Thursday, March 24, 2016

North American AT-6A Texan, N7055D, registered to and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred March 23, 2016 in Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Analysis

The flight was intended for the dispersal of the passenger's deceased husband's ashes, which took place over a river. The dispersal procedure called for the ashes to be placed in a bag that was cinched at the top and tethered to the airframe inside the cabin. The pilot was required to slow the airplane and fly it in a banking maneuver, and the passenger in the aft cockpit would then throw the bag out through the opened aft canopy and retrieve the bag once the ashes had been released into the slipstream.

Witnesses described the airplane flying low and slow over the river channel and then rolling left and nose-diving into the water.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the rear sliding canopy was most likely open at the time of impact. The ash dispersal bag was not located. Therefore, based on the accident location, the observed maneuver, and the open rear canopy, the accident likely occurred at some point during the ash dispersal sequence.

Postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation. Several maintenance discrepancies were found; however, none would have resulted in the flight maneuver observed. Although the airplane was required to have undergone an inspection on an annual basis, the last inspection had occurred 22 months before the accident. Additionally, the pilot's last flight review had occurred 29 months before the accident, rather than the 24 months required.

The airplane was equipped with dual controls and a swiveling rear seat; the seat was found in the forward and locked position, and the rear control stick appeared to have been removed and stowed. Therefore, passenger interference with the flight controls was unlikely.

The pilot's autopsy revealed significant coronary artery disease, which review of his medical records indicated was apparently undiagnosed. Therefore, he was susceptible to an acute cardiac event or stroke (although the degree of blunt force injury prevented the evaluation of his brain.)

Toxicology testing on the pilot identified sertraline, its metabolite desmethylsertraline, and trazodone in urine and cavity blood. According to his medical records, the pilot had insufficiently treated sleep disorders and had been taking trazodone as a sleep aid. Trazodone can increase the potential for arrhythmias in patients with pre-existing cardiac disease. In addition, the pilot had longstanding depression, and he had sufficient neurocognitive symptoms the preceding year from a series of concussions that he had stopped flying, driving, and working for several months. While the pilot's depression and symptoms related to his concussion were described as in remission, he had not undergone formal psychometric testing to evaluate these issues, and he had been self-medicating with sertraline, which he had been obtaining from another country out of concern about Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. He did not report the use of sertraline and trazodone to his FAA medical examiner.

Chronically insufficient sleep can lead to chronic fatigue, which results in impaired attentiveness and slowed hazard detection and response times. The use of sleep aids such as trazodone in patients with inadequately treated sleep apnea may worsen the effects of sleep apnea and both directly and indirectly increase the degree of fatigue. The pilot's failure to have obtained the required condition inspection of the airplane or his required flight review may indicate some difficulty in attention and organization.

Thus, the pilot had a number of medical conditions which could have contributed to him becoming inattentive, distracted, or debilitated during flight. He could have had a stroke or sudden cardiac event leading to a loss of control. Further, the negative cognitive effects from chronic fatigue resulting from his inadequately treated sleep disorders, chronic depression, and neurocognitive deficits from postconcussive syndrome would have increased the likelihood of the pilot failing to effectively manage airplane control while either setting up for, or during performance of the ash dispersal maneuvers. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of aircraft control during a low-altitude ash dispersal maneuver. Contributing to the accident was his degraded performance due to his medical conditions. 

Findings

Aircraft
Performance/control parameters - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Impairment/incapacitation - Pilot (Factor)
Lack of sleep - Pilot
Neurological - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying
Low altitude operation/event
Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Aerodynamic stall/spin

Uncontrolled descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Irene Kazuko Mustain


John McKibbin


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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Hillsboro, Oregon

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

J Simpson McKibbin Company Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N7055D 



Location: Astoria, OR
Accident Number: WPR16FA087
Date & Time: 03/23/2016, 1542 PDT
Registration: N7055D
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN AT 6A
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 23, 2016, about 1542 Pacific daylight time, a North American AT-6A, N7055D, impacted the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. The private pilot and the passenger sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and location of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Pearson Field Airport, Vancouver, Washington, about 1506.

The passenger was seated in the aft cockpit, and the flight was intended to be for the dispersal of her deceased husband's ashes. According to representatives of the passenger's family, the plan was to disperse the ashes along the Pacific coast near a beach house the passenger owned in Ocean Shores, Washington, and, if the weather along the coast was bad, they were going to drop the ashes over the Columbia River instead. The beach house was about 115 miles northwest of Pearson Field and about 45 miles north of the entrance to the Columbia River channel.

A witness, who was the captain of a cargo ship moored at an anchorage in the river channel about 1 mile northeast of Astoria, was on the ship's bridge at the time of the accident. He observed the airplane flying about 300 ft above sea level, approaching the ship from the starboard quarter traveling on a north-northeast track. He walked outside to watch as it flew directly overhead and across the ship's port beam. It continued on the same track away from the ship, and, a short time later, he saw the left wing dip as the airplane began a left turn. A few seconds later the wings were almost vertical, and the airplane then rapidly transitioned into an aggressive steep vertical dive. The airplane hit the water in a nose-down attitude, and the captain saw a red tail section bob back into view and then sink. The airplane was flying level over the water surface leading up to the turn, and the captain could hear the engine operating throughout the flight.

