Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wheeler Express, N246TM: Fatal accident occurred August 19, 2017 near Madras Municipal Airport (S33), Jefferson County, Oregon

Mark Rich with the plane he built from a kit and flew for decades.

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

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Hillsboro, Oregon
Teledyne Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Mark James Rich:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA185

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 19, 2017 in Madras, OR
Aircraft: Rich Wheeler Express CT, registration: N246TM
Injuries: 1 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 August 19, 2017, about 1355 Pacific daylight time, a Rich Wheeler Express CT, N246TM, impacted the wall of a canyon while on approach to land at the Madras Municipal Airport, Madras, Oregon. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. The cross-country personal flight originated from San Carlos, California at an unknown time with a final destination of Madras. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot submitted a reservation request and payment to the Madras airport operations on July 22, 2017 indicating that he intended to arrive on August 19, at 1400 and depart on August 21. The pilot was planning to camp at the airport and participate in the Oregon Solarfest, where activities were being held for the viewing of the solar eclipse.

A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was in effect at the time of the accident, which gave instructions to pilots as to the procedures they must follow to land at the Madras airport. A Non-Federal Contract Tower (NFCT) provided air traffic control services at the airport to help facilitate the increased traffic.

The NOTAM instructed pilots that all arrivals into Madras must be conducted at the time of their assigned reservation and via the routes depicted in the NOTAM unless otherwise instructed by the controllers. When arriving from the south, the NOTAM stated that the pilot should perform the "Cove Entry," which consisted of reporting over the Cove Palisades State Park (COVE) and fly north to Lake Simtustus Resort (RESORT), then to continue inbound toward the airport (east) and enter a left downwind for runway 34 (south).

According to the controller working at the tower at the time of the accident, the pilot checked in at COVE and was instructed to report his position when he was over RESORT. Several minutes later, after other traffic departed, the controller modified the pilot's instructions and told him to proceed to a 3-mile final to runway 34. After a few minutes, the controller requested that the pilot report his position to which he responded that he was on a 3-mile left base to runway 34. The controller cleared him to land and observed a plume of smoke shortly thereafter.

Witnesses stated that they observed the airplane turn and dive in a nose-low near-vertical descent toward the ground.

The accident site was located on the north-facing slope of a canyon comprised of soft dirt and trees. The wreckage was about 1.1 nautical miles from the approach end of runway 34 on a bearing of 190 degrees. The first identified points of contact consisted of freshly severed tree limbs adjacent to the main wreckage. The debris field was primarily contained in the area of the main wreckage on a 60-70 degree slope at an elevation of about 2,350 feet msl. The area of contact was in a slight ravine in the ebb of the canyon wall. The main wreckage had been subjected to severe thermal damage and consisted of the outboard right wing, empennage, engine, and the mostly ashen remains of the fuselage. The cabin was completely consumed by fire. The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on its investigation into a plane crash that killed the pilot, Mark Rich of Menlo Park, and destroyed a home-built plane he was flying from San Carlos to Oregon for the solar eclipse in August.

The plane Mr. Rich was flying, a single-engine Wheeler Express, crashed into a canyon wall near the Madras Municipal Airport in Madras, Oregon, around 1:55 p.m. on Aug. 19.

He was flying in for the Oregon Solarfest and was planning to camp at the airport.

Mr. Rich followed instructions on approach and the air traffic controller cleared him to land. Shortly after that, the controller saw a column of smoke nearby, according to the report.

Witnesses told investigators that the plane had turned and gone in to a nose-dive before crashing into a slight ravine in the canyon wall, roughly 1.1 nautical miles from the runway, where the terrain was made up primarily of soft dirt and trees, the report found.

Freshly severed tree limbs were found near the crash site.

The cabin of the plane was completely burned by fire. The wreckage had severe thermal damage on the right wing, engine and the remains of the fuselage. Investigators recovered it for further examination.

NTSB officials stressed that this is a preliminary report, and any errors in it will be corrected in the final version, which has not yet been released.

Menlo Park resident Mark Rich, 58, the husband of former Menlo Park City School District board member Laura Rich, was killed in a small-plane crash on Saturday, Aug. 19, friends of the family have confirmed. 

Mr. Rich's single-engine, home-built Wheeler Express crashed under unknown circumstances near the Madras, Oregon, airport around 1:50 p.m., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

Mr. Rich, a vice president of Connected Fleet for Airbus and a Silicon Valley veteran who had worked at Google, DARPA and Atheros, had been on his way to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.​

Menlo Park City School District board member Terry Thygesen, who had served on the board with Laura Rich, said Mr. Rich had built the plane himself decades ago. "He was a very experienced pilot and he had flown that plane a lot over the years," she said.

"Mark Rich was a truly amazing person and the world has lost someone very special in this tragic accident," Ms. Thygesen said. "Mark possessed a singularly brilliant mind," she said.

