Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N5381J: Fatal accident occurred July 29, 2017 near Big Bear City Airport (L35), San Bernardino County, California

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Riverside, California
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas

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


Location: Big Bear, CA
Accident Number: WPR17FA171
Date & Time: 07/29/2017, 1420 PDT
Registration: N5381J
Aircraft: CESSNA 172N
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Miscellaneous/other
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On July 29, 2017, about 1420 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172N airplane, N5381J, was substantially damaged after it collided with mountainous terrain shortly after departure from Big Bear City Airport (L35), Big Bear, California. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Midfield Aviation under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the personal flight, which departed about 1415 and was destined for Apple Valley Airport (APV), Apple Valley, California.

According to airport personnel, the pilot and his girlfriend arrived at L35 in the accident airplane the day before the accident. After they deplaned, the pilot proposed to his girlfriend on the airport ramp. The following day, an airport surveillance camera captured the airplane depart runway 08 normally and begin a climb. According to a witness located near the departure end of the runway, the airplane came into view about 100 ft above ground level. He stated that the airplane did not gain any altitude as it entered a nose-high attitude that he described as "hanging on the prop." Both he and his wife, who was with him at the time, yelled to the airplane to "lower the nose." The engine sounded smooth and continuous. As the airplane reached a park adjacent to the departure end of the runway, it turned to the crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern momentarily before turning 90° to a tight downwind leg. The witness remarked that both turns appeared coordinated; however, the airplane maintained a nose-high pitch attitude. The airplane then sank slowly and the wings began to rock back and forth before the airplane disappeared behind the trees.

Another witness, located near the crosswind leg of the runway 08 traffic pattern, observed an airplane fly low toward the south over him. The airplane began a turn to the right, then disappeared over the back side of an adjacent hill. The witness reported that the airplane's engine sounded continuous.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 30, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification:  Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/12/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  750 hours (Total, all aircraft), 225 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The pilot, age 30, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multi-engine land and instrument airplane. He also held ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued on April 12, 2017, with no limitations. At the time of the exam, the pilot reported that he had accumulated 225 total hours of flight experience, with 0 hours in the previous 6 months.

According to his personal logbook , which was current as of July 10, 2017, the pilot accumulated a total of 225 total hours of flight experience. Most of the pilot's single-engine flight time was accrued in a Diamond DA-40 airplane. His logbook indicated that he had completed a total of three flights and accrued 13 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot also flew the UH-60 Black Hawk, a military rotorcraft equipped with twin turbine engines; this flight experience was not included in his personal logbook.

The pilot's personal logbook showed that he had previously flown to L35 in a Cessna 172 on May 10, 2017. This was his only prior flight to the high-altitude airport.

On May 1, 2017, the pilot received a checkout in a Cessna 172 owned by the flight school that owned and operated the accident airplane. According to the instructor who completed the checkout, the local flight included standard practice maneuvers such as slow flight and steep turns, and reviewed fuel/air mixture control leaning procedures, since the pilot was not as experienced in operating reciprocating engines as he was with turbine engines. The flight school's standard practice was to review mixture control leaning, since APV is located at an elevation about 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl) and the temperature is typically warmer than international standard atmosphere. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N5381J
Model/Series: 172N
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1980
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility
Serial Number: 17273771
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/02/2017, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2299 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 54 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4252.6 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C91  installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-320-H2AD
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 160 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was manufactured in 1980 and was powered by a Lycoming O-320-H2AD, 160-horsepower, air cooled, reciprocating engine. A review of the logbooks revealed that the airplane had accrued about 54 flight hours since its most recent 100-hour inspection, which was completed on July 2, 2017, at 4,252.6 hours total time in service. At the time of the accident, the engine had accrued about 643 total hours since its most recent overhaul, which was completed on October 23, 2015. The airplane had accrued 4,306.4 hours total time in service at the time of the accident.