Another witness, located inside her apartment close to the southern shore of the waterfront in Astoria, was at a north-facing window with a view of the channel. She observed an airplane directly ahead flying over the water and east toward and over moored ships. She was familiar with the helicopter traffic of the Columbia Bar Pilots, and the airplane immediately seemed unusual to her because of its low altitude. It was flying at the same level as the ship's stacks relative to her position at an altitude typically flown by the helicopters. The airplane was flying at a speed she considered to be slower than normal, and it then began a slow and "graceful" turn to what appeared to be the left. She likened the maneuver to the way a large commercial airplane turns, and, as it progressed, she could eventually see the full wing profile. The turn continued, and, before completing 180°, the nose of the airplane aggressively dropped, and the airplane transitioned into an almost vertical dive, passing out of view behind a ship. The airplane was flying straight and level up until the turn that resulted in the accident.

The witnesses reported that the airplane was not trailing smoke or vapor at any time and that the weather included good visibility, with overcast skies above the airplane's altitude. They further stated that it was not raining at the time of the accident, but rain began later that day. Due to the airplane's low altitude and the local terrain features, there were no radar data for the final portions of the flight.

The witnesses guided search and rescue personnel from the Coast Guard and Clatsop County Sheriff's Department to the approximate accident location. No wreckage was observed floating in the water, and weather, fast water currents, and low water visibility hampered the search efforts. Two days later, divers from the Sheriff's Department located the wreckage in 15 ft of water in a 5-mile-wide section of the channel about 1.5 miles from the southern shore. The location was about 2 miles northeast of Astoria and 11 miles east of the river mouth to the Pacific Ocean.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 69, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/01/2014
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/01/2013
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 1282.4 hours (Total, all aircraft), 168 hours (Total, this make and model), 6.4 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land issued in 1976 and an instrument airplane rating issued on June 16, 2005. He held a third-class medical certificate issued on July 1, 2014, with no limitations. At the time of the application for this medical certificate, he reported 1,140 hours of total flight time, 5 hours of which occurred in the 6 months before the examination.

The pilot's logbook indicated that, since May 2007, he had accumulated about 168 hours of flight experience in the AT-6A airplane (all in the accident airplane). His last entry in the logbook was dated March 19, 2016, and he reported at that time a total flight experience of 1,282.4 hours. His last flight review took place on October 1, 2013. No logbooks with entries before 2007 were recovered.

The pilot had been involved in an airplane accident in August 2004, during takeoff in a Taylorcraft DC-65 airplane (NTSB accident number SEA04LA156). The NTSB determined the cause to be his inadequate compensation for wind conditions and his failure to maintain airspeed, resulting in a stall. The NTSB cited the pilot's failure to use all of the available runway and the high-gusty winds as contributing factors. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: NORTH AMERICAN
Registration: N7055D
Model/Series: AT 6A
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1942
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 78-7228
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/23/2014, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 5300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 8 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:  3070.7 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer:  P & W
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: R-1340-AN-1
Registered Owner:  J SIMPSON MCKIBBIN COMPANY INC
Rated Power: 550 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The tailwheel-configured airplane had retractable main landing gear and was powered by a nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN1 radial engine, which drove a two-blade constant-speed propeller.

Maintenance records indicated that a disassembly and restoration of the airplane was completed in 2006, after which it was issued an experimental special airworthiness certificate in the exhibition category. According to the maintenance records, at that time, the airframe had accrued a total time of 2,931 flight hours. The last logbook entry was on May 23, 2014, and was for a condition inspection. The entry indicated a total flight time of 3,070.7 hours. The recording hour meter had fragmented during the accident, preventing an accurate determination of airframe and engine time. However, according to the pilot's logbooks, he had flown the airplane for 8.5 hours since May 24, 2014.

The pilot reported to a friend before departure that he had recently fueled the airplane, and the last entry in the pilot's flight logbook indicated that the airplane had been fueled on the pilot's last flight, 4 days before the accident. According to the manager of Astoria Regional Airport, the airplane did not arrive at or obtain fuel from Astoria on the day of the accident. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KAST, 22 ft msl
Observation Time: 2255 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 224°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 2400 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C / 7°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3100 ft agl
Visibility:  4 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction:  15 knots/ 24 knots, 180°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.17 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV): 
Precipitation and Obscuration:  Light - Rain
Departure Point: VANCOUVER, WA (VUO)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: VANCOUVER, WA (VUO)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1506 PDT
Type of Airspace:  Class G 

The closest weather reporting station was located at Astoria Regional Airport, Astoria, Oregon, about 5 miles southwest of the accident location. An automated report issued at 1455 indicated wind from 190° at 13 knots gusting to 24 knots and variable between 160° and 230°; visibility 10 miles; light rain beginning at 1421; scattered clouds at 4,500 ft, broken ceiling at 5,000 ft, and an overcast ceiling at 6,500 ft; temperature 11°C; dew point 7°C; and altimeter 30.20 inches of mercury.

By 1555, the visibility had reduced to 4 miles with light rain, scattered clouds at 2,400 ft, and an overcast ceiling at 3,100 ft.

The closest weather reporting station to the primary intended ash dispersal location was Bowerman Airport, Hoquiam, Washington, about 10 miles east of Ocean Shores. An automated report issued at 1453 indicated wind from 150° at 22 knots gusting to 25 knots; visibility 4 miles; light rain beginning at 1415; mist; scattered clouds at 1,600 ft, broken at 2,200 ft, and overcast ceiling at 3,100 ft.

By 1553, the visibility had reduced to 1 3/4 miles with light rain and mist, broken clouds at 1,300 ft and 1,700 ft, and an overcast ceiling at 2,400 ft.

A video of the airplane departing for the flight was taken by a friend of the pilot. The video revealed light rain and overcast ceilings.

