Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Loss of Control in Flight: Piper PA-24 Comanche, N9456P; fatal accident occurred April 09, 2018 near Scottsdale Airport (KSDL), Maricopa County, Arizona

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale

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

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


Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Accident Number: WPR18FA119
Date & Time: 04/09/2018, 2048 MST
Registration: N9456P
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-260
Aircraft Damage:Destroyed 
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 6 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The airline transport pilot, student pilot, and four passengers departed on a cross-country fight with the airline transport pilot occupying the front right seat, the student pilot occupying the front left seat, and the four passengers occupying the two middle row and two aft row seats. Even though the student pilot was seated in the left seat, the investigation could not determine who was manipulating the flight controls when the accident occurred.

Witnesses and airport surveillance camera video indicated that the airplane's wings were rocking during the departure and shortly after rotation. The controller asked if the airplane was experiencing any difficulties; according to the controller, the pilot responded, "we're good. We're just in training mode." One witness reported that the engine sounded as if it was not developing enough power. The last recorded radar data point indicated that the airplane's altitude was about 200 ft above ground level. A traffic camera, located about 0.5-mile northwest of the end of the runway, showed the airplane in a left bank turning left. As the turn progressed, the bank angle increased, and the airplane started to descend. The airplane's wings were nearly vertical before the airplane impacted terrain. A postcrash fire ensued.

Evidence indicated that, at the time of departure, the airplane was 135 pounds over its maximum gross weight and was loaded 2.22 inches beyond its aft center of gravity (CG) limit. The CG is an important factor in flight performance. If the CG is too far aft, the airplane could rotate prematurely on takeoff, and longitudinal stability could be reduced. It is likely that during the initial climb, the pilot was unable to maintain airspeed which resulted in a loss of control.

Postaccident examination of the engine revealed that the No. 3 cylinder intake outer valve spring was broken. The fracture surfaces had signatures consistent with fatigue growth before failure. The surface damage observed on the springs indicated that the failure had likely occurred at some point before the accident and had gone undetected. It is likely that the failure reduced the available engine power that, although not detectable during previous flights, was more critical with the overloaded condition of the accident flight. No other preimpact anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operation of the engine and airframe.

The inactive cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine was found in the student pilot's blood specimens at fairly low or nondetectable concentrations and without any detection of cocaine, which indicated past and not immediate cocaine use. Although the timing of the student pilot's cocaine use could not be determined, cocaine has a very short half-life, so, unless the student pilot was a chronic user, this drug would have a negligible effect after 6 hours. Similarly, the detection of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) in the student pilot's urine but not blood specimens indicated past and not immediate use of this drug. Thus, the student pilot's cocaine and ecstasy use were not a factor in this accident.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The flight instructor's failure to maintain airplane control during the initial climb as a result of the airplane being loaded above its maximum gross weight and beyond its aft center of gravity limits. Contributing to the accident was a degraded engine power output due to a preexisting engine cylinder intake valve spring failure, which further reduced the airplane's climb capability. 


CG/weight distribution - Capability exceeded (Cause)
Maximum weight - Capability exceeded (Cause)
Recip eng cyl section - Fatigue/wear/corrosion (Factor)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Weight/balance calculations - Pilot

Factual Information


On April 9, 2018, about 2048 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-24-260 airplane, N9456P, was destroyed when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. The airline transport pilot, the student pilot, and four passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to N9456P LLC and was operated by the pilots as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Nighttime visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight, which was destined for North Las Vegas Airport (VGT), Las Vegas, Nevada.

Earlier that evening, the airline transport pilot flew the airplane from VGT to SDL to pick up the student pilot and the passengers and fly them to VGT. The inbound flight, which was the airline transport pilot's first flight in the airplane, departed from VGT at 1842 mst and landed at SDL at 2018.

A video surveillance camera at SDL located on the ramp where the airplane was parked captured the occupants as they began to board the airplane about 2028. The surveillance video, along with photographs and videos posted to social media by one of the occupants, revealed that the student pilot occupied the front left seat and that the airline transport pilot occupied the front right seat.

A video surveillance camera located midfield on the west side of the runway captured the airplane's departure from runway 03. The video showed that the airplane's wings were rocking during and shortly after rotation.

The tower controller reported that, as the airplane began the departure roll, the lights on the wings were alternating up and down as if the pilot was rocking the wings. The controller also reported that, as the airplane passed the tower, the wings appeared to be stable but that the engine sounded as if it was not producing enough power. At that time, the controller asked the pilot if the airplane was experiencing any difficulty. According to the controller, the pilot responded, "we're good. We're just in training mode." The controller observed the airplane continue straight out but noted that it did not appear to be climbing. Over the departure end of the runway, the airplane made a left turn. A review of radar data revealed that the airplane's last depicted altitude, between 2046:18 and 2046:28, was about 200 ft above ground level, which occurred during the left turn. As the airplane continued in the left turn, the controller observed the airplane enter a nose-down attitude.

A traffic camera located about 0.5-mile northwest of the end of the departure runway recorded the airplane in a left bank. The bank angle continued to increase as the airplane descended, and its wings were nearly vertical. The camera then depicted the airplane's impact with terrain and a fireball.

Video captured by the traffic camera and the airport tower camera were used to estimate the trajectory and speed of the airplane. The airplane's ground speed was estimated at 75 ± 4 knots shortly after takeoff, and its climb rate was 270 ft per minute (fpm). Twelve seconds later, as the airplane entered the left turn near the end of the runway, its ground speed decayed to 50 ± 4 knots. The airplane began to descend and impacted the ground several seconds later. The airplane was airborne for about 70 seconds.

A witness located near the departure end of the runway was listening to the tower frequency and overheard the controller asking the pilot if the airplane was experiencing any difficulties. The witness looked down the runway and observed the airplane proceeding toward him. As the airplane flew by, the witness noted that the airplane appeared to drift toward the west side of the runway safety area while at low altitude and that the engine sounded as if it was not developing full power. The witness stated that the airplane, before reaching the end of the runway, started "an early left crosswind turn." The witness also stated that the airplane continued in the turn and started to descend just before disappearing from sight behind buildings and trees. Seconds later, the witness heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke and fire.

Another witness located on the ramp observed the boarding process and watched the airplane taxi toward the runway. The witness lost sight of the airplane but was able to hear what sounded like a typical preflight engine run-up. The witness then observed the airplane accelerate down the runway and stated that, about midway, the wings began to roll in an "extreme" motion. The witness reported that the oscillations eventually diminished, and that the airplane began to climb, reaching an altitude that was about level with the top of the adjacent airport buildings. The airplane continued at an altitude that was about the same altitude and then began a climbing left turn, which appeared similar but lower than most aircraft departing the traffic pattern. As the turn progressed, the airplane's attitude changed to pitch down, and the airplane disappeared from sight. A fireball ensued. The witness did not hear any unusual sounds or see the airplane emitting smoke, fire, or vapors, and she stated that the engine sounded similar to the airplanes that she observes.


The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine, airplane multiengine, and instrument airplane. On February 7, 2018, the pilot received a special issuance first-class medical certificate with the following limitation: "Not valid for any class after 08/31/2018." At the time of his most recent medical application, the pilot reported that he had 5,200 hours of total flight experience, 500 hours of which were in the previous 6 months. The pilot's employer reported that, from August 24, 2017 (his start date with the company), to April 8, 2018 (the day before the accident), the pilot had accumulated 161 hours of flight time, 69 hours of which were in 2018. The pilot had accumulated about 2 hours of flight time in the accident airplane.

The student pilot had been receiving lessons from another flight instructor. He did not possess a student pilot or airman medical certificate. The student pilot's total flight experience could not be determined.


The single-engine, retractable gear airplane was manufactured in 1970 and was powered by a 260-horsepower, 6-cylinder, fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540-N1A5 engine and a two-blade constant-speed Hartzell propeller. The airplane was equipped with six seats.

The last entry in the airframe logbook indicated that the airplane received an annual inspection on December 1, 2017, at a total airframe time of 6,158 hours.

According to a logbook entry dated August 1, 1973, the airplane's empty weight was 2,007 pounds, the useful load was 1,193 pounds, and the empty weight center of gravity (CG) was 87.22 inches. No additional weight and balance data were located. The airplane flight manual listed a maximum allowable gross weight of 3,200 pounds and a CG range between 80.5 and 93.0 inches aft of datum.

The last obtained fuel receipt was dated April 3, 2018, from VGT. A search of commercially available flight software indicated that the flight from VGT to SDL on the day of the accident was the first flight after the last refueling.

The combined weight of the pilot and the student pilot was about 375 pounds, the combined weight of the two passengers (a male and female) located in the middle row was about 320 pounds, and the combined weight of the two passengers (both female) in the aft row was about 252 pounds. All of the estimated weights included 15 pounds of carry-on baggage per person. An estimated fuel load of 63.44 gallons was calculated based on the maximum usable fuel (86 gallons) subtracted by the fuel burned during the flight from VGT to SDL (22.56 gallons based on an in-flight power setting of 75%).

Given the passenger weights along with the estimated fuel at the time of initial taxi, the airplane would have weighed about 3,335 pounds at the time of takeoff, and its CG would have been 95.22 inches aft of datum. These values were 135 pounds above the airplane's maximum gross weight and 2.22 inches aft of the CG.

With a calculated density altitude of 3,300 ft (based on meteorological conditions about the time of the accident), an airplane weight of 3,200 pounds, flaps at 15°, and the landing gear extended, the expected rate of climb is 700 fpm. When the airplane is in a clean configuration with the same weight and density altitude, the expected rate of climb is 1,110 fpm.


The 1953 SDL weather observation included wind from 160° at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 28°C, dew point -5°C, and altimeter setting 29.94 inches of mercury. Based on these values, the calculated density altitude was about 3,300 ft.


The airplane came to rest in a golf course about 1/4-mile northwest of the end of the runway 03

at an elevation of 1,484 ft. All major sections of the airplane were recovered at the accident site. The main wreckage sustained extensive impact and thermal damage and was contained within a debris field about 180 ft in length and 40 ft wide. The right wing, which remained partially attached to the fuselage, appeared to have struck a tree during the impact sequence. The left wing had fragmented into several sections and had separated from the fuselage. Both the left and right main landing gear had detached from their respective wings.

The empennage was intact and had separated from the aft fuselage due to thermal damage. The stabilator and rudder remained secured at their respective attach points. The rudder cables remained attached to the rudder horn. The stabilator cables remained attached to the stabilator horn tube. The stabilator trim drum exposed 0.25 inch of the jackscrew, which corresponded to a slight nose-down trim setting.

The fuselage section came to rest in an upright position. The forward cockpit and instrument panel were destroyed by fire, and the engine remained attached to the firewall. Flight control continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to the respective cockpit controls. The landing gear retraction transmission screw exhibited 30 threads, which was consistent with a landing-gear-retracted position at impact.

The electric flap system sustained extensive fire damage. The transmission assembly coupling exhibited nine exposed threads, which was consistent with the flaps in the retracted position at impact. The fuel selector handle and valve assembly sustained fire damage and were found in the left main fuel tank position.

The four cockpit and middle row seat assemblies sustained impact and fire damage. The seats had detached from the floor tracks, most of which were destroyed. The seat fabric and belt webbing material were consumed by fire. The aft row seat assemblies were completely consumed by fire and could not be examined.

The engine crankshaft was manually rotated at the flywheel, and compression was obtained on all six cylinders. Valve and gear train continuity was established. The color of the top spark plug electrodes was consistent with normal operation. The rear accessory case sustained thermal damage, partially consuming most of its associated components. The accessory gears, including the crankshaft gear, bolt, and dowel, were intact and undamaged. The left and right magnetos, which were observed at their respective mounting pads, sustained fire damage, so the magnetos could not be functionally tested. The fuel pump, vacuum pump, and oil filter were destroyed by postcrash fire. The injector fuel screen was clean, and the throttle and mixture arms were attached.

The propeller had separated from the crankshaft flange at the hub. The fracture surfaces exhibited signatures consistent with overload. The spinner was attached to the propeller. The propeller blades remained attached at the hub and displayed significant leading-edge gouging, torsional twisting, chordwise striations across the cambered surface, and trailing edge "S" bending. One blade was rotated about 180°. The propeller governor was intact, the linkage was attached, and the governor gasket screen was clear.

The engine examination revealed that the No. 3 cylinder outer intake valve spring was broken. The cylinder was removed, disassembled, and visually examined. The spring had broken into four pieces and exhibited a polished and pitted appearance. Examination of the intake and exhaust springs for the other five cylinders revealed no anomalies.

The spring fragments from the No. 3 cylinder were sent for further examination to the National Transportation Safety Board's Materials Laboratory.

Examination of the three fracture faces using a scanning electron microscope revealed that two of the fractures initiated at pits on the inside diameter of the helix and propagated due to fatigue crack growth through about 40% to 50% of the diameter before final fracture due to overstress. The fracture surfaces on the third fracture were obscured by mechanical damage; therefore, the fracture origin could not be determined.


The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner, Phoenix, Arizona, performed autopsies on the pilot and the student pilot. Their cause of death was blunt force injuries and thermal trauma.

Toxicology testing at the FAA's Forensic Sciences Laboratory was conducted on specimens from the pilot and student pilot. For the pilot, the results were negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol and all drugs tested.

For the student pilot, the testing identified benzoylecgonine in his blood (0.03 mg/L) and urine (2.608 mg/L) specimens and ecgonine methyl ester and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in his urine samples. No carbon monoxide or ethanol was detected.

Benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester are inactive metabolites of cocaine, which is a central nervous system stimulant. The half-life of cocaine is about 1 hour. The half-life of benzoylecgonine is 6 hours and it may persist in the urine at detectable concentrations from 2 to 4 days. A study found that after intranasal administration of 106 mg of cocaine, average peak plasma concentrations of cocaine and benzoylecgonine were 0.22 mg/L at 30 minutes and 0.61 mg/L at 3 hours, respectively.

MDMA is a controlled substance (ecstasy) used recreationally for its stimulant, mild hallucinogenic, and empathogenic properties. MDMA is rapidly absorbed and has a half-life of about 7 hours. Peak concentrations of MDMA are observed 1.5 to 2 hours after administration. No clear correlation exists between MDMA blood concentrations and effects. The onset of desired effects occurs after 20 to 30 minutes and lasts about 1 hour; other general effects may last 2 to 3 hours.