The engine records showed that the engine was removed and reinstalled in 2016; the records stated the replacement was due to "camlobe and no. 3 cylinder." The logbook entry did not show the discrepancies with the camshaft lobe and No. 3 cylinder. The No. 3 cylinder was replaced during the airplane's most recent 100-hour inspection.

A fuel receipt recovered from an airport fueler showed that the pilot purchased 5.14 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline at 1406 on the day of the accident. According to the airport staff, no fuel contamination or engine anomalies were reported by other customers who fueled their airplanes on the day of the accident.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KL35, 6752 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1415 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 360°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 8500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR): 
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 90°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.33 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: BIG BEAR CITY, CA (L35)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: APPLE VALLEY, CA (APV)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1403 PDT
Type of Airspace: 

The 1615 recorded weather observation at L35 included wind from 090° at 7 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, scattered clouds at 8,500 ft, temperature 25°C (77° F), dew point 5°C (41° F), and an altimeter setting of 30.33 inches of mercury.

An NTSB weather study showed a density altitude of 9,138.9 ft msl about the time of the accident. The pressure altitude at the time of the accident was 6,362.2 ft.

Airport Information

Airport: BIG BEAR CITY (L35)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 6752 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Unknown 

L35 was located at an elevation of 6,752 ft above mean sea level and was equipped with one asphalt runway in a 08/26 configuration. The L35 northwest airport departure procedure for runway 08 stated that the pilot should execute a 10° left turn at the end of the runway. The graphic depiction shows a course line that continues about 1.5 nm northeast of the airport before turning to the south for about 1 nm. The course continues west for several miles before turning northwest.

At the end of each runway are digital signs that show the current density altitude. The density altitude is also announced over the airport's automatic weather observation system.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.252500, -116.848889 

The airplane came to rest in a wooded area about 0.5 nautical miles south of L35. The initial impact point (IIP) was identified by a tree scar near the top of a 45-ft-tall tree and the left wingtip, which was co-located with the tree. An additional scar was found on another tree about 20 ft forward of the initial tree strike signature. The right elevator remained attached to its horizontal stabilizer and was located 20 ft forward of the second tree. The main wreckage, which was oriented on a 085° heading and marked by multiple broken tree branches, was positioned in a 40° nose-down angle about 40 ft past the IIP heading of 227° and comprised the engine, fuselage, wings, and empennage.

The right wing was displaced forward a few degrees relative to the fuselage and displayed a depression at the leading edge adjacent to the wing root. A cluster of dents was observed near the outboard leading edge. The left aileron exhibited buckling and compression and the flap displayed some compression wrinkles. Tree impact signatures were located throughout the right wing. Multiple dents and compression wrinkles were found on the upper and lower right wing skins.

The left wing separated from the wing root and exhibited an approximate 10-inch depression at the outboard leading edge. Aft bending was observed at the outboard portion of the wing's leading edge and aft compression was found at the inboard leading edge portion of the wing.

The fuselage was intact with the exception of the engine, which had separated from the engine firewall.

The vertical stabilizer, rudder, and left horizontal stabilizer were secured to the empennage, which remained attached to the aft fuselage. The right horizontal stabilizer separated at the stabilizer root, came to rest in the wreckage path, and displayed a depression at the leading edge consistent with tree impact.

The rudder, aileron, and elevator cables were traced from the cockpit to their respective control surfaces. Both the flap indicator and flap handle indicated that the flaps were extended 10°; however, the flap jackscrew did not display any threads, consistent with a flaps-retracted position. The throttle was broken and the mixture control knob was in the full rich position.

Both wing fuel tanks were breached and contained an odor consistent with 100 low lead aviation grade gasoline. Fuel line continuity was confirmed from the wing fuel lines to the engine through the fuel selector valve, which rotated normally through each detent. The fuel gascolator bowl was removed and contained traces of foreign debris.

Rotational continuity was established throughout the engine and valve train when the engine crankshaft was manually rotated using a hand tool. Thumb compression and suction were obtained for all four cylinders. The engine was disassembled and the cylinder combustion chambers and barrels were examined visually; the cylinder bores, valve heads, and piston faces displayed normal operation and combustion signatures. The cylinder overhead components, including the valves, springs, push rods, and rocker arms, exhibited normal operation and lubrication signatures.