According to a representative from Lockheed Martin Flight Service, the pilot did not request any weather services. Additionally, there was no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing from any Direct User Access Terminal (DUAT) providers. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  46.218889, -123.796667 

The underwater debris field was about 150 ft long and 100 ft wide. The wreckage had broken into multiple sections and was recovered by a diving team. The sections included the fuselage, which was still attached to the empennage, the right wing outboard of the main landing gear, the wing center section, and the engine and propeller. Additionally, the fragmented left wing, along with cabin debris and airframe and control surface skins were recovered. (Photo 1, 2).


Photo 1 – Airframe Following Recovery

Photo 2– Wings Following Recovery 


Medical And Pathological Information

According to the autopsy performed by the Clatsop County Medical Examiner's Office, Clackamas, Oregon, the cause of death for the pilot was multiple blunt force injuries, and the manner of death was accident.

Examination of the body for natural disease was limited by the severity of the pilot's injuries. The heart was lacerated, which complicated the evaluation, but severe coronary artery disease was identified. The proximal third of the left anterior descending coronary artery had about 90% occlusion that was described as a pinpoint lumen. Several millimeters of the proximal left circumflex coronary artery also had 90% or greater occlusion. The myocardium was otherwise grossly normal. No weights or other measurements were given, and microscopic evaluation of the myocardium did not identify any myocardial fibrosis or inflammation.

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory identified sertraline, its metabolite desmethylsertraline, and trazodone in urine and cavity blood.

Sertraline is an antidepressant prescription medication commonly marketed with the name Zoloft. It falls within the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors drug class and is not generally considered sedating. Although the use of antidepressant drugs is usually disqualifying for aeromedical certification purposes, FAA guidance indicates that the authorization decision is made on a case-by-case basis, when a pilot is taking one of four potentially allowable antidepressants. These are sertraline (which the pilot was taking), plus fluoxetine (Prozac), escitalopram (Lexapro), and citalopram (Celexa).

Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant that can be sedating. It comes with this warning: "Trazodone hydrochloride tablets may cause somnolence or sedation and may impair the mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks. Patients should be cautioned about operating hazardous machinery, including automobiles, until they are reasonably certain that the drug treatment does not affect them adversely." In addition, trazodone can increase the potential for arrhythmias in patients with pre-existing cardiac disease.

Pilot's FAA Medical Information

The pilot had reported multiple eye conditions and procedures, multiple orthopedic procedures, chronic back pain, and sinus disease to his FAA medical examiner. He reported brief treatment for depression in 2000 but said that it had resolved. At the time of his most recent FAA medical examination, dated July 1, 2014, he reported frequent or severe headaches, hand surgery, and the use of intranasal steroids (fluticasone and beclomethasone) as well as ocular drops of cyclosporine (a treatment for dry eyes). He did not report his use of sertraline and trazodone, and he was issued a third-class medical certificate without limitations.

Review of the pilot's personal, non-FAA medical records revealed that he had presented multiple times to physicians with complaints of fatigue. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2011, which was treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, data downloaded periodically from his CPAP machine indicated that he was never compliant with the FAA frequency and duration usage requirements.

The pilot was diagnosed with major depression in 1999 and was placed on sertraline. The records document remission of his symptoms, and he stopped receiving prescriptions for the drug sometime between 2002 and 2004. However, in 2014, he told one of his personal physicians that he had continued to use sertraline and had been obtaining it from India for many years out of concern about FAA regulations.

After again complaining of fatigue, the pilot was prescribed and used trazodone for sleep from 2013 onwards. In 2014, he was diagnosed and treated for chronic lung disease (Valley Fever), and he had symptoms of post-concussive syndrome due to sports injures for several months in 2014 and 2015, and although these symptoms were later thought to have completely resolved, he had stopped flying, driving, and working during that period. 

Tests And Research

Ash Dispersal Procedures

Friends and fellow pilots gave similar descriptions of the ash dispersal procedures the pilot planned to use, stating that the bag had been used on multiple occasions by other pilots.

One pilot stated that the bag was made of canvas, with a plastic inner liner that was cinched at the top, and tethered to the airframe from within the cabin. The procedures required slowing down the airplane, following which the passenger would throw the bag out of the window. The ashes would then release into the slipstream, and the bag would be pulled back in.

The pilot's daughter flew with him in the airplane to disperse ashes over the water between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island in June 2015. She stated that on that occasion she was briefed by her father on the dispersal procedures both before and during the flight. Before takeoff, the ashes were placed in the bag, which she described as being about the size of a paper lunch bag. The bag was cinched closed with a rope, and tied by a longer rope to an interior airframe member on the right side. She sat in the rear seat, facing forward, and, when the time to disperse came, she slid the rear canopy open. The pilot then performed a shallow banking maneuver to the right, and she reached out with her hand holding the bag along the airframe side. She then let go of the bag, the rope unraveled, and the ashes immediately "puffed" and dispersed, and she pulled the bag back in. She reiterated that the airplane banked gently during the maneuver, and the bank never felt exaggerated.

A friend of the passenger stated that he had initially been approached by her to drop the ashes, but he turned her down due to the design of his airplane not being conducive to performing the procedure. Another friend stated that he had been approached by her to drop the ashes and that they had agreed to do it on March 23. However, about 5 days before, he called asking that they reschedule because the weather looked bad. At that time, she stated that she had decided to cancel the drop altogether.