The use of MDMA is associated with cognitive and perception impairments. Users may experience fatigue, decreased fine motor skills, slowed reactions, impulsivity, and difficulty maintaining attention and performing complex tasks. In a study of subjects who were arrested for driving under the influence, MDMA was detected at blood concentrations of less than 0.05 to 0.58 mg/L.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 32, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Multi-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 02/07/2018
Occupational Pilot:Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 5200 hours (Total, all aircraft)

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 28
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s):None 
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):None 
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N9456P
Model/Series: PA 24-260 260
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:1970 
Amateur Built:No 
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 24-4964
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 12/01/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3201 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6158 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
Engine Model/Series: TI0-540-N1A5
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 310 hp
Operator:On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None  

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSDL, 1473 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1953 MST
Direction from Accident Site: 221°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: 
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / -5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Scottsdale, AZ (SDL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: LAS VEGAS, NV (VGT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:2047 MST 
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 1510 ft
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries:2 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage:Destroyed 
Passenger Injuries:4 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 6 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  33.635556, -111.897778 (est)

Elliott Simpson
 National Transportation Safety Board. 

Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Accident Number: WPR18FA119
Date & Time: 04/09/2018, 2048 MST
Registration: N9456P
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-260
Injuries: 6 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On April 9, 2018, about 2048 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-24-260 airplane, N9456P, was destroyed when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. The airline transport pilot, student pilot, and 4 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to N9456P, LLC and operated by the pilots as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night time visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight was destined for North Las Vegas Airport (VGT), Las Vegas, Nevada.

Earlier that evening, the air transport pilot flew the airplane from VGT to SDL with the intention of picking up the passengers and flying them back to VGT. The inbound flight was his first flight in the airplane. Preliminary information indicated that the flight departed from VGT at 1842, and landed at SDL at 2018.

The airplane was equipped with 6 seats. A video surveillance camera at SDL, located on the ramp where the airplane was parked, captured the occupants begin to board the airplane about 2028. The footage revealed that two female passengers boarded the airplane first and were seated in the two aft seats. Next, a male passenger boarded the airplane and initially sat in the middle right seat but moved to the middle left seat when the third female passenger boarded; she then occupied the middle right seat. The student pilot then occupied the front left seat and the airline transport pilot occupied the front right seat. An onboard video posted to social media by the female passenger in the middle row incorrectly depicted the locations of each occupant, because the video was posted as a mirror image.

Additional video surveillance footage located midfield on the west side of the runway, captured the airplane departing from runway 03. The footage appeared to indicate that the airplane's wings were rocking during and shortly after rotation.

A traffic camera, located about 0.5 miles northwest of the end of the departure runway, recorded the airplane in a left bank executing a left turn. As the turn progressed, the bank angle increased, and the airplane started to descend. The wings became nearly vertical, and the view of the airplane was lost behind a berm. Seconds later, the camera caught a fireball when the airplane impacted terrain.

A witness located on the ramp observed the boarding process and watched as the airplane taxied towards the runway. She lost sight of it but was able to hear what sounded like a typical preflight engine run-up. She then observed the airplane accelerate down the runway, and about midway, the wings began to rock in a manner that she thought was excessive. She reported that the oscillations eventually diminished, and the airplane began to climb, reaching about level with the top of the adjacent airport buildings. It continued roughly at the same altitude, until it began a climbing left turn, which appeared similar, although lower, than most aircraft departing the traffic pattern. As the turn progressed, the airplane's attitude changed to pitch down, and the airplane disappeared out of her sight. A fireball ensued. The witness did not hear any unusual sounds, or see the airplane emitting smoke, fire, or vapors, and stated that the engine sounded typical compared to the airplanes she regularly observes.

The airplane came to rest in a golf course about ¼ mile north of the end of the departure runway. The main cabin was mostly consumed by fire. The outboard section of the right wing was separated, and in addition to thermal damage, exhibited substantial impact crush damage. The inboard section of the right wing remained attached to the fuselage, and the majority of the left wing was found separated from the fuselage. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility for subsequent detailed examination.

SDL is equipped with a single paved runway, designated 03/21. The runway is 8,249 ft long, and the airport elevation is 1,510 ft.

The 1953 SDL automated weather observation included winds from 160o at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 28° C, dew point -5° C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N9456P
Model/Series: PA 24-260 260
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSDL, 1473 ft msl
Observation Time: 1953 MDT
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / -5°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots, 160°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Scottsdale, AZ (SDL)
Destination: LAS VEGAS, NV (VGT) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 6 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  33.635556, -111.897778 (est)

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - Cocaine was detected in the student pilot who attempted to fly a Piper PA-24 Comanche that crashed on the TPC Scottsdale Champions course killing all on board. 

Maricopa County medical examiners released autopsy and toxicology reports on Tuesday. According to the report, 28-year-old James Pedroza tested positive for cocaine.

Pedroza was a student pilot from Las Vegas who owned the 6-seater plane, a Scottsdale police report said. He was flying the aircraft along with 32-year-old airline transport pilot Erik Valente, who was also from Las Vegas, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board. 

On the evening of April 9, 2018, Valente flew the plane from the North Las Vegas Airport to the Scottsdale Airport to pick up Pedroza and four other passengers. A report said their plan was to return to Las Vegas immediately after picking up the group, although an official flight plan was not filed. 

Shortly after takeoff, the plane lost lift and began to descend rapidly. A traffic camera showed the plane's wings became nearly vertical before crashing and bursting into flames on the golf course, which is adjacent to the airport, according to the NTSB report. 

Investigators believe the plane was overweight. 

The victims of the crash include Helena Lagos, 22, Iris Carolina Rodriguez, 23, Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23, Anand Kamlesh Patel, 28, Valente and Pedroza.

According to the autopsy reports, Coogan was ejected from the plane. The other five victims perished from thermal and multiple blunt force injuries. 

Lagos was a student pursuing a bachelor's degree in international business at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Coogan was a model from San Diego, according to an online profile. Rodriguez was visiting Lagos from Honduras, according to family members, and Patel was an entrepreneur.

The accident remains under investigation by the  National Transportation Safety Board. 

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.fox5vegas.com


The official cause of the crash is under investigation. We showed traffic camera video of the crash to an aviation expert to get a better understanding of what went wrong. 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The fact that cameras are everywhere these days is helping crash investigators get a better understanding of what exactly could have gone wrong in the moments leading up to a deadly plane crash in Scottsdale.

Six young adults onboard a Piper Comanche lost their lives back on April 10 after the plane went down and exploded on a golf course north of the Scottsdale Airport.

Newly released traffic camera video shows the chilling moment the small plane went down.

Bill Waldock is a professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He took a look at the video to analyze what may have caused the crash.

Waldock said it appears the plane may have been trying to go back to the airport at the time of the crash.

"The two tip lights, the strobe lights clearly show the airplane is rolled over to the left a little bit. He's probably trying to come back to the airport," Waldock said.

The plane bound for Las Vegas began to drop out of the sky above TPC Scottsdale.

"You can even see how he proceeds and starts to lose altitude. He's rolling over and over to the left, to the point where he stalled the airplane and it rolls in," Waldock said.

That means the wing of the plane wasn't producing enough lift to keep the plane flying.

Still, the pilot had time to use his radio, assuring the tower that they were fine seconds before the traffic camera caught the plane exploding in a ball of fire.

But based on the traffic camera video, Waldock says the pilot made the wrong decision to make that turn.

"That's what we try to teach pilots. If you have a problem, particularly if it's below 500 feet, don't try to turn back to the airport, as almost always, you'll lose control of the airplane and roll it in," he said.

There's also still the possibility the plane was overweight.

"If he indeed had six adults on that airplane, he's going to be, not only overweight, but probably tail-heavy," he said.

The six victims were from across the country and had been in the Valley for the Phoenix Lights Festival, an electronic dance music festival. Several of those killed in the crash also had massive social media followings.

The official cause of the crash is under investigation.

Story and video ➤ https://www.12news.com

Surveillance video from a traffic camera shows the moment a small aircraft crashed in Scottsdale, Ariz., killing six people, including a San Diego model.

The small plane can be seen traveling across the frame before its wings appear to go vertical and it disappears. Seconds later a flash of light appears over the horizon, followed by a ball of flames.

The video, provided by Scottsdale Police, mimicked an NTSB report released this month describing how the airplane "wings became nearly vertical, and the view of the airplane was lost behind a berm."

A cause of the crash has not been released. It was last reported the wreckage was being examined at a secure facility.

The plane was heading to Las Vegas, Nev., before it crashed in a golf course about a quarter mile away from Scottsdale Airport shortly after takeoff on April 9.

Two crew members and four passengers died: Erik Valente, 26; James Louis Pedroza, 28; Anand Anil Patel, 28; Helena Lagos, 22; Iris Carolina Rodriguez, 23; and San Diego-based Instagram model Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23.

Coogan's father, Chris, says Mariah was the oldest of five siblings.

"We’re trying to be 'family strong.' That’s our new motto here," Chris Coogan, said. 

"It's been very hard," Stacey Coogan, her mother, said. "We miss our daughter so much."

Her family says in recent months, Mariah had recently moved to West Hollywood. They told 10News she was in Phoenix for a concert and she was flying to Las Vegas for work.

Story and video:  ➤ https://www.10news.com

Erik Kenneth Valente 
FEBRUARY 5, 1986 – APRIL 9, 2018

Erik Kenneth Valente and fiance, Ashley M. Cole

Erik Kenneth Valente, age 32, of Las Vegas, passed away April 9, 2018, doing what he loved, flying.

Erik was an avid pilot who was adventurous and had a loving, generous heart, with a strong faith in the Lord.

He finished Aviation Academy at Rancho High with his Private Pilot license. 

He graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BA in Aviation Management. 

Erik was certified as a Commercial Pilot, with Instrument and Multi Engine ratings, and a Flight Instructor. 

He flew corporate jets and private aircraft for many clients.

He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and an Eagle Scout. 

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Kenneth and Esther Ainsworth, and John and Josephine Valente; and cousin, Audrey Malone.

He is survived by his parents, John and Lynda; uncle and aunt, Denny and Barb Malone, cousin, Amanda Malone, her husband, Mark Crisman and their families, all of Denver, Colorado; cousin, Carmela Lombardo, and her son, George, of Pennsylvania; the love of his life and fiance, Ashley M. Cole, and her family of Louisiana; and Riley, their canine companion. Memorial will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at Green Valley Baptist Church, 270 N. Valle Verde Drive, Henderson. In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Erik can be sent to Boy Scouts of America, Las Vegas area council or www.gofundme.com/qxjpvf-erik-valente

James Louis Pedroza

Mariah Coogan (l.), Anand Patel (c.) and James Pedroza

Absent the official narrative of why a small plane crashed on a Scottsdale golf course moments after takeoff, killing all six aboard, aviation experts agree the aircraft's weight likely had something to do with it.

Three factors — all related to loading — may have contributed to the small Piper PA-24 Comanche crashing less than a mile away from Scottsdale Airport on Monday night, according to Brent Bowen, professor and dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. 

Six adults, fuel and, likely, luggage could have skewed the center of gravity, Bowen told The Arizona Republic. Based on the details released so far, the loaded weight and balance of the aircraft appeared to have exceeded capacity. Additionally, a calculation — density altitude — to determine performance demands based on temperature and atmospheric conditions could have been incorrect, he said.

“A disaster could occur by miscalculating any of those components,” Bowen said, speaking generally about aircraft incidents and the ability of the Piper PA-24.

The National Transportation Safety Board has worked throughout the week to collect evidence and move the wreckage to a Phoenix site where it will be meticulously evaluated. 

A preliminary report is expected later this month, and a report outlining in greater details what occurred could take up to 18 months, as is typical in aviation crash investigations, said Eliott Simpson, an NTSB investigator.

But details available through public records and social-media profiles paint a clearer picture about what might have happened and where the focus of the investigation will likely narrow in weeks and months to come.

'Whoohoo 6 seats'

One of the victims — James Pedroza — posted photos and videos of the plane Feb. 7, not long after saying he bought a share in it last summer.

The video shows a second and third row of seats in the plane, suggesting it could have technically accommodated six people. 

"Can’t wait to take this bad boy up and around for some adventures Whoohoo 6 seats," he wrote

One of the primary questions investigators will seek to answer is when and how the Piper PA-24 Comanche was outfitted with its third row of seats.

The specific model of plane, and that serial number, suggests it came off the production line in 1970 equipped with four seats and a single engine. While there are some models that included six seats, it remains unclear whether this particular plane was built that way or modified later, Simpson told reporters Tuesday. 

Immediately accessible public records do not indicate when changes might have been made.

If it was modified, it's unclear whether the engine was updated to handle more horsepower — a change that would have to be made by a certified mechanic who revamped specs about the plane's center of gravity and recommended weight distribution. 

But there's a bigger problem that is widely known in the aviation world, Bowen said. 

"Most airplanes have two more seats than they can really use," he said.

A six-seater should really only be used to fly four people, plus luggage and and fuel, Bowen said. Perhaps small children could have fit in the third row without throwing off the distribution, but weight adds up fast, especially in a small plane like that, he said. 

Where it was going

Online flight records show the plane departed North Las Vegas Airport at 6:42 p.m. Monday. It flew over the western arm of Lake Mead National Recreation Area and climbed to a cruising altitude of 11,500 feet. 

At 8:16 p.m., 96 minutes after takeoff, the plane landed in Scottsdale, records show. 

Mariah Coogan had posted a photo of the plane, the words “Off to Vegas” across the bottom along with a check-in at Scottsdale Airport. Once in the cabin, she recorded a video showing the group together, smiling and enjoying the moment.

Online flight records do not show the plane's Scottsdale departure. It crashed at about 8:45 p.m., killing all six people aboard.

They were identified as Pedroza, 28; Coogan, 23; Erik Valente, 26; Anand Anil Patel, 28; Helena Lagos, 22; and Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia, 23.

Weight issues

Mathematically, the plane was almost certainly at, or over, its weight capacity.

The basic Piper PA-24-260 fixed-wing, single-engine airplane has an empty weight of 1,700 pounds, according to aircraft databases. Its gross weight is 2,900 pounds. That means the plane can carry about 1,200 pounds — fuel, cargo and people — before exceeding maximum capacity. 

Based on fuel-burn rates, the plane would have needed roughly 40 gallons of gas, including reserves, to make the 90-minute trip to Las Vegas. Assuming a 6-pound-per-gallon weight, that means 240 pounds would have been allocated for fuel. 

That leaves 960 pounds for cargo, passengers and other accessories. 

Assuming a conservative weight of 150 pounds per passenger — the FAA average for commercial flights is 170 — there could be no more than 60 pounds left over for luggage and other items.

This cautious scenario would leave a razor-thin margin for error that would make most pilots immediately think twice, Bowen said. 

Registration in question

The plane's registered owner prior to 2015 was Cecil Ice, a South Dakota pilot and flight instructor who trained World War II pilots before joining the Air Force, according to public records.

