Friday, November 20, 2015

Incident occurred November 20, 2015 at Columbia Airport (O22), Tuolumne County, California

Update at 4:45pm: Cal Fire dispatch has confirmed that a single-engine plane with only a pilot on board has landed safely at Columbia Airport. There were no injuries, according to Cal Fire.

Original Post at 4:26pm: Columbia, CA – Emergency crews are positioned along the runway at the Columbia airport after being alerted that airplane may need to make an emergency landing.

Cal Fire received information regarding an airplane having problems with its landing gear shortly after 4 p.m. There is no word on what type of plane or how many people may be on board. 

- Source:

Eurocopter AS350B2 Ecureuil, Alpine Adventures: Fatal accident occurred November 21, 2015 on Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has suspended a Fox Glacier helicopter company's licence following a crash in November 2015 which killed seven people.

Alpine Adventures managing director James Scott confirmed to Newshub on Monday all 15 of his helicopters were grounded. He received the suspension on Friday night.

Mr Scott will be working to get it reinstated as soon as possible. He says it will have a big effect on his business.

The crash killed six tourists and 28-year-old kiwi pilot Mitch Gamerman. The Squirrel helicopter, on a tourist flight at the time, crashed into a crevassed area of the 13km-long glacier.

It was several days before the bodies and some of the wreckage could be recovered. In April this year further wreckage was recovered, including belly panels and helicopter fragments.

Mr Scott is waiting for further information from the CAA, but is hoping to have the license reissued in the next few days.

The CAA declined to comment.

The inquiry into the crash is still continuing and expected to be completed no earlier than May 2017.

The alpine cliff recovery team prepare to fly into Fox Glacier.

A recovery helicopter heading to the crash site.

Weather on Fox Glacier at the time of Saturday's fatal crash was slightly marginal but the pilot and company were following procedure, the helicopter operator says.

Alpine Adventures' quality assurance manager, Barry Waterland, told Morning Report helicopter operators in the area make a joint decision on whether conditions are suitable for flying.

Four British and two Australian tourists and the New Zealand pilot died when an AS350 helicopter crashed on Fox Glacier on Saturday morning.

Andrew Virco, 50, and Katharine Walker, 51, from Cambridge, Nigel Edwin Charlton, 66, and Cynthia Charlton, 70, of Hampshire and Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29 of New South Wales, Australia, were on board, police say, with pilot Mitch Gameren.

Mr Waterland told Morning Report the weather was "a wee bit marginal" on the morning of the crash.

All companies involved in glacier flights assess the weather and if one firm grounds their flights, they all do. "When the weather gets to a certain point, if one company says 'no, we're not flying due to the weather,' everybody shuts down.

"I do believe that on the morning of the crash, things were okay, there were helicopters up there but it's the pilot's call, when he's up there, whether he turns around and comes back down again, because on the ground we can't see right into the glacier.

"If the call had gone out to say that operations had ceased, we'd cease immediately."

He did not know whether the two other companies that fly into the glacier had helicopters in the air at the time of the crash.

Bad weather halts recovery operation

The bodies of four of the seven people killed on Saturday remain at the site this morning and forecast strong winds and heavy rain mean it may be Wednesday before it is safe to recover them.

A break in the weather yesterday allowed recovery teams to retrieve three bodies, which are now in a temporary mortuary in Fox Glacier township.

The wreckage is wedged down a crevasse between massive blocks of ice high on the glacier, and a search and rescue team had to be winched down from a hovering helicopter to get the first bodies out.

"The site is near the top of the glacier, it's all ice, it's not level and there are blocks of ice as big as buildings with crevasses between them," said Police Inspector John Canning. "There will be danger in getting teams into the area and traversing the area."

"While we're determined to return these people to their families, this will be a complex and technical task with an emphasis on the safety of those involved."

Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) spokesperson Peter Northcote said the intention was to remove all wreckage possible but some debris had not been sighted and the glacier terrain is challenging.

"All the wreckage would have to be prepared for lifting and the nature of the environment will present many access and safety challenges to those involved in that work."

Prime Minister John Key has expressed his condolences to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the deaths of two Australians in the crash.

Mr Key said there had been substantial changes to the regulation of adventure tourism in the last three or four years, and he did not believe the accident would deter tourists.

"I don't think it would put people off coming to New Zealand, or put them off undertaking adventure tourism activities.

"Most people are aware there is a degree of risk when you get in a helicopter, but having said that, there needs to be a full investigation. We need to understand whether it was the weather that caused this issue."

Crash helicopter 'has good safety record'

Pilots say the AS350, a make of helicopter also called the Squirrel, has an excellent safety record.

Helicopter pilot and Aviation New Zealand helicopter division chair Pete Turnbull said the Squirrel was very well thought of.

"It's a make of helicopter that's been in New Zealand for probably 30 years in various guises," he said.

"It's been well established here, well received, and has a very good record. It's had a variety of uses - agricultural, tourist, and even private use. Its got a very good safety record."

Mr Turnbull said the investigation was likely to look at issues such as the weather and the airworthiness of the aircraft, and the wreckage was crucial to finding answers.

However Helicopter Association executive officer John Sinclair said the Squirrel had an excellent safety record in New Zealand, and helicopters in general were very safe in New Zealand. "Until yesterday we have lost one fare-paying passenger in a New Zealand helicopter accident since December 2001."

Fox Glacier businesses said people were still booking flights over the glaciers.

Glacier Country Tourism chair Rob Jewell said the glaciers were still very desirable places to visit and people accepted that accidents sometimes happened, he said.

"We don't know what has happened in this particular instance. That'll come out in due course with the investigators. But people make their decisions and they will still choose to travel."

Story and photos:

Andrew Virco and Katharine Walker were in New Zealand to celebrate turning 50.

Nigel and Cynthia Charlton

World traveller ... Sovannmony Leang, 27, in New York City in September.

Tragic loss ... Josephine Gibson, right, with sister Isabel in March.

Closefamily ... Sovannmony Leang (far right) with brothers Setla and Rolyn Peic.

Katharine Walker from Cambridge worked at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

The pilot of the the helicopter has been named as 28-year-old Mitch Gameren, pictured.

Weather conditions were poor at Fox Glacier at the time of the crash.

Weather conditions in the Fox Glacier valley can change extremely quickly.

Poor weather conditions on Sunday morning were making it difficult for recovery teams to access the site of a fatal helicopter crash on the Fox Glacier.

A search and rescue helicopter heads towards the Fox Glacier valley on Sunday after a helicopter crash killed seven on Saturday. 

The wreckage of the helicopter, which crashed, killing all seven people on board, is seen in a crevasse on Fox Glacier. 

Police have now revealed the identities of all seven victims — six tourists and a local pilot.

They are:

Mitchell Paul Gameren, New Zealand, 28

Leang Sovannmony, Australia, 27

Josephine Gibson, Australia, 29

Andrew Virco, Cambridge, UK, 50

Katharine Walker, Cambridge, UK, 51

Nigel Edwin Charlton, Hampshire, UK, 66

Cynthia Charlton, Hampshire, UK, 70

Colleagues of a British medic who was killed when a helicopter crashed into a glacier in New Zealand have been left devastated by her death, her employer has said.

