unrelated and not a result of systemic failure. "There is absolutely no connection between the financial results and these operational events".

Joyce says Qantas has far fewer air turn backs than the industry average. Citing Boeing data for the worldwide fleet of 737s, there is one turn back for every 9000 sectors operated. "Qantas' record is one in every 18,000 sectors operated. That is half the industry average," he said.

Nathan Safe, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, agrees this week's turn backs were just "coincidence". Many months have passed without incident.

But Steve Purvinas, from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, who has raised concerns about the number of licensed engineers servicing Qantas planes, said it is still too early to make a judgment.

"We are not inclined to jump the gun and assume that cut backs to maintenance have been the cause behind the four in flight turn backs, but on the other hand we are also mindful that Qantas are very quick to the jump the gun and say they are not safety related or not related to the cut backs," he said.

"They too should be waiting for the outcome of the investigations before they make comment."

Traditionally, Qantas had one licensed engineer checking and certifying the work of two other people. But since the closure of heavy maintenance facilities in Australia in Sydney and Melbourne, maintenance has been consolidated within just one Qantas facility in Brisbane. Licensed engineers are now spread more thinly than they were in the past.

Overseas maintenance facilities such as the one in Singapore have at times provided one licensed engineer to supervise the work of 11 unlicensed engineers. In the Phillipines, at the Lufthansa facility in Manila, the ratio has been as high as one licensed engineer checking the work of 22 who are unlicensed.

Purvinas describes this level of supervision as "inadequate and dangerous".

"The licensed engineer can't possibly check the work of the all the people who don't have a licence so that double check or additional safety layer, has been taken away," he said.

"Qantas used to be seen worldwide as the leader in aviation maintenance and safety and teams from Rolls Royce and Boeing used to come out to Australia to observe how the Qantas engineers got such reliability out of their aircraft. The teams don't come any more."

Qantas says huge improvements over the years in the way planes are manufactured means they need less maintenance. The company is confident in the high standards held by overseas heavy maintenance facilities which have been approved by aviation safety authorities from around the world. 

Maintenance issues aside, the overriding question about the long-term sustainability of Qantas' international business remains uncertain.

The reasons given this week for its short-term improvement included the restructure, an increase in passenger numbers and reduction in costs. The fall in the Australian dollar has also meant international competition for the local market has fallen.

Tony Webber, an associate professor at University of Sydney business school and a former Qantas chief economist, said the major drop in jet fuel prices and the lower value of the Australian dollar had contributed to an improvement in the airline's international earnings.

But that gain could not be guaranteed in the long term because the airline's costs were higher than those of its competitors.

"It's very hard to succeed in the long horizon particularly when your competitors are very aggressive with capacity growth," he said.


Sanford AirMed Brings New Aircraft to Dickinson, North Dakota

Emergency responders can now race to people who need them... by air.

Adam Parker is ready for take-off.

"I just like flying," says Adam Parker, Lead Flight Paramedic.

But this isn't your typical ride in an airplane.

Adam has worked for Sanford AirMed as Lead Flight Paramedic for two years.

"I enjoyed, you know, medicine and working as a paramedic and I always enjoyed flying so when you put them together it's been a really great career," says Parker.

A career that continues to grow as Dickinson welcomes the King Air B200 fixed-wing plane...  the newest addition to the Sanford AirMed fleet.

A team of paramedics and nurses are able to provide care in the air to those who are critically ill or injured.

Executive Director Mike Christianson says this is a much needed service out West.

"I feel that there probably has been a hole in this area for a long time as far as air medical services and I think there's just more opportunity for people to fill those gaps. You know, Sanford is dedicated to the work of healing and that's what we're doing," says Mike Christianson, Exec. Director, Sanford AirMed.

The space may look small but it actually has room for two pilots, five crew members, and two beds for two patients.

"We really have a lot of room to move around. We can get to the patient easily and really provide the care that they need quite comfortably," says Parker.

Dickinson doctors also feel fortunate to be provided this opportunity.

"We, as pediatricians, are often caring for very sick patients and sick babies who are premature or have some other problems and often we need to transport them, sometimes very emergently to other specialized facilities," says Marc Ricks, Pediatrician, Dickinson Sanford.

This plane, at 300 miles per hour, will do just that.

"It's very rewarding to be able to help patients in their time of need," says Parker.

And when the time comes, Parker and his crew will be ready.

The Dickinson Sanford aircraft will begin its services on December 15.

Sanford AirMed also flies out of Bismarck, Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Bemidji.