He was well-known in the region's aviation circles after starting a charter service in Pierre. Ice also sold airplanes and started a repair shop, working on the side as a crop-duster before his death in 2012 at age 89.  

Additional records about the plane, including its apparent ownership transfer in 2015, were not immediately available.

The plane's current registration was pending out of Las Vegas. But the official filing was not deemed fit because it was terminated or in question, possibly because of a paperwork or technical issue, according to FAA records.

Though no names are listed on the most recent publicly available documents, FAA records for the pending registration list a Las Vegas address.

That address is for a small home on the dusty, northwest outskirts of the city. 

No additional information about the property's owner is readily accessible. 

Focus of investigation

As family and friends mourn, NTSB investigators are working to figure out what caused the plane to go down. They will likely look for the flight logbook, assuming it wasn't on the plane, as well as the official weight and balance document required to be on board.

Bill Waldock is a professor of safety science and specializes in aircraft accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

He said there are two types of engines that could have been used in the plane that crashed on Monday. Depending on which was installed there could have been weight limitations, coupled with any number of other factors. 

The age of the 48-year-old plane could have been an issue, Waldock said, though not necessarily as much as people might think. 

"You can keep almost any aircraft airworthy," he said, adding the caveat that it takes more time and money as more time passes. 

There are several things in particular investigators will review, based on available evidence, to better understand what exactly happened, he said.

Investigators will likely use data about the plane's altitude profile, along with witness statements, to piece together what sort of climb the plane made as it departed the runway. They will also seek information about the engine and any unusual engine sounds witnesses heard about 8:45 p.m. that night.  

The type of crash scene might be most revealing, Waldock said. 

With a controlled crash, like one cause by engine failure or a mechanical issue, a plane will leave a lengthy impact slide as the pilot tries to east the aircraft to the ground.

That doesn't appear to be what happened Monday. 

The scene was contained to a relatively small area of TPC Scottsdale. Based on local television footage, the smoldering wreckage was contained, and the debris field was particularly small.

"It's less likely the airplane was under control at the time it hit the ground," Waldock said.

Mechanical questions aside, other significant questions remain.

Who was in the pilot's seat at the time of the crash?

And perhaps more importantly, what amount of consideration went into deciding whether the plane was overloaded and should have lifted off from Scottsdale Airport Runway 3 in the first place?

Original article can be found here ➤  https://www.azcentral.com

PHOENIX - We're learning new information about the likely cause of the plane crash that killed six people. Highly placed aviation sources with intimate knowledge of the investigation say the leading theory is that the aircraft was overweight and simply lost lift during takeoff.

23-year-old Mariah Coogan, one of the six people killed in the crash, posted a video moments before the plane took off. 

Sources tell FOX 10 that investigators believe the Piper PA-24 Comanche was likely overloaded, and with passengers and luggage in the back of the airplane, it also was out of balance with too much weight in the rear.

Sources say one of the telling signs was the takeoff. The plane seemed to rise just feet off the runway, not gaining any altitude. It alarmed the person in the tower to the point where she radioed the pilot, asking if there was trouble.

Tower: "Comanche 5 6 ... experiencing any difficulty?"

Pilot: "Ah, we're good.. we're just in training mode."

Moments later, the plane crashed. 

Too much weight in the rear of an airplane makes it easier to stall an aircraft, harder to recover and increases the chances it will go into a spin.

Sources say the pilot likely saw the 30-foot tall berm that lines the Central Arizona Project Canal just across Bell Road -- 300 yards or so from the end of the runway. The pilot likely pulled back on the stick to clear the berm, putting the airplane in a stall, where there isn't enough air flowing over the wings to keep it aloft.

Sources believe the plane maneuvered to the left, inverted and crashed nose first into the ground on the second hole of the TPC Champions Golf Course. The small, confined area of wreckage would confirm this.

Early examination of the propeller marks indicate it was turning on impact, meaning the engine was working properly at the time of the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤  http://www.fox10phoenix.com

"Can't wait for my wings" - James Louis Pedroza 
aka itsactuallyprettydope

Erik Kenneth Valente, age 32 

James Louis Pedroza, age 28

Helena Lagos,  age 22
Anand Anil Patel,  age 28

Iris Rodriguez,  age 23 

Mariah Sunshine Coogan, age 23

The six people who died when the Las Vegas-bound plane they were in crashed onto a Scottsdale golf course Monday and burst into flames ranged in age from 22 to 28, officials announced Wednesday.

The Scottsdale Police Department identified those killed as Erik Valente, 32; James Louis Pedroza, 28; Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23; Anand Anil Patel, 28; Helena Lagos, 22; and Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia, 23.

Final medical examiner results are pending that will determine exactly how each died.

Additional details about the crash's cause have not yet been officially released. 

Valente was certified as an airline transport pilot, most recently on March 15, according to FAA records. He was also certified as a flight instructor.

He worked part time as an instructor for All in Aviation, a Cirrus flight school based in Las Vegas.

He was not working for the company at the time of the crash, Paul Sallach, president of All in Aviation, told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday.

Valente started flight training at age 16 and became a private pilot before graduating from high school. He attended the University of North Dakota, where he majored in aviation management and went on to manage a separate flight school in Las Vegas, according to an online profile.

He earned more certifications and accrued more than 4,500 hours of flight experience, including 2,500 hours of instruction in more than 40 different kinds of aircraft. Recently, he flew corporate jets around the world, and he wrote frequently about flying up and down the West Coast.

Sallach has known Valente for about 10 years and described him as a true professional, among the most respected pilots and flight instructors in the West.

Though the crash had nothing to do with Sallach’s business, he has wondered what possibly could have gone so wrong on the return trip to Las Vegas.

“This certainly wasn’t due to lack of experience,” Sallach told The Republic. “I’m scratching my head at what the hell happened.”

Like seemingly everyone aboard the plane Monday night, Valente lived an active lifestyle and enjoyed traveling.

Pedroza recently became interested in flying and in posted photos on social media of him with the plane that crashed Monday.

Authorities have not yet said who was piloting Piper PA-24 Comanche when it crashed Monday.

Lagos was a part-time Las Vegas fashion model who excelled in high school and college and had big plans for her future, longtime friend Katelyn Putman wrote Wednesday in comments to The Republic. 

She and Pedroza were dating, Putman said. 

Lagos participated in DECA, a not-for-profit group that teaches young people nationwide about business planning, marketing and finance. She went on to pursue entrepreneurship opportunities in college and recently started her own business, Rebel Fruits LLC, according to Nevada records. 

"She always had bright ideas and was confident in everything she did," Putman wrote. "She was going to do amazing things. ... She will be sorely missed, and the world is darker without her."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper featured her in a 2013 story that chronicled her journey from Honduras to a Las Vegas High School. 

Garcia, who apparently went by Iris Rodriguez according to social media posts, was slated to travel on Sunday to her home country, Honduras. She had spent six months with family in Virginia while attending graduate school, according to comments posted in an online fundraising effort started for the woman's family.

Joshua Alexander, a restaurant manager in Virginia, came to know the woman in recent months. 

“One of the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” he told The Republic on Wednesday night. “The world could have used a lot more of her.”

All six died after the small, private plane they were flying in crashed shortly after takeoff Monday night from Scottsdale Airport and burst into flames at TPC Scottsdale.

The Republic on Tuesday verified through family or friends the identities of three victims — Pedroza, Coogan and Patel.  

Patel was “an entrepreneur with lots of energy and lots of charisma,” his twin brother, Akash Patel, told The Republic. The two came to the United States from India in 2009 to attend college. 

“Anand” translates to “happiness.” So, Akash Patel said, his brother was widely known by the name “Happy.”

An Oklahoma resident, Happy co-founded a clothing line and worked as an event promoter, flying coast to coast with friends and clients on trips that often included stops in Scottsdale.

Cooga was a horse trainer who did equestrian sports and left high school in 2012 to pursue modeling opportunities, said Graham Rutherford, principal of Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California, who learned of the woman's death Tuesday.

"She was eager for adventure, and I always found her easy to speak with," Rutherford told The Republic. "She got on well with many students, too." 

Coogan, who continued pursuing modeling, was visiting the Valley for the Phoenix Lights Festival, according to a post Saturday on her Instagram profile. “Forgot my sunnies” she wrote in a caption for a photo of her wearing a new pair of aviators for her nearly 27,000 followers.

Also on board was James Pedroza, who worked as a VIP host at a gay nightclub at the Mirage in Las Vegas. He was an "ally to the LGBTQ community," his friend and co-worker, Garrett Pattiani, told The Republic. 

"I am sad that he is gone, but loved how he lived life to the fullest. He was wanting to see the world and travel. He will be missed," Pattiani said. "He never judged anyone and was always there to stand up for equal rights."

Pedroza described himself as an "avid traveler" and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to visiting his 37th country. He recently traveled to Lake Tahoe and posed next to the plane that crashed Monday, a plane that he said he bought a share in last summer. Investigators, however, have not confirmed that he was piloting the aircraft when it crashed.

For reasons investigators have not yet determined, the plane crashed about three-fourths of a mile away, and 30 degrees to the left of the runway it took off from at Scottsdale Airport.

A preliminary report is expected in 10 to 14 days. A report outlining in detail what occurred could take up to 18 months, as is typical in aviation investigations. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is overseeing the investigation with help from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Original article can be found here ➤  https://www.azcentral.com

Investigators are working to determine whether a small airplane that crashed on a Scottsdale golf course, killing all six aboard, was equipped to carry that many people, including three whose identifies were confirmed by The Arizona Republic, officials said Tuesday afternoon.  

“Right now, it’s something we’re trying to find out,” said Eliott Simpson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, during a news briefing near where the Piper PA-24 Comanche crashed Monday night shortly after takeoff from Scottsdale Airport. The NTSB is leading the investigation. 

The identities of those killed in the Monday night crash had not been officially released by investigators as of Tuesday evening, pending formal family notification, officials said. They did not have a timeline for when their names would be formally announced, Scottsdale police said in a statement. 

However, widespread accounts of some of the victims were circulating on social media.

Anand Patel was “an entrepreneur with lots of energy and lots of charisma,” his twin brother, Akash Patel, told The Republic. The two came to the U.S. from India in 2009 to attend college. 

“Anand” translates to “happiness.” So, Akash Patel said, his brother was widely known by the name “Happy.”

An Oklahoma resident, Happy co-founded a clothing line and worked as an event promoter, flying coast to coast with friends and clients on trips that often included stops in Scottsdale.

“My brother was taken away from us doing what he loved to do the most, which was spending time with his friends and flying,” Akash Patel said, adding that he lived a “celebrity life” as an "Instagram star."

Mariah Coogan, another person on the plane, was an equestrian and horse trainer who left high school in 2012 to pursue modeling opportunities, said Graham Rutherford, principal of Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California, who learned of the woman's death Tuesday.

"She was eager for adventure, and I always found her easy to speak with," Rutherford told The Republic. "She got on well with many students, too." 

Coogan, who continued pursuing modeling, was visiting the Valley for the Phoenix Lights Festival, according to a post Saturday on her Instagram profile. “Forgot my sunnies” she wrote in a caption for a photo of her wearing a new pair of aviators for her nearly 27,000 followers.

Her mother, Stacey Coogan, told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat in California she also learned of the crash Tuesday morning.

On Monday night, Mariah Coogan had posted a photo of the plane, the words “Off to Vegas” across the bottom along with a check-in at Scottsdale Airport. Once in the cabin, she recorded a video showing the group together, smiling and enjoying the moment, apparently minutes before the plane crashed into the golf course and burst into flames.

Also on board was James Pedroza, who worked as a VIP host at a gay nightclub at the Mirage in Las Vegas. He was an "ally to the LGBTQ community," his friend and co-worker, Garrett Pattiani, told The Republic. 

"I am sad that he is gone, but loved how he lived life to the fullest. He was wanting to see the world and travel. He will be missed," Pattiani said. "He never judged anyone and was always there to stand up for equal rights."

Pedroza described himself as an "avid traveler" and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to visiting his 37th country. He recently traveled to Lake Tahoe and posed next to the plane that crashed Monday, a plane that he said he bought a share in last summer. Investigators, however, have not confirmed that he was piloting the aircraft when it crashed.

Information about the other three victims was not immediately available Tuesday. 

Simpson said Tuesday that investigators were working to determine everyone who was on the Las Vegas-bound plane when it departed from Runway 3 at about 8:45 p.m. on Monday. They are also looking into the pilot and his qualifications.

The aircraft was built in 1970, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. Though the plane was listed as a four-seater, Simpson said there were various iterations and modifications that could have been made that year, expanding its seating capacity. 

Even though the plane was registered in Las Vegas, the official registration was not deemed fit because it was terminated or in question, possibly because of a paperwork issue or technical issues, according to FAA records. 

For reasons investigators have not yet determined, the plane crashed about three-fourths of a mile away, and 30 degrees to the left of the runway it took off from at Scottsdale Airport.

It then burst into flames. Aerial footage taken Tuesday morning showed the charred remnants of the plane, which crash-landed in an area next to the green at the second hole on the Champions Golf Course at TPC Scottsdale just north of the airport.

“You could actually feel the ground kind of shake,” said Debbie Robinson, a Scottsdale resident who lives near the golf course. She said she saw the smoke after the crash and knew something major had happened. “… For the ground to shake and to feel it all the way up there, it was really unbelievable.”

Simpson said crews were working to collect perishable evidence from the scene Tuesday. The wreckage will then be transported to a site in Phoenix for further evaluation. 

A preliminary report is expected in 10 to 14 days. A report outlining in detail what occurred could take up to 18 months, as is typical in aviation investigations. 

The FAA also will assist in the investigation, according to Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman at the agency. 

The Champions course was closed Tuesday for the investigation, but the TPC Stadium Course, where the popular annual Waste Management Phoenix Open is held, was open for play, TPC administrator Taylor Farley said.

Monday's crash is the deadliest in recent Arizona history and among a half-dozen fatal aviation incidents since the start of 2017, according to NTSB records.

Five British tourists died after the Papillon Airways helicopter flight they were on approached a landing pad Feb. 10 in Grand Canyon West, spun twice and smashed to the ground, where it burst into flames.

The investigation into that crash is ongoing, though the company said it would retrofit helicopters with a fuel tank that is more resistant to fire. Three of the seven occupants died at the scene, and two others succumbed to their injuries days later in a Las Vegas hospital.

There were six fatal aviation incidents in 2017 that killed 13 people, according to NTSB records.