Katharine Walker, 51, the head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, was one of six people who died when the sightseeing helicopter crashed into a crevasse on the Fox glacier on Saturday morning.

Three other British tourists – Walker’s partner Andrew Virco, 50, Nigel Charlton, 66, and his wife, Cynthia, 70, from Hampshire – died along with two Australian holidaymakers and the Kiwi pilot.

A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals, which runs Addenbrooke’s, said: “Everyone at the hospital is devastated by the news and our thoughts go out to Kath’s family at this very sad time.

“Kath was a much respected member of staff who had worked at Addenbrooke’s for 23 years. We know many of our staff are going to be hit hard by this tragic news and we will be offering additional support for them.”

Walker’s brother, Steve Marshall, told the Sunday Times that his sister and Virco were on a “trip of a lifetime” to celebrate their 50th birthdays, and they tried to take the helicopter trip on Friday but were prevented from doing so by bad weather.

He described Walker as a sociable person and devoted mother to her 22-year-old daughter, Rebecca. He said Virco was a “wonderful person”.

As well as the British victims, Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, both from New South Wales, Australia, and the helicopter pilot Mitchell Gameren, 28, from Queenstown, New Zealand, all died.

Gameren’s younger sister Brooke wrote on Facebook: “I feel like I am in a dream and I’m just waiting for you to text me and tell me you’re fine.

“Today we lost a champion. I lost my brother and best mate. I am so blessed to have a brother like you. You have been such a massive role model in my life … I miss you so much already.”

The bodies of three of the victims have been recovered from the crash site and taken to a temporary mortuary facility nearby for formal identification.

It may be Wednesday before the others are recovered because the weather is expected to worsen during Monday and Tuesday.

The helicopter crashed at around 11am local time on Saturday. A picture released by police showed the crumpled remains stuck at the bottom of a wall of ice close to the top of the eight-mile (13km) glacier. 

Reports in New Zealand said Gameren was believed to be an experienced flier. Fox Glacier Heliservices, which organised the flight, said: “Fox Heliservices’ thoughts are with the families of the passengers and pilot. The pilot was a very valued member of our team. The New Zealand police and Civil Aviation Authority have taken over the investigation.”

Story and photo:

Recovery teams have reached the site of Fox Glacier helicopter crash which killed seven people, as they vow to bring the victims' bodies back to their families.

The Alpine Adventures chopper went down in a "heavily crevassed" area late on Saturday morning, killing all seven on board including local pilot Mitch Gameren, two Australian tourists and four people from the United Kingdom.

Police hope to release some of the victim's names early on Sunday afternoon.

West Coast Inspector John Canning, of Greymouth, said earlier on Sunday that imminent bad weather would hamper the recovery effort but rescue crews would be using "every opportunity" in intermittent breaks in the weather.

The crews were determined to get up the glacier and recovery the bodies for the families, Canning said, but that process could take a couple of days.

"We've got to get those (bodies) back to their families if we can." he said. "Definitely the people will be coming before the aircraft."

Crews would be not heading to the site by foot as it would take several hours and the weather was not on their side, Canning said.

"We will lift them out."

An alpine rescue squad, search and rescue staff and defence force personnel were part of the recovery team and an army helicopter had been brought in to assist.

"That's go a huge lifting capacity as far as staff goes. A normal helicopter round here can prob get three or four in. One of those can get over a dozen in," Canning said.

"We've got to get them on the hill in the break of the weather... and get them to work. (We will) run what we can while the weather holds," he said.

Glacier Country Tourism chairman Rob Jewell confirmed that the no fly zone around the crash site had been extended and that no helicopter companies would run tours today in order to give the recovery helicopters priority.

Visitors who wanted to see the glacier would have to take the walking track, he said.

The six tourists, two Australians and four from the United Kingdom, were believed to have been travelling in separate groups in camper vans. It was not believed there was anyone else travelling with the groups.

Their next of kin were still being notified.

Police search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Sean Judd said on Sunday morning the situation was being assessed every hour and he was hopeful some progress would be made.

Fox and Franz Josef Heliservices ground crew manager Mike Nolan described the crash an "absolute tragedy".

"We just can't believe what's going on. We're just feeling for the families at the moment," he said.

"We don't know a lot about the recovery process just that the weather is hampering search and rescue teams. Mitch was one of our experienced pilots. We're devastated for him and his family. "

Gameren had worked at the company for about six years, mostly during summer as he worked overseas as well, Nolan said. 

"He was a very valued member of our team. We just absolutely can't believe what's happened.".

The company would conduct its own investigation as well as supporting police, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission .

Nolan said the company took its safety very seriously and yesterday's crash was the first time a life had been lost in the more than 20 years he had worked with the company. 

He said the tourists who died were not part of a larger group. 

Weather prevented emergency services from reaching the site Saturday and Metservice meteorologist Emma Blades said bad weather was forecast to continue in the area, causing visibility to be poor, .

"It's going to be wet and fairly windy as well ... [It] won't be a very clear day, that's for sure.

"With the cloud, it's going to be difficult to see anything or get up there, I'd imagine."

Showers were expected to ease during Sunday morning, before becoming more intense in the evening.


Police said on Saturday that a recovery effort and scene examination was "likely to take some days".

Inspector John Canning said the helicopter was in a crevasse 762m up the valley. Debris was scattered hundreds of metres around the crash site.

Canning said the recovery would be very difficult in the dangerous terrain.

"I'm not going to risk any more lives, we've lost seven."

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had spoken to the families of the two Australian victims.

"My sympathies are with the families of the crash victims at this very distressing time,"  Bishop said in a statement.

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would keep in close contact with authorities in New Zealand, and provide support to the victims' families.

Earlier, four choppers responded to the crash site, and a paramedic and a rescuer were winched down to the scene.

Vince Cholewa, from the rescue centre, said two choppers had flown from Christchurch, one from Greymouth and one from Fox Glacier, with a cliff rescue team on board.

Cholewa described the area as "heavily crevassed".

Rob Jewell, chairperson of the Glacier Country Tourism Group which represents operators providing tourist and visitor services at Fox Glacier and nearby Franz Josef, said: "We're a small knit community here.

"Here on the West Coast, it's a small village, and everyone knows everybody, so it's a matter of looking after each other.

"We're hurting. It's a real tragedy today. We'll just do what we can to make this as easy as we can for everybody, and obviously our thoughts are with those who lost their lives today and their families and friends."

Fellow Glacier Country Tourism Group member Chris Alexander said emergency services had tried "their damnedest" to reach the scene.

There was cloud and rain in the area where the crash occurred, MetService said.

St John was alerted to the crash at 11.05am on Saturday.

Franz Josef community development officer Helen Lash said the helicopter fraternity were "very, very tight" between the two West Coast towns of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef.

"Anything at this stage is sheer speculation and until official confirmation comes out we won't be releasing comment.

"But our thoughts are certainly with the Fox Glacier community and also the helicopter fraternity, because there are a lot of businesses between Fox and Franz - some of them are duplicated in both towns and it's a very, very tight community. We would like to respect that."

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into the incident, head of communications and support Peter Northcote said.
"We're in the process of deploying a team of four people who will be arriving early evening."

They would find out what happened, and if there was anything that could be done to help prevent another occurrence.


Mr. Gameren, pictured right, was a highly experienced helicopter pilot with more than 3,000 hours logged flight time. 

Weather conditions looking towards Fox Glacier today. 

View of Fox Glacier at 10:52 am today, showing the weather conditions around the time of the crash.

Emergency services gather at the Fox Glacier Emergency Services Center. 

An Alpine Adventures Scenic Flights Eurocopter 6 "Squirrel" helicopter. The company operates scenic flights over Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.

Beech A36TC Bonanza, N7FG, Kavak Aviation, LLC: Fatal accident occurred November 20, 2015 near Orlando Executive Airport (KORL), Orange County, Florida

Rob and Maria Stimmel

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Orlando, Florida
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Honeywell; Olathe, Kansas
Continental Motors, Inc.; Mobile, Alabama

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Kavak Aviation, LLC:

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA043
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 20, 2015 in Orlando, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/05/2017
Aircraft: BEECH A36TC, registration: N7FG
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.

The private pilot was beginning a cross-country flight and was instructed by the ground controller to remain clear of Class B airspace. After an uneventful takeoff, while in Class B airspace, the pilot was instructed by the local controller to remain outside the Class B airspace, and the pilot advised the controller that the flight was descending. However, the airplane climbed briefly, followed by a series of descents and climbs with varying airspeeds that continued for about 5 minutes. The pilot informed the controller that he could not disengage the autopilot and requested radar vectors to return to the departure airport. While returning, the pilot informed the controller that it took full forward and back control pressure to descend and climb, respectively, and he solicited and received assistance from another pilot on how to turn off the autopilot. The advice included pulling the autopilot circuit breaker, which the pilot said he did. The pilot apparently did not consult the emergency procedures for an autopilot pitch trim malfunction, which included a step to manually retrim the airplane. The other pilot then suggested powering down the airplane, intending for the pilot to turn off the electrical power. However, the accident pilot reduced the airplane’s power setting based on his misinterpretation of the advice from the other pilot. About 9 minutes after takeoff, the airplane slowed to within 12 knots of its stall speed and continued to slow. As the airplane turned to join the final approach leg of the airport traffic pattern, witnesses saw the airplane enter a vertical descent and impact a lake. Airplane performance studies showed that, during the turn, the airplane was just 2 knots above its stall speed. Based on the low airspeed and the witness observations, it is likely that the airplane’s wing exceeded its critical angle of attack and experienced an aerodynamic stall.

Postaccident examination of the airplane found the pitch trim in the full airplane-nose-up position. In the pilot’s haste to mitigate an airspace violation while climbing with the autopilot engaged, he likely pushed and held the control yoke to arrest the climb. This action would have resulted in the autotrim running in the opposite (airplane-nose-up) direction to reduce the force on the pitch servo. Although the pilot’s comment about pushing as hard as he could on the control yoke to descend was consistent with the full airplane-nose-up trim found during the investigation, his subsequent comment about using full force to climb was not consistent with the trim position. It could not be determined if the autotrim changed the trim position between the time the pilot first reported the autopilot issue and the time he reported that he had pulled the circuit breaker; however, it likely did not change after he reported pulling the circuit breaker. The electrical connection between the pitch servo and the airframe wiring harness was found not fully seated, but this likely occurred during recovery. Postaccident examination and testing of the autopilot system and components of the electric and manual trim systems revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction that would have caused an uncommanded full airplane-nose-up trim or would have prevented application of manual or electric trim to correct the mis-set trim condition.

Although testing of the maximum torque of the trim servo could not be performed because the circuit was damaged during postaccident operational testing, the as-found position of the pitch trim in the full airplane-nose-up direction indicates that the trim servo motor had adequate torque to overcome the aerodynamic force of full trailing-edge-tab deflection and would have been capable of moving the trim tab toward a neutral position if this had been selected by the pilot. It is likely that the pilot could have corrected the full airplane-nose-up trim by applying either manual or electric trim.

Although it could not be determined why the pilot in this accident did not promptly recognize and take corrective action regarding the mis-set trim, his lack of recognition was likely because he misinterpreted the cues as an autopilot failure. The excessive control forces required to maintain control and pilot muscle fatigue caused by prolonged operation of the airplane with mis-set pitch trim likely contributed to the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed while turning to join the final approach leg of the airport traffic pattern with full airplane-nose-up trim, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's mis-use of the forward elevator flight control input with the autopilot engaged, which resulted in the full airplane-nose-up trim; his failure to recognize and correct the mis-trimmed airplane per the emergency procedures; and the excessive control forces required to maintain control of the airplane in the mis-trimmed condition, which resulted in pilot fatigue.


On November 20, 2015, about 1127 eastern standard time, a Beech A36TC, N7FG, descended into Clear Lake, Orlando, Florida. The private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Kavak Aviation, LLC, and was being operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Orlando Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, about 1115, and was destined for Gainesville Municipal Airport (GLE), Gainesville, Texas.

According to a chronological summary of flight communications, audio recordings, and transcriptions of communications, prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while in contact with ground control, the pilot was advised to remain outside of Class B airspace, provided departure instructions, and cleared to taxi to runway 7. The flight was then cleared for takeoff, and the pilot was instructed to turn left on course.

Radar data indicated that, between 1116:39 and 1118:43, the airplane proceeded in an east-northeasterly direction, turned to a northwesterly direction, and climbed from 200 ft to 1,800 ft mean sea level (msl). About 1118:47, while the airplane was flying in a northwesterly direction about 1,900 ft msl, the local controller advised the pilot, "november seven foxtrot golf remain outside Bravo airspace at or below one thousand five hundred and contact Orlando departure one one niner point four," and the pilot immediately replied, "alright one one niner point four what was the altitude restriction." The controller replied, "at or below one thousand five hundred," and, at 1118:59, the pilot replied, "at or below one thousand five hundred I'm already at two thousand" followed by a pause and then, "I'm descending for seven foxtrot golf (unintelligible)."

At 1119:09, when the airplane was about 2,100 ft msl, an Orlando Approach Control controller advised the local controller that the airplane needed to descend immediately, and the local controller replied, "yeah I'm starting him down."

While the airplane was flying in a northwesterly direction at 1,900 ft msl, the pilot established contact with Orlando Approach Control, and, at 1119:54, he advised the controller, "…seven foxtrot golf with you at uh one thousand eight hundred descending." The controller instructed the pilot to "ident," provided the Orlando altimeter setting, and asked him his request. The pilot replied by correctly reading back the altimeter setting and advised that he was requesting flight following. The controller asked the pilot for his destination, and the pilot said that it was GLE and asked to start his climb as there was an opening in the clouds. Between 1120:05, and 1120:30, the airplane climbed from 1,700 to 2,200 ft msl. The controller asked several times about the pilot's destination, and, at 1120:37, when the airplane was about 2,200 ft msl, the controller advised the pilot, "seven foxtrot golf okay, you have not been given a clearance through the Bravo why are you climbing;" the pilot did not reply. The controller then instructed the pilot to turn left to a heading of 270°, and the pilot did not reply. At 1120:51, the controller advised the pilot, "seven foxtrot golf I need you to listen cause you're in my Bravo without a clearance turn left heading 270." Between 1120:40 and 1120:53, the airplane descended from 2,200 ft msl to 1,700 ft msl.

At 1120:59, while the airplane was flying in a northwesterly direction at 1,700 ft msl, the pilot advised the controller that he was turning left to a heading of 270° and that "for some reason" he could not get the airplane's autopilot to disengage. The controller immediately replied, "thank you."

The controller provided the pilot with a transponder code, which the pilot read back, and the pilot then said, "listen I think we need to put this thing on the ground I don't know what's going on." The controller asked if the pilot wanted to return to ORL, and the pilot replied, "affirmative can you help me get there." The controller instructed the pilot to maintain VFR at 1,600 ft msl, to fly a heading of 210°, and to expect vectors to runway 7.

At 1121:53, when the airplane was about 1,800 ft msl, the pilot advised the controller, "ok listen um I have to use full force does anybody have any ideas what I can do to shut off this autopilot." The pilot then asked the controller for the assigned heading, which the controller provided, and, about 20 seconds after the pilot's request for assistance, the pilot of another airplane said, "pull your circuit breaker." At 1122:55, when the airplane was about 2,200 ft msl, the controller asked the pilot if he was able to descend, and the pilot replied, "…I'm trying I'm pushing as hard as I can on the yoke." The controller instructed the pilot to fly a heading of 180° when able, and the pilot replied, "descending to one eight I'm sorry going to one eight."

At 1123:34, the pilot of the other airplane advised the controller to have the pilot pull the circuit breaker. The accident pilot said that, "uh we pulled the circuit breaker but it just keeps uh porpoising up and down and it's taking full forward to go down and full back to go up to com compensate." The pilot of the other airplane advised the pilot to "power off the airplane" for 30 seconds, and the controller instructed the pilot to make a right turn to stay away from airplanes departing from Orlando International Airport.
At 1124:34, when the airplane was about 1,800 ft msl, the pilot stated, "we're powered way down." The pilot of the other airplane advised the pilot not to reduce engine power but to turn off the airplane's master switch, which would remove electrical power and disconnect the autopilot. The accident pilot asked the other pilot if he was referring to the key (ignition) switch, and the other pilot replied, "no don't turn the key to the off position just turn your master switch your electrical master switch off." The accident pilot asked if the other pilot was referring to the avionics master switch and said that he was "relatively new" to the airplane. The pilot of the other airplane clarified that the pilot was to turn off the battery and alternator switches.

Between 1124:34 and 1126:15 (the time of the last secondary radar return), the airplane descended from 1,800 to 1,100 ft msl and leveled off momentarily every 100 ft between 1,500 and 1,100 ft msl. At 1126:18, the controller advised the pilot that he was cleared to land on runway 7 at ORL. Primary radar returns (with no altitude reported) continued in a south-southeasterly direction from the location where the secondary radar returns ended, and, at 1126:58, the pilot said, "Orlando I'm (unintelligible)." The last primary radar return at 1127:02 was located about 0.1 nautical mile and 319° from the accident site location.

At 1127:11, the ORL local controller advised the approach controller, "ah he just rolled over straight down he's in the ground." Another air traffic controller said, "he rolled it over," and the local controller replied, "uh yeah it looked like he started a right turn to rejoin the final which turned into kind of a wing over uh it was nose down and uh he he went straight down and I lost sight of him…."

Several witnesses noticed the airplane immediately before it impacted Clear Lake. The witnesses saw the airplane in a "hard" right bank, which was followed by the airplane entering a vertical descent and impacting the lake. The witnesses did not see smoke trailing behind the airplane or parts separating during the descent.

Before first responders arrived, bystanders rushed to the area and recovered the occupants from the submerged wreckage.


The pilot, age 61, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He held a third-class medical certificate, issued July 3, 2015, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses.

A review of the pilot's second logbook, which contained entries dated between November 3, 1995, and October 30, 2015, revealed that he logged a total time of about 1,541 hours of which 1,374 hours were in single-engine airplanes. No logged flights were noted between July 16, 2006, and March 9, 2012. The pilot logged three flights in 2013; the last one was on November 17, 2013. The pilot's next logged flight was on July 16, 2015, which was a sign-off for a flight review in accordance with 14 CFR Part 61.56.

Since purchasing the airplane on September 9, 2015, the pilot had logged about 37 hours in the airplane of which 12.5 hours were in the last 30 days. The remarks section of an entry in his pilot logbook for a flight 19 days after the airplane's purchase stated, "GPS + Autopilot Practice," and the logged duration was 4.2 hours.


The airplane was certificated in accordance with Civil Air Regulations 3 and was manufactured by Beech in 1981. It was powered by a 300-horsepower Continental TSIO-520-UB engine and equipped with a Hartzell PHC-C3YF-1RF constant speed propeller.

A two-axis KFC 200 autopilot system was installed at manufacture in accordance with Supplemental Type Certificate SA1496CE. Components of the system consisted of a KA 285 mode annunciator, KI 256 flight command indicator, KC 290 mode controller, KC 295 flight computer, KS 270 pitch servo and mount, KS 272 trim servo and mount, and KS 271 roll servo and mount. The bridle cable of the KS 270 pitch servo attached to the primary elevator flight control cable by a clamp at each end of the bridle cable. A manual electric autopilot trim switch assembly installed on the pilot's left control yoke grip controlled the KS 272 trim servo, which was connected to the elevator trim actuator by a control cable. Actuation of trim using the switch required movement of both switch rockers in the same direction. An autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch was also installed on the pilot's left grip, and a control wheel steering (CWS) switch was installed on the pilot's right grip.

Depressing the CWS switch with the autopilot engaged released the autopilot servos allowing manual manipulation of the flight controls without the need to disengage and re-engage the autopilot or reselect any modes of operation. When the pitch servo, which was mechanically connected to the elevator primary control cables, sensed control forces that continued for longer than 3 seconds with the autopilot engaged, the autopilot computer activated the trim servo to trim away the control force on the pitch servo. The autotrim was specified to go from stop to stop in 94 seconds, and the manual electric trim was specified to go from stop to stop in 42 seconds. There was no audible annunciation when the autotrim was in motion; however, autotrim in motion could be detected by observing movement of the manual elevator pitch trim wheel, which was located in the lower portion of the pilot's side instrument panel. The KA 285 mode annunciator had a "Trim Warning" light bulb that illuminated when an autotrim failure occurred or when the trim circuit breaker was pulled. The light was designed to flash at least 4 times when the test switch on the KC 290 mode controller was depressed.