Nanchang CJ-6A, Changamajig Corp., N116RL: Accident occurred June 30, 2013 in Ocean City, Maryland

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA309
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 30, 2013 in Ocean City, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/10/2014
Aircraft: NANCHANG CHINA CJ-6A, registration: N116RL
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Witness accounts and on-board video recordings of the accident flight revealed that the pilot initiated and performed a series of aerobatic maneuvers with the airplane before initiating a stall, rolling the airplane inverted, and entering a steady-state spin to water contact. The airplane completed 22 revolutions in the spin, with the engine running smoothly, and the stick held fully aft. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical anomaly. Review of the pilot's flight records revealed no evidence of formal aerobatic training. However, the records indicated that he had conducted aerobatic maneuvers, including, on at least one occasion, a flat spin.

The on-board video recordings showed no signs of pilot distress or incapacitation and indicated that the pilot was actively engaged in controlling the airplane and was providing control inputs to maintain the spin to impact. There was no indication of any distracting event or of the pilot attempting to diagnose, troubleshoot, or respond to a perceived in-flight control, system, or engine anomaly. There were multiple cues available to the pilot that the maneuver should be terminated, including an increasing ground presence/perspective from the out-the-window view and the rapidly decreasing altitude indicated on the altimeter in the panel. However, the pilot failed to terminate the maneuver at an altitude adequate to prevent impacting the water. Therefore, it is most likely that the pilot lost situational awareness during the aerobatic maneuver/prolonged spin and did not recover from the spin before impact.

Given the fact that this was a sustained aerobatic maneuver, it is possible that the pilot lost situational awareness due to target fixation, a phenomenon that can occur at varying levels ranging from a breakdown in an instrument scan to failing to pull out of an aerial application run. In these cases, the pilot has cues that a response is required and has the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully perform the response. However, because of the narrowing of attention resulting from the goal-directed activity associated with this phenomenon, a loss of overall situational awareness occurs and the appropriate response is not commanded/input. The circumstances of this accident are consistent with the loss of situational awareness due to target fixation. The pilot appears to have focused on the performance/sustainment of the spin maneuver and therefore misjudged or lost awareness of his exit altitude.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to terminate the intentional aerobatic spin at an altitude adequate to prevent impacting the water. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's loss of situational awareness due to target fixation during the prolonged aerobatic maneuver.


On June 30, 2013, about 1605 eastern daylight time, a Nanchang China CJ-6A airplane, N116RL, was destroyed during a collision with water following a spiraling descent, just offshore from Ocean City, Maryland. The certificated private pilot/owner and one passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The local flight departed Ocean City Municipal Airport (OXB), at 1532.

The pilot and passenger were friends and fellow officers with the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD), and the purpose of the flight was a local pleasure/orientation flight for the passenger.

Several witnesses provided written and verbal statements to local law enforcement, and the statements were largely consistent throughout. Most described the airplane as it descended in a steady-state, nose down spin to water contact. Some described a "flat spin" as well as describing the landing as "flat… a belly flop."

In a telephone interview, one witness said he was familiar with the accident airplane, and had watched it fly over Ocean City and its beaches many times. About 15 minutes prior to the accident, he heard the airplane's distinctive engine sound, so he called his friends' attention to it. The witness watched one loop, and one barrel roll, and described the maneuvers as "slow," "lazy," and some distance from shore. He said the airplane flew out of his sight to the north after that, and didn't notice the airplane return near his location.

The witness then next noticed the airplane in a spiraling descent. He did not see the airplane depart controlled flight, and said he'd never seen the airplane fly close to shore before. He added, "He has never been that low, or that close to the shore." When asked about the sound of the engine, he said there was none. When asked if he thought the sound of boats operating close by could have drowned the engine out, he said no.

The witness stated that nothing departed the airplane during the descent, and he said he noticed that the canopy was still on the airplane throughout its descent. He described the airplane in a shallow, nose-down, spiraling descent, and added that the airplane's attitude was nearly flat. The airplane finally "pancaked" into the water with a slapping sound, "like your hand slapping against the water."


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent third class medical certificate was issued November 12, 2009. 

Examination of the pilot's flight records revealed that he had recorded his flight experience in two logbooks, and then transitioned his recordkeeping to a computer-based spread sheet. Because of gaps, overlaps, and anecdotal evidence of flights taken after the last logged in the records, his total flight experience could not be reconciled. 

The pilot first logged flights as a student pilot in 1996 and took extended breaks from flying before he was issued his private pilot certificate on October 5, 2007. His log book entries ended on June 30, 2011, however; his spreadsheet entries predate that, and his most recent entry was April 14, 2013 which was 2.5 months prior to the accident.