Airframe Examination

Following recovery, the airplane was examined by the NTSB investigator-in-charge and an airframe and powerplant mechanic who specialized in AT-6 aircraft maintenance. A complete examination report is included in the public docket for this investigation, and the following is a summary of pertinent findings.

The forward fuselage sustained crush damage, compressing and fracturing most of the truss and shedding and separating the side skins. Aft of the cabin, the tailcone remained intact and sustained buckling damage to the forward skins. Aft of that damage, the horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained attached, and the left elevator had bent up about 90° midspan.

The airplane was equipped with dual controls, and the rear control stick was detachable. Examination revealed that the rear control stick, which was found separated from the airframe, was undamaged. Its female socket fitting in the airframe control system did not reveal any indications of damage, and the upper tang of its storage dock on the cabin side had detached, consistent with the aft control stick being disconnected and stowed at the time of the accident.

The rear seat was a swiveling "gunners seat" design and was found in the forward-facing position. Its adjustment pedal was forward and locked, and its locking pin was fully engaged with the forward position detent. The rear lap belt clasp was in the latched and closed position; the lap belt remained attached to the seat on both sides and had been cut by the Sheriff's Department divers during recovery of the passenger. The shoulder straps remained attached to the chair frame and were intact, with both belt clasps free, consistent with the shoulder straps not being used at the time of the accident. Neither the cremation bag, nor its attachment rope were located.

The airplane was equipped with two sliding canopies and a fixed center canopy. The forward (pilot) canopy slid aft to allow for forward cockpit access, and the rear (passenger) canopy slid forward for rear cockpit access. A tubular-steel overturn pylon was mounted just behind the pilot's seat and about midspan of the center canopy. The sliding canopies and the forward cockpit had sustained extensive damage, such that the right sides of both canopy frames, the right sliding rails, and all the plexiglass had detached. Examination of the remaining components on the left side revealed that the rear sliding canopy remnants were in the full-forward (open) position, and the front left side of the rear canopy had wrapped around the overturn pylon. The forward sliding canopy remained attached to the left rail, had bent upwards, and was about 2 inches short of the full-forward (closed) position.

The airplane was equipped with a hydraulically operated three-piece split flap. A wing flap was located below the trailing edge of each wing, and a center flap was located below the cabin. Both wing flaps sustained varying degrees of damage to their mounting hardware and actuation rods. The center flap remained attached and flush with the belly of the airframe. The flap actuator piston rods and the actuator control arm were in a position that corresponded to the flaps being retracted.

The vertical stabilizer remained attached at its forward spar. The castellated nut on its mounting bolt was finger tight and had backed out by about 3 threads; no cotter pin was present.

The wing attach points were examined for indications of corrosion-induced failure of the angle attach brackets as described in FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2005-12-51. The lower angle bracket had peeled away from the center section and remained attached to the lower wing skin. All separations were observed traversing through the bolt holes, and the entire area was free of indications of corrosion. According to the airframe logbook, AD 2005-12-51 had been complied with in August 2005 with an inspection due again at 3,128.3 flight hours.

The engine did not exhibit any indications of catastrophic internal failure, and cylinders Nos. 1 and 9 had detached from the crankcase in the aft direction. All spark plugs were manufactured by Champion Aerospace and were of the massive electrode type. Their plug electrodes were dark in color and exhibited wear signatures consistent with normal operation and short service life when compared to the Champion AV-27 Check-A-Plug chart.

Additional Information

During the airframe examination, a 10-inch crescent wrench (with an opening set to about 9/16 inch), along with a 9/16-inch wrench, and a 3-inch-long 9/16-inch (head) bolt were found loose on the floor of the tailwheel strut box area, below the horizontal stabilizer main spar attach points. The rudder cables and lower elevator horn passed within the center of the box area. The errant items were well clear of (about 10 inches below) the flight controls, and no bolts were found to be missing in the tail section.

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA087
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Astoria, WA
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN AT 6A, registration: N7055D
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 March 23, 2016, at 1542 Pacific daylight time, a North American AT-6A, N7055D, impacted the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The personal flight departed Pearson Field Airport, Vancouver, Washington, at 1506. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and location of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed.

The passenger was seated in the rear of the airplane, and the flight was intended to be for the dispersal of her deceased husband's ashes.

A witness, who was the Captain of a cargo ship moored at an anchorage in the river channel, about 1 mile northeast of Astoria, was on the ship's bridge at the time of the accident. He observed the airplane flying about 300 ft above sea level, approach the ship from the starboard quarter traveling on a north-northeast track. He walked outside to watch as it flew directly overhead and across the port beam. It continued on the same track away from the ship, and a short time later he saw the left wing dip, as the airplane began a left turn. A few seconds later the wings were almost vertical, and the airplane then rapidly transitioned into an aggressive steep vertical dive. The airplane then hit the water in a nose-down attitude, and he saw a red tail section bob back into view, and then sink. The airplane was flying parallel to the water surface leading up to the diversion, and he could hear the engine operating throughout the flight.

Another witness, located inside her apartment close to the waterfront in Astoria, was at a north-facing window with a view of the channel. She observed an airplane directly ahead, flying over the water and east towards and over moored ships. She was familiar with the helicopter traffic from the Columbia Bar Pilots, and the airplane immediately seemed unusual because of its low altitude. It was flying at the same level as the ship's stacks relative to her position, at an altitude typically flown by the helicopters.

The airplane was flying at a speed she considered to be slower than normal, and it then began a slow and "graceful" turn to what appeared to be the left. She likened the maneuver to the way a large commercial airplane turns, and as it progressed she could eventually see the full wing profile. The turn continued, and before completing 180 degrees, the nose of the airplane aggressively dropped, and the airplane transitioned into an almost vertical dive, passing out of view behind a ship. The airplane was flying straight and level up until the diversion.