Review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed an entry dated May 15, 2003, that indicated a new autopilot trim switch assembly (part number 200-02276-0000) was installed and operationally checked satisfactory at an airplane total time of about 4,390 hours. There were no other entries in the maintenance records related to the autopilot trim switch assembly.

The airplane's last annual inspection was signed off as being completed on June 1, 2015, at an airplane total time of about 5,240 hours.

The previous owner of the airplane reported that, in over 4 years of owning the airplane and operating it for about 400 hours, he did not have any issues with the autopilot.

The airplane total time when the pilot purchased it in September 2015 was about 5,268 hours, and, since that time, there was no documented repair performed to any component of the autopilot system or the pitch trim system. The airplane total time at the time of the accident was about 5,310 hours.

According to a logbook entry dated November 13, 2015, two defective static wicks were replaced, loose headphone jacks at the pilot and co-pilot positions were tightened, and troubleshooting of the primary turbine inlet temperature gauge occurred. There was no other documented maintenance performed before the accident flight.

According to the pilot who ferried the airplane to the pilot when the pilot purchased the airplane, during the course of several flights totaling between 6 and 7 hours, when using the electric pitch trim, he noticed a lag of about 2 seconds from activation until seeing the trim wheel move. Because of the lag time and his personal preference, the ferry pilot used the manual pitch trim wheel and did not use the electric pitch trim further. The ferry pilot also reported that, with respect to the autopilot, the only issue he noted was that, when he disconnected the autopilot, the airplane had a tendency to have some nose-down trim, which was easily corrected by about 1/2 turn of the manual pitch trim wheel in the airplane nose-up direction. The autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch on the left grip of the pilot's control yoke did disconnect the autopilot. The ferry pilot indicated there were no further issues with the airplane's pitch trim or autopilot.


At 1153, a surface weather observation taken at ORL, which was located about 3.7 nautical miles east-northeast from the accident site, reported wind 020° at 8 knots, scattered clouds at 2,300 ft, temperature and dew point were 27°C and 21°C, respectively, and altimeter setting 30.04 inches of mercury.


The accident site was located about 3.7 nautical miles west-southwest from the approach end of runway 7 at ORL. The wreckage was raised from the bottom of Clear Lake and towed to a nearby boat ramp, then lifted while being pulled onto land. To facilitate transportation, the fuselage was cut at fuselage station 147, located near the middle of the utility doors.

Examination of the cockpit revealed that an aftermarket mount for a tablet computer was attached to the center portion of the pilot's control yoke. Neither grip of the pilot's control yoke was fractured, and the left grip of the co-pilot's control yoke was fractured. The interconnect aileron chain was around the sprockets of the pilot's control yoke, but the chain was separated. The top portion of the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch located on the left grip of the pilot's yoke was missing and not recovered. The dual rocker switches of the autopilot trim switch assembly were not aligned; the left screw was broken; and the right screw was engaged and tight. The go-around switch, which is also located on the left grip of the pilot's yoke, was missing and not recovered. Normal operation of the CWS switch installed on the right grip of the pilot's yoke was noted when actuated by hand, and electrical continuity was noted from the switch to the appropriate pin of the autopilot computer and from the other wire to a ground terminal connection. Testing of the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch revealed continuity between terminals 3 and 4, which is consistent with the switch being engaged to disconnect the autopilot; no continuity was noted between terminals 1 and 2 (normal relaxed state).

Further examination of the cockpit revealed that the KC 290 mode controller was impact damaged. The flight level trim switch was in the up position, and the plastic on/off switch was deformed. The pre-impact switch positions of the mode controller could not be determined. The KA 285 mode annunciator was not crushed. The connector remained secured by the screws and was fully seated, but the backshell was cracked. Examination of the autopilot disconnect relay revealed no evidence of visible damage. Continuity was noted between pins 4 and 12 of the relay (normal) and from terminal 14 to a ring terminal connection with multiple wires; the ring terminal was impact separated from its airframe attach point. The mode controller, mode annunciator, and autopilot disconnect relay were retained for further examination.

Examination of the wiring from the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch to the autopilot disconnect and trim interrupt relay installed on the upper aft side of the firewall (identified as KPN 032-0029-01) revealed continuity from terminal 13 of the relay to terminal 4 of the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch (normal). The wires at the pilot's control yoke were cut to facilitate removal of the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch and the autopilot trim switch assembly, which were retained for further examination.

Examination of the avionics bus bar revealed that the top portions of the autopilot and trim circuit breakers were damaged. Both circuit breakers were removed from the panel, and the housings of both were missing and not recovered. Both power side screws remained tightly secured to the bus bar.

Examination of the left and right wings revealed that both remained attached by the forward and aft spars, and both exhibited impact damage. Both main landing gears were in the wheel wells, and both flap actuators were extended 2.0 inches, which equates to flaps retracted. The stall warning vane remained electrically connected but was separated from the wing.

Examination of the empennage revealed that the left and right elevator trim tab actuators were symmetrically extended 1 7/8 inches, which equates to the full airplane nose-up stop.

All structure and primary and secondary flight controls remained attached or were recovered with the exception of the outboard portion of the right elevator. Impact damage was noted to the inboard portion of the right elevator and horizontal stabilizer. Examination of the aileron servo revealed that the bridle cable remained secured to the balance cable, and the middle ball was in the slot of the capstan, which rotated freely. The connector was fully seated to the airframe harness, and each swaged ball was at the end of each clamp.

Examination of the autopilot components, which were located in the aft fuselage, revealed that both electrical connections and the static line of the autopilot computer remained secured. The pitch servo and the airframe electrical connection were not fully mated. Further examination of the airframe wiring harness revealed that it was pulled free of the airframe security plastic clamp. One of the locks for the airframe side of the harness remained secured to the female side of the electrical connection, but the opposite side lock was separated. Further examination of the electrical connection revealed that a plastic tie-wrap remained secured around the body of the locks to prevent separation of the connection. The trim servo electrical connection was fully seated and locked on both sides. A plastic tie wrap remained in place around the body of the locks to prevent separation of the connection.

Further examination of the autopilot pitch servo revealed that the capstan rotated freely, the middle ball was in the slot, and the cable was around the capstan. Both clamps remained connected to each primary control cable, and the swaged ball was located against the end of both clamps (normal). Examination of the trim servo revealed that the capstan was free to rotate, and the cable was routed properly. The trim servo, identified as KS 272, and the pitch servo, identified as KS 270, were retained for testing at the manufacturer's facility.

Examination of the flight controls confirmed control cable continuity for roll, pitch, and yaw to each respective control surface to the cockpit, except where cables were cut for recovery. The pitch trim cables were exercised after recording of the elevator trim actuator positions, and both actuators moved symmetrically. Examination of the upper and lower elevator pitch trim stops revealed normal appearance; there was no evidence of impact to either stop.

Examination of the engine revealed crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction of the engine or engine components was noted.