The pilot logged 859 total hours of flight experience, of which 231 were in the accident airplane make and model. All of the 231 hours in the accident airplane were annotated on the spreadsheet. In the remarks section the pilot annotated Formation and Safety Team (FAST) formation flight training. There were brief or one-word entries such as "practicing rolls," "roll," and on November 11, 2012, "flat spin" , but no dual instruction in aerobatic maneuvering was noted anywhere in the pilot's flight records.

In an email exchange with his insurance agent, the pilot stated that the 10 hours of dual instruction he received in the accident airplane as required by his policy was not performed by flight instructors. The response explained that exceptions were often granted for "warbirds" in order to meet the requirement. In the pilot's logbook, three pilots were noted as having provided "CJ training." Of the three, only one was a flight instructor. All three were interviewed, and each said that they only provided familiarization training to the pilot specific to his Nanchang China CJ-6A airplane. At no time did they provide aerobatic training to the pilot. 


The airplane was manufactured in 1980 and registered in the experimental exhibition category. It was a two-place, tandem-seating, basic military trainer. Its most recent annual inspection was completed on April 2, 2013, at 3,485.3 total aircraft hours.


At 1621, the weather reported at OXB included few clouds at 600 feet, and the winds were from 200 degrees at 7 knots gusting to 17 knots.


Video footage as well as still photography revealed that the airplane appeared intact all the way to water contact. Sonar mapping and salvage divers revealed that the entire airplane rested together on the ocean floor, but was fractured in several places due to impact. The majority of the airplane was recovered on July 4, 2013. All major components were recovered with the exception of the left wing, and the vertical stabilizer. 

Examination of the airplane revealed that the engine was still attached to the firewall, but the upper two engine mounts were fractured due to impact. The firewall-mounted oil tank was crushed. The underside of the fuselage was compressed due to impact with water (hydraulic deformation) and the fuselage was fractured between the fore and aft cockpit stations. The left wing was separated due to impact and was not recovered. Recovery personnel cut the right wing. 

The empennage was fractured, torn, and separated from the fuselage due to impact, but remained attached by cables. Recovery personnel cut the cables to affect recovery. The vertical stabilizer was separated due to impact and was not recovered. The rudder, horizontal stabilizer, and the left-side elevator remained attached. The right-side horizontal stabilizer was cut to affect recovery, and the elevator was removed.

Control continuity was established from both cockpits, through cable, tube, and bellcrank cuts and breaks, to the flight control surfaces. 

The engine was separated from the airplane, and was rotated by hand at the propeller. Continuity was established through the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section with one exception. The pushrod for the number 4 cylinder exhaust valve was displaced due to impact, and would not actuate the rocker arm for valve movement.

The examination revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies of the engine or airframe.


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland, performed the autopsy on the pilot. The autopsy report indicated that each died as a result of "multiple injuries."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of the pilot. The testing was negative for drugs, alcohol, and carbon monoxide.


On July 8, 2014, two GoPro Hero self-contained video recorders and one Garmin Aera hand-held global positioning system (GPS) receiver were examined in the NTSB Recorders Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

The GPS receiver was damaged by impact and salt water immersion. Removal and download of the data chip revealed that no track data was recorded on the day of the accident.

The GoPro Hero video recorder was a high quality self-contained battery powered video and audio recorder. One camera was damaged and the flash memory card was wet from salt water immersion. The memory card was dried and data was recovered using the laboratory's file recovery software. The second camera was undamaged, and the memory card was downloaded normally.

The video recovered from the first memory card consisted of the entire accident flight from taxi, takeoff, enroute maneuvering and the start of the accident spin sequence. The portions of the accident flight captured by the second memory card consisted of the events that occurred just prior to the accident spin sequence through water impact. The angle of each video suggested that the first camera was mounted on the aft glareshield facing aft, and the second camera was hand-held by the passenger in the aft seat. 

A Recorder Laboratory Specialist reviewed the video and prepared a transcript of the events from each camera. Video from the first camera revealed that after takeoff the airplane climbed to about 5,000 feet and performed a series of maneuvers that included barrel rolls, banks of 60 degrees, as well as positive and negative pitch angles of 80 degrees or more. The passenger was seen holding a GoPro camera facing forward, and rudder movement was evident throughout the flight.

Beginning about 1604:00, video from the second camera showed the airplane pitched up through 70 degrees, roll through 120 degrees of bank and eventually rolled inverted, before it entered a steady-state, nose-down spin. The video showed the airplane stabilized in a 30-degree nose down attitude, wings level, the inclinometer (trim ball) displaced 1-2 ball widths to the right, and a 600 feet-per-minute rate of descent. As the airplane descended in the spin, the nosed-down pitch attitude decreased to about 20 degrees. The pilot's head was upright and faced forward, the control stick was fully aft, and the pedals moved somewhat, but remained generally neutral. The pilot and the airplane maintained this attitude through 22 complete revolutions before water contact at 1605:00. The pilot never released aft pressure on the control stick, and no evidence of remedial action was observed. The propeller was rotating and the engine sound was smooth and continuous without interruption all the way to water contact.