Both witnesses reported that the airplane was not trailing smoke or vapors at any time, and weather included good visibility, with overcast skies well above the airplane's altitude, and rain beginning later in the day.


The witnesses guided search and rescue personnel from the Coast Guard and Clatsop County Sheriff's Department to the approximate accident location. No wreckage was observed floating in the water, and weather, fast water currents, and low water visibility hampered the search efforts. Two days later, divers from the Sheriff's Department located the wreckage in 15 ft of water, in the middle of the channel, about 1.5 miles northeast of Astoria, and 11 miles east of the river mouth to the Pacific Ocean. The airplane had fragmented, separating the wings, engine, and tail section from the fuselage, which sustained extensive crush damage. The wreckage was recovered for further examination.




ASTORIA, Ore. — Construction crews helped pull the wreckage of an antique plane from the Columbia River Tuesday afternoon, several days after a former Clark County commissioner and a friend crashed into the water near Astoria.

John McKibbin was helping his friend Irene Mustain scatter the ashes of her late husband last Wednesday evening. The two took off in his antique plane from Pearson Field in Vancouver, and crashed soon after.

McKibbin's body was pulled from the water last Friday, and he was laid to rest by his friends and family last weekend. Mustain's body was found Monday.

McKibbin, 69, served two terms as a state representative before he was elected to the county commission in 1978. He left office in 1990 to become a real estate developer, but he remained active in the community.

Story and photo gallery:   http://katu.com

When John McKibbin came calling, you knew you needed to set aside some time and brain cells and get ready for something big. Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt said pad and paper was always a good idea.

“There was so much energy and so much information coming from him,” Boldt told a vigil in honor of McKibbin on Saturday evening.

Mark Matthias, the owner of Beaches restaurant and a frequent McKibbin collaborator, said every time McKibbin asked for a few minutes of his time, he knew he wouldn’t emerge for hours. He and McKibbin were supposed to have a meeting on Thursday, he said, and there was comedic negotiation by email as the two busy men settled upon exactly 9½ minutes of face time.

“I know that 9½-minute meeting would have been the best 2½ hours of my week,” Matthias said.

Hundreds of people turned out at Pearson Field to honor McKibbin and show love and support for his widow, their daughters and the whole extended family. A gentle rain started to fall toward the end of the 45-minute vigil, but that didn’t stop folks from lighting candles and holding them aloft.

McKibbin, 69, and passenger Irene Mustain, 64, died Wednesday afternoon while on a mission to scatter the ashes of Mustain’s late husband, Terry Mustain, near the mouth of the Columbia River.

Terry Mustain was a Vietnam veteran and Air Force pilot who died in 2013. Wednesday would have been his 69th birthday; he and Irene had been married for 44 years.

McKibbin and Irene Mustain were flying in McKibbin’s North American AT-6A when it went down on the river near Astoria, Ore.

The AT-6A was built in 1941 and was designed to train military pilots during World War II. It had been fully restored by McKibbin and his friend and fellow pilot George Welsh, and was frequently on display at Pearson. McKibbin was an experienced private pilot. The weather for flying on Wednesday was good, and the reason for the crash is still being investigated.

‘Kiddo’

McKibbin was a popular person with a long résumé in public service in Southwest Washington. He taught contemporary world problems at Columbia River High School and was active in Democratic politics before winning a 49th Legislative District seat in 1974. After serving two terms in the House, he was elected county commissioner in 1978, receiving nearly 71 percent of the vote. He left elected office in 1990 to work in real estate and development, and also served in numerous volunteer and leadership capacities for local civic organizations, including the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Clark County, Identity Clark County and Evergreen Habitat for Humanity.

“He had an unfailingly, aggressively, relentlessly positive attitude about everything,” state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, told the crowd Saturday. And when McKibbin would say, “Kiddo, it’s time for a meeting,” or “Kiddo, we’ll get it done,” Rivers knew he meant business.

Kelly Love, a fellow former CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said McKibbin called her “kiddo,” too. They didn’t always agree, she said, but McKibbin’s “big personality was like a 1,000-watt spotlight.” For such a vital life force to disappear in the Columbia River really gives Love pause, she said.

“John was one of those special, rare people who could reach across divides and disagreements to bring people together,” said state Sen. Annette Cleveland, who knew McKibbin for decades, worked with him and campaigned for him. “As a trusted and highly respected leader, his desire to serve our community and state was limitless.”

John Wells, a good friend, laughed that he “spent a lot of timing sitting behind John in airplanes.” Their friendship grew after the McKibbins hosted a welcome-home party for Wells when he was returning from military service in the early 1970s. They didn’t know him, Wells said, but he was a friend of a friend. That was enough for them.

“He was an incredible individual,” Wells said. “We were supposed to meet again next Wednesday.”

Neighborhood activist Bridget Schwarz, longtime organizer of the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, said she admired the way McKibbin “always included people. He was committed to the grass roots, and I guess that’s what I was. I’m like, ‘I mattered to this guy?’ ”

Ron Arp, a local businessman, said McKibbin was keenly interested in replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge and growing aviation opportunities and education at nearby Pearson Field. “He wanted people to be able to land here and live here,” Arp said.

In the time to come, Arp added, if McKibbin’s friends find themselves feeling “that nudge to get involved and make the community better — that’s probably John playing wing man.”