Examination of the propeller revealed all three blades remained secured in the hub, and one blade rotated freely; all blades exhibited varying degrees of aft bending.


The District Nine Medical Examiner's Office performed postmortem examinations of the pilot and passenger. The cause of death for both was blunt force trauma.

Forensic toxicology of specimens of the pilot were performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Wuesthoff Reference Laboratory, Melbourne, Florida. Forensic toxicology of specimens of the passenger was performed by Wuesthoff and Orlando Health Clinical Laboratories.

The pilot's FAA toxicology report indicated that the results were negative for carbon monoxide and volatiles. An unquantified amount of diphenhydramine, which is a sedating antihistamine available in a wide variety of over the counter products used to treat cold symptoms, allergic reactions, and as a sleep aid, was detected in urine but not detected in cavity blood. The pilot's Wuesthoff toxicology report indicated that the results were negative for volatiles, and the blood immunoassay screen detected 4.9% carboxyhemoglobin in the heart blood.

The passenger's Wuesthoff toxicology report indicated that the results were negative for volatiles. The blood immunoassay screen was negative for all tested drugs except benzodiazepines; a note on the report suggested the need for further testing; and 5.3% carboxyhemoglobin was detected in the left chest blood. Unquantified amounts of caffeine, sertraline, trazodone, and trazodone metabolite were detected in the blood drug screen. Although specimens of the passenger were submitted to the FAA, testing was not performed.



The airplane was equipped with a JPI EDM 700 engine monitor. Also located in the wreckage were a DeLorme inReach GPS, and a digital camera with installed SD card. However, none of the submitted components retained data associated with the accident flight.

Autopilot System Components

The autopilot disconnect relay, pitch and pitch trim servos with mounts, autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch, the autopilot trim switch assembly, and the autopilot computer circuit boards (which were properly seated and undamaged) were dried before operational testing. After drying, the autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch, autopilot disconnect relay, and the autopilot trim switch assembly were examined, and no preimpact anomalies were found that would have precluded normal operation.
The autopilot computer failed several tests during initial testing. However, several months later, the computer passed all tests with the exception of a pitch-related test, the "Pitch High Pass" test, and tests related to the "Approach" lateral mode. According to Honeywell, the computer's failure to pass the Pitch High Pass test would have resulted in a minor altitude offset in the "Altitude Hold" pitch mode but would not have adversely affected proper autopilot function. The Approach lateral failure was attributed to a faulty operational amplifier. The faulty operational amplifier was replaced; the unit was subjected to full acceptance testing, and it passed all lateral mode tests and continued to fail the Pitch High Pass test.. According to Honeywell, the faulty operational amplifier would have rendered the Approach lateral mode inoperative, and the "Nav" and "HDG" lateral modes would have remained operational. No determination could be made as to when the operational amplifier failed.

To facilitate operational testing of the pitch servo, the impact damaged tach motor bracket was realigned to engage the gear with the motor gear, and the unit operated normally. The pitch servo clutch testing showed that the first test in the clockwise direction was 4 inch-pounds greater than specification, and subsequent tests in both directions were within limits.
Examination of the pitch trim servo revealed impact damage and a red/brown colored wire that had separated from the standoff associated with the manual electric trim circuit. The separated wire was temporarily connected to the proper attach point, and the unit was subjected to final acceptance testing. The unit passed all tests with the exception of the regulator current foldback test, which it was later determined should not have been performed on this unit because the servo did not have the foldback circuit installed. Performing the current foldback test damaged the manual trim circuit components, and a final test of the manual trim motor at maximum torque was not possible because of the inoperative status of the manual trim circuit. The slip clutch was removed from the mount, and it tested within limits in both directions.

The autopilot computer, pitch servo, and pitch trim servo were then tested on an engineering harness with exemplar autopilot system components installed. The autopilot computer (with the faulty operational amplifier replaced) passed the preflight test and all functional tests. The pitch servo clutch engaged and disengaged normally. With the servo engaged and clockwise or counterclockwise force applied, the trim servo responded in the appropriate direction after the appropriate delay. The trim servo clutch engaged and disengaged normally. The trim servo functioned satisfactorily when commanded for autotrim.

The autopilot annunciator panel was submitted to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for examination. The panel was x-rayed to determine the status of the bulb filaments for each annunciator light, and only the "Trim Warning" light bulb filament exhibited filament stretching.

Airplane Certification

Civil Air Regulations 3.667, which pertained to autopilot systems, specified that the autopilot be designed so that it could be quickly and positively disengaged by the pilot to prevent it from interfering with the control of the airplane and so that it could be overpowered by the pilot to enable him/her to control the airplane. The regulation also stated that any malfunction, assuming corrective action was initiated within a reasonable period of time, should not produce hazardous loads on the airplane or create hazardous deviations in the flight path. Civil Air Regulations 3.337-2, which pertained to electrical trim tab systems, specified that, when a malfunction occurred during normal flight conditions, it should be possible for the pilot to control the airplane readily and easily for a prolonged period of time without requiring undue effort or concentration. The regulation also stated that the system should be designed to allow the pilot to perform all the maneuvers and operations necessary in effecting a safe landing.

According to certification flight testing documents provided by the autopilot manufacturer, testing in pitch (airplane nose-up direction) was performed to determine control forces as part of the autotrim or manual trim with either a 1.0 or 3.0 second delay. The testing was performed during climb, cruise/maneuvering, descent, and simulated approach at corresponding speeds. With respect to testing during climb configuration while flying at 100 knots with a 1.0 second recognition delay for either the autotrim or manual trim in the up direction, the control force was 5 pounds for autotrim, and there was no change in the control force for manual trim. Testing at 205 knots while in a descent with a 3.0 second delay in manual trim nose-up direction resulted in a control force of 38 pounds.

According to the airframe manufacturer, the control force necessary to return the control column or elevator to a neutral position at full airplane nose-up elevator trim tab deflection at 120 knots calibrated airspeed was about 311 pounds.

Autopilot Flight Manual Supplement

The airplane's flight manual supplement for the autopilot indicated that, in the event of an electric pitch trim malfunction (either manual, electric, or autotrim), the specified steps in the emergency procedure included:

(a) AP DISC/TRIM INTERRUP Switch – Press and hold down until recovery can be made.
(b) Avionics MASTER – OFF
(c) Airplane – manually retrim
(d) Pitch Trim circuit breaker – Pull

The supplement also stated, "when the autopilot is engaged, manual application of a force to the pitch axis of the control wheel for a period of 3 seconds or more will result in the autotrim system operating in the direction to create a force opposite the pilot. The opposing mistrim force will continue to increase as long as the pilot applies a force to the control wheel and will ultimately overpower the autopilot. If the autopilot is disengaged under these conditions, the pilot may be required to exert control forces in excess of 50 pounds to maintain the desired airplane attitude. The pilot will have to maintain this control force while he manually retrims the airplane."