The deadliest involved a Scottsdale-based attorney whose New Year's ski trip to Colorado ended in tragedy. The small plane he was flying crashed on the south face of the Mogollon Rim, about 12 miles north of the Payson Airport, on Jan. 2, 2017, killing the pilot as well as his wife and two daughters.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.azcentral.com

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -  Friends and family are mourning the loss of six people who were killed in a fiery plane crash on a Scottsdale golf course.

The group was heading to Las Vegas on Monday night before crashing on the TPC Champions Golf Course.

A couple of videos were posted to social media minutes before the plane went down.

One of those on board was a young woman named Mariah Coogan.

"I saw that she was hopping on this plane, headed to Vegas," said close friend Ryan Beatty. "She's just a free spirit, fun loving person. She just didn't have a negative bone in her body, just the most positive girl I've ever met."

Another person on the plane and in an Instagram video was 26-year-old Anand Patel, whose nickname was Happy.

"He was taken away from us doing what he loved to do, what he liked to do the most, be with his friends and have a good time," said Akash Patel, Anand's twin brother.

Investigators with the NTSB were on the scene on Tuesday prowling the crash site, trying to pinpoint a cause. A preliminary report won't be released for another 10 to 14 days.

"Everybody on that plane was just getting their lives started, so much ahead of her, really bright future, really sad to see this happen," said Beatty.

A final National Transportation Safety Board report is not expected for at least 12 months

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

A 23-year-old Forestville woman has been identified as one of six victims in a fatal Monday night plane crash in Scottsdale.

Mariah Coogan, a model and former Cardinal Newman High School student, was on her way to Las Vegas Monday night from the Scottsdale Airport when the Piper PA-24 Comanche she boarded crashed into a nearby golf course shortly after takeoff.

Social media posts from Coogan and the plane’s five other passengers shortly before takeoff show the group boarding the plane and posing for pictures from the plane’s backseat as its engine whirs in the background.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

The plane took off around 8:45 p.m. for what should have been a 1½-hour flight to Las Vegas, said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Elliott Simpson in a news conference.

The plane, which can seat up to six people, crashed moments later on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course, about ¾ mile from the departure end of the runway, Simpson said. No one on the ground was injured.

TPC Scottsdale is the annual site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which wrapped up Feb. 4.

Coogan was a member of the 2013 class of Cardinal Newman High School, but left school after fall semester her junior year to pursue a modeling career, said Principal Graham Rutherford.

News of Coogan’s death rippled through the school Tuesday, shocking the tightknit campus where many current students know Coogan and her family, Rutherford said.

“At this point, we’re just trying to digest it,” he said. “She wanted to have opportunities to do things that were exciting and fun, and that’s what she was doing. So it’s just very sad that she would die doing some of the stuff that she really wanted to do because she was open to life and open to the possible adventures that were out there.”

Rutherford remembered Coogan as a kind and popular girl, and a serious equestrian.

“We’ve got her family in thought and prayer,” Rutherford said. “It’s a very difficult time when that happens, and you know, the grief — everybody feels it because she touched people’s lives.”

The Scottsdale Police Department would not confirm any of the victims’ names, pending family notification.

But one of Coogan’s Instagram posts, shared to her 27,000 followers, identified the pilot as James Pedroza. His Instagram account was updated Tuesday afternoon with a photo of him and a caption that reads, “Last night the world took James Pedroza from us in a plane crash. There were also thought to be 5 other beautiful souls on board. James had a wide network of friends and loved ones. We are all in shock over this tragedy and have no words.”

National Transportation Safety Board investigators worked Tuesday to gather “perishable evidence” at the site of the crash, along with video and audio recordings from the airport. The agency planned to recover the plane Tuesday evening, before taking it to a storage facility in Phoenix for further inspection, Simpson said.

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

Mariah Coogan texted a selfie video to a friend on Monday night, minutes before her airplane crashed into the ground, killing all six people aboard. 

Victims in a horrific plane crash late Monday night in Scottsdale were planning to fly to Vegas to party with friends, social media accounts show.

Six people died when the Piper PA-24 Comanche plunged into the TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course and exploded into flame after taking off from Scottsdale Airport about 9 p.m. Nobody on the ground was hurt.

Scottsdale police spokesman Sergeant Ben Hoster could not confirm the victims' names, saying an investigation team from National Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to arrive in Scottsdale about noon.

Facebook and Twitter filled with sorrowful messages from the victims' friends on Tuesday. A Facebook friend of the victims posted videos and photos that appear to have been shot minutes before the crash.

"RIP Anand Happy Patel," Marcus Walls tweeted on Tuesday morning. "He was on his way to come party with us in vegas from Scottsdale and his plane crashed. Was my favorite guy to party with."

Walls included a link to the Facebook site of Jeremy Gail, who wrote on his site early Tuesday morning that the victims included Anand "Happy" Patel, Mariah Coogan, "Helena L.," and pilot James Pedroza. Gail wrote that he could not confirm the names of two others who were on board.

Gail wrote that Pedroza bought the Piper PA-24 Comanche four years ago. Gail didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.

"I can’t believe I’m reading this. My heart is completely broken," Facebook user Christina Sharp wrote on Gail's site, one of dozens of people who gave their condolences on the site.

"Just got the news and my heart is broken," wrote Natalie Dauer. "I'm in total shock. Can’t stop [bawling.] Can’t believe we were texting as he was getting on the plane. Can’t believe it."

Two videos posted by Gail show Coogan, a fashion model, boarding the plane, then filming a selfie as she sat in the plane's back seat. Two people can be seen seated behind her.

Akash Patel of Dallas mourned the loss of his twin brother on Twitter:

"I have never felt so empty," Patel tweeted. "I lost my only brother - my young and dynamic 26-year-old twin last night to a plane crash in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was a point of light who brought happiness to thousands around the world. RIP Anand Happy Patel ... I love you."

Original article ➤ http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -  Six people are dead after a small plane bound for Vegas crashed and caught fire on the TPC golf course in Scottsdale Monday night.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the Piper PA-24 Comanche took off from the Scottsdale Airport at around 8:45 p.m.

Minutes later, the plane went down less than a mile away, at the TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course.

The crash sparked a fire on the golf course.

Ofc. Kevin Watts with the Scottsdale Police Department said none of the six passengers aboard the aircraft survived.

Nobody on the ground was hit.

The  National Transportation Safety Board is not releasing any names or passenger information at this time.

At the time of the crash, the weather had clear skies with winds from the south only at 3 miles per hour with a temperature of 83 degrees.

The NTSB is not speculating on the cause of the crash.

Instead, crews were spending Tuesday gathering evidence from the scene.

"Today, we're going to be basically gathering perishable evidence and on-scene data; factual data gathering," said Eliott Simpson with the NTSB. We're going to be taking it to a remote storage facility and looking at it in a slightly more forensic environment."

Investigators are also working to obtain video from the airport, audio from the tower, and statements from witnesses

On Tuesday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey tweeted about the deadly plane crash. He said that he was "praying for those lost" and adding that "our hearts are with their families and loved ones." 

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


  1. The FAA registry indicates registration was pending on this aircraft, which may indicate the PIC had very few hours in type or was at least inexperienced in this particular aircraft. 6 on board also suggests a possible W&B issue.

    1. I have 4,000 hrs and 400 in Commanche B. "GET-THERE-ITIS", poorly loaded, and the laminar flow wing are a dangerous combination. A shame to have lost the gamble with life and death.

    2. Margin for error is a huge factor in safe flying. You never fully know that one engine is not able to produce full power, for example apparently in this case.

  2. How many people would you want to put in a Piper Comanche? Certainly not 6.

  3. Apparently there were Comanche's with 6 pax seats, which as we all know does not mean the aircraft can carry 6 pax under all conditions.

  4. The 5th and 6th seats in a PA-24-260 are only suitable for children, not adults.

  5. NTSB said airplane crash 30 degrees from center of runway. was unaware of the exact configuration of the aircraft

  6. New Times already identified four of persons on board, including the pilot and a video minutes before take off, The six adults were heading to Vegas "to party". Its a 1970 PA 24 with a 310HP turbo charge engine. 6 adults and full fuel would put you over gross weight.

  7. Most Piper Comanche's carry 4 people , except for model 260B that can carry 6 people

  8. Some mis-information here in the comments.
    -260B and 260C could be equipped with 6 seats, the 260C had a higher gross weight of 3200 lbs. Full fuel would not be needed to make the less than two hour flight it is reported they set out on.
    -FAA registry shows this one equipped with a TIO-540 and built in 1970 which makes it a 260C Turbo or one upgraded to 260 Turbo specs, there were no "310 HP" turbo Comanches produced, with a field approval perhaps but not likely. If one wanted more than 260hp the 400 was the next step up.

    Source: Comanche pilot and A&P/IA

  9. Plane is based in KVGT (North Las Vegas). Accident happened Sunday night after the Light Festival which social media shows they attended. Pilots social media reveals he purchased the plane Feb 7, 2018.

  10. Who is James Pedroza? https://mugshots.com/US-Counties/Nevada/Clark-County-NV/James-Pedroza.58986084.html

  11. https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.phoenixnewtimes.com%2Fnews%2Fwatch-video-of-scottsdale-victims-minutes-before-fatal-plane-crash-10318820&ct=ga&cd=CAIyGjRmY2Y2ZThmOWRmOTkxOTY6Y29tOmVuOlVT&usg=AFQjCNHTHgjKfn_JVzXJYH56VGRCK2y34A&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

  12. 260C I flew had a 1400 lb useful load with no extravagant equipment.... Not sure what a 260B would have
    Seems the last row was more for kids or one small person ... RIP

  13. There's a James Pedroza from Fresno,CA listed on the FAA pilot database but he only has a student pilot license that was granted in 2008. Let's hope the pilot wasn't the same guy. Too sad.

  14. http://archive-server.liveatc.net/ksdl/KSDL2-Twr-Apr-10-2018-0330Z.mp3

    Around Minute 15:50 air traffic control asks if aircraft is experiencing difficulties and pilot responded they are having a training lesson. (So co-pilot was flying?) 30 seconds later communication cuts mid sentence.

  15. Audio recording of the tower departure frequency http://archive-server.liveatc.net/ksdl/KSDL2-Twr-Apr-10-2018-0330Z.mp3

  16. Yeah, life's a "party". No need to worry about things like center of gravity and weight when flying an airplane! Party on!!

    1. Yep, the owner/"student pilot" with no student certificate or medical posted "Whoo hoo 6 seats"; obviously oblivious.

  17. I've heard about party boats, but never a party plane. This takes the cake!

  18. Sad but DUMB! Another black eye for GA.

    1. Not that sad except for the CFI. A case of pure Darwinism.

  19. With no fuel it would have been gross weight. Who goes to Vegas without overnight bags? 6 people 150 lbs each= 900 lbs, 6 bags, 10 lbs each = 60 lbs, 90 min flight plus vfr reserve figure high at 25 gal= 152lbs.... useful load is really only 900lbs in a comanche 260. 8:45 at night it would atleast been cooler. I’m surprised it made it a mile from the airport. Illegal, but probably doable. If the tanks were full main and aux, no way.

    1. 260c’s has the highest gross weight of the singles, useful load was more likely 1300-1400 range

  20. The PA 24-260C typically has a 260 hp normally aspirated engine. The designation of TIO 540 is probably erroneous. My 260B and several others are listed as a turbocharged by FAA but are not. the 5th and 6th seats are located in what used to be the baggage compartment of earlier model PA24's. Anyone putting two adults back there (assuming they are limber enough to crawl in) is looking for trouble. The max weight for that station is 250lbs. It's hard to imagine that this aircraft wasn't well over the max allowable gross weight and probably balanced aft of the allowable center of gravity. NTSB will probably get this all figured out and published very soon.

  21. As the above comments stated this is clearly a weight and balance miscalculation or no calculation at all. This is a big load for a piston single. Heck, that’s a big load for a TBM 850! Being over weight and out of CG is like signing up to be a test pilot. Those calculations are a guideline to pilots assuming that the aircraft is performing like it was when new. I always give myself some room with regards to weight and balance. No situation is that dire to push the limits. Another sad and unnecessary stall accident.

  22. Maybe W/B wasn't the only factor. Let's be real - maybe the pilot was distracted blasting house music in the headsets while his passengers are tripping on Ecstasy and partying. Looks like a bunch of young and dumb rich kids who were more concerned with "likes" on their selfies than the safety of the flight. Still very tragic.

    1. You are absolutely right! "Student" pilot/owner was on both cocaine AND Ecstasy. And who buys a high-performance, six-seat airplane as a trainer? An idiot with more money than brains.

  23. "Around Minute 15:50 air traffic control asks if aircraft is experiencing difficulties and pilot responded they are having a training lesson. (So co-pilot was flying?) 30 seconds later communication cuts mid sentence."

    Or they just didn't want to admit there was a problem yet. I think a lot of pilots are hesitant to admit something is not quite right if they think they can get it under control and are more worried about being ramp checked or having a sit down with the FAA. I'm not saying that's the right thing to do,

    Most people are speculating that they were over weight. It's very likely they were. What would the tower seen to prompt her to ask if they were experiencing trouble? A reasonable guess is that they weren't climbing. My guess (again, just a guess) is that once they got out of ground effect, they weren't able to climb. They were trying to see if they could maintain altitude while they planned a very gradual turn back around to the airport. They were starting to tell the tower they were changing their plan when the transmission cut out. "Were going to..." is heard on the radio. At that moment they probably stalled and desperately tried to recover. They may have been bleeding off airspeed as they tried to hold altitude and eventually airspeed ran out.

    No matter what the NTSB discovers, it's not going to change the fact that these 6 people died tragically.

    We should all strive to be diligent and always put safety above all else. God bless these people and give strength to their families.

    1. I think they noticed their lack of full power too late to abort take off, either in denial, confusion, or just not paying attention to the gauges. Slightly overweight and an out of specification CG did not prevent rotation and a shallow climb at 75 knots. That alone should not have been the cause of this accident. But, being overweight, the pilot should have noticed he needed a longer roll to get off the ground. Two thoughts may have gone through is mind. The first is, "oh, I'm just a little heavy," but the second thought should have been, "do I have a power problem?" That should have made him look closer at his gauges. Let's assume he did, So, the questions are, did this pilot always take off at less than full power, so the lower manifold pressure and maybe the rpms seemed "normal" to him, and then when he decided he absolutely had to throttle up to climb because of irresponsible over-weight, surprise, no more power? But, worse than that, throttle, pressure and rpms are only indirect measures of engine power. Is there an engine failure mode that will still show high manifold pressure and rpms at full throttle, but with the engine actually generating much less power than it should? Would run-up catch this? Would you hear something is badly off with the engine, even if the gauges don't show it? This becomes an important learning point. Forget the weight and CG issues for a moment, and the drugs and the presumed party atmosphere. Yeah, that's bad, we can all agree. However, I think it is important to discuss how do you really know your engine can generate full power or not before you rotate. What could a really responsible pilot still miss here? Could that broken valve spring do this, and have it not show up on the engine gauges?