An examination of the top and bottom spark plugs revealed signatures consistent with normal wear. The oil filter did not display any metallic particles and the oil sump did not contain any metallic particles.

The carburetor throttle linkage remained attached to the throttle arm and the mixture linkage remained attached to the throttle plate. Trace amounts of fuel was observed in the plunger within the float valve chamber. The internal components appeared normal, including both the needle valve carburetor floats, which were normal in appearance.

The engine was equipped with a single-drive dual magneto, which rotated normally by hand, but did not seat during each turn. Spark was observed at each of the eight ignition harness leads when the unit was manually actuated by hand.

The two-blade, ground adjustable propeller was attached to the propeller flange. Both blades exhibited chordwise scratches. One blade displayed forward bending and the other blade displayed tip curling.

A complete report of the examination is available in the public docket associated with this case. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Sheriff-Coroner of the County of San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was listed as "multiple blunt force injuries, seconds." The autopsy described an enlarged heart with 70% narrowing of the left anterior descending and right coronary arteries and 40% narrowing of the left circumflex artery. A blood sample taken by the coroner's office detected 21 mg/dL of ethanol in the chest blood, 10 mg/dL ethanol in the vitreous fluid, and a blood alcohol concentration of 0.021 g/100mL. The report did not indicate the presence of any drugs of abuse.

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot. The testing detected 27 mg/dL ethanol in urine, 18 mg/dL ethanol in cavity blood, and propanol in urine and cavity blood. It is likely that some or all of the identified ethanol was from sources other than ingestion.

Tests And Research

Aircraft Performance

Airplane weight and balance computations were performed using the occupant weights at the time of the accident as captured by the coroner: 199 lbs (pilot) and 177 lbs (passenger). A baggage weight of 66 lbs was also provided by the coroner's office. The calculation was completed using an airplane empty weght of 1,473 lbs and two separate fuel weights: 120 lbs (fuel tanks at half capacity) and 240 lbs (full fuel). The airplane's gross weight with half and full fuel was 1,969 lbs and 2,089 lbs, respectively. According to the pilot's operating handbook (POH), the airplane's maximum gross weight was 2,300 lbs. A weight and balance record is available in the NTSB public docket.

The airplane's takeoff distance was calculated using a performance chart from the POH. According to the chart, at an ambient temperature of 30°C, the airplane required a ground roll distance of 980 ft at a gross weight of 1,900 lbs and 1,245 ft at a gross weight of 2,100 lbs.

The POH contained a table that showed the airplane's maximum rate of climb at various pressure altitudes at the airplane's maximum gross weight. According to the chart, at a pressure altitude of 6,000 ft, and a temperature of 20°C, the airplane's rate of climb would have been about 440 ft per minute (fpm).

Surveillance Video Study

The surveillance videos retrieved from the airport office were analyzed by the NTSB vehicle performance division. The videos recorded by three surveillance cameras were used to estimate speed, altitude, rate of climb, and pitch angle. Shortly after rotation, the airplane's estimated airspeed was about 60 kts, the rate of climb was about 780 fpm, and the pitch angle was about 8.5°. These values subsequently declined when the airplane was about 90 ft above the runway. After about 10 seconds, the airspeed decreased to about 49 kts, the rate of climb was about 340 fpm, and the pitch angle was about 5°.

Additional Information

High Density Altitude

The hazards associated with high density altitude operations are outlined in FAA Pamphlet FAA-P-8740-2, Density Altitude. The publication states,

Whether due to high altitude, high temperature, or both, reduced air density (reported in terms of density altitude) adversely affects aerodynamic performance and decreases the engine's horsepower output. Takeoff distance, power available (in normally aspirated engines), and climb rate are all adversely affected.

At power settings of less than 75 percent, or at density altitude above 5,000 feet, it is also essential to lean normally-aspirated engines for maximum power on takeoff (unless the aircraft is equipped with an automatic altitude mixture control). Otherwise, the excessively rich mixture is another detriment to overall performance.