Weight and Balance

Weight calculations were performed based on the airplane's last weight and balance from 2012 (2,342.50 pounds), the full usable fuel load (624 pounds), and the weight of the pilot, passenger, and wet recovered baggage (465 pounds) minus the fuel burn for engine start, taxi, and run-up (16 pounds). Thus, the weight at takeoff was below the airplane's maximum gross weight of 3,650 pounds.

Performance Study

According to the NTSB Performance Study, which used radar data from Orlando, winds aloft data, and the estimated weight of the airplane, the airplane's speed varied between 100 and 150 knots while climbing and descending. Between 1124:20 and 1126:11, the airplane lost 44 knots of airspeed and 900 ft of altitude. After 1126:15, primary radar returns (did not contain altitude information. For the last 47 seconds of primary radar returns, the airplane's groundspeed continued to decrease. Based on the bank angle (8° left wing low) required to complete the turn between the last primary return and the wreckage location, the calculated groundspeed was about 68 knots. The stall speed for the airplane's weight and configuration (flaps retracted and 8° bank) was about 66 knots.

Accidents Involving Beech 36 Series airplanes

A review of 657 accidents, incidents, and occurrences investigated by the NTSB involving Beech 36 series airplanes from 1982 to 2016 (excluding this accident) found 2 accidents in which the autopilot or pitch trim was listed as a cause, factor, or finding. In both cases, ATL84FA184 and ATL89FA196, the elevator trim was in the full nose-down position. In ATL84FA184, the pilot reported that the autopilot was stuck and that it was taking all his strength to hold the airplane's nose up. The airplane pitched down during cruise flight and impact the ground. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident included the pilot's failure to re-trim the airplane. Contributing factors included physical strength overload. In ATL89FA196, the pilot reported that he was unable to disengage the autopilot and was fighting hard to maintain control. The pilot was being vectored to an airport when the airplane was lost from radar and impacted the ground. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane while maneuvering for a landing. Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to follow the emergency procedures for an autopilot malfunction and pilot fatigue. Review of the supporting documents contained in the public dockets for both investigations revealed that the reason for the as-found trim setting was not determined.

The NTSB public docket for the ATL89FA196 investigation contained correspondence from the FAA responding to a congressional inquiry regarding the King KFC 200 autopilot system. The correspondence from the FAA indicated that there were two recent reports of uncommanded trim runaway, and the investigation by the autopilot manufacturer attributed the problems to two diodes (identified as CR438 and CR439) installed on the KC 295 adapter board of the autopilot computer. A service bulletin was developed in 1987 by the manufacturer that suggested removal of the diodes. The adapter board installed in the autopilot computer in the airplane involved in the accident that is the subject of this report did not contain diodes CR438 and CR439.

The correspondence in the ATL89FA196 docket further indicated that, during certification flight testing of the KFC 200 autopilot system, unknown to the test pilot, a nose-down trim runaway was induced while flying at normal operating speed. After recognition, the test pilot waited 3 seconds before initiating corrective action. During the recovery, the test pilot used the manual trim wheel and autopilot disconnect/trim interrupt switch; the airplane did not exceed velocity never exceed speed; and there were no excessive structural loads. The FAA's response to the congressional inquiry noted an apparent lack of pilot understanding of autopilot system operation.

Service Difficulty Reports

A review of the FAA Service Difficulty Report (SDR) data pertaining to the KFC 200 autopilot system for all aircraft revealed no reports of uncommanded pitch trim in the 19 records submitted between 1995 and March 2017.

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA043
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 20, 2015 in Orlando, FL
Aircraft: BEECH A36TC, registration: N7FG
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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 November 20, 2015, about 1127 eastern standard time, a Beech A36TC, N7FG, descended into Clear Lake, Orlando, Florida. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Kavak Aviation, LLC, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Orlando Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, about 1115, and was destined for Gainesville Municipal Airport (GLE), Gainesville, Texas.

According to preliminary air traffic control (ATC) communications, the pilot was instructed before departure and after takeoff by Orlando Air Traffic Control Tower (Orlando ATCT) personnel to remain outside of Class B airspace. The second instruction by the local controller about 4 minutes after takeoff included an altitude restriction to remain at or below 1,500 feet. The pilot promptly advised the controller the flight was at 2,000 feet and descending.

ATC communications were transferred to Orlando Approach Control, and while in contact with that facility, the pilot advised the controller that the flight was at 1,800 feet and descending. The approach controller asked the pilot why the flight was in Class B airspace without clearance, and then instructed him to fly heading 270 degrees; he did not reply to either instruction. Following a second instruction to turn to heading 270 degrees, the pilot indicated he was, but was unable to disengage the autopilot. A discrete transponder code was assigned, and the pilot then informed the controller that he needed to get the airplane on the ground and requested assistance. The pilot was provided a vector to return to ORL, and about 1121:52, he informed the controller that he had to use full force and asked on the frequency if anybody knew how to turn off the autopilot. An unknown voice instructed him to pull the circuit breaker. The controller asked the pilot if he was able to descend, to which he replied he was pushing as hard as he could on the control yoke. An unidentified voice on the frequency instructed the pilot to pull the autopilot circuit breaker, to which he replied he had but the airplane was porpoising.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane bank, then observed it descend in a nose-low attitude into the lake. The accident site was about 250 degrees and 4 miles from ORL.

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orange County Sheriff's Office said two people were killed after a plane crashed into an Orlando lake on Friday morning.

Officials said the crash was reported in 1800 block of West Grant Street at Clear Lake just before 11:30 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Beech A36TC Bonanza crashed into the lake approximately 5 miles from Orlando Executive Airport.

Deputies said the victims killed were a man in his 50s and a female, who could be father and daughter. They haven't been identified.

The plane, which was registered from Montana, was headed to Gainesville, Texas, according to deputies.

Kelman Riches was working on his dock when he saw the plane go down.

"The airplane was going along and he lost control, did a loop, then nose dived straight into the lake," Riches told News 6.

Riches then dove until the water and pulled out the two victims on board the single-engine plane. 

Jim Steakly drove his boat to the wreckage trying to help out. 

"Just a sad situation. You're having fun one moment, and the next moment ... there it is," Steakly said. 

News 6 helicopter Sky 6 flew over the lake where a small plane was spotted underwater. 

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are both investigating the accident.

Story, video and photo gallery:

Sheriff Demings

ORLANDO, Fla. —A small six-seater plane en route to Texas crashed into an Orlando lake Friday, killing the only two people believed to be on board.

A small six-seater plane en route to Texas crashed into an Orlando lake Friday, killing the only two people believed to be on board. Michelle Meredith (@MichelleWESH) has the latest update.

It happened on Clear Lake, just south of State Road 408 and John Young Parkway, around 11:25 a.m.

"I saw that go down, with the tail up and the wings looking at me," said witness Bobby Ray.

The force of the impact could be felt by those who were nearby at a local church.

"From what they tell me, they felt the shake, heard the noise from the plane, and looked out," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Officials said the Beech A36TC Bonanza had just taken off from Orlando Executive Airport, bound for Gainesville, Texas, when the pilot reported problems with the autopilot system. The pilot was attempting to return to Executive, when the plane went into the water, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A man in his 50s and a young woman were killed. Orange County authorities are working to confirm their identities.

