Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ryan Navion B, N5329K: Fatal accident occurred July 17, 2018 near Truckee-Tahoe Airport (KTRK), Nevada County, California

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

Additional Participating 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Truckee, CA
Accident Number: WPR18FA198
Date & Time: 07/17/2018, 0734 PDT
Registration: N5329K
Aircraft: Ryan NAVION
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On July 17, 2018, about 0734 Pacific daylight time, a Ryan Navion B airplane, N5329K, experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Truckee-Tahoe Airport (TRK), Truckee, California. The private pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries, and one passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged during the subsequent emergency landing. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to an audio recording provided by the Federal Aviation Administration between the pilot and the TRK air traffic control tower, shortly after takeoff from runway 11 and during the initial climb, the pilot reported to the controller that he had experienced a power failure and would be returning to the field. The controller cleared the pilot to land on any runway, followed by asking him if he needed assistance; the pilot did not reply. During the right turn the airplane lost altitude, impacted terrain in a flat attitude, and came to rest upright about 1 mile southeast of the departure end of runway 11.

The airplane was recovered to a secured facility for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Ryan
Registration: N5329K
Model/Series: NAVION B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Whittall-Scherfee Ken
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: TRK, 5901 ft msl
Observation Time: 0745 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C / 6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.34 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Truckee, CA (TRK)
Destination: Truckee, CA (TRK)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 39.301944, -120.125278 (est)

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

TRUCKEE -- A small airplane crashed near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, killing the pilot and a passenger and critically injuring the only other person on board the single-engine aircraft.

The pilot, who was declared dead at the scene, reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff. He was trying to make it back to the Truckee Tahoe Airport when the plane went down around 7:40 a.m., 10 minutes after it took off.

A hiker witnessed the plane crash on the west side of Highway 267.

The pilot was later identified as 60-year-old Kenneth Whittall-Scherfee, of Carmichael. He leaves behind a wife and son. According to friends, Whittall-Scherfee recently moved to the Tahoe area.

Two male passengers were flown by a medical helicopter to a Reno, Nevada, hospital with critical injuries. One of them later died, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.

"It's very unfortunate but every once in a while you could have a freak engine failure upon takeoff," said Corby Jahn.

Jahn, who is a pilot in training, says the 60-year-old pilot's piston aircraft has specific maintenance regulations.

"You're going to have certified mechanics working on this but at the end of the day it is a mechanical machine, which is subject to failure," Jahn said.

Jahn says flying conditions Tuesday morning from the airport were good. But when an emergency happens that soon after takeoff he says landing safely can be tough.

"You prepare the best you can for any potential scenario like that," Jahn said. "A lot of it is pilot skill. A huge part it is making sure the aircraft is safe to fly but accidents happen, unfortunately."

Traffic was delayed for several hours on the state highway connecting U.S. Interstate 80 to Lake Tahoe's north shore at Kings Beach.

Story and video ➤

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Authorities have identified one of the two people killed in an early morning plane crash in Truckee.

The pilot, Ken Whittall-Scherfee, was an attorney from Carmichael.

“I think that was his greatest passion—besides his family—was flying,” said Wendy Phoenix, a longtime friend.

At 7:33 a.m. on Tuesday, the 60-year-old pilot took off in his single-engine plane. It was a scenic trip through Tahoe that Phoenix said he’d taken before.

“It was their retreat,” she said, referring to Ken and his wife. “It’s where they would go for skiing. They were big skiers. They would take their dog and go up and spend the long weekends there!”

Shortly after takeoff, Whittall-Scherfee issued a ‘mayday’ call. According to radio transcripts, the traffic control tower tried to make contact with the pilot but heard no response. Then, the tower asked another aircraft nearby to check the area for the Navion-B plane. A nearby hiker was able to give law enforcement the wrecked plane’s exact coordinates.

“Well, it’s devastating,” Phoenix said.

She told CBS13 Whittall-Scherfee supported local nonprofits and would often auction off or donate rides in his plane.

“He was very generous!” Phoenix said. “He took people out on his plane all the time!”

According to the California State Bar, Whittall-Scherfee was a bankruptcy lawyer with an office in Truckee and a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law.

“Ken was very, very caring, he loved his family,” Phoenix said. “He cared very much about his clients.”

Her daughter went to school with Ken’s son and she said the parents bonded over their children’s connections to the El Camino High School band.

“They were often doing events together and we became very good friends!” she told CBS13.

Neighbors say Whittall-Scherfee and his wife lived in Carmichael for years and described the couple as pleasant and neighborly.

And after 12 years of friendship, Phoenix said she’ll remember him most as the guy who liked good wine, unique cars and of course, a trip through the skies.

“I talked to my family, and we’re all there for them if they need us,” she said.

The plane went down in the Martis Creek Lake Wildlife Area near Mercer Flats between the mountain of Northstar and Highway 267. Investigators including the Placer County Sheriff’s office and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are still trying to figure out what may have gone wrong.

The two passengers were initially transported to a Reno hospital. One died from their injuries and has not yet been identified. The other is in the hospital recovering.

Story and video ➤

4:02 p.m. update: 

The Placer County Sheriff's Office have identified the pilot who was killed in a plane crash Tuesday morning near the Truckee Tahoe Airport. 