According to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B), "under conditions of high-density altitude, the airplane may be able to become airborne at an insufficient airspeed, but unable to climb out of ground effect. Consequently, the airplane may not be able to clear obstructions."

The FAA Pilot's Operating Handbook (FAA-H-8083-25A) states that,

due to the reduced drag in ground effect, the aircraft may seem capable of takeoff well below the recommended speed. As the aircraft rises out of ground effect with a deficiency of speed, the greater induced drag may result in marginal initial climb performance. In extreme conditions, such as…high density altitude…a deficiency of airspeed during takeoff may permit the aircraft to become airborne but be incapable of sustaining flight out of ground effect.

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA171
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 29, 2017 in Big Bear, CA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172N, registration: N5381J
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 July 29, 2017, about 1420 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N5381J, was substantially damaged after it collided with mountainous terrain. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the flight that departed Big Bear City Airport (L35), Big Bear City, California about 1410 and was destined for Apple Valley Airport (APV), Apple Valley, California. 

According to a witness who was located near the departure end of the active runway, the airplane departed runway 08 and slowly climbed to about 100 feet above ground level in an approximate 10° pitch up nose attitude. The airplane maintained the same altitude and pitch attitude as it turned south to the crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern. After about 1 nautical mile, the airplane then turned to a westerly heading and began to "sink." As the airplane descended towards the tree tops the wings began to rock back and forth and then the airplane disappeared behind the trees. The witness further added that the airplane's pitch attitude did not change after it turned to a westerly heading.

Another witness was in the crosswind flight path to runway 08 when he observed an airplane with white and light brown stripes fly low towards the south over him. The airplane began a turn to the right and then disappeared over the backside of an adjacent hill. Both witnesses remarked that the engine sounded continuous during their respective observations of the accident airplane. 

The airplane came to rest in a wooded area approximately 0.5 nautical miles south of L35. An initial impact point (IIP) was identified by a tree scar near the top of a 45 ft tall tree and the left wingtip, which was co-located at the base of the IIP. Another tree, located about 20 feet forward of the IIP, displayed a similar impact scar and was about 20 feet aft of the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator assembly, which had separated from the main wreckage. The main wreckage, which was oriented on a 085° heading and marked by multiple broken tree branches, was positioned in a 40° nose down angle and comprised of the engine, fuselage, wings, and empennage, approximately 60 feet forward of the IIP. The wreckage debris path was recorded from the IIP to the main wreckage and positioned on an approximate heading of 227°. An odor of fuel was detected near each wing fuel tank, which were both breached.

Rebecca Raymond, 28, and her fiance Brian White are shown in a photo celebrating their engagement that happened over the weekend.

Brian White was excited about asking Rebecca Raymond to marry him. He had the diamond he wanted to slip onto her finger.

“He got that ring custom made,” said White’s friend and fellow soldier Tyler Eisenhower. “It was a big deal. He was showing everybody for weeks. He was trying to decide when to (propose).”

The moment came on Saturday, July 29, at the Big Bear Airport. The couple had flown in for the afternoon, which reportedly included lunch at the Barnstorm Restaurant. A Facebook photo shows White on his knee near the Cessna 172N he’d rented for the day. Another shows a smiling Raymond showing off the ring on her hand.

Eisenhower said it was a fitting moment after a two-year courtship.

“It was almost like a Disney story,” he said of their relationship. “They were quite the couple.”

A short time later, they climbed back in the rented Cessna 172N single-engine plane and took off for Apple Valley.

But minutes after takeoff, the plane went down on a tree-covered hillside a half-mile south of the airport. No one saw the crash and when a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s’ search and rescue team located the wreckage the next morning, the newly engaged couple were both dead.

White, 30, was a chief warrant officer 2, stationed at Fort Irwin. Raymond, 28, was a deputy sheriff, working out of Barstow. The couple met at a nightclub near White’s Helendale home, shortly after he arrived at the desert Army training center two years ago.

Sheriff spokeswoman Jodi Miller said Raymond’s colleagues were unable to comment on Monday about her death. She had been at the Barstow station for just a month and had joined the sheriffs department in September. She spent time working at the High Desert Detention Center and the Victorville Police Department before moving to Barstow.

Eisenhower called Raymond a “sweetheart” and said she was very involved in the community events put on by the department and White often took part as well.

“They were always doing those,” he said. “They loved it.”

Both were runners, he said, and participated in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay in March, an annual 120-mile competition among Southern California law enforcement agencies.

“They maintained a pretty busy lifestyle,” Eisenhower said.

Eisenhower and White met in flight school in 2011 at Fort Rucker in Alabama. White was already an experienced fixed-wing pilot and had his commercial license, Eisenhower said. Frustrated with the limitations of the charter market, White went into law enforcement for a while before deciding to learn to fly helicopters for the Army.

The two men parted company with different assignments after graduation. In 2014, White was deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, transporting fighting units.

When Eisenhower was assigned to the medevac team at Fort Irwin, about a year ago, he found White had been there for a year.

“I’m our aviation safety officer,” he said. “He was a maintenance dude. Maintenance guys are a different breed. They’re out there flying the broken stuff trying to troubleshoot. Brian was married to the job. He was one of those dudes that burnt the midnight oil trying to figure out what was wrong.”

In his downtime he often spent time on the shooting range or watching hockey games. Eisenhower sat through the games for the companionship. He couldn’t recall who played the victorious Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup (the Nashville Predators), but he knew that White did not want the Penguins to win.

He said White had an “out of the box” sense of humor that will be missed among the small unit at Fort Irwin.

“It will be a different atmosphere without him around,” Eisenhower said. “Maintenance can be a hassle and it’s 109 million degrees in Barstow. But he could take (it) and kind of make it enjoyable and fun. That’s something we’ll sadly miss. It leaves a huge hole.”

A cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation and Safety Board, said an NTSB official was at the crash site Monday. He said a preliminary report will be released in about 10 days, but it will not make any conclusions about why the plane went down.

The plane was rented out of Midfield Aviation at the Apple Valley Airport. A man who answered the phone but did not provide his name said White had rented from the company before.

Eisenhower said he was surprised to hear of the crash, given White’s experience as a pilot.

“He was our ace,” he said. When he and his colleagues heard the plane hadn’t returned to Apple Valley, “We all kind of assumed they went to another airport and were just having a good time. We didn’t think this was plausible.”


Rebecca Joan Raymond, 28, became engaged to her boyfriend Brian White and shared photos of the moment and engagement ring with a friend. 

BIG BEAR, Calif. -- A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy and her fiance were killed when a small aircraft crashed in a remote area of Big Bear.

Authorities were dispatched to the Apple Valley Airport around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in search of a car belonging to one of the victims, identified as 28-year-old Rebecca Joan Raymond.

The person who called authorities said Raymond and her boyfriend were flying from Big Bear and were overdue to land. San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies found the car at the airport and contacted the airport division for help to find the couple.

Authorities began searching the sky between the areas of the Big Bear and Apple Valley airports.

Around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a helicopter crew found a single-engine aircraft down in a remote area of Big Bear Mountain. A flight crew member was hoisted down to the wreckage and found the couple dead.

Friends said Raymond's fiance was Brian White, a warrant officer in the U.S. Army. Debbie Payne, a close friend of the couple, said Raymond and White met two years ago at a party.

Payne said White had rented a plane for the weekend and took Raymond on a trip to Big Bear for their anniversary, where he proposed on Friday.

Raymond was assigned to the Barstow Sheriff's Station and had been with the department since September 2016.

The FAA and NTSB were contacted and will be assisting the sheriff's aviation division with the investigation.

The cause of the crash was unknown.

Two people — including a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy — were found dead Sunday in the wreckage of a small plane that crashed Saturday in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Rebecca Joan Raymond, 28, had been with the Sheriff’s Department since September and was assigned to the Barstow station, officials said. The name of the other victim, an adult male, has not been released.

“Feels like yesterday that Sheriff John McMahon swore Rebecca in,” the Sheriff’s Department tweeted. “It’s a tragic and sad day for all of us. May God watch over her parents.”

The search began about 10:30 p.m. Saturday after the two didn’t show up to the Apple Valley Airport — their intended destination — when they were supposed to, sheriff’s officials said in a news release. “An aerial search began immediately,” the release said.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the victims were in a Cessna 172, a four-seat, single-engine airplane. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Big Bear City Airport General Manager Dustin Leno said no one saw the plane crash, but some people at the airport saw it flying low after it took off about 2:30 p.m. and became concerned. He said people were searching for any emergency signal, but those can only be picked up within line of sight of the transmitter.

About 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter located the crashed plane. A flight crew member was lowered down and found the victims’ bodies.

Leno said the wreckage was off Saw Mill Road about a half-mile south of the airport, in an area not accessible by vehicle.

The FAA and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were at the scene Sunday; the National Transportation Safety Board, which also will help investigate the crash, will send personnel soon.

Cessna describes the 172 Skyhawk as “the ultimate training aircraft and the most popular single-engine aircraft ever built.”

Bob Hartunian, 78, of Fawnskin is a pilot who has been using the Big Bear airport for 20 years. He said one witness who saw the plane take off reported that its nose appeared to be too high — something that can lead to a stall.

There are special conditions pilots need to account for when flying in and out of the high-elevation airport, Hartunian said. It’s at 6,752 feet above sea level.

“We’ve had a lot of people go in the lake” when they fail to account for those conditions, he said.

Because the air is less dense due to the higher altitude, Hartunian said, a plane doesn’t get as much lift as it does at sea level. Pilots, he said, also have to make the plane’s fuel mix leaner. Sea-level fuel mixtures can diminish engine performance.

“You flood the engine,” Hartunian said.

Overloading the plane with too many people or too much cargo can make both situations worse, he added.

“It’s really important for people to be aware of air density, to lean your engine and not overload your plane.”


UPDATE: July 30, 4:30 p.m. — San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputies are mourning one of their own following a fatal plane crash south of Big Bear City. Rebecca Joan Raymond, 28, has been identified as one of two victims of the crash. She was a deputy assigned to the Barstow station.

An adult male also died in the crash. His name has not been released pending notification of family.

According to a press release issued by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, around 10:30 p.m. July 29 deputies at The Apple Valley Police Department were asked to respond to the Apple Valley Airport. They were asked to search for a vehicle belonging to Raymond. 

Raymond and the male were flying into Apple Valley and were overdue, according to authorities. The victim's vehicle was found at the airport. The Sheriff's Department Aviation Division was alerted and began a search between Big Bear and Apple Valley airports.

On July 30 the crew of Sheriff's Department helicopter 40-King located a single-engine aircraft down in the Sawmill Canyon area near Bear Mountain Resort. A flight crew member was hoisted to the wreckage and found the male and Raymond both deceased.

Raymond has been with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department since September 2016. It's unknown who was piloting the aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are assisting the Sheriff's Aviation Division in investigating the cause of the crash.

UPDATE: July 30, 11:21 a.m. — The general manager of the Big Bear City Airport District, Dustin Leno, has confirmed that a single-engine aircraft did crash in Sawmill Canyon. It's unknown exactly when the crash took place.

Leno said the single-engine aircraft took off from Big Bear City Airport yesterday, July 29, around 2:30 p.m. At some time between then and around 9:30 a.m. July 30, authorities received a signal from an emergency locator transmitter alerting them to the crash, Leno said. It's unknown if the plane crashed shortly after takeoff July 29, or may have been returning to the airport July 30.

Leno would not confirm if the crash was fatal to those on board. He did not identify the type of plane or how many people were on board.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the airplane crash.

This is an update to an earlier post. See the original below and as more information becomes available, this story will be updated.

Emergency personnel are responding to a plane that apparently crashed in the Sawmill Canyon area of Big Bear City.

The crash site is reported to be about a mile south of Big Bear Airport. There are unconfirmed reports that there are two fatalities on board. It's unknown if the airplane had left Big Bear Airport or was approaching the local airport.


BIG BEAR, Calif. (KABC) --  A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy was identified Sunday as one of two people killed when a small aircraft crashed in a remote area of Big Bear.

Authorities were dispatched to the Apple Valley Airport around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in search of a car belonging to the victim, identified as 28-year-old Rebecca Joan Raymond.

The person who called authorities said Raymond and a man were flying from Big Bear and were overdue to land. San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies found the car at the airport and contacted the airport division for help to find the two people.

Authorities began searching the sky between the areas of the Big Bear and Apple Valley airports.

Around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a crew found a single-engine aircraft down in a remote area of Big Bear Mountain. A flight crew member was hoisted down to the wreckage and found Raymond and the man dead. The man has not been identified.

Raymond worked for the Barstow Sheriff's Station and had been with the department since September 2016.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were contacted and will be assisting the sheriff's aviation division with the investigation.


UPDATE 1 – SUNDAY JULY 30 12:45 P.M.

It has been confirmed that the aircraft took off from the Big Bear Airport yesterday, July 29, around 2:30 p.m. Between that time and 9:30 a.m, July 30, authorities received a signal from an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) alerting them of the crash. It is not known if the crash occurred right after take off or upon return to the Airport.

Original Story

Big Bear, CA – A small airplane has crashed in Big Bear, just south of the Big Bear Airport, in the Sawmill Canyon area.

Details are sketchy at this time but is believed to have crashed overnight. The type of aircraft is unknown.

SBSO Air Rescue 6 has been over the scene, lowered two personnel to the wreckage and just confirmed there are two fatalities.


Crews were responding to a downed airplane near Big Bear City on Sunday.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Aviation Division located the plane around 9:30 a.m. in "the remote county area of the Big Bear Mountains," said the department's Public Information Officer, Jodi Miller.

The airplane, a Cessna 172, crashed "under unknown circumstances after departure from Big Bear City Airport," said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer. Crews began searching for the plane on Saturday, Kenitzer said.

The airplane was located through an on-board emergency transmitter, said Big Bear City Airport general manager Dustin Leno.



  1. Density altitude at L35 estimated to be 9100ft at 2:30PM 7/29/17

    Monday, July 31, 2017 at 12:55:00 PM EDT

  2. That will do it! 172's can't perform in those conditions - period!

    Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at 4:17:00 PM EDT

  3. When something like this happens, it is always a tragedy. This couple appeared to be extremely happy and I personally think that the pilot forgot his responsibly and got caught up in the moment. He was an experienced Army pilot with a commercial rating. He also was multi-engine rated and instrument rated. We read about this kind of thing all the time on FAA Safety websites and various aviation magazines. It is a lesson for all of us pilots. I have children a few years older than these two. A loss of this type is never easy. My sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of this couple.

    Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 10:03:00 AM EDT

  4. Accidents such as these can momentarily inspire an aviation enthusiast to hate aviation.

    Friday, August 4, 2017 at 1:01:00 PM EDT

  5. I flew my 67 172 into Big Bear (no passengers) on a lunch run and departed (72 deg). Just me, half tanks, and leaning the mixture during run up it took every ft of runway to start a climb out over the lake. I had to make shallow circles to gain altitude sufficient to clear the mountains, that got my attention. Admittedly my O300 only made 145 HP compared to their 160 HP but I shudder to think how I would have gotten outta there with a passenger. Anything is possible but knowing the history of accidents at Big Bear it is more than likely a density altitude over gross for conditions stall. I would not attempt it again in something less than a C182 or the equivalent. God Bless those two good souls may they rest in peace.

    Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 1:43:00 PM EDT

  6. Yes, high DA, not leaned out, rotated early, and back side of power curve. That plane was lucky to make 100HP at that DA, and probably wasn't making 2400rpm at the observed AOA. I took a 182 with 80% full tanks and one pax for a T&G and it would not leave ground effect. Luckily we flew towards the lake and I realized I didn't have the prop full forward, which only added 100rpm, but that was enough to make it fly normally, with 600'vsi performance.

    Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 4:09:00 PM EDT

  7. I have been going back through archives of fatal crashes and noticed that most of the passengers that perish are attractive, blonde females. Most of the pilots are successful, white men. It's a striking pattern and if you don't believe me just go back through a few months of postings and see what I mean. It makes you wonder if the type-A, go-getter attitude that makes a man financially successful with the trophy girl, also makes him a potentially dangerous pilot? No one likes to be stereotyped but as long as planes have been flying, rich guys have been killing themselves in predictable, arrogant ways. This is another sad case indeed.
    Friday, August 11, 2017 at 1:40:00 PM EDT

    1. Brian was not like that and he certainly wasn’t rich. He tended to be a little careless in flight school but we all were. We were 17 to 18. I transferred out but I assume he grew outta that.

  8. Realistically it was likely a high density altitude problem. Assuming a previous poster was correct that the DA was 9100', that would reduce the sea level power from 160hp to about 125hp (-3%/1000'), along with less lift. That requires less of a pitch up on take off, compared to the typical pitch up at lower altitudes, along with careful leaning of the mixture before take off.

    A 160hp 172 can indeed be flown with 2 aboard at that high a density altitude. I trained and instructed at Laramie (elev. 7277') back in the 70s and 80s, and we used 172s (both 150hp and 160hp versions) as our trainers. It takes proper leaning and proper respect for the lesser power and lift, but to say that a 172 can't be operated at that density altitude is not true.

    I don't see the relevance of the assertion involving "successful white men" and "attractive, blonde females". An Army Warrant Officer isn't wealthy by any means. Yes, the Deputy was very pretty. But none of that means anything that helps solve the tragedy. The likelihood is that the pilot made a mistake by not properly leaning the engine and rotating excessively on take off. It's a common mistake made frequently by those unaccustomed to high altitude operations, no matter how much experience they have at lower elevations.


    Friday, August 11, 2017 at 2:39:00 PM EDT

  9. Mr./Ms Anonymous (who did not have the guts to leave name on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:40PM,

    Please stop your unfounded accusations of the couple, the "successful white men" CW2 Army Aviator (not pilot please), or the San Bernardino deputy. You made a blatant, ignorant, and sweeping generalization of white males, attractive, blonde females, and Type-A personalities. I have seen may NTSB reports, none of them ever mentioned any "successful white men" and "attractive, blonde females", so I am at loss to see how you have scientifically polled the accident rate of these people against pilots of other colors or brunettes and redheads. You apparently have an axe to grind.

    I say all of this because I found out about their tragic deaths hours after hit happened when the deputy's father posted about it on Facebook, a retired Army senior non-commissioned officer and trusted contractor at Fort Irwin, California, a man I worked with for years while in the Army.

    And no, when I worked with her father ten years ago, M. Raymond (who still works there with a Top Secret clearance), I never knew his daughter or the young Chief Warrant Officer 2. Their tragic deaths are yet to have been determined by the NTSB to be from pilot error or mechanical failure, but their socioeconomic and ethnic status will not be a part of that investigation, I guarantee that. But you are welcome to continue your frivolous survey.


    David R. Perry
    Major, US Army (retired)
    First Officer (for some airline in America)
    "Vietnamese / Asian American who is sick and tired of people injecting race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and shoe size into arguments"

    Friday, August 11, 2017 at 9:26:00 PM EDT

  10. Wow I went to school with Brian for two years before transferring to UNC. MTSU..Cummings hall. 8th floor, aerospace floor. School put the freshmen aero students together on purpose. Good times. Brian and I had an up and down relationship. Some days we were cool and others not so much. A few of us honestly felt he was obnoxious but we were all young. He didn’t deserve this.