Boaters and kayakers on the lake were seen trying to get to the crash scene to offer assistance before rescue crews arrived.

Witnesses said they could tell there were no survivors.

"I see the rescue team pulling the body out, and I see them laying him or her on a stretcher," said witness Anthony Agost.

FAA pilot examiner Eric Norber said the Beech A36TC Bonanza plane is a very powerful and capable aircraft, but requires a substantial amount of training to fly.

"He did not appear to have the level of knowledge or the command of the systems of the aircraft that you would expect of somebody who was flying this level of sophisticated aircraft. It's essential that the pilot receive adequate training about the systems, the operation of the aircraft and how to maneuver the aircraft," Norber said.

WESH 2 News checked with the plane's FAA registry records and received the following message: "The aircraft's registration status may not be suitable for operation."

Norber said that could mean the airplane was just purchased or had recently been out of service.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office has taken the lead on the death investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the probable cause of the crash.

Sheriff Demings

Crews worked Saturday to recover a plane that nosedived into an Orlando lake shortly after takeoff, killing an unidentified man and teen girl a day earlier.

Meanwhile, residents shared stories about how witnesses tried to help after they heard what they thought was an explosion and spotted the Beechcraft Bonanza in Clear Lake in southwest Orlando.

Kelman Riches, 47, went into the water, trying to save the two passengers. But he was too late.

Riches went down several times trying to free the victims. His arm was injured from shards of metal and burning fuel.

Riches, known as "Crazy Kel" by those in the area, said he got a call from a neighbor about the wreck and grabbed a pair of goggles to see if he could help. He said it was hard to see under water because of the leaking gasoline.

"The plane was pretty banged up and the window had broken so I cut myself up pretty good trying to pull the girl out," he said. "When I pulled her out and tried to resuscitate her, you could tell she was already gone."

Riches, a former stunt man, said he cut the man out of his seatbelt using a neighbor's knife. He said he could tell the man was also already dead.

"I was frantic when I dove to help the first one [passenger] but I realized how banged up they were that they were already dead," he said. "It was very rough and hard to see."

On Saturday, a diver placed airbags under the six-passenger plane, allowing crews to move it for extraction, said Tim Monville, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Beechcraft Bonanza, which was bound for Texas, should be removed from the 300-acre Clear Lake off Rio Grande Avenue by Sunday as the investigation continues into Friday's crash.

Monville said investigators should have a preliminary cause within seven days, adding the accident could have been worse if it had crashed into one of the many homes in the area. A final report typically takes several months to complete.

"As best I can see, it's in about eight to nine feet of water…there's substantial damage to the wings and the left door of the aircraft…," Monville said. "The potential if it had not [crashed] in the water, the potential is there."

The plane took off from Orlando Executive Airport at 11:15 a.m. Friday and was heading to Gainesville, Texas, a town about 67 miles north of Dallas. It is registered in Montana.

The plane was only was in the air for about 15 minutes when it nosedived into the lake.

A man who appeared to be in his 50s and a teenage girl were the only two people on board, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

Jim Steakley and his wife were just leaving their home at the end of Bren Lee Court Friday when they heard what sounded like an explosion.

The pair looked around and didn't see anything until neighbors started running towards the lake behind their home and said a plane was in the water. The only trace of the accident: Bubbles rising to the surface of the lake just yards from their dock.

Steakley, 65, hopped in his boat to see if he could help. He got there in time to see Riches at work.

"He didn't care. His arm was all scratched and he was having trouble breathing, but he'd just grab a breath of air and go back down," Steakley said.

Orlando firefighters arrived and tried to save the pair.

Another neighbor, 65-year-old Gwendolyn Morris, said she had just got home when she heard the plane go down.

She said they often hear loud planes because the neighborhood is in the flight path of both Orlando Executive Airport and Orlando International Airport. She said she was thankful it didn't crash into any buildings.

"I've always been afraid of something like this happening," she said. "I hear the planes all the time and sometimes they fly very low. Tears came to my eyes when I heard those two people had died, especially since there was a young girl on board. It's so sad."

The plane crashed not far behind New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando, and witnesses inside said the building shook, Demings said.

Monville said after they extract the plane, they examine it and try to determine if the plane had any problems before crashing. He said that the radar data and radio transmissions will help find out the facts of what happened.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also helping with the investigation.

Author: David Williams

For those of you that have been around the sport of wakeboarding and waterskiing for a while, you know who Rob Stimmel is. He's been attached to Jobe for years and was one of the promoters that started Boardstock back in 1996 and carried that torch for many years. Last year, as a representative of Jobe, he went through his warehouse in Washington and donated 28 Jobe boards and bindings for our annual Toys for Tots auction, bringing in thousands of dollars in donations.

On Wednesday, despite the fact that he was on his honeymoon having just been married four days earlier, Rob took the time to send me an email informing me that he'd check and see what he could donate for this year's Toys for Tots auction as soon as he got back to home to Washington. Unfortunately, he was piloting his own plane home on Friday and there were some mechanical difficulties that caused the plane to crash into Clear Lake in Orlando. Rob Stimmel and his new wife, Maria Jose Cepa, were both killed in the accident. Our prayers go out to both families.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A local ski instructor and his wife of just four days were killed in a plane crash on the way home from their honeymoon. 

The pilot, Rob Stimmel, was very well known in the watersport and skiing industry.

Friends say he lived life to the fullest.

Last Friday, Stimmel tried to fly home to Washington with his new wife, but they did not make it.

“He was just a super, outgoing, larger than life guy, involved in so many things," said Stimmel's neighbor and longtime friend, Heidi Lind, from her Sammamish home. Stimmel and his wife, Maria Jose Cepa, were on board a small plan that ended up submerged in an Orlando-area lake.

They had married four days earlier.

Airport transmissions revealed 10 minutes after takeoff Stimmel, who recently bought the plane, was told he was flying too high.

“Turning Left 2-7-0,” said Stimmel in recordings released by officials. “For some reason I could not get my autopilot to disengage.”

The 62-year-old managed to stay calm as he tried to deal with the mechanical problem.

“And we pulled the circuit breaker but it's just, it's going up and it's going down,” he said.

Moments later, the plane went down into Clear Lake, killing Stimmel and Cepa.

Friend and neighbor Shawn Waters told KIRO 7 he was shocked after hearing news of the crash.

“Because Rob is such a good, safe individual and on any plane I know he would check and double check, triple check," he said.

Stimmel was the director of Mohan Skiing & Boarding at Snoqualmie Summit Central.

His wife from Venezuela was an instructor.

The company released a statement, in part saying “We appreciate the support of the entire Mohan community as we recover from this tragic loss and continue preparing for the upcoming season.”

Waters says he’ll never forget how Stimmel brought friends and neighbors together for yearly trips to Shasta Lake in California.

“He was the centerpiece of our fun times together," said Waters.

The FAA said Stimmel was trying to return to the nearby airport in Orlando but did not make it.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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