A friend of the pilot provided a written statement as well as video footage of flights he had taken with the accident pilot. The witness was not a pilot, but interested in taking lessons at some point in the future. He said that the accident pilot was not his instructor, but offered him advice with regards to study guides, practice tests, and map reading. During flights, he was given the flight controls, and allowed to practice navigation and steep turns. 

The pilot would assist him in donning a parachute, and go over "bail-out" procedures prior to each flight. The flights would depart to the east over the water, and then turn north and travel between 5 and 30 miles to perform aerobatic flight "as a safety precaution to any one on the ground should something go wrong." He said that during the flights, the pilot would perform loops, rolls, and on one occasion, "went vertical and put the plane into a stall."

A review of the video footage provided by the witness revealed views from a wingtip-mounted camera pointed back towards the fuselage, as well as a rear-facing view from a camera mounted on the aft-cockpit glareshield. The footage showed the airplane operating at low altitude over the ocean, as well as climbs that penetrated clouds. The airplane would be surrounded, and the ground would be completely obscured by clouds, for several seconds. The aerobatic maneuvers were also as the witness described them. The vertical climb, stall, and spin entry captured in the video provided by the witness was consistent with the accident spin entry.

The airframe and powerplant mechanic who maintained the accident airplane was interviewed by telephone and provided a written statement. He held an airline transport pilot certificate, flight instructor certificate, and had approximately 14,000 hours of flight experience, with 1,300 hours in the accident airplane make and model. He provided instruction and a "check-out" in the accident airplane to the pilot/owner after it was purchased. The instructor did not provide any aerobatic instruction to the pilot/owner, and said he did not think any formal aerobatic training had been provided to him. When it was explained that there was video evidence of the pilot/owner performing aerobatics in the accident airplane during several flights previous to the accident flight he said, "If I had known that, I would have put a stop to it."

When asked about the stall/spin characteristics of the accident airplane, the instructor said that the airplane had very predictable handling characteristics. The instructor stated, "You have to hold the airplane in a spin. The airplane will recover from a spin by itself. The second you release the stick, it will come out of the spin. The airplane will recover by itself from a fully developed spin in less than one turn. Once it is in the stall and spinning, you must hold the stick fully aft to maintain the spin." The instructor volunteered and stressed that "aerobatics over water is dangerous. It's disorienting." 

Among the Federal Aviation Regulations that address aerobatic flight, 
"…no person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight—
(b) Over an open air assembly of persons;
(e) Below an altitude of 1,500 feet above the surface."
According to U.S. Army Field Manual 3-04.301 (1-301) Aeromedical Training for Flight Personnel:
9-31. Fascination, or fixation, flying can be separated into two categories: task saturation and target fixation. Task saturation may occur during the accomplishment of simple tasks within the cockpit. Crew members may become so engrossed with a problem or task within the cockpit that they fail to properly scan outside the aircraft. Target fixation, commonly referred to as target hypnosis, occurs when an aircrew member ignores orientation cues and focuses his attention on his object or goal; for example, an attack pilot on a gunnery range becomes so intent on hitting the target that he forgets to fly the aircraft, resulting in the aircraft striking the ground, the target, or the shrapnel created by hitting the target.

Ocean City police officers Tom Geoghegan (left) and Joshua Adickes died June 30, 2013 when Geoghegan’s Nanchang CJ-6A plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

OCEAN CITY — Nearly 18 months after the fatal plane crash off Ocean City, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Thursday released its final probable cause report on the incident, pointing to the pilot’s failure to terminate an intentional aerobatic removal prior to hitting the water along with a loss of situation awareness.

Around 3:45 p.m. on June 30, 2013, a Nanchang CJ-6A aircraft, piloted by veteran OCPD officer Tom Geoghegan, Jr., 43, of Ocean City, and his passenger and fellow OCPD officer Joshua Addickes, 27, of Berlin, took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport in West Ocean City. The plane moved up along the coast until about 4 p.m.

According to witnesses at the scene, the plane appeared to go into a downward spiral in the area of 130th Street and crashed into the ocean on its belly, sinking immediately. The crash was witnessed by hundreds on the beach on a crowded Sunday afternoon in late June. According to witnesses, the plane was flying at a high altitude before moving into some sort of aerobatic maneuver. According to the NTSB’s probable cause report released on Thursday, that aerobatic maneuver was the cause of the fatal crash that claimed the lives of the two officers.

“The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause of this accident to be the pilot’s failure to terminate the intentional aerobatic spin at an altitude adequate to prevent impacting the water,” the report reads. 

“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s loss of situational awareness due to target fixation during the prolonged aerobatic maneuver.”

For the last 18 months, NTSB investigators pored over witness testimony, conducted site visits and reviewed the plane’s wreckage to reach their final conclusions on the cause of the accident. According to the report released yesterday, witness accounts and on-board video recording of the accident flight revealed the pilot initiated and performed a series of aerobatic maneuvers with the airplane before initiating a stall, rolling the airplane inverted and entering a steady-state spin into water contact.

“The airplane completed 22 revolutions in the spin, with the engine running smoothly and the stick held fully aft,” the report reads. “Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomaly. Review of the pilot’s flight records revealed no evidence of formal aerobatic training. However, the records indicated that he had conducted aerobatic maneuvers, including, on at least one occasion, a flat spin.”

According to the NTSB report, the on-board video recordings showed no signs of pilot distress or incapacitation and indicated the pilot was actively engaged in controlling the airplane and was providing control inputs to maintain the spin to impact. It’s also important to note the pilot’s toxicology report included negative tests for drugs, alcohol or carbon monoxide. There was no evidence of any distracting event or of the pilot attempting to diagnose, troubleshoot or respond to a perceived in-flight control, system or engine anomaly.

“There were multiple cues available to the pilot that the maneuver should be terminated, including an increasing ground presence or perspective from the out-of-window view and the rapidly decreasing altitude indicated on the altimeter in the panel,” the report reads. “However, the pilot failed to terminate the maneuver at an altitude adequate to prevent impacting the water. 

Therefore, it is most likely that the pilot lost situational awareness during the aerobatic maneuver and prolonged spin and did not recover from the spin before impact. The circumstances of this accident are consistent with the loss of situational awareness due to target fixation. The pilot appears to have focused on the performance or sustainment of the spin maneuver and therefor misjudged or lost awareness of his exit altitude.”


A flag was displayed signifying the loss of the two Ocean City police officers along the beach closest to the crash scene in June of 2013. 

Piper Navajo: Mystery noise and smoke causes "precautionary" landing with governor aboard

Gov. Dave Heineman almost made it out of office without an airplane incident.

But Tuesday evening at about 5 p.m., a flight to Kearney on the state's 1977 Piper Navajo ended abruptly when the plane had trouble at takeoff with five souls aboard: the governor of Nebraska, first lady Sally Ganem, pilot Dave Morris, a co-pilot and a state trooper.

The pilots and passengers heard an unusual popping noise -- Morris described it as like a backfire -- and there was a perception by some there was engine trouble and smoke.

The governor wondered, gosh, what's going on?

"We immediately circled the airport and landed within a couple of minutes," Heineman said. "We were back on the ground within two minutes, three minutes at the most."

During the five-minute flight, the plane climbed to about 1,500 feet before turning around, according to a flight tracking log. The noise coming from the left engine was cause for enough concern that Morris said he made an immediate decision to land. He called it a precautionary, rather than an emergency, landing.

He said he later learned from the tower that smoke was trailing the plane in the air.

"There was never any doubt we were going to make it safely back to the ground," Morris said.

But he did tell the governor no one was going anywhere in that plane that night.

Heineman said he didn't think it was serious as it was happening. But he later learned it was more serious than he thought.

"This is the first time we've had any kind of a serious mechanical failure in the 10 years that I've been governor," he said.

"The pilots did just an extraordinary job."

They are well-trained and took immediate action, he said.

Morris has been flying 35 years, with more than 10,000 flying hours. He retired from the State Patrol after 28 years, 14 of them on the security teams of governors Nelson and Johanns. He's been with the state Aeronatics Department 10 years.

The cause of the plane's malfunction isn't yet known, but Morris said it could have been a fuel-injection problem.

The safety of the state's planes became an issue during the past two years after Heineman asked last year to purchase a newer plane -- a 2001 Beechcraft King Air being sold by the University of Nebraska Foundation. The Legislature delayed the purchase in order to study what the best deal for the state would be, and NU sold its plane in the fall of 2013.

In June, the state purchased a new King Air for $3.5 million. The state's 1982 Piper Cheyenne was sold in November for $615,000, said the governor's spokeswoman, Jen Rae Wang.

Morris said the Navajo is rarely used to transport passengers. It’s primarily used by the Department of Roads for aerial photography.

The decision to fly to a Nebraska Farm Bureau banquet in Kearney Tuesday night was made late, Heineman said, and the King Air already had been scheduled by the University of Nebraska. He didn't want to bump that flight, so it was decided they would take the Navajo.