  24. When I fly with talkative passengers I put the radio in crew mode where I only hear the copilot and the passengers can all talk to themselves. Especially during takeoff and landings.

    Anyone have a W/B that would apply to a 6 seat version of the model/year PA-24? Link?

    1. Great idea! I just tell everyone to shut up as soon as we are in the airport environment or I am talking on the radio.

  25. The pilot was more concerned about posting selfies and looking forward to a party than the #1 responsibility to insure a safe flight.

  26. Aviation is self regulating, this guy wanna gonna kill someone eventually, party on dude, kewl phrases, dope, wtf, grow up and take responsibility for you actions. Many many more accidents to come and the FAA IS MIA, only to show after the fire is out,

  27. I own a PA32R Piper Lance and I was unaware of any Piper planes that were "lower" on the totem pole that could realistically lift 6 people, bags, and fuel.

    Praying for the families...this is a tough one.

  28. Late model Cherokee Six would have been able to do it. Technically lower on the pole than a Lance. They looked like fairly fit people. Could've averaged all paxs at 200 pounds with an extra 50 for bags on top of that and still should've been able to carry bout 45 mins reserves. Still would've been getting a little to close for comfort at that though. Especially out west hot high and heavy. Trouble is this young dude got his six mixed up with a Comanche. You can technically put a small person in the back of a 150. I have never met anyone who would recommend that. I don't really even trust the idea of four grown men in a 172 or archer, though I know it can be done through careful planning. God Bless'em

  29. Pilot started gambling before he got to Vegas. 6 people, bags and fuel would likely put this plane over the useful load limit. 99% sure the investigation will conclude that the pilot was just able to get the aircraft airborne and flying in ground affect. As soon as he started to turn that plane he lost any lift that was working for him. Very sad lesson to learn. Thoughts and condolences to the family and friends left behind.

  30. So, the guy in the left seat was a CFI an commercially rated.
    That makes it even worse in a way.
    Erik Valente age 26
    James Louis Pedroza age 28
    Mariah Sunshine Coogan age 23
    Anand Anil Patel age 28
    Helena Lagos age 22
    Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia age 23

    1. Damning texts exist that urge him to check weight and balance, too.

  31. James was left seat. Erik was right seat. The instagram video that makes it look like Erik is left seat was in selfie mode which reverses the image. You can see the G500 in front of James and note that the door is on the wrong side in the video.

    Easy to overlook.

  32. Both record in the airman registry under the Pilot's name are for a student pilot i.e James Pedroza.
    He was never authorized to take passengers in.

    Seems he was skirting the FARs by always having a "training" flight with a CFI (Erik Valente) but in practice he was just traveling around.

    CFIs are supposedly trained to recognize "students" in for a Ferris wheel experience and no real intent to focus exclusively on learning and seems Erik failed to do that and ignored IMSAFE under peer pressure.

    Someone once said no one under 30 shall be allowed to ride a sports bike. And likewise I would suggest no one under 35 shall be allowed to be a CFI and no one under 30 shall be allowed to be a private pilot, much less a commercial one.

    Unless they pass a much harder tests and are subjected to greater hourly requirement.

    Humans are already clumsy in the air and unable to grasp 3D per our physiology, especially inner ear systems and sensory perception.

    It is also time to recognize that even in their 20s a human brain doesn't have the necessary maturity to properly fly a plane. Same as no one can be POTUS if under 42.

    1. So we are supposed to make more rules because of one CFI making bad decisions? Are we also going to prevent doctors from becoming pilots because they are involved in a lot of aviation related accidents? I’ve been instructing for 7 years with many candidates from private-CFI and I’m 32. Just like any other industry, there are skilled and qualified individuals that make great pilots every year. There are also poor instructors that slip through the cracks. I’ve met older flight instructors that probably shouldn’t have been teaching due to lack of knowledge and poor physical condition. Age doesn’t necessarily equal maturity and good decision making abilities.

    2. Most fighter pilots are intheir mid 20's. Age is not a factor.

  33. I would imagine SP/IP training flights, as self identified to ATC, do not allow passengers ?
    Let alone more than the airplane is designed for.
    What an unbelievable and totally avoidable tragedy ... RIP

  34. "I would suggest no one under 35 shall be allowed to be a CFI and no one under 30 shall be allowed to be a private pilot, much less a commercial one."

    So then, by time somoene could get their ratings and hours to get an airline job just in time to retire. That should help the pilot shortage.

  35. Retirement age is 65 for airline pilots.
    That Erik CFI seems to be a product of those puppy mills cranking ATPs and CFIs at an accelerated pace, and sadly quality seems to be sacrificed for quantity. No CFI in their right mind would allow a Student pilot to overload an aircraft under their watch and threaten with lethal consequences 4 more innocent bystanders.
    I hope the FAA swoops on whoever graduated that CFI and investigates how such an "airman" was granted not only an ATP rating but also became a CFI... at 26!

  36. And I am not ageist... one of my heroes (and a woman I would have loved to know) is Capt. Katie Leslie, age 25, who was able to steer away Flight 5481 from a crowded maintenance hanger in an heroic act of selflessness after her 1900D experienced an overloading due to antiquated W&B calculations which were company policy and a defective maintenance of the elevator shortly before her fateful flight.

    But seems nowadays just like the bitcoin hype, a career in aviation is hyped as the next big thing due to some inflated shortages and crowds of people who are more interested in the adrenaline rush rather than professional minutiae are flooding some schools.

  37. They got his age incorrect. Erik was 32.

  38. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale-breaking/2018/04/11/scottsdale-plane-crash-all-6-victims-officially-identified/507001002/

    "Valente started flight training at age 16 and became a private pilot before graduating from high school. He attended the University of North Dakota, where he majored in aviation management and went on to manage a separate flight school in Las Vegas, according to an online profile.

    He earned more certifications and accrued more than 4,500 hours of flight experience, including 2,500 hours of instruction in more than 40 different kinds of aircraft."

  39. 83 degrees, over 8000ft runway whats to go wrong? Vegas Baby!......not. The blame lays directly to the 2 front guys from what I see the other 4 people were just innocent folks that didn't know anything other then Southwest planes take off no problem so why not. After chewing up about 5000 ft of runway pilots 1 and 2 should have known something was wrong and aborted right there, I know I'm arm chairing after the fact but anyone that has a supposed 4500 hrs should know what his plane can and can't do.

    1. Wasn't this his second flight in this airplane, the first being the ferry flight from VGT?

  40. Perhaps a mitigating factor for such a heavy takeoff was an approaching area of high pressure for the region. Many cities in the southwest broke heat records the following day.

  41. So many questions.. Could be a engine failure? maybe a weight and balance error ? rotating too early without having enough lift? The 6 came from Vegas? or 2 more joined and the Music festival in the trip back? One pilot was a private and the other one an ATP and CFI rated. Human error? maybe..is so easy to make mistakes when we let ourselves go by impulses and you don't take care of business. The problem is innocent people get kill.

  42. I wonder what the toxicology reports will show on the student pilot & CFII co-pilot? Hopefully it will just be a case of poor decision making and not "drug-induced" poor decision making. At the end of the day, I guess it doesn't really matter. Dead is dead.

    1. Left seat: Positive for cocaine and Ecstasy. Right seat: Negative (CFI).

  43. From the pix of the pax, I'm guessing 120 for each of the two skinny gals, 140 for the other gal, 180 for each of the two guys and 200 for the no-pic guy. They were just at a music festival in PHX so maybe just 15lb baggage each? That's 1030. 1.5 hour flight back to LAS, so hopefully 2.5 hrs of fuel at 18/hr = another 270. 1300 total. Best case. The max weight for the back 2 seats is 250 - hopefully the 2 small gals were back there. With any 6 pax, a real CG risk regardless. And at full/over weight, holding the nose up + climb would have been difficult to say the least. Especially with a 45yo engine. Reminds me of the highly experienced young-ish ATP pilot who rented a 172 to give fun tour flights to fellow volunteers at the Oregon Country Fair 4 or 5 years ago. Hot day, all seats full, over weight, grass runway, flew everyone into a bunch of trees on takeoff climb and they all died in flames. Maybe something that happens when you fly airliners and W&B is always taken care of for you & you somehow forget the basics? Or gotta-get-there-itis? In this case, after 2500hrs as CFI, maybe he did do the math and 1300 was "safe" & CG was ok & the problem was mechanical. I'd maybe bet on the former, like most others seem to be doing. Regardless, tragic.

  44. Without the actual weight and balance info we really don't know if it was overweight or not. Certainly was close but may be other factors. I thought the flap usage at gross weight was a good point. Pilot has only owned the plane for 2 months.

    Flight aware shows the plane just landed in KSDL from KVGT about 25 minutes before the accident. 25 minutes later it was on it's way back. (haven't heard any mention of that info anywhere else) CFI flew it out? No record of that plane flying to KSDL before the festival.

  45. From listening to the departure tape, it seems many minutes elapsed between the clearance for departure and the 2 transmissions, the last one cutoff. The controller most likely noticed a lack of climb when she asked if the plane had problems and the owner/operator replied it was a training mission as Erik told him to do so when queried as he had no business flying a plane with PAX.

    I give it 99% that the plane took off in a shallow climb barely making it out of ground effect and pretty much this happened:


    By the time they realized their mistake, or rather Erik did given his experience, and they said they wanted to come back which was probably the second and last cutoff transmission, the plane was stalled when banked. Their best bet like for that Stinson in the video above would have been to keep it straight and land anywhere ahead under control.

    Its only takes this one mistake in Aviation, just this one time... to die.

  46. The 6 seater version puts that back seats where the luggage compartment usually is. With all the seats filled there isn't much room for luggage. Hopefully the pilot knew it was going to be heavy and made them go light. The girl on IG boarding the plane is carrying an Urban Outfitters shopping back. That looks like all she brought. Happy has a leather bag in his lap. Pilot has no place to put anything. Girls in the back don't have much extra room either.

    It did look like it was loaded the best it could be. 2 Guys up front. 3rd guy in the middle and the girls in the back are both on the small side. Helena looks tiny. I wouldn't be surprised if she was 105 range. Its possible CG was within spec. 3rd row seems like it was under 250 unless one of those girls has a huge suitcase sitting on her lap.

    A lot of people trying to arm-chair investigate this. There are some good lessons to be learned from this even if they don't end up being the reason for the crash.

    WB, CG, Density Altitude, Night flying with passengers, fly from an unfamiliar airport, IMSAFE, Get-there-itis, Willingness to make that unpopular No-Go decision. These are all things we as pilots need to consistently practice.

    Almost every ATC crash recording I watch I think to myself how could this person be so stupid. I'm sure everyone one of them felt the same way until they made that series of bad decisions on the last day of their life. I've never met a pilot that hasn't made a bad decision. Most of the time we get to live through it. You only have to be wrong once.

  47. Such a sad accident. Looks to be out of aft CG. The actual max weight where the aft seats (5 & 6) are located are 235 lbs. per the TCDS. For this serial number 24-4974 the following Note applies....

    (m) On baggage compartment (For Model PA-24-260, S/N 24-4247, and 24-4300 through 24-5034).
    "Maximum baggage and/or Passenger Weight 250 lb. in Baggage area, including seats. See Weight and Balance."

    The seats weight 7.5 lbs. a piece X 2, so 250-15 = 235 lbs max.

  48. Sad to see those young lives lost. passengers are usually the innocent and ignorant of the real risks. My family owned both a straight tail Lance and a 300HP six. The Cherokee Six had a useful around 1600lbs, and would have likely carried that load. The Lance was fun with 3 or 4, but a bit of a dog on a warm day.
    The Comanche just wasn't built to be a six place load hauler, even with kids or women in the back. That is why Piper sold very few of the 260 HP Sixes.

    I was a CFII at 23, many years ago, and made a few poor decisions, but was blessed with luck..

    trying to do Cherokee six/C206/C210 trips with a Comanche 260 is asking for trouble. Im sure its a fine airplane with 3 aboard, so i dont want to offend any comanche owners. Its quite a nice airplane i am sure if flown the way Piper designed it.

    The Comanche 400 would be a different story, it must be a beast! I have only seen two or two in my 38+ plus years flying.

  49. The Type Certificate Data Sheet 1A15 for this serial (24-4974) shows that a placard must be installed at the baggage compartment where seats 5 and 6 are located. It should read the following....

    (m) On baggage compartment (For Model PA-24-260, S/N 24-4247, and 24-4300 through 24-5034).
    "Maximum baggage and/or Passenger Weight 250 lb. in Baggage area, including seats. See Weight and Balance."

    These seats weight 7.5 lbs a piece, so the actual max weight of any passengers and bags cannot exceed 235 lbs.

    Such a sad accident. They were really on the fence with the aft CG.

  50. That plane can very easily turn into a tail dragger parked at the ramp. Not an uncommon sight in my experience. W/B and foolishness.

  51. How in the world do you get type rates in over "40 different types of aircraft" by the age of 32, or any age for that matter. Am I missing something?

  52. I knew the CFI. I've listened to the ATC recordings and timed them. 2 minutes from clearance for takeoff until tower asked if they were experiencing difficulty. They reported they we're fine and then 18 seconds until they contact the tower a started a report that sounds like they were going to return. Erik wouldn't have started to turn unless there was terrain in front of them (which there wasn't) He would have kept it straight and gained altitude first before starting a very gentle 360. I'd discussed the Cessna crash a KSNA with Erik. The twin that lost an engine and tried to turn back to the airport and crashed on the 405 just shy of the runway. He drilled into me that keeping the plane flying is more important then trying to rush back. Altitude and speed. Perhaps the were bleeding airspeed slowly trying to climb or hold level. Or and was mentioned above, James put up the flaps out of habit. WB is all based on performance when it rolled off the factory line. May have run the numbers and it looked within spec, but the performance didn't match the books.

  53. http://www.csgnetwork.com/pa24-250comanche2wbcalc.html

    Per this I entered 125 both the skinny model gals all the way in the back ie 250 for rear baggage compartment.
    180 + 140 = 220 lb for rear passengers
    180 + 200 for the pilot and CFI = 380 lb for "crew".
    50 lb for luggage throughout the cabin.
    1/2 tank of gas = 30 gals

    I still get 94.5 in aft which exceeds max aft of 93!

    Granted just a similar plane but a hell of a chance to take with that many pax and even rationing luggage to the minimum with everyone at their fashionably skinniest you since they were all instagram stars.

    Add night flight, high density, unfamiliar airport... well dead is dead.

  54. I calculated 860lbs using conservative estimates on the photos....
    That's telling to the wb of this flight that was probably never calculated before take off.

    What a waste and a huge loss of life!

    1. Lawsuits were filed within two years of the crash, against everyone from the part owner (who wasn't even there) to MGM for inviting "Happy" to guest-host.

  55. That WB calc is for a PA-24 250 4 seater with a GW of 2900. It was mentioned above the 6 seater GW was likely 3200. Without the actual WB, pax, luggage and fuel weights we can only guess. It was certainly close.

  56. Good, young, very experienced pilot gets talked into taking a flight with a new aircraft owner learning to fly. Just going to SDL to pick up a couple of friends and bring them back to VGT. No experience with this particular aircraft except on the 90 minute flight to SDL that day. Arrive to find not two but four friends ready to go to Vegas in a marginally performing 4 passenger aircraft with 2 baggage bay seats unfortunately installed for the extra 2 lightweight friends. Pilot is pressured by the student aircraft owner and soon to be passengers not to leave anyone behind. Turnaround time was not adequate for proper flight planning and doing a W&B spreadsheet, if there was one available in the aircraft at all. Good pilot succumbs to pressure from owner and no doubt beautiful young men and women to make the fateful trip. Good pilot violates his own innate safe practice knowledge and makes the decision to relent to pressure and risk the overgross and likely out of aft CG flight. If this scenario sounds even remotely familiar to other good pilots out there, please use this PIC's deadly decision to help guide your flight planning limits in the future. This is all speculation of course but is often how pilots defy the limitations of an aircraft type design by allowing those that do not understand such things into pressuring them into very bad flight planning decisions.

    1. When I was a student, my CFI and flight school would not let me take off, ever, without a weather check (this was in severe clear Southern California), weight and balance, full fuel and scrupulous preflight. I flew with the same CFI for ninety hours yet had to complete the above every single time. The NTSB laid the blame for this accident squarely in the lap of the negligient CFI.

  57. Lot of guessing going on I know it's difficult not to we what to rush to figure it out, but remember the family and friends of these people will also come here and read this stuff who know nothing be respectful of the pilots. The families want answers it will be long road before the NTSB reports they will be looking for answers here. We all know pilot error is always a factor we are all human not perfect calling them stupid, or other negative stuff isn't going to help only going to hurt their families.

    1. NTSB Final Report: PILOT ERROR (CFI), aft C.G., overweight and "student" pilot/owner on cocaine and Ecstasy!

  58. Training flight with 4 pax...?
    Good pilot...?
    I don't buy that.

    As a pilot you have to be able to say "no" from time to time when needed.

  59. SDL's runway 03 has a 0.7% uphill slope - an unmentioned, although small factor with regards to a relative heavyweight takeoff on a warm night.

  60. The IA that signed that aircraft off is in big trouble, or was it signed off as airworthy?

  61. Former USAF Herc and helo and airline pilot but I'll admit I have minimal light aircraft experience. Still, it just baffles me that the CFI wouldn't have said or done something when the takeoff roll was excessive and the airplane wasn't climbing. Just saw they were pretty much crop dusting off the end of the runway. Probably being flown by the left seat student pilot and I think I saw gear and flaps were both up when they crashed. Maybe if the CFI was flying it might have been a straight ahead belly landing that folks walked away from...just sad........

  62. For those that have commented about the lack of FAA enforcement, you can thank Congress and the legal system for that impression.

    1. What can they do when pilots own their planes? We see lots of crashes from pilot/owners; granted, they're usually 70-years-old or older...

  63. IF weight was a factor, it's easy to see the "human nature" side of these scenario possibilities (and variations)

    Pedroza: Could we fly down to Scottsdale in my airplane after dark to pick up two very good friends who are attending a concert there? I owe them a favor. My girlfriend also wants to come along as it should be a great night to fly.

    Valente: Sounds good, it will be a full flight back but you will get to log some good dual time for an out and back cross country, and you will also get some good night experience. We will make a lesson out of it. It should prove a beautiful starlit night with such clear weather.

    After a successful KSDL arrival, they meet Pedroza's friend and girlfriend who were waiting for their return trip back.

    Non-aviator friend to Pedroza: I'd like you to meet a cute girl that we had met at the concert. She also lives in Las Vegas and I thought that we could give her a quick lift back. She shouldn't be a problem as we have an extra seat.

    Valente (who is a single young 32 yr old, has an eye for cute girls but is conflicted as something doesn't feel right in accepting his new situation - his student Pedroza is somewhat ambivalent as he has faith and respect for his instructor's experience and airmanship): "Well, its a nice night with clear weather, and she seems petite . . . with a little bit of luck, we'll make it work."

    . . . and off they go, Valente, although supervising the flight, is calling for his best effort in airmanship, something that he has proven before. Being a single man, he may also be thinking of his luck in meeting such a lovely girl. The added fellowship possibilities may be endless when back in Vegas.

    History dictates that most accidents are the result of a "daisy chain of events", but how does common human nature factor in such tragedies?


  64. Now we are having fantasies as to what happened too yet. I enjoy reading some of the comments as I do seem to learn something from a few of them however I prefer to reserve judgement until I see the final NTSB report. Just an opinion you understand, Thank you!

  65. Piloting demands serious focus and attention. The video shows silly, juvenile behavior. Bad choice!

  66. Some pilots are going to go even if they went to Vegas in a coffin.

    The checks and balances by the FAA work fairly well, but like in any other form of transportation still is the small group that will do it their way and hopefully will not take someone with them when they die.

  67. I agree flying is very serious, June 2nd it will be 53 years I have been flying I remember at age 24 I took a lady in her 40's for a ride when we landed she commented you are so serious yes as much as I still enjoy flying and am exhilerated when I fly I still am seriuos about it. I could go on but this isn't the place or time to toot my horn.

  68. A SERIOUS cautionary tale for the likes of Valente, and of experienced pilots who let a situation get ahead of them one small step at a time...

    I remember my first x-country after picking my plane following a whole year of it having its engine rebuilt. I was eager to get back and at full throttle full mixture to break in the engine came to be 10 NM north of my destination with the needles on E and succumbed to the get-there-i-this. It was a small distance but the plane was a gas guzzler that whole way and I chastised myself after because of this. I realized I let emotions and irrationality take over as I was overflowing a field where I could have refuled then.

    I wasn't even a commercial pilot then, and my plane had a good 10 gal left in the tanks... but I learned from this.

    It was one of many such examples in my flying career.

    Valente most likely let the non pilots ultimately decide of the flight. What was supposed to be a 4 person trip ended up with 6, and PAVE went out the window.

    Human factors will be a big one on this accident.

    Ultimately simple things save our lives... sticking to PERSONAL MINIMUMS and willing to ASSERT ourselves with them to non pilots, sticking the gas tanks no matter if we know we topped it off the night before, checking the oil, sumping the tanks, getting a briefing...

    Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.

  69. Where was there a report that the plane was having issue getting off the runway was that when the tower asked if they were okay?

    1. Yes, the wings were rocking in unstablised flight.

    2. Wing rock means aircraft is stalling.

  70. Follow along with the investigator in charge and local news media on the accident scene. Do your own legwork. >>>>> "Where was there a report that the plane was having issue getting off the runway"

  71. I haven't read any comment regarding who's ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight, but it's always the CFI. We don't know the performance of this aircraft in this flight situation, but the CFI must make the final determination if the aircraft is safe to fly, not the student pilot. So many questions regarding weight, CG, air density, distractions in the cockpit, but why would an experienced CFI allow the student pilot attempt that takeoff. Do they know that the student pilot was attempting that takeoff by the communication with the tower? How many people flew from Vegas to Scottsdale? Was it just Erik or was it also James and his girlfriend?(someone suggested that's what occurred) That flight may have given the CFI some overconfidence regarding the aircraft's performance with a lighter load. Most of the facts suggest a WB/CG issue (human factor) leading to a stall and inverted dive into the ground that happened so rapidly. Such a sad time for all these families.

  72. “The IA that signed that aircraft off is in big trouble, or was it signed off as airworthy?”
    Really??? Why would you think that???��

  73. The news has talked about all the victims except Iris Rodriguez.
    Who is she affiliated with on the plane and what do we know about why she was there?

  74. "Iris Carolina Rodriguez was set to return to her home country, Honduras, on Sunday after a six-month stay with family in Northern Virginia for graduate school."

  75. The experts all agree... plane was way overloaded.
    And yes all GA planes really have 2 seats less than their advertisement when you factor in full fuel and full luggage. My 172 can carry barely 3 naked with full fuel and assume 3 skinny adults their clothing and luggage.
    Valente should have known that. And my private pilot checkride oral W&B for the 172 we were using yielded... drum roll... 50 miles of range with 8 gal of fuel possible if 2 adults were in the front and 2 lightweight adults were in the back.
    My DPE said this was to show how careful one has to be assuming a 4 seater... is a 4 seater.
    Now that the dust is settling and a flurries of lawsuit is probably expected we should be glad GARA exists. In the end it's the Pilot in Command... Valente here (as the only one qualified to fly a plane), that should have done his job and toned down the enthusiasm. That Jason dude isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed either, as by now and assuming some basic 101 flying knowledge he should have known the physics behind W&B, and why it can kill i.e Air Midwest Flight 5481. But I guess he was busier bragging on Instagram than taking the job of piloting seriously.

  76. ^^^^^ Kinda rude …… but mostly true.

    1. Not rude enough: Turns out he was on cocaine and Ecstasy, and lawsuits are aimed directly at his "more money than brains" estate.

  77. There is video of the crash. I don’t know if it will be made public, unless some one FOIAs it from the city of Scottsdale. Hint. I’ve seen it. Plane was flying low, started a gentle left turn, either to come back or because they were trying to land on Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. or maybe the golf course fairway. There is also airport video, which I didn’t see. Plane used most of the runway to take off. Which is what prompted atc to query. Individual who showed me the video also said that he didn’t think they were overweight. If they were, it was by very little. Back seat passengers were under 235 combined. Middle seat around 270. Cockpit around 340. None of the backseat pax were wearing seatbelts. Left wing stalled. Plane rolled over. Massive fireball.

  78. Hopefully, all died instantly. No skid on the ground, so they hit with tremendous force. Maybe 5-20 seconds of absolute terror when it rolled over. Pilot just too careless and really stupid. Anyone can ignore or disbelieve physics and science until their beliefs are forced to give way to reality. We see this every day with politicians, but, in the end, Reality always trump beliefs. TO roll is just over 1,000 to 50 ft clear for this aircraft. Even doubling or tripling, pilot knew they were not climbing when they still had a mile of runway to put it down and abort. Darwin prize even for the innocents who thought the guy was actually a competent pilot. All that stupidity only realized as ("Oh no, it's really happening!") as pilot is seeing the ground, holding his breath one last instant, and all thought of partying stops as reality bites. The physics of the airfoil was always the constant reality looking over the shoulder of the pilot even as his beliefs loaded the box to over-full. Knew better but ignored science. Perhaps he did not realize how much science went into the design parameters? Or thought macho could re-write the specs for this flight? Both pilots should have been slapping each other before take off- "No way dude! It won't fly dude!"

  79. According to weather stats, density altitude was about 5,000 at the airport when they tried to make their over-weight departure with a slight tail wind. Pilot had just legged an hour and a half at or above 10,000, so maybe a bit of brain fog clouded his judgment and slowed his reaction time to assess the failure to get airborne sooner on the take-off roll. Should have been keen on all those parameters and closed the throttle when the craft was mushing down the runway. He had plenty of time and room to abort. As usual, a list of little errors leading to one big tragedy.

  80. Let's reflect on the facts that transpire and not some speculations and especially judgment based on assumptions.
    Based on third party description of the video of the crash, it looks as if several elements combined to get all the holes in the cheese align perfectly to create this tragedy.

    1) Macho and invulnerability hazardous attitudes from the Student pilot and CFI.
    2) More or less overweight aircraft, even with skinny people onboard.
    3) High density altitude.
    4) Some kind of improper mixture/power/flaps management.

    The behavior seems to be an attempt at the "impossible turn" with the resulting lethal consequences.

  81. Based on the most recent eyewitness accounts of the accident, it sounds as though the aircraft was on the verge of an aerodynamic stall from the moment it rotated(wings rocking).The CFI & student pilot should have realized something wasn't right and aborted the takeoff and landed assuming they still had some runway in front of them (8,200' runway). Even if this same scenario would have happened in daylight the outcome might have been more favorable as they may have opted for a controlled forced landing on the golf course when they realized the plane wouldn't gain altitude. They could have cut the power and kept the wings level and choose to ditch in that pond on the golf course. The BEST option would have been to do a proper weight & balance and keep it within the design envelope. It was a good plane but they simply asked too much from it. A similar crash happened at Zelienople airport back in July 1976 involving a PA28-140 with 4 adults and skydiving gear on a hot day. The plane wouldn't climb and the pilot tried to turn back only to stall & spin in. There was one survivor only because of no post-crash fire. Both were totally avoidable accidents. Sad.

  82. Once I witnessed a twin that almost stalled on takeoff and it rocked its wings heavily and it was because of aft overloading. I suspect the behavior is similar here... Lucky for that twin it had power to spare and somehow managed to climb. Something not readily available to a small single engine plane like here.

    If aft overloaded beyond a reasonable limit and adding high density altitude (my E6B gives me 3800-4000' of density altitude for the conditions provided) it would have indeed been quite a dramatic situation between a rock and hard place once it lifted off and too far down the runway to put back down. I suspect Erik took over considering he is a CFI but instead of pushing the nose down at least slightly and gaining some airspeed some kind of startle effect took over which made him do exactly the wrong thing ie impossible turn.

  83. I am just speculating but a reasonably accomplished pilot would most certainly understand that weight and balance would be a major concern. I believe that this pilot did understand and loaded the plane as best he could. I also believe that he made a decision to take 6 adults out of pure pressure. I would feel the pressure if 2 men were walking over to the plane with 3 very attractive women. Men do really stupid things when emotions are spiked unfortunately, in this situation, it did not work out. I absolutely hate hearing about completely avoidable accidents that occur due to a decision made prior to engine start.

  84. I believe psychological anthropology mighty be an issue indeed. Human factors take into account stress, alcohol, insomnia, food intake, fatique but missing might be the sexual dynamic of attractive people or celebrities strong arming their way (The bieber smoking pot on a private jet to the point it clouded the whole cabin or the Aalyuah crash).

    I would go with IMSSAFE i.e Insomnia, Medication, Stress, SOCIAL, Alcohol, Fatique and Eating.

    Humans are not self contained, and social interaction is central as its own dynamic separate from the environment or "pressure", given it is hardwired in our brain with its own set of short circuits on the limbic system.

  85. Sad... Sounds like another case of a pilot killing his passengers...Unless something else is found like a mechanical failure, simply Inexcusable

  86. The footage of the crash is here as it was described by the NTSB preliminary report. Classic textbook case of the stall/spin at irrecoverable altitude. If they kept it straight without turning there would have been some hope but the loss of control is always fatal.


  87. The takeway from such a high profile case would be an in depth analysis, sadly without the main actor being present, of how someone like Erik, and experienced pilot, dedicated, passionate since age 16, safety minded and enjoying his work every minute, committed an atrocious error or allowed it to happen. Something a fresh student with a few hours hours wouldn't do i.e overload then stall and spin a plane right on takeoff.

    By extension there is a troubling trend of experienced pilots, some of them with 5 figures in hours flown, that commit the most egregious errors.

    The Bedford, MA crash comes to mind where the most basic flight checks were not done on takeoff.

    Is it "normalization of deviance"? Is it the overhwelming nature of routine that makes the mind numb and allow the one time fatal error through cracks?

    Rules written in blood define a pretty safe framework and sticking by them will guarantee an aviation career devoid of accidents, violations and with full enjoyment and perks of what flying has to offer.

    Yet time and time again those rules are egregiously violated with predictible results. Maybe some new failsafes beyond SRM and CRM and knowing the limitations of human psychology can be developed.

    A sort of mind test akin to the stress test of Blade Runner 2049? Or some other indirect technique to expose the inner psyche to catch the cheese holes as they develop.


  88. I hope I have the resolve and wisdom to avoid being talked into something I know that after careful review and consideration should not be done.

    Because of the large number of [daily] accidents we read on K.R. of the avoidable category in the first place I am thinking that my (own) personal standards are not good enough.

    I would hope on at least one day that we, all of us, would open this blog and not read of death. Gloating at poor decision making is actually fun but when it comes to death it takes all the fun away.

    I am getting ready for a bi-annual review. If my CFI chews my butt then I have no choice but to listen and improve. They have a job to evaluate. My job is not to second-guess or ignore.

    Chew away. That is what I pay them to do.

    It is not personal, it is business (and survival).

  89. Jim, I don’t see it as gloating at all. This was a completely avoidable and senseless accident made by an experienced pilot who should have not put himself or others in that situation. I read about the tragic side of aviation to remind myself that mistakes happen and poor judgement can be made by even the most experienced pilot. I learn from other people’s mistakes and in trying to make sense from the senseless, a positive spin can be placed on such a horrific ordeal. Everyone has a different take on what exactly happened and everyone is right and everyone is wrong. Even the NTSB allows for a margin of error by referring to the final report results as probable cause. Why not take something good from something that is bad. It may prevent the bad from occurring again.

  90. Blaming the pax for their lifestyle is in bad taste. All they needed to do is comply with the PIC and wear seatbelts as required during taxi and takeoff as well as not be intoxicated or interfere with the crew. Per FARs.

    This is where the PAX's responsability ends and as far as we can see they didn't post selfies or any social media interaction during taxi or takeoff... and even then the noise and constrained environment of a small plane make for very little room to misbehave.

    Now Erik and James is where the issue arises. The former for an inexplicable lapse in judgement and the later for concocting a "training mission" out of a x-country trip with 4 more people.

  91. Pre flight planning is an important item, yet many fail to do so.
    I see many pilots who don't do anything. Some only did the planning and a weight and balance when passing the pilots exam. Once they get the license, its just "get in and fly".

    Adding another person or two, flying at night over water or rocky terrain, taking off from a sod strip, as we know all changes the parameters of the flight. Do you have any type of survival gear, a good set of flashlights, a decent VFR chart, a backup plan, an alternate airport, and enough fuel on board? etc..

    Some pilots have never read their POH.

    I get asked simple and basic questions all the time. MANY of the answers can be quickly found in the POH.

    KNOW YOUR BIRD. Know what weight it can carry and a its limitations. Always have 1 hour or more fuel than needed.

  92. Tragic! I started flying over 40 years ago. I always strive to learn from other people's mistakes. This was poor planning all the way! May their precious souls rest in peace. Commercial pilot with 2,000hrs+

  93. Seems likely to be a weight and balance problem. Useful load of 1427, less 562 pounds of fuel would leave 865 for passengers and baggage, about 144 lbs per passenger assuming no baggage. Since it occurred so soon after takeoff, likely the aircraft had an aft center of gravity, the wing stalled and the pilot would not be able to overcome the problem. Adding baggage to the aft compartment would further move the center of gravity back causing the aircraft to stall shortly after takeoff.

  94. Weight and Balance. Can't fly that airplane with six aboard and luggage.

    1. Agreed. Experiences in life prove Ladies Aboard = Luggage Overload

  95. 2 Full Fuel Tanks + 6 People = WAY Overloaded = Pilot Error. It was way over capacity, period. Rookie pilot mistake that unfortunately led to lives lost.

  96. Full fuel? I didn't read anywhere that they took on fuel in SDL, does anyone know?

  97. Per FARs the highest rated pilot who has operational control is legally responsible. Either by supervising the student pilot or flying the plane himself and making the go/no go decision. That would be Erik...

  98. Sad to see this loss of life. Outside of the aircraft W&B and human factors, I saw an image of the panel showing an MX20 front and center.
    Airspeed and turn and bank are to the left of the MX20. The airspeed indicator most likely would have been difficult to see from the right seat. Add in the night take off with mountainous horizon and the MARICOPA ONE departure; Takeoff minimums: Rwy 3: Standard with minimum climb of 440' per NM to 4000, or 3100-3 for climb in visual conditions. vy 97kts = ~ 660FPM. Slight quartering tailwind. NOTE per Maricopa one, left turn out was indicated.

    If the ATP Pilot took command, he was seriously handicapped by the nonstandard instrument placement, particularly if it was a case of first impression.

    I wonder who approved the 337 for that install? I know it is not a part 23 aircraft, however best practices would dictate use of part 23 layout. This aircraft would have originally complied with part 23 layout, as most pipers from 1968 onward did.

    (d) For each airplane, the flight instruments required by § 23.1303, and, as applicable, by the operating rules of this chapter, must be grouped on the instrument panel and centered as nearly as practicable about the vertical plane of each required pilot's forward vision. In addition:

    (1) The instrument that most effectively indicates the attitude must be on the panel in the top center position;

    (2) The instrument that most effectively indicates airspeed must be adjacent to and directly to the left of the instrument in the top center position;

    (3) The instrument that most effectively indicates altitude must be adjacent to and directly to the right of the instrument in the top center position;

  99. The more I think of this accident and cross reference It with many others, the more I believe a simple error, maybe following some kind of emergency, is at play. Maybe the engine ran rough, maybe the student pilot raised the flaps too soon. None of the witnesses report the flaps being down upon takeoff but I suspect Erik as PIC knew the plane was nearing its capacity and may have configured it for a short field takeoff and rotation at Vx, with flaps at 10.

    Why he never aborted the takeoff once half the field was behind the plane is something to question for the ages, but let's hope the NTSB can bring closure to the victims.


  100. Aircraft Heavy + Density altitude = very poor climb.

  101. So looks like James Pedroza had cocaine in his system.

    Whether or not he was flying and not Erik this is really bad airmanship.


  102. It's very possible that James on Coke wasn't in his right mind but Erik had no idea the guy was doing coke. He might have turned it over to him for take off while Erik was looking out the window James while on drugs did something wrong caused it to lose power maybe raised the flaps too soon who knows. It's dark in the cockpit Erik would be looking outside for traffic while taking off not watching what James was doing. What a shame to many young people killed because of some stupid idiot on coke. Hopefully this is a lesson don't fly with idiots make sure you know them well enough that they are professional not on drugs. With regard to the weight issue anyone who flies a GA aircraft at gross for fun with passengers is an idiot.

    1. Another pair of “pilots” lead trusting, naive passengers like lambs to the slaughter.

  103. Anti-authority is the lethal trait that comes to my mind regarding James... heavy tats and drug use are a hallmark of anti-authority. The other 4 being invincibility, impulsivity, macho and resignation.
    And being tattooed doesn't make one a protected class, so I am not politically incorrect saying this, as numerous studies correlate a rebellious behavior with it. Personally nothing against rebellious and creative young people but flight schools should do a better job weaning out candidates on psychological traits and lifestyle where such characteristics can compromise ADM and safety of flight.
    I remember I was given a personality questionnaire by a flight school in Chi-town... a rarity and exception, but if James failed such a test the very first hole in the cheese would have been eliminated months before this tragedy, the result of a long chain of events that could have been broken off so easily.

  104. Student pilot in the left seat, night, overloaded, loaded on coke. Crashing was not a surprise, but sad.

    1. Tis true. Surely it's the fault of the manufacturer, tho!

    2. Everyone keeps talking as if the student pilot was the PIC I assume because he was in the left seat.
      A student can't carry passengers, the ATP would have been PIC. As long as they have dual flight controls you could put a dog in the left seat, it doesn't make them PIC.


  105. Something that has not been mentioned: The wisdom of flying a single-engine over unfamiliar terrain at night (with a load of unsuspecting passengers). Doesn't seem like something a responsible PIC would do.

    1. I trained at a flight school at Long Beach Airport, CA. A favorite destination was, of course, Las Vegas. Until I was instrument-rated, I was required to return to LGB during daylight, no matter how many hours I accrued, so you are right, not responsible at all.


  106. This is an old story repeated many times and until our aviation culture changes (all of us) will continue to happen on a routine basis.

    Those in the airplane who have the knowledge to know this is marginal to negative safety do not act.

    Those on the ground watching decide it is none of their business.

    Those in the airplane occupying seats are a get-there factor and increase the hazard.

    You cannot blame Piper or other manufacturers. Piper and others well-document what you can and cannot do with their aircraft. I think it safe to say that many people routinely ignore this guidance. The survivors and their forked-tongue lawyers work up a hefty fine that often competes with dollars that should have been spent on maintenance.

    I try to be bold and polite enough to question people who are doing things they should not. I can be wrong and sometimes are, but caring for someone's well-being is not a crime. Asking them to think twice is not an affront.

    I get told I should not get a reputation for complaining at the airport. I get it, and I have also come to expect push-back. I generally do not take it personally.

    Three pilots who I have flown with at different times have died in aviation accidents. The circumstances were all different. I miss them a lot.

    I think I am going to go ahead and author my obituary. Nothing flashy, only a content reflection on the experiences I have been allowed to enjoy. It will not say "I died doing what I loved" which (to me) is so much BS.

    Folks, lets challenge people when it is warranted. You might save someone(s) from a painful survival and/or a sad ending provided they choose to listen. It is clear they are not listening to themselves.

    And, based on your concern, they just might.

  107. Some of us do question and act... I calculated 3 people was too much for a piper arrow flying into Idaho for the eclipse with all the luggage my friend wanted to take so I called the other pax at 11 PM to tell them the bad news but it had to be done. Or else none of us would have arrived safely.
    I always carry a balance and make the passenger weigh themselves, no matter how not body positive this is for a certain category of them.
    I always get a weather briefing and if too much to handle I just stay put until it gets better. Sometimes the delay is a day or more. And yes the pax bitch at me but I stand fast.
    I always stick my tank. If a new plane I will need at least 10 hrs in it to fly pax DAYTIME. And fifty daytime hours to fly PAX nightime.
    It's all about personal limits. And standing fast on them.


  108. I applaud you. You are an objective person who will not be pushed around.

    You will likely live a long life and have many good experiences.

  109. Pedroza on coke? Who would have thunk it. Partiers usually don't make good pilots.

  110. Eye witnesses said the plane looked distressed and was oscillating after rotation. The pilot clearly sounds preoccupied and the ATP on board had only flown this type of aircraft once before - that very day!

    Could weight/balance cause the oscillation? In addition, I think you had two pilots who were both very new to this type of aircraft and what looked like they were attempting to return to the airport when a stall occurred.

  111. The NTSB will hopefully be able to do wonders in finding the probable cause. But let me say someone forgot to keep it coordinated and lower the nose approaching a stall. Flying 101.

  112. "Something that has not been mentioned: The wisdom of flying a single-engine over unfamiliar terrain at night (with a load of unsuspecting passengers). Doesn't seem like something a responsible PIC would do."

    Well ... While what you are suggesting is true it doesn't much matter if due to lack of wisdom you never get past the airport boundary.

  113. Not if it would matter but found the logs and w&b of a similar plane:



    It looks pretty similar to the one that crashed and the W&B could provide some insight on the overloading question.

  114. Serial Number for this plane shows 6 Seats from Factory. I think the Aircraft was Aft of CG more than over weight and they can't maintain airspeed. I think I remember 1400 lbs Usable for that Aircraft's configuration. The Comanche's 6 Seater's required a Longer nose to balance it out and that comes out of the factory.

    Low Airspeed - Can't climb and losing altitude. - Trying to turn back in too steep a bank most likely did it! Chance if very very shallow bank and wide pattern may have helped? Having the on board ATP qualified PIC in the left seat (given the ATP was in the Right seat and had 3 hours in type and also a puffed up Student in left seat "IN TRAINING" )...?!

    I flew in left seat IFR with passengers as a knowledgable student pilot But with my Instructors. Not probably smart.

    I hate these types of accidents, way too many.

    * Check out this Familiar video, but with much more Drama you probably have not seen.


  115. We may be in for a surprise with regard to probable cause. Actually, we may never find out what really happened. The aircraft was departing the airport and was clearly in a shallow climb. That would indicate that the weight was high however, the Cg,which may have been outside the margins, did not render the aircraft “unflyable”. It was clearly flying. Something occurred that made the pilot turn and want to return to the airport right away. Since the aircraft was climbing, we have to assume that he had some level of control. Why did he turn prior to calling the tower and informing them of their needing to return. What made him turn? If the plane was in the air and clearly under control initially, what occurred that required an immediate return to the airport. I do agree that a heavily loaded aircraft along with an aft cg during a departure climb out has all the makings of a disaster, I do not think that the initiating event was lack of aircraft control due to irregular loading. Something else happened that forced him to turn immediately back to the airport and because of the critical nature of the initiating event, the pilot had to turn which increased to load factor of an aircraft that was already outside the certificated limits.

    1. Interesting thought and I somewhat concur. I had a Camanchee 250 for several years with a useful load near 1200 lbs. I have flown it at gross (and perhaps 20 lbs over at times based on certain conditions). At those times I definitely do a W&B calc and make sure I have enough runway / climb performance for a given DA. Even at 20 lbs over GW the Camanchee I had did not seem to struggle much if at all. Not to say 100+ lbs is doable nor would I try that but I wouldn't think just 100 lbs would be the factor to cause the crash.....however, perhaps it was more of a CG issue? The 250 model did not have the extra two seat (but it did have baggage area limited to 200 lbs).