Mark and Laura Rich met when she was an undergraduate at Stanford University and he was a graduate student. They married soon after her graduation, 33 years ago.

"He was a truly loving husband to his wife, Laura Linkletter Rich ... and he was a devoted father to their two children," Ms. Thygesen said. Son Tyler Rich lives in Austin, Texas, and daughter Michelle Rich lives in New York City. Both are graduates of Menlo Park schools and Menlo-Atherton High School.

Mr. Rich "was a truly amazing person," Ms. Thygesen said. "He was an engineers' engineer," she said. "Not only was he a super-smart technical person and a very creative and inventive technical person, but he was a Renaissance man and he knew a lot about a lot of things," she said.

"He was a very smart, very interesting guy. He was very quiet ... but once you got to know him you realize he was really smart about a lot of things and had a really great sense of humor."

A statement posted by Jefferson County officials in Oregon says the plane was fully engulfed in flames when first responders arrived on the scene, near the top of Willow Creek canyon about a mile from the Madras Airport. A small fire was started by the crash but quickly extinguished. The plane was completely destroyed, the statement says.

County officials had initially stated there were two people aboard the plane, but their investigation determined Mr. Rich was alone.

Family friends say Mr. Rich's daughter had initially planned to go on the trip, but had not been able to go.

The Oregon State Police, Jefferson County Fire Department, BNSF Railroad and EMS personnel, as well as local volunteers, assisted at the crash site.

An investigation into the cause of the crash by Federal Aviation Administration is ongoing.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers that memorial donations be made to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST).

Original article ➤

A pilot killed when his small plane crashed in an Oregon canyon ahead of Monday’s solar eclipse was identified as a Menlo Park man.

Mark James Rich, 58, died Saturday after his home-built Wheel Marker Express went down a mile from Madras Municipal Airport, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department officials confirmed Tuesday.

“The Rich family has asked me to convey their request for privacy at this time,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said in a statement. “I appreciate the sensitivity of the media in particular to make every effort to show respect for the family’s needs and allow them to mourn in private.”

First responders found the plane engulfed in flames near the top of Willow Creek Canyon, about 120 miles southeast of Portland. 

Firefighters quickly doused a small blaze caused by the incident.

Thousands had flocked to the state over the weekend to watch the solar eclipse, although it was unclear whether Rich had traveled to Oregon to watch the celestial show.

Officials initially reported that two people had died in the crash, but they later determined that only Rich had been aboard the aircraft. 

Federal Aviation Administration records listed the single engine plane as amateur built. 

The aircraft held a valid certificate issued in 2002.

FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating what led to the crash.

Original article ➤

Only one person was killed in a plane crash Saturday near the Madras Municipal Airport, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday morning. 

Investigators initially believed and told reporters that a pilot and a passenger were on board the small single-engine plane that flew into Oregon from the San Francisco Bay Area. But after further investigation overnight and making contact with owners of the plane, Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said the department is now “certain” there was only one individual on board.

“A reservation tied to the plane for two persons to stay in the local area originally suggested that the pilot and a passenger were on board,” Adkins said, in a prepared statement. “After talking to a family member who had originally planned to make the trip, but changed plans, we can confirm there was just one person on the flight,” he added.

Investigators have not yet identified the pilot or released any information about the potential cause of the crash. Many private aircraft are flying into Oregon this weekend for Monday’s solar eclipse.

The crash occurred at 1:50 p.m. in Willow Creek Canyon, one mile south of the Madras airport.

The aircraft was destroyed and engulfed by fire, the sheriff’s office said Sunday.

Original article ➤

MADRAS — A pilot was killed when a small plane crashed into Willow Creek Canyon on Saturday about 1 mile south of the Madras Municipal Airport. The identity of the pilot has not been released.

The plane, a single-engine, homebuilt Wheeler Express, crashed at about 1:50 p.m. as it was arriving at the airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. A San Francisco news station reported the pilot, a man from Menlo Park, California, left San Carlos Airport at about 11 a.m. for Madras.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said the plane was traveling north toward the airport attempting to make its final approach when it crashed.

“We verified with witnesses that the plane rolled over and took a nosedive into the canyon,” Adkins said.

The crash started a fire in the canyon that was later mopped up. Only pieces of the plane were left in the canyon Saturday afternoon, as emergency crews removed the body. Crews reached the plane from the south side of the canyon and found it engulfed in flames near the top of the canyon. A local farmer was trying to put out the fire when they arrived.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Oregon state troopers and Jefferson County Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene.

Michele Quinn, 48, a resident of NW Birch Lane, was in her house when she heard the plane fly overhead, a sound she’s familiar with because she lives near the airport.

What she heard next was just as unmistakable.

“As soon as I heard it, I knew exactly what had happened,” said Quinn, who works for the Madras Public Works Department.

She rushed out to her backyard, which faces the airport, and saw columns of black smoke rising from the canyon.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, which will be on site Sunday, are investigating the crash.

The Madras airport was busy Saturday with hundreds of planes arriving for Monday’s total solar eclipse.

This is the fourth fatal plane crash in Madras since 2005, according to an NTSB database.

Almost a year ago, the pilot of a biplane crashed and died at the Airshow of The Cascades at the Madras airport. The pilot, Marcus Bruce Paine, 61, was flying a Boeing Stearman on Aug. 27 when he crashed. According to one spectator, the plane was doing a very low-altitude loop with the smoke trail, and about three-quarters of the way around the loop, Paine tried to pull up but the bottom of the plane still hit the ground.

The air show this year is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Original article ➤

The pilot of a small passenger plane that crashed near Madras on Saturday was the only fatality, investigators said Sunday.

Officials initially said that two people died in the crash near Willow Creek Canyon near the Madras Airport. The plane, engulfed in flames, was completely destroyed.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said that a family member had initially planned to be on the plan but changed plans.

The plane crashed about 2 p.m. Saturday near the top of the canyon about 1 mile south of the Madras Airport runway. 

A fire is now burning in Willow Creek Canyon near the end of Bear Drive, Adkin said. That's about one mile south of the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. 

Here at the Madras Municipal Airport (S33) they are expecting a lot of planes to fly in today. The Federal Aviation Administration has set up a temporary tower.

MADRAS, Ore. — The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says a small plane crashed near the Madras airport in the Willow Creek Canyon area, killing two people Saturday afternoon.

Officials confirm the pilot and passenger did not survive the crash, and that they were the only two aboard the plane. Willow Creek Canyon is a very steep and remote area.

Emergency responders reached the plane from the south side of the canyon and found it fully engulfed in flames.

Officials say a small fire resulting from the crash is no longer a threat to the area and is being mopped up.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Jefferson County Fire, Jefferson County EMS, Oregon State Police and Madras Police responded to the scene.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Madras this weekend to view Monday's solar eclipse, and a large viewing area has been set up at the Madras airport near where the crash occurred.

Original article can be found here ➤

MADRAS, Ore. (KOIN) — An airplane with 2 people on board crashed near the Madras airport just before 2 p.m. Saturday.

The small airplane did not make it to the airport and crashed about a mile away, down in the Willow Creek Canyon Area. The impact sparked a small brush fire, which Jefferson County Fire crews extinguished quickly.

Both people who were on board died in the crash.

“I heard the plane coming in and I heard it sputtering some — which is not uncommon, we hear it quite often, so I didn’t really think much about it — and then a few seconds later I heard the impact,” Madras resident Michele Quinn told KOIN 6 News.

Visitors who were golfing nearby saw the plane take sharp turn before it crashed into the canyon.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was a single-engine, homebuilt Wheeler Express that was on its way to the Madras airport when it crashed.

Investigators are working to determine why the plane crashed.

More than 200,000 people are expected in Madras for the solar eclipse on August 21. 

Original article can be found here ➤

The pilot of a small airplane and a passenger died in a crash near Madras Municipal Airport early Saturday afternoon, Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said.

The plane crashed just before 2 p.m. in a steep and remote area about one mile south of the airport's runway, said Lisa Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Central Oregon Joint Information Center.

When first-responders arrived at the scene of the crash, near the top of Willow Creek Canyon, the plane was engulfed in flames, with a local farmer trying to put out the fire, Goodman said.

As of 3:30 p.m., officials were not releasing any information about the plane or the pilot. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to the scene. No information was yet available about the cause of the crash.

Several people saw the crash, and investigators are interviewing them.

Original article can be found here ➤

A plane has crashed roughly one mile south of the Madras airport, killing both individuals on board and igniting a brush fire, according to officials.

The plane crashed in Willow Creek Canyon near Bear Drive on Saturday just before 2 p.m., according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. 

A local farmer was on scene and fighting a small fire when emergency responders arrived at the scene, according to Julianne Repman, a spokesperson for the Central Oregon Joint Information Center.

The fire has been extinguished and officials said it is no longer a threat to the area.  

Officials confirmed the pilot and one passenger died in the crash. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the crash. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is maintaining control of the scene at this time.

Repman could not confirm what type of plane crashed, but said it was one of hundreds of planes that flew into the region for the total solar eclipse.

Some 400 planes were planning to land at Madras Airport for the event, according to Lysa Vattimo, the lead eclipse planner for Madras. The airport usually does not have a control tower, but a mobile one was brought in for the eclipse.

Kurt Chapman, spokesman for the Joint Information Center for the Eclipse at Deschutes County, said he did not know the travel plans or direction of the plane.

A year ago, the pilot of a vintage biplane died at Madras airport while he was performing a low altitude loop as part of the Airshow of the Cascades. Pilot Marcus Bruce Paine, 61, crashed his Boeing Stearman on Aug. 27.

This year's air show is Aug. 25 and 26.

Original article ➤

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