When the unexpected landing changed that plan, the governor said, they took the "Suburban Express" instead.

- Source:

RCMP charge teens who were missing on remote Saskatchewan lake

Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) brought the teens home to Southend in two trips.

Plane carrying missing teens arrives in Southend 
- photo provided by Southend RCMP

SOUTHEND -- Police say they are charging five teens who were missing for several days in northern Saskatchewan last month before they were rescued.

The teens, who are between 13 and 17, had failed to return on time from a moose-hunting trip.

Low temperatures and poor weather conditions hampered search operations, but the youth were spotted at a remote private fishing lodge on an island in Reindeer Lake.

Searchers rescued four boys and one girl and returned them to their homes in Southend.

The owner of the wilderness lodge later reported property damage and filed a complaint with the RCMP.

The teens are charged with breaking and entering, and are expected to appear in court on Jan. 29.

They cannot be identified because of their ages.


Siskiyou supervisors to assess airport woes

Siskiyou County’s airports have struggled in recent years, but the potential loss of the Happy Camp airport has some residents concerned that their essential emergency services will take a devastating hit as well.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors spent its previous two meetings discussing the state of the county’s five airports, including expenditures and revenue, federal and state grant obligations, county resources weighed against unmet needs and how the county will move forward in airport management.

The Happy Camp airport in particular has received a great deal of attention, due in part to safety concerns that the county does not have the resources to address.

County Administrator Tom Odom told the board Tuesday that Happy Camp residents are concerned both with the potential impacts airport closure would have on aerial medical evacuation services and the United States Forest Service's ability to combat fires using aircraft.

County Director of General Services Randy Akana assuaged some of those fears by noting that pilot services currently providing medical evacuations will continue to do so using helicopters.

He said the companies will not be providing their airplane-based services any longer, however, due to the myriad issues existing at the airport.

Adding to the maintenance and safety issues, Akana noted a new designation from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Happy Camp airport will eliminate $150,000 of federal funds.

On the USFS side, the board is hoping to create an ad-hoc committee to discuss the agency’s plans for continuing use of the airport and how the two entities can work together to ensure that fire fighting services will not suffer due to the airport’s woes.

The supervisors voted Tuesday to add Happy Camp to the list of airports that consulting firm Mead & Hunt will analyze in the coming year. The analysis, according to agenda documents, will include an assessment of the profitability and sustainability of the airports, as well as the costs of addressing the various safety issues plaguing them.

The board previously directed staff to draft a request for proposal for a fixed base operator at the Siskiyou County Airport near Montague. An FBO is a commercial business that maintains and services aircraft at an airport.

The FBO request and draft analysis proposal are both expected to come before the board in 2015, along with future discussions of potential revenue generation strategies informed by the analysis.


After 21 years, Sky Manor Restaurant owners aim to revitalize another airport eatery: Sky Manor Airport (N40), Pittstown, New Jersey

 Marty Lane cooks and Vicki Lane serves the customers.

ALEXANDRIA TWP. — Marty Lane came to the Sky Manor Airport Restaurant as an employee and a few days later was dismayed to have the establishment dumped into his lap by the owner. Twenty-one years later, at age 53, he’s taking his winnings — namely his wife Vicki and their three kids — and moving on to new challenges at the Cherry Ridge Airport in Pike County, Pa.

The current management of Sky Manor Airport “is moving in one direction and we’re moving in a different direction,” he says. Ken Johnson, one of the dozens of pilots who own the airport, said, “I’m sorry to see ‘em go. They’ve treated me probably better than they should have for decades.”

They will close the place after lunch on Monday, Dec. 22. No plans for a successor there have been revealed.

Leaving means parting with customers whom Marty and Vicki regard as extended family. The back cover of each Sky Manor menu contains a big family photo of Marty, Vicki and their three kids and the words, “Thanks for letting our family be a part of yours.” Family is a huge word for Marty.

When not quite 14 years old, he was a runaway living on the streets of Jersey City. Then the owner of Steve’s Diner “let me sleep in the back room and earn my keep washing dishes and cleaning up.” Finding the boy reliable and eager, Steve rented him a cheap apartment and began teaching him his trade.

As his short-order cooking skills developed, Steve gave the boy praise and encouragement that Marty “didn’t experience earlier in my life.” So cooking was more to him than a job — it was survival and fulfillment. Marty worked at Steve’s Diner for seven years, and then took jobs at a succession of other restaurants. “If I wasn’t learning, I moved on,” he says. And in 1993 his education was about to take a giant leap.

Kent and Marie Lynn owned Sky Manor Airport then, with Marie was running the restaurant. But like the bumper stickers say, she’d rather be flying. Marty recalls, “I was hired as a cook, and Marie would just disappear. I’m taking cash, waiting tables, washing dishes, cooking. About two weeks passed and I’m talking to some of her friends. ‘Is this normal? Is this how the restaurant operates?’”

Word got back to Marie and she gave him a brusque explanation: “I just wanted to see if you could handle it. The restaurant is yours.”

From when the restaurant was built in 1939 up through 1993 no one had survived two winters at the middle-of-nowhere eatery, says Marty. At that point its hours were irregular and its only customers were the pilots. “I knew enough about the business that I wanted no part of owning it.”

The Lynns “had leased it and taken it back so many times, Kent didn’t want to do it anymore,” Marty said. But Marie pressured him into offering a lease, and despite his own misgivings Marty decided to sign it. Thus, two months after he’d walked in the door, he was the proprietor.

Fast forward five or six years and his waitress’ sister-in-law Vicki dropped in “and we just locked eyes and uh-oh, that was it. She’s got beautiful eyes,” says Marty. Vicki and her daughter married into the restaurant, and the family grew as did their customer base, with Sunday brunch and Friday dinner buffets proving to be crowd pleasers.

Now daughter Sierra is 17, and sons Hunter and Daniel are 13 and 9. Sierra buses tables and is breaking into waitressing, and Daniel, barred from more participation by child-labor laws, owns and operates gumball machines near the front door.

“It’s the end of an epoch,” says pilot Peter Blake. “We watched his kids grow up.” Indeed Vicki used to wait tables with an infant son in a sling.

Now she does it unencumbered. She also handles the bills and shares cash register duties with Marty. In the past five years she has compiled email addresses of 1,700 customers, and has been sending out a weekly email blast announcing that Friday night’s menu. It also makes it easy for customers to suggest dishes they’d like, something Marty finds really helpful.

When word went out that the Lanes were leaving, hundreds of customers sent emails asking them to stay and, when reconciled to their departure, emails suggesting eateries they might want to take over. “We looked at 37 different restaurants,” says Marty.

They finally picked a restaurant 90 minutes away (less if you’re flying) at an airport in northeastern Pennsylvania. Cherry Ridge Airport has never had a successful restaurant; “I feed all their guys,” says Marty.

Cherry Ridge Airport has a new owner who “is basically giving us the place for a year to get (the restaurant) up and running. We’re leaving our drive-up business; but we still have our aviation.” Marty smiles and adds, “I believe we can do our magic there.”

Story, comments and photo gallery:

Cessna 177B Cardinal, N34880: Accident occurred September 02, 2014 in Neihart, Montana

A photo of Rachel Lukasik, 11, taken on the day the plane she was flying in crashed in the Little Belt Mountains.
(Photo: Courtesy photo)

Rachel Lukasik sits in the newly opened University Health Care Patient and Family Housing Hotel in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Lukasik is recovering from burns from an airplane crash. The new lodging accommodations give patients the options of a long-term suite or guest room for them or their family.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Rachel Lukasik shows her burned hands at the newly opened University Health Care Patient and Family Housing Hotel in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Lukasik is recovering from burns from an airplane crash. The new lodging accommodations give patients the options of a long-term suite or guest room for them or their family. 
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Tuesday was an ordinary day for Rachel Lukasik — the first in a long time.

The sixth-grader from Great Falls hung out with her friends at Sacajawea Elementary School. They laughed and giggled, talked about what had been going on in Mr. Hall’s class and made plans to visit each other over Christmas break.

“I showed up at lunch, and I walked in, and they all gathered around me and everything,” Rachel said excitedly.

It was a pretty typical day for an 11-year-old girl — but a very special one for Rachel. Three months after the airplane crash that nearly took her life, Rachel Lukasik is back at home.

On Sept. 2, Rachel, her grandparents and pilot, Christopher Wilsey, headed out on a routine flight over the Little Belt Mountains. The four-passenger Cessna 177B took off from Great Falls International Airport. The weather was clear with light winds out of the southwest.

According to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report, just a few minutes into the flight, Wilsey began having problems directing the aircraft. He later told Cascade County deputies that the plane would not climb as they approached a mountain ridge. Wilsey tried to turn the aircraft toward an adjacent valley, but the plane struck the tree tops and crashed to the ground at the edge of the King’s Hill Winter Recreation Area parking lot, roughly a quarter-mile off Highway 89.

“When the plane went down it went down in heavy timber, and due to the crash the doors were lodged shut,” said Rachel’s father, Rod Lukasik. “The wings folded up and dumped fuel into the cockpit of the plane. They were on fire about the time they hit the trees.”

