Saturday, August 11, 2018

Smith Hornet, registered to the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum Inc and operated by the pilot, N218B: Fatal accident occurred August 11, 2018 at St. George Regional Airport (KSGU), Washington County, Utah

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: St. George, UT
Accident Number: WPR18LA217
Date & Time: 08/11/2018, 0855 MDT
Registration: N218B
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On August 11, 2018, about 0855 mountain daylight time, an amateur built experimental Smith Hornet airplane, N218B, impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from the St. George Regional Airport (SGU), St. George, Utah. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum Inc and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

A pilot, flying in the area at the time of the accident, reported that shortly after he landed, he observed the accident airplane nose down in the dirt next to the runway surface with the engine still running. He radioed for assistance before proceeding to the airplane himself.

The airplane was moved to a secure location for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: SMITH
Registration: N218B
Model/Series: HORNET
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SGU, 2884 ft msl
Observation Time: 0856 MDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 31°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 90°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: St. George, UT (SGU)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:   37.035278, -113.506111

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

Sterling Keith Palmer
August 11, 2018

St. George, UT- Sterling Keith Palmer, 69, passed away on Saturday, August 11, 2018.  He was born on March 24, 1949 in Monticello, UT to Kenneth Palmer and Marba Helquist. Sterling married Kathleen Denise Hanson on August 10, 1973 in Salt Lake City, UT at the Salt Lake City LDS temple.

Sterling was raised in Blanding, UT until he left to serve an LDS mission in Hong Kong. After his return from Hong Kong, Sterling attended the University of Utah where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Sociology in 1973.  Upon graduation, he commissioned in the United States Air Force and served as a C-141 aircraft commander, instructor and flight examiner pilot. Sterling’s duties brought him and his family all across the world as he continued to answer the call from his country.  He retired honorably in 2000 as a Colonel.

Sterling is survived by Kathleen Palmer (St. George, UT), his two children, James (Los Angeles, CA) and Matthew (Billings, MT), and his beautiful granddaughter, Poppy (Billings, MT).

Funeral services will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, August 18 in Blanding, UT at the Blanding Stake Center, 100 West 800 North.  Interment will take place at the Blanding City Cemetery.

Arrangements are made under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary. Family and friends are invited to sign his online guestbook at

ST. GEORGE — A man died Saturday morning after crashing an aircraft near a runway at St. George Regional Airport.

Officials have identified the pilot as 69-year-old Sterling Palmer, of St. George. 
The man, who was the only occupant in the plane, was taking off at runway No. 1 in an ultra-light experimental aircraft at approximately 9 a.m., airport spokesman Marc Mortensen said.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened,” Mortensen said, “but he didn’t get very far in the air before it fell to the ground and crashed.”

Mortensen said it appears the pilot died on impact. Officials aren’t releasing the name of the pilot or information about who owns the aircraft until next of kin are notified.

St. George Police Department, St. George Fire Department and airport operations responded to the scene of the crash.

Mortensen said officials informed the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration of the crash. FAA officials will be conducting the investigation into the crash alongside St. George Police detectives.

Although the airport remained operational, Mortensen said the runway was shut down to general aviation aircraft. He said officials expected to have it cleared by noon in time for a SkyWest commercial flight from Phoenix arriving at 12:15 p.m.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Story and video ➤

A St. George man is dead after his single-engine aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff at St. George Regional Airport on Saturday morning. 

Sterling Palmer, 69, was the only person onboard, officials said.

Emergency respondents were called to the scene around 9 a.m. after the plane, an Ultralight experimental aircraft, plummeted out of the sky upon take off and nosedived into the ground.

According to Marc Mortensen, director of support services at St. George City, the pilot was taking off on Runway 1 headed northbound. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fatal crash. 

"The plane hit the side of the runway and went into the dirt," Mortensen said. "The nose impacted the ground, and the deceased, we're sure he was killed on impact." 

Several agencies responded to the scene, including St. George Police Department, St. George fire, and SGU Regional Airport Operations personnel. 

"Our hearts and prayers go out to Mr. Palmer's family at this time," St. George Mayor Jon Pike said in a written statement.

Mortensen said officials are working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration in conducting the investigation into the crash.

"The police detectives quarantined the site and did the work they needed to do before they moved the aircraft and the body," Mortensen said. 

The crash delayed one SkyWest flight from Phoenix for about 15 minutes, and the airport was able to resume commercial and general aviation operations by 12:30 p.m., according to Mortensen.

Mortensen said officials arrived on scene quickly, and staff who were in the vicinity were able to secure the site efficiently and shut down the runway in a timely manner. 

"It's still really fresh for the family," Mortensen said. "It's a difficult time for them, and our hearts go out to them."

Original article ➤

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