New world

McKibbin was married to Nancy McKibbin for more than 40 years.

“I am so uplifted today” by the crowd and its kind words about her late husband, Nancy said. Some of the amazing things they said about him were things she hadn’t known, she said.

What she does know: “He wasn’t ready to go,” she said. They had many plans for the future, she said.

The couple had two daughters and two grandchildren — including Charlotte, who turned 1 year old on Saturday. Nancy McKibbin introduced her to the crowd and said: “This is my new world.”

Story and photo gallery: http://www.columbian.com


Several hundred people gathered at Pearson Field Historic Hangar on Saturday in a vigil honoring the memory of John McKibbin, who with passenger Irene Mustain died Wednesday in a plane crash in the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon.



CLATSOP COUNTY, Ore. — A Clatsop County dive team has recovered a plane that crashed into the Columbia River near Astoria Wednesday night, and the bodies of its pilot and passenger. 

The pilot was officially identified as former Clark County commissioner John McKibbin, and his passenger as 64-year-old Irene Mustain.

After several hours of searching Friday morning, the eight-person dive team was able to locate the plane that had broken into numerous pieces and was scattered about the floor of the river.

Around 1:30 p.m. the dive team located McKibbin and successfully retrieved his body from the wreckage. Ms. Mustain was also located but due to the tangled wreckage and position of the fuselage, the divers were unable to retrieve her body.

Mustain's body will be recovered as soon as the appropriate equipment is obtained.

McKibbin and Mustain took off in the antique plane from Pearson Field in Vancouver Wednesday evening so Mustain could scatter the ashes of her late husband.

Soon after, the U.S. Coast Guard got reports of a small plane crashing into the Columbia River near Astoria. Deputies found oil in the water the next day.

McKibbin, 69, served two terms as a state representative before he was elected to the county commission in 1978. He left office in 1990 to become a real estate developer, but he remained active in the community.

A candlelight vigil honoring John McKibbin will be held Saturday, March 26 at 6 p.m. at Pearson Air Field in Vancouver.

Original article can be found here:http://kpic.com



The search continues today for the Vancouver-based personal aircraft that was seen to have crashed into the Columbia River near Astoria, Ore. Wednesday afternoon.

Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said two marine patrol boats and seven divers were back in the water at 9 a.m. this morning to find the airplane carrying Vancouver residents Irene Mustain and pilot John McKibbin.

“We’re not giving up; we’ll continue to keep looking,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the search for the downed aircraft from the time it was reported until Thursday night. According to a news release its suspended its search “pending aircraft identification.”

Bad weather kept divers out of the river on Thursday, but Bergin described Friday as the “perfect day” for diving. He expects divers will have a three-hour window or longer to search the river before water conditions change.

Sonar imaging of the area show a handful of uncharted objects in the water, but it’s still unclear if it’s the downed plane.

“The sonar is not showing aircraft or anything. It might be an old shipwreck but might be the plane because it’s in the area of oil blotches coming up. So we’re hopeful,” he said.

Hopeful, but still unsure.

“When an aircraft goes in the water its an awful lot like a sail in the air,” he said, suggesting the aircraft could have been pushed downstream by the river current.

The plane went down near Pier 39 at about 3:50 Wednesday afternoon.

The search is centered around an area where the water is about 28 feet deep, but a nearby channel drops to about 90 feet.

Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the FAA will not release a statement until after the wreckage has been found.

The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A news release from the Coast Guard states further agency operations are pending the discovery of the aircraft.

The two were on a mission to scatter the ashes of Mustain’s late husband, Terry Mustain, a Vietnam veteran of the Air Force and a pilot, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Mustain died in 2013; Wednesday would have been his 69th birthday.

They were flying in McKibbin’s aircraft, a North American AT-6A, built of polished aluminum and with the nose and tail painted red. The two-seater plane, of a type used to train pilots during World War II, was based at Pearson Field and has been flown to honor military veterans.


Original article can be found here:   http://www.columbian.com

John McKibbin's AT-6. (Photo by Cliff Scrock)

The Coast Guard has suspended its search for a former county commissioner from Washington after his plane crashed while trying to help a woman scatter the ashes of her deceased husband.

Officials with Clatsop County say they'll continue the search for pilot John McKibbin and his passenger -- the two took off in an antique plane from Pearson Field in Vancouver Wednesday evening.

Soon after, the U.S. Coast Guard soon got reports of a small plane crashing in the Columbia River near Astoria. Deputies found oil in the water Thursday, Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said.

"We are doing a bottom grid search and scanning with sonar to see what we can get for the families," Bergin said.

Bergin confirmed the pilot was McKibbin, a former county commissioner in Clark County. The sheriff said he has yet to confirm the name of the other victim.

McKibbin and the woman were heading to the mouth of the Columbia River to scatter the ashes of the woman's deceased husband, said George Welsh, a friend of McKibbin.

McKibbin was flying a North American AT-6 aircraft, said Welsh, himself a pilot. The two-seater aircraft, silver with red on its nose and tail, is frequently displayed at Pearson and has been flown to honor military veterans.

McKibbin, 69, served two terms as a state representative before he was elected to the county commission in 1978. He left office in 1990 to become a real estate developer, but he remained active in the community.

"One of the things that always struck me about John was he was very caring and had a very good sense of humor," said Jean Ryland, a neighbor of McKibbin's for more than 25 years.

The Coast Guard's portion of the search was suspended just after 4 p.m. Thursday.

"We are searching for a needle in a haystack. We are going to continue to search for the families and see what we can do, but right now we believe this is a recovery mission," Bergin said.

