Saturday, May 5, 2018

Belair Raven, C-FNKZ: Fatal accident occurred May 05, 2018 at Sault Ste. Marie Municipal Airport (KANJ), Chippewa County, Michigan

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Grand Rapids, Michigan

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Gilbert Belair:

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Sault Ste Marie, MI
Accident Number: CEN18FA160
Date & Time: 05/05/2018, 1002 EDT
Registration: C-FNKZ
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 5, 2018, at 1002 eastern daylight time, an amateur-built Belair Raven airplane, Canadian registration C-FNKZ, impacted terrain during takeoff from Sault Ste Marie Municipal Airport (ANJ), Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. The pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident for the local flight, which departed without a flight plan.

According to several witnesses, the airplane taxied to and departed from runway 32. After climbing with a nose high attitude until about 100 ft above ground level, the airplane made a sharp right turn. The airplane continued turning right and entered a steep nose down dive until ground impact, damaging both wings and the fuselage. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BELAIR
Registration: C-FNKZ
Model/Series: RAVEN
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: Gilbert Belair
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KANJ, 724 ft msl
Observation Time: 0955 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C / 3°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots/ 15 knots, 270°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: SAULT STE MARIE, MI (ANJ)
Destination: SAULT STE MARIE, MI (ANJ)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 46.477500, -84.363056

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

Gilbert Belair, one of two Sault men who died in a plane crash in Sault, Michigan May 5, 2018, is shown at far right explaining flight to children and youth at the third annual COPA for Kids event, held at the MNRF hangar beside the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, Aug. 12, 2017.

Family members, friends and local aviation enthusiasts are mourning the deaths of two Sault Ste. Marie men who died in a plane crash Saturday.

Although the identities of the deceased in the crash have not been officially released, family and friends have confirmed that pilot Gilbert Belair, 67, and passenger John Paul Finck, 76, died when Belair’s registered homebuilt aircraft crashed at Sanderson Municipal Airport in Sault Ste. Marie Mich. Saturday morning.

“When I heard, I nearly fainted. I was shocked. Totally shocked. We were out for coffee Wednesday night, that’s the last time I saw him,” said the Sault’s David West, a friend of Belair’s.

“He would do anything for anybody. He did a lot of work for people. If you needed a hand with something he’d be the first guy to come and say ‘what can I do for you?’” 

A native of Chapleau and retired electrical inspector, Belair was a member of the Canadian Owners Pilot’s Association (COPA) Flight 66, a group of Sault and area pilots and flight enthusiasts, which forms the local chapter of the Canadian Owners Pilot’s Association.

He was also very active with West in the Gospel Hall, his church located at the corner of Spring and Wellington Streets.

“It makes you think of your own mortality…(but) I have faith, I know where he is and he’s better off, but I’m thinking of his wife and family,” West said. 

In a twist of tragic irony, West and his son-in-law towed John Paul Finck’s own plane to shore after it flipped over in the area of the St. Marys River near Bell's Point Campground in Aug. 2016 

Finck made it to shore after sustaining minor injuries in that incident.

Belair’s plane “stalled and nose dived to the ground near the runway,” wrote Tony Molinaro, a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson, in an email to SooToday Saturday.

“The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) will lead the investigation," Molinaro wrote.

Sanderson airfield was closed until further notice, and was expected to be closed for “two or three days” while the initial investigation is underway, an NTSB spokesperson told SooToday Saturday evening.

Jean-Paul Finck
JULY 17, 1942 – MAY 05 , 2018

FINCK, Jean-Paul – It is with profound sadness that we announce his sudden passing on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the age of 75. Jean-Paul’s passion was flying and he went to his heavenly home doing what he loved. He will be greatly missed by his wife Thérèse (nee Cauwel) for 53 years. Family and friends are invited to Arthur Funeral Home – Barton & Kiteley Chapel (492 Wellington St. E. – 706-759-2522) on Thursday, May 10, 2018 from 6 – 9 pm. Funeral mass to be celebrated from Paroisse Sainte-Marie-Du-Sault on Friday, May 11, 2018 at 11 am. Rev. Jean-Pierre Mukuna officiating. Reception to follow. Memorial donations to the charity of your choice would be appreciated. Expressions of sympathy may be offered at

What lies beyond the zone of clouds, that whispers urgently to me? The length and breadth and sweep of sky, Suddenly, my soul is free!

An official with Sanderson Municipal Airport in Sault Sainte Marie MI, has told SooToday two people are deceased after a light plane crashed at the airfield at approximately 10 a.m. Saturday.

There were no survivors, the official said.

"A Canadian registered homebuilt aircraft departed Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan) Municipal Airport, stalled and nose dived to the ground near the runway. We have been told by local law enforcement officials that there are two fatalities," confirmed Tony Molinaro, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson in an email to SooToday.

"The FAA will be on site to begin an investigation. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) will lead the investigation," Molinaro wrote.

Air traffic was diverted to Chippewa airfield in Kinross after the fatal crash.

"Family members of the deceased have been notified. The FAA and NTSB have been notified and have agents responding to the scene to conduct the crash investigation. Sanderson airfield will be closed until further notice," said Sault Michigan Police Sgt. Francis DeSchano, speaking to SooToday.

DeSchano said the two crash victims are Sault, Ontario males.

Original article can be found here ➤

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