Lukasik said that his stepfather, Bob Majerus, was able to kick out the cockpit windshield, but the plane was already being swept by flames. In the final minutes before it was fully engulfed, Lukasik’s mother, Sue Majerus, pushed her granddaughter out the broken windshield to safety.

Sue Majerus lost her life that day. Her final act was to save her granddaughter.

“My mother unbuckled Rachel from the seat and was handing her through the windshield while the plane was totally engulfed,” Lukasik said.

Rachel did not escape the crash unscathed. She suffered serious burns to her hands and legs, covering roughly 40 percent of her body. Rachel was life-flighted to the University of Utah Hospital Burn Center in Salt Lake City, where she spent 81 days enduring skin grafts and rehabilitative therapy.

Rod Lukasik took nearly three months off from his job with the Great Falls School District to be with his daughter.

“I spent the whole time down there,” he said. “In fact, I slept in her hospital room 78 days.”

Throughout it all, Rachel and her family have been in the prayers and thoughts of many people in Great Falls. The students and teachers at Sacajawea Elementary organized a “Races for Rachel” fundraiser event to help their friend with her medical costs.

“Her whole school sent her get well cards,” Rod Lukasik said. “There was a giant ladybug that they all signed too.”

“Ladybug” is a pet name Rachel has carried with her since her grandfather Lukasik gave it to her as a baby.

“Everybody in the motorcycle club has a road name and Ladybug is her road name,” Rod Lukasik said.

Lukasik is president of the Electric City Chapter of the Hermanos Motorcycle Club. The Great Falls Hermanos have a long history of supporting local charitable causes, and in the weeks following Rachel’s injury, the northcentral Montana motorcycle community came together to raise money in support of her.

“He’s our brother and he’s our friend,” said Tyler “Gandhi” Long about Lukasik and efforts to support his daughter. Long serves as president of a local Banditos Motorcycle Club chapter.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Lukasik said. “I can’t even begin to tell you all the support that we’ve had within the motorcycle community and Great Falls, not to mention my own brothers within the red and gold.”

Initially, the burn specialists at University of Utah Hospital felt confident Rachel would be able to return home much sooner. Rachel and her family hoped to be back in Great Falls by Halloween — and then Thanksgiving. But the slow pace necessary to complete the skin grafting process kept pushing the homecoming date further back.

Finally, on Dec. 2, the doctors gave Rachel the green light to go back home. Her older brother, Ryan Lukasik, who wrestles for the Charles M. Russell High School team, hopped in a car with Bob Majerus and drove all night to get to Salt Lake City to bring Rachel home as soon as possible.

“We weren’t home more than 24 hours and she had to go around the block to visit some of her friends,” Rod Lukasik said.

Rachel still has a long way to go. She undergoes physical therapy three times a day, and will have to return to the University of Utah Hospital Burn Center as she gets older to replace some of her skin grafts. Rachel has not been released to return to school yet, and it will likely take several weeks before she can return full time to Mr. Hall’s class at Sacajawea Elementary.

“We’re trying to get our wheels underneath us,” Lukasik said.

But Rachel “Ladybug” Lukasik’s spirits are good, and she is growing stronger every day.

As she made her way down the hallway at Sacajawea Elementary Tuesday, a classroom of third-graders was the first to spot Rachel and cheer her return. A short time later, the students from Mr. Hall’s sixth grade class entered the school lunch room. There they found Rachel, nervously waiting to see them.

“They circled around her, and she got a good visit from quite a few of them,” Rod Lukasik recalled.

They formed only a small arc of the wide circle of Rachel Lukasik’s friends and family — all of whom wish the very best for her.

How to help

A fund to help offset the costs of Rachel Lukasik’s medical care has been established at the Wells Fargo Bank in Great Falls. Contributions can be made to the Rachel Lukasik Burn Account, C/O Wells Fargo, 1400 3rd St. NW, Great Falls, MT, 59404.


NTSB Identification: WPR14FA362

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 02, 2014 in Neihart, MT
Aircraft: CESSNA 177B, registration: N34880
Injuries: 1 Fatal,3 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 2, 2014, about 1230 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 177B, N34880, impacted terrain about 5 miles southeast of Neihart, Montana. There were four soles on board; the private pilot and two passengers were seriously injured and one passenger was fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence and subsequent post impact fire. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Great Falls International Airport (GTF), Great Falls, Montana at about 1200.

The pilot reported to local law enforcement that he was flying in a valley when he observed rising terrain ahead. He attempted to climb over the ridge, but the airplane wouldn't climb. The pilot turned the airplane towards the valley when the airplane struck trees and descended to the ground.

The airplane has been recovered to a secure location for further examination.