Original article can be found here:  http://kval.com



John McKibbin on Main Street in Downtown Vancouver in 2005.

COLUMBIA RIVER — U.S. Coast Guard personnel from Astoria and Station Cape Disappointment are still searching for a missing man and woman whose antique North American AT-6 military plane reportedly crashed into the Columbia River on March 23.

According to the Vancouver Columbian, the pilot was John McKibbin, 69, a prominent Vancouver citizen with a long history in Southwest Washington politics and public service.

The USCG first heard reports that a plane had crashed into the river, east of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, around 3:50 p.m. on March 23. Winds were gusting to 30 mph in the area at that time.

McKibbin, who was an amateur pilot, was reportedly helping a female passenger scatter her husband’s ashes near the mouth of the Columbia River. The woman’s name has not been released.

On March 24, Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said authorities now believe that McKibbin and the woman were in the plane, and that both perished in the crash.

According to Petty Officer First Class Levi Read, a USCG spokesperson, local helicopter and lifeboat crews went out at first light on Thursday morning to resume a search that was called off at dark on Wednesday night.

Read said that on Thursday morning, searchers were focusing on an area near Pier 39, east of Astoria. However, due to the effects of currents, weather conditions and tides, it is possible that the plane and its passengers have been carried to another part of the River.

Though some media outlets have reported that crews are searching the banks on both sides of the river, Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson said at 11 a.m. that his office had not been contacted to assist with the search, leading him to believe the effort is largely focused on the Oregon side of the river.

Original article can be found here:   http://www.chinookobserver.com


The plane co-owned by John McKibbin and George Welsh, a 1941 North American AT-6 (Undated courtesy photo, George Welsh)


John McKibbin, a local pilot and one of Clark County’s best-known citizens of the last four decades, has died when his vintage military plane crashed Wednesday afternoon near Astoria, Ore.

Also missing and believed dead is a family friend. McKibbin and the woman were on a mission to scatter the ashes of her late husband, an Air Force veteran and pilot, near the mouth of the Columbia River.

Sheriff Tom Bergin of Clatsop County, Ore., confirmed the incident to The Columbian this morning. “We believe it is Mr. McKibbin,” he said.

The sheriff said he has yet to confirm the name of the other victim with her family.

McKibbin is a former Clark County commissioner and real estate developer with a long list of local civic duties and awards. He is currently head of Identity Clark County, a civic group.

McKibbin was last seen about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday when he and a Vancouver woman took off in a private plane from Pearson Field in Vancouver, bound for the mouth of the Columbia River, where they planned to scatter the ashes of the woman’s deceased husband, said George Welsh, a pilot and friend who helped McKibbin restore the antique plane he was piloting.

About 3:50 p.m. the U.S. Coast Guard received reports of a private plane crash-landing into the Columbia River east of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Seattle.The Coast Guard has a helicopter, a 47-foot lifeboat and two maritime enforcement specialists on the scene assisting in the search.

The site of the crash was located in the water this morning. Bergin said the sheriff’s office located little blips of oil coming up in the water, which he said is indicative of an aircraft sitting somewhere, but the size of the river, its shifting currents and water’s two-foot maximum visibility make the search very challenging. They plan to put divers in the river later today at slack tide, but even that poses problems.

“When it is slack you have a real small window of 30 minutes to an hour,” he said.

Welsh said McKibbin was flying a North American AT-6 aircraft. The two-seater aircraft, silver with red on its nose and tail, is frequently displayed at Pearson and has been flown to honor military veterans. The aircraft is of a type used as a pilot training aircraft during World War II.

McKibbin, 69, has lived in Clark County since 1969. He taught contemporary world problems at Columbia River High School and was active in Democratic politics before winning a 49th District legislative seat in 1974. After serving two terms in the House, he was elected as a county commissioner in 1978, receiving nearly 71 percent of the vote. He left elected office in 1990 to work in real estate, and also serve in numerous volunteer and leadership capacities for local organizations, including the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Clark County and Habitat for Humanity.

He has been married to Nancy McKibbin for more than 40 years.

McKibbin was known for his dedication in all areas of his life, whether working as a teacher, elected official or community member.

“John has always had a really good work ethic, a wonderful way of communicating with people and has been highly respected by people he’s worked with,” said Jean Ryland, a neighbor of McKibbin’s since the late 1980s. “He’s going to be sorely missed by not only those who knew him well as a friend and loved him, but also by people who knew him in the work setting, because he was a kind and caring and respectful individual.”

Ryland said a group of neighbors would meet regularly for dinners, as well as on Christmas Eve and sometimes for brunch on Christmas Day.

“One of the things that always struck me about John was he was very caring and had a very good sense of humor,” she said.

Ryland also said the McKibbins were very close, and even after his two daughters grew up and moved away, they would come back regularly to visit, especially once they had grandchildren to bring along on the trip.

Reaction also started coming in Thursday morning from other prominent Vancouver residents. Vancouver City Council Anne McEnerny-Ogle tweeted: “John had a passion for his work not only in the classroom, but in Vancouver, in Clark County and the state.”

Original article can be found here: http://www.columbian.com

John McKibbin, photo courtesy of Identity Clark County.

VANCOUVER, Wa.– The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched aircraft at first light this morning.  It picked up where it left off Wednesday searching in waters near Astoria after reports of a plane crash into the water near the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  The FAA released limited information this morning , ” We have a missing airplane that was reported last night around 8:30,”said, Allen Kenitzer, spokesman.  “The aircraft was out of Pearson Field/Vancouver and had two people onboard.The Clatsop County Sheriff’s office is assisting with the search.