The pilot was identified as 60-year-old Kenneth Whittall-Scherfee, of Carmichael, Calif., according to Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff's Office. 

Whittall-Scherfee was also the registered owner of the Navion-B plane. 

Erwin said two other people were on the plane and were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. One person died at the hospital. 

The condition of the other person was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon. 

11:15 a.m. update:

A second person has died as a result of a Tuesday morning plane crash near Truckee, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

10:20 a.m. update:

The small plane that crashed one mile east of the Truckee Tahoe Airport went down minutes after taking off, according to Nick Brown of the Truckee Fire Protection District. 

The aircraft lifted off from the runway at approximately 7:33 a.m. and calls reporting the crash reached the dispatch center by 7:38 a.m., leaving just minutes for the pilot to react to engine troubles they reported shortly after takeoff. 

First responders were on scene within two minutes. 

The aircraft leveled out before hitting the ground, bystanders reported to police. 

The aircraft is resting on its belly and is mostly intact, Brown said. 

9:45 a.m. update:

Investigators and first responders were working their way around the small, white aircraft, which came to rest on its belly down an embankment just south of State Route 267. 

9:12 a.m. update: 

One person is dead and two were injured in a Tuesday morning plane crash near Truckee.

The three people were the only ones on board the plane when it crashed shortly after taking off near  at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The single-engine Navion-B crashed just before 7:40 a.m. onto a field on the west side of Nevada 267, near Martis Valley, according to Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

Erwin confirmed the fatality and injuries. Those who were injured were taken to a nearby hospital. Their identities were not immediately released.

The cause of the crash was under investigation by both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The pilot reported engine problems and was trying to return to Truckee Tahoe Airport when the crash occurred, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

8:35 a.m. update:

A small aircraft crashed this morning near Truckee shortly after taking off. 

The pilot of the aircraft reported engine trouble shortly after taking off from the Truckee Tahoe airport and then crashed into a meadow near Martis Dam Road and State Route 267, according to Officer Pete Mann of the California Highway Patrol. 

The condition of the pilot — or if there was anyone else in the aircraft — is unknown at this time. 

The crash is not impacting the road ways, but onlookers are slowing traffic and congesting the area. 

Original story:

The California Highway Patrol in Truckee say a plane has crashed near State Route 267 this morning between the town of Truckee and Northstar. 

Expect a slow down on SR-267 this morning between the Town of Truckee and Northstar due to a plane that crashed this morning.  

Lots of emergency personnel on scene.  Avoid the area if possible.

Story and video ➤


Anonymous said...

Why would anyone, may I ask, try and fly an under-powered piston aircraft into mountainous terrain?

Aviation is judgement, judgement, judgment - period!

Propilot said...

Do you know what you are talking about ? What does that have to do at all with an engine failure on takeoff ? The pilot did the right thing and did not try to do a 180 which would have killed all three of them.

A Guy on the Internet said...

Dear Anonymous,

A) People died, don't be an ass.

B) The temperature at 7:33 am was 49 degrees F, so density altitude was reasonable even at 5900 feet field elevation, and the Navion B has at least a 260 HP engine (many have been retrofitted with larger engines), which should be fine for hauling three people and full fuel out of Truckee. Its service ceiling is 18,000 feet.

Yes, I used to regularly fly out of that airport (with a turbocharged piston plane with a service ceiling of 28,000 feet, and before that, occasionally in a 172 or 182 under the right conditions). An engine failure would be a problem in any plane.

From the photos, it looks like the pilot flew it all the way to the ground, enabling his passengers to have a fighting chance at surviving.

C) Don't be an ass.

Unknown said...

Dear Anonymous:
The airplane was the very opposite of underpowered. I know. I owned N5329K before Mr Scherfee. The engine is a GO-480, 295 HP Lycoming (the original Navion engine was 185 HP). At max gross weight, the airplane just launched off the runway under hot high conditions. I flew it in and out of Truckee that way many times. Rarely did it require more than a few hundred feet to lift off. At sea level, max gross weight, starting at the runway end it would just levitate off in well under 100 feet.
With the engine making power, with fuel delivery correct, with the HUGE three-blade prop turning, this airplane was more than capable of dealing with mountains. And Ken's tour route kept him away from high terrain, over relatively flat areas and the lake.
You are barking up the wrong tree.
Robin White

Anonymous said...

Stall speed, clean configuration, VS1 56 kt or Stall speed, landing configuration, VS0 43 kt ... even belted into the well structured Navion, at that speed, the impact is tremendous. The body goes from roughly 65 mph to nearly zero in seconds. Blunt Force Trauma !!

Unknown said...

N5329K's stall speed, clean, was 48 MPH. Even lower with flaps. I practiced engine-out return th the runways many times, and knowing what was coming, I could make it from 800 AGL. Not knowing what was coming, spending a few seconds scanning the instruments, checking boost poump, etc, and losing energy by not pitching down immediately I'd say 1200-1500 AGL would be required, and maybe more depending on the winds. But a stall/spin out of a slow turn yields large vertical speeds. That's what the wreckage looks like to me. I'm anxious to hear what the NTSB says.

Patty said...

Fly it into the crash as far as possible. Not that Ken wasn't doing that.