  116. @Stephen Lauritano, but there are patterns here that give a lot of clues to what happened.
    1. I recall neither pilot had a lot of time in type of aircraft. The ATP was very experienced but still low hours on type aircraft.
    2. It is clear they overestimated their skills because the tower asked if their was a problem while it was still over the runway and the response was it's a training flight rather than yes or no.
    3. The wobbling wings is a symptom of overweight/ bad Cg.
    4. It was not climbing when it turned at the end of its flight (there might have been a mechanical failure of some kind like oil pressure, etc., but I believe the FAA will be able to determine this).
    5. The pilot had traces of cocaine in his system. All of these seem to indicate the pilot exceed his skills and/or experience. Very possible the cocaine had no effect but possible it contributed to a haze/poor judgement if he was a little high. I seriously doubt the passengers would have flown with him that night had they known this.

    All of these contributing factors give a lot of clues to what happened but I would like to review the final report because all of these things are likely contributing factors.

  117. Hi, the aircraft did not fly much out of ground effect, wings did not produce the necessary lift which mean the engine was under performing and the PIC failed to abort the flight. A under performing aircraft and a pilot unprepared for flight emergency. Hard to throw stones for we all have been there. The Lesson: Flying is a dangerous event; so, be mentally prepared with skills to reduce the dangers. The only way to avoid death in a aircraft, is to stay away from airplanes. " Airplanes are dangerous ", should be a label posted on each seat in the aircraft. Sorry, but that is the truth. PS. Don't fly with family members unless you really don't like them.

  118. I disagree... any activity is dangerous and some people fly a gazillion hours with no issue. ADM is the remedy. And here the best decision to avert 6 death would have been to either drop 2 or not take off at all.
    People have unsafe sex and catch AIDS, others ride motorcycles without helmet and die... Aviation is actually safe if a properly trained pilot does his craft. It's a craft, an Art, a way to live so s to survive in an activity evolutionary biology didn't prepare us for... yet neuroplasticity can avert for it.

  119. I would say the use of cocaine before flying an airplane is not going to help the situation.If you you look at the owner of the aircraft he doesn't take being a pilot seriously what else does he push to the limit. His CFI friend maybe he trusted this guy too much let him do the weight calculation after he snorted a line of coke. Maybe he didn't know about the cocaine use he might have been in the dark about seen that before. Party guy wants to fly so he calls his nerd friend who doesn't party every weekend with hot party girls. Something went wrong my guess it be overweight with student pilot at the controls.

  120. Either way the insurance might be cancelled by the drug use of one of the pilots which makes the flight illegal.
    Unlike for car insurance, aerospace insurance is dealing with a very small pool of clients and it is peppered with restrictions. Payments will generally wait until an NTSB investigation is complete and any deviation from a legal circumstance is grounds for cancelation of coverage.
    That leaves whoever co-owned that plane in a nice liability situation.

  121. That is very true, that the co-owners of the plane will be hit by a huge bill.

    The PIC being high on cocaine, thus they will be forced to pay the insurance costs, in addition to losing their aircraft.

    These guys were the same age and type as those buying expensive cars and then mash them up doing something extremely silly. Most cars are much more crashworthy than old aircraft over-filled with people and high-octane fuel, though.

    A Happy New Year!

  122. Two years and still no final NTSB report on these “pilots” who led naive, trusting passengers like lambs to the slaughter.

    Is the NTSB trying to protect someone?

  123. Can't wait to see the final NTSB report.

    FWIW, my 1958 PA-24-250, with a total of four seats, can carry four 180 lb people, full fuel (60 gal) and 90 lbs of baggage and still be easily within it's CG limits and NOT over gross weight.

    The Comanche is an amazing airplane. The 6 place, 260 hp models with the 90 gal fuel capacity and a higher gross weight have tremendous flexibility, particularly on a short mission.

    All that being said, and myself a CFI, I would not have done the flight. I just don't fly single engine at night unless the regulations say I have to due to training, i.e. a private student night experience.

    Watching the crash video is always a bummer.

  124. The party continues in here. Weight & balance check - hey man - Don't go killing our mojo.

  125. The final crash report is available. Th conclusion: combination of pilot error, overload, bad CofG, and degraded engine performance due to intake value sprint failure. RIP.


  126. Kind of curious about the engine overhaul performed in 2017.

    Engine overhaul- What was replaced, etc during that overhaul? Were the cylinders replaced? Were they disassembled and all parts replaced? Were they sent out for overhaul/repair, or were they new?

  127. The verdict is in and the ATP bears the full responsibility. It is as it should be given he was PIC either flying the plane directly or flying it by supervising the student, and I see a sad trend of high time ATPs that were once CFIs to rake the hours to the magic 1500 hrs mark and that are gone to the airlines the microsecond this benchmark is hit, with no interest in teaching and even less in small planes.
    Then they go onto killing themselves and a bunch of innocent victims if they somehow end up flying a small plane ever again. The mistakes here were basic, childish even, and encompass both defective W&B as well as not even realizing the plane may have had a poor running cylinder on the way to the pickup.

    1. You’re so right.

      Twelve people a year manage to kill themselves in the forgiving Cessna 150, and believe it or not, that includes one commercial pilot and one airline pilot, so let’s not be surprised by the five bad pilot attitudes this fellow accomplished in just one flight.

      “Lord what fools these mortals be”
      “Oh brave world that has such creatures in it”
      — William Shakespeare

  128. "Hey, bros - let's go flying in my plane. We'll pick up a couple of chicks, and I promise I won't use too much cocaine & X this time." Sheeeeeeesh...

    1. This is insulting at best. Initially I was also in the crowd blaming James but it turns out it's the PIC/CFI/ATP/MEL dude that really screwed up. Basic mistakes someone who would fly a forgiving Piper or Cessna would be ashamed of. I doubt this guy would even pass his PPL checkride if he had to again, flunking basic maneuvers like ENGINE OUT landings. The whole idea of a pilot's license is it is a license to KEEP LEARNING but obviously major deskilling happened along the way.
      It is amazing how much thing ATPs forget after a few years just watching autopilots fly the plane and maybe putting in 2-3 minutes of actual flight time in between takeoffs and landings, and only half of the time given a crew of 2 would alternate.
      Major human factors studies have shown up to 80% of knowledge or skills get lost within a year if not practiced to proficiency level continuously...
      This also explains Air France 447 where 3 ATPs properly certificated and type rated were unable to diagnose a basic stall situation for a whooping 4 minutes of staring at the flight instruments.
      Most ATPs that didn't fly small planes for years will not be current to fly passengers in them unless then do 3 takeoffs and landings in the same class and type of aircraft within 90 days, and on that the NTSB report is moot, so we may assume the ATP rated pilot was also not current for that task if he didn't fly any other small plane in the preceding 90 days as his only landing to a stop as required per regs would have been in KSDL to pick up the passengers.

  129. How did this engine have compression on all 6 cylinders when it was tested after the accident with a broken intake valve spring on one cylinder?

    1. The outer spring was broken, evidently the inner spring was not, so the valve would generally seal for the test

    2. I'm not really an engine guy, so I have to ask, are there two springs for fail-safe redundancy, or are two springs actually needed to seal the valve dynamically at high rpm? If only one will seal a static pressure test, but two are needed for reliable full power, kind of an important distinction.

  130. and all of US collectively paid for this investigation, for what purpose ?

  131. A guy who uses cocaine and ecstasy has just bought part interest in a high performance, retractable gear airplane. He doesn't have a Student Pilot Certificate and no training records or other indications of a serious, formalized approach to pilot training.

    A young CFI who is probably anxious to build hours and befriend an apparently wealthy new "client".

    An airplane with what appears to be a pretty dodgy logbook entry for an engine overhaul and annual inspection.

    Night time at a high density altitude airport, with drug addled newby in the left seat, an overload, and four innocent people in the back.


    It is interesting to read the speculation about the technical causes of the accident and the capabilities of the PA-24 series of aircraft, in which I have a couple hundred hours. But valve spring failure isn't the root cause of this tragedy, stupidity and poor judgment IS. The guy in the left seat actually thought it would be acceptable to attempt to fly his new "toy" while under the influence of illegal and dangerous drugs. The guy in the right seat, who should have known better, thought that a night flight in an overloaded airplane in which he had two or so hours in would be a good idea. No one who saw the events leading up to this flight thought they should say "hey, maybe this isn't such a great idea". Nope, let's all party on to Vegas, baby!!!! Put some hot chicks in the back, do a line of coke and some ex, fill the tanks, put the instructor in the right seat and GO PARTY!!!!

    Years ago, our local airport had an idiot - but at least not a drug using idiot - on the field. He had a handful of poorly built, horribly maintained experimental airplanes that he couldn't afford. He supplemented them with an attitude of "the rules don't apply to me" - he actually SAID THIS on a number of occasions when I was present. He was surrounded by people who thought he was a great guy (he actually was a really nice person and fun to be around) and wouldn't dare to question his maintenance or operational practices / judgment. He had about 2500 hours over a very long period of time with no structured or ongoing training and other more than a Private Pilot certificate. He put himself and another person's airplane into the bottom of a smoking hole in the ground last year, taking himself out of the gene pool in the process. I've since asked his friends, "did you ever think to talk to him about the very obvious risks he was taking and the really bad judgment he was displaying?" Some made a half baked attempt to talk to him, but most of them chose to let him "party on" - figuratively - and now he's dead. This is the error chain Dr. Tony Kern talks about in his books and papers. It's a pity the CFI in the right seat and those who might have mentored him never thought to talk about error chains and how they often lead to tragedy.

    1. You would enjoy reading the accident report where a crop duster pilot in his experimental taildragger wowed the crowd whenever he visited, which was almost daily, by flying 10 to 15 feet above the runway upon departure. Of course, he finally augered in right in front of his friends, some of which were menaced by his airborne prop that landed a few feet away. Now they will all have the less-than-pleasant memory of him smeared across the ground.

  132. I inadvertently flew a Texas Taildragger 152 that I own solo with a CG about 1” aft of the aft CG limit and I was a passenger after takeoff. I never got the tail up and the airplane flew off the ground in a 3 point attitude with the YOKE COMPLETELY FORWARD against the instrument panel. There was a crosswind at the time and, as my mind was processing what was going on, I remember looking down and seeing trees and bushes passing beneath my uncontrollable airplane. FORTUNATELY FOR ME the airplane has a much larger than stock engine and the plane continued to climb and accelerate until I had pitch control again. It still scares me to remember as I write this.

    2.2” is pretty far aft of the aft limit, I wonder if they had any pitch control at all. Perhaps they just mushed along in an incipient stall, unable to lower the nose, until they ran out of ground effect.

  133. "The airplane's ground speed was estimated at 75 ± 4 knots shortly after takeoff, and its climb rate was 270 ft per minute (fpm)." With all due consideration to the slightly excessive weight and slightly out-of-limit rearward CG, this is an acceptable rotation speed for the density altitude; and with a very shallow climb rate, the CG issue should not have led to excessive pitch and stall, which indeed does not appear to have happened. The wingtip wobble was probably due to rising above ground effect, where the airspeed at that moment was probably just slightly too low for the weight, but the pilot recovered as airspeed slowly increased to generate enough lift to maintain level flight before climb out. The CG doesn't appear to be an issue with only a 270 fpm climb rate. The pilot had control at that point. Full power is not needed to take off, even with excessive weight, just a longer run before rotating at a slightly faster speed, which didn't seem to be an issue at 75 knots. Lift clearly exceeded weight. The lack of power problem comes in during climb out. In order for an airplane to climb, it needs excess power above what is needed to overcome drag while maintaining level flight. Takeoff and a shallow climb was already established, so weight and CG is no longer an issue, even if highly irresponsible. Airplane performance is reduced by excessive weight, requiring more gentle maneuvering, to avoid overstressing the airframe, and landing speed has to be higher but descent rate lower on touchdown. Trim limits may be exceeded with a large CG displacement resulting in pilot fatigue at the controls. This is all certainly asking for trouble, but not insurmountable. The proximate cause is more likely the undetected damaged engine suddenly presenting itself as the pilot discovered speed was not increasing adequately for faster climb out. Weight then becomes an issue, but not just the slight excess -- all the weight. Level flight, however, could have been maintained at the reduced takeoff power, if that was still available. The engine may have finally totally failed at this point, or the pilot may have panicked in the dark, not knowing where they were going to end up at such a low altitude and airspeed with an inadequate rate of climb, and now clearly a failing engine. As mentioned above, he may have tried to turn back toward the airport suddenly, and lost all lift at too great a bank angle. Hills were about 3 miles ahead. It would have taken some really cool hands on the controls in the dark at a relatively unknown airfield to hold altitude and slowly turn very shallowly at say 80 knots and go around the pattern and make it back to the field. Depends on how badly the engine was suffering at this point. In my analysis, barring total engine failure, which certainly could have happened, if he had the power to take off like he did, the plane could have performed a very slow, gentle return to the field, if the engine had not degraded further. Something to add to your takeoff checklist, I call it my escape plan. Memorize it. Where am I going to go and what am I going to do right here at this airport, if my engine fails during take off? What are my obstacles, distances, and turns to a hopefully safe landing, based on speed and altitude? You have to have emergency procedures in the front of your mind, and practice them in a safe, controlled environment so they become reflexive and you don't panic if they actually happen, hopefully never.

    1. The plane made it all the way from Las Vegas with that reduced power and faulty valve. Would the pilot maintain his cool and slowly climb they could have continued on and even with a slow gain of altitude gradually made it in cruise. I took off from North Las Vegas once in a high DA day and we were at the limit but managed about 150-200 fpm and gradually made it to 11,000 ft with a destination to Tahoe in my SR20 and 4 people onboard. Just keep your cool and make it steady.
      What doomed them is probably the student pilot at the control and the poorly familiarized ATP that rarely flew pistons, on top of the engine performance and slightly aft CG.

    2. Thanks for both comments, 13 and 30 July, I thought the same about putting all the lift into a shallow climb instead of dedicating some for turning and fine tuning the aerodynamics of the prop and the trim for best thrust and least drag until enough fuel has been burned.
      In conventional designs some aft Cg equals less necessary downward lift and thus less drag from horizontal stabiliser and may actually have given them a slight edge - as long as control is not reduced and jeopardized.
      I have flown mostly in Arizona and a few times at KSDL.
      Need to know AND understand aerodynamics and your aircraft's performance numbers and when and why they really matter.