FM News 101 KXL has learned the pilot of the plane is  John McKibbin.  He was flying a 1942 AT 6 Texas Trainer used during World War II.  McKibbin is well known to the airfield and Clark county community. He was a county commissioner and a state representative.  He has donated lots of hours to the school for the blind and to children eager to learn about planes.  The Clatsop county Sheriff’s department  confirms John was on the plane.  The second person is a woman named Irene Mustang.  The pair were going to spread Irene’s husband’s ashes when the plane went down.


The yellow pin indicates where a plane was believed to have crashed into the Columbia River Wednesday afternoon.


ASTORIA, Ore. — The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a plane after getting reports it have crashed into the Columbia River near Astoria.

The plane belongs to amateur pilot and former Clark County commissioner John McKibbin, the Clatsop County Sheriff said.

Coast guard officials received reports around around 3:50 p.m. of a private plane crashing in the Columbia River near the Astoria-Megler Bridge, according to our news partners at The Columbian. The aircraft had two people aboard when it left Pearson Field in Vancouver, the FAA said.

The Coast Guard located some oil spots but ultimately suspended the search Wednesday night, tweeting around 9:30 p.m. it remains "open but suspended due to poor visibility, will resume at first light."

Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said there are very small windows to search for the plane due to the tide and strong currents in the area.

McKibbin, 69, was last seen leaving Pearson Field around 3:30 p.m. yesterday, KATU News learned from George Welsh, one of McKibbin's good friends. Welsh said he worked with John to rebuild the North American T-6 Texan that he took up that afternoon.

McKibbin was flying a woman out to spread the ashes of her late husband,Sheriff Bergin said.

http://katu.com



ASTORIA, Ore. -- A former Washington state representative was flying to the coast with a woman who wanted to spread her husband's ashes when the plane crashed, according to the Clatsop County Sheriff's office.

Crews are still searching for the plane that witnesses say crashed near Astoria Wednesday. The captain of a cargo ship reported seeing the plane crash into the Columbia River, near Pier 39, at about 4 p.m.

Clatsop County and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew started an immediate search Wednesday and resumed it at about 7 a.m. Thursday. 

The pilot of the missing plane is former legislator John McKibbin. His passenger was not immediately identified, but was reportedly headed to the coast to spread her husband's ashes.

A friend of McKibbin's, Stephen Kelley, told KGW he saw the plane leave Vancouver Wednesday.

“Last time I saw John, he was in the plane, starting the engine, as I was arriving at Pearson Field somewhere between two and three o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday,” Kelley said. 

“The airplane took off fine, and all looked fine. But I had noticed he had not returned that evening, when I left the field around 6," Kelley added. "I was a little – not concerned – but I figured he was going for an overnighter. Then I received notification later in the evening that it was his airplane that had crashed in the water. In the river.”

McKibbin is also a former Clark County commissioner and is listed as the current president of the nonprofit business group Identity Clark County. ICC describes him as a real estate investor and active community citizen who was founding chair of the group more than 20 years ago.

A witness in the area told KGW there was plane fuel in the water. Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said they saw a small amount of oil but could not determine the source. Debris was not found.

The Coast Guard said the plane was a silver body, red tail, World War II training craf. 

Story, video and photo:  http://www.kgw.com





Authorities are searching for a private plane from Vancouver, Washington, that crashed into the Columbia River off Pier 39 in Astoria late Wednesday afternoon. 

A 69-year-old Clark County man, John McKibbin — a former Clark County commissioner and an amateur pilot — is believed to have been on board with a woman. They had planned to scatter the ashes of the woman’s husband over the river, The Columbian reported.

McKibbin was last seen about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, when he and the woman took off from Pearson Field in Vancouver, headed for the mouth of the Columbia River, The Columbian reported.




“A very proficient pilot, but it looks like we might have had an unfortunate circumstance,” Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said.

Bergin confirmed that the search was for a man and a woman, but did not release their identities.

Eyewitnesses reported that the plane — a 1941 North American military trainer with a polished aluminum body, a red nose and tail, and a 40-foot wingspan — went into the river at roughly 4 p.m. Wednesday.




The U.S. Coast Guard performed a first-light search Thursday morning, and the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to send a dive team into the water at noon.

The agencies scanned the area for approximately three hours on Wednesday. Though rescue teams did not find the aircraft, “we did find lots of oil dots yesterday coming up from the surface,” Bergin said.

Original article can be found here:    hhhtp://www.dailyastorian.com



The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched aircraft at first light Thursday morning to continue searching the waters near Astoria after reports of a plane crash Wednesday night.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said the effort should take several hours to complete before any findings are reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration released limited information Thursday morning.

"We have a missing airplane that was reported last night around 8:30 p.m.," said Allen Kenitzer, spokesman. "The aircraft was out of Pearson Field/Vancouver and had two people onboard."

The Columbian reported at 8:46 a.m. that former Clark County Commissioner John McKibbin, who is known to be an amateur pilot, has been reported missing.

According to a friend of McKibbin, the former commissioner was last seen at 3:30 p.m. after he left with a woman from Pearson Field in a silver North American AT-6 aircraft with red on its nose.

Norcross said the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office was assisting with the search. A spokesperson with the sheriff's office could not be immediately reached.

Search and rescue crews suspended an initial search about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday because of poor visibility, according to a Tweet from the Coast Guard. Official had received reports from nearby boats but have located no debris, according to TV news reports.

No comments: