Thursday, September 13, 2018

‘Airplane of opportunity’? Richard Russell raised pilot’s suspicions a year before Seattle-Tacoma International Airport plane heist

Richard Russell, a Horizon ground-crew worker, stole an airplane from Sea-Tac Airport last month and eventually crashed on Ketron Island in Puget Sound. 

Newly released emergency-dispatch recordings reveal details that could shed light on how Horizon Air employee Richard Russell was able to steal an airplane from Sea-Tac Airport before crashing and killing himself. 


A commercial airline pilot says he encountered Richard Russell — the Horizon Air baggage handler who stole a passenger plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took it for a wild 75-minute flight before crashing last month — at the helm of an unoccupied aircraft a year earlier, according to interviews and emergency-dispatch audio recordings obtained by The Seattle Times.

Joel Monteith, a pilot for SkyWest Airlines, told an emergency dispatcher in August that after he saw Russell and a second man “pointing and flipping switches” inside the empty SkyWest jet at the airport last year, “I went over and confronted them, and I said, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing in here?’ ”

The men told Monteith they were training to use the plane’s auxiliary-power unit so they’d know how to tow it as part of their jobs, he said, “but they kind of … started to get up and then leave the airplane when I confronted them. So, that was kind of suspicious.”

Monteith’s conversation with the dispatcher about his previous encounters with Russell is among dozens of audio recordings of emergency-dispatch communications recently obtained by The Times under a state Public Records Act request that provide more insight into the Horizon incident from the time it was unfolding and during its immediate aftermath.

Monteith also reported to the dispatcher that he recalled Russell had been “inside my cockpit” of an Embraer 175 jet airliner on at least one other occasion, “asking questions (and) wanting to do my flows, which is the preflight preparation I do for takeoff.”

“I don’t think the thing with this guy is like a plot that this dude just came up with like overnight,” Monteith added. “I think that maybe this guy had been thinking about doing this for a long time and then maybe the Q400 that he took was just an airplane of opportunity.”

During an interview Tuesday, Monteith, a 55-year-old Tacoma resident with 30 years of piloting experience, confirmed making the report, but he said no investigator has since followed up with him.

“I’m actually kind of surprised about it,” Monteith said. “I haven’t heard back from Pierce County, and the FBI hasn’t contacted me, either.”

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment about the pilot’s report, citing in an email Tuesday an “ongoing investigation.” A spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.

Monteith reported the encounters to an emergency dispatcher in Pierce County the day after Russell’s solo flight in the Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that he’d commandeered from an airport cargo area, taxied onto a runway and lifted off on the evening of Aug. 10.

Russell, a married 29-year-old Alaska transplant who lived in Sumner, pulled off several aerobatic stunts during the unauthorized flight before the plane crashed into the woods on sparsely populated Ketron Island in South Puget Sound.

During a rambling, recorded conversation with ground control, Russell described himself as a “man in crisis,” but also calmly chatted about such observations as Mount Rainier’s beauty and how to find an orca that for days had garnered national attention while carrying its dead calf in Puget Sound.

The unauthorized flight shut down Sea-Tac Airport traffic, prompted two F-15 fighter jets in Portland to break the sound barrier while scrambling to the scene and drew dozens of awe-struck witnesses to call 911.

It also left pilots and other aviation experts speculating as to how Russell, a low-paid ground-services employee with no apparent pilot experience, knew how to fly the 76-seat passenger turboprop plane and pull off the jaw-dropping aerial maneuvers.

The chaotic joy ride also exposed a serious breach at one of America’s busiest airports that could have nationwide ramifications on airport-security procedures.

“I think this episode speaks to a bigger security problem for the industry as a whole,” Monteith said Tuesday. “What’s to keep a terrorist from gaining a security clearance under the veil of airline employment and hijacking an airplane? That’s a bigger concern for the FAA and NTSB.”

The FBI and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continue to investigate exactly what happened, but so far have revealed few details publicly.

Other recordings obtained by The Times include a firefighter’s radio transmissions from the crash site, informing dispatch that at least one of the airplane’s flight recorders appeared to be destroyed or missing, and another report made by a former co-worker to inform authorities about Russell’s prior training in moving the airplane.

A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle office noted Tuesday the agency previously released a statement that the aircraft’s flight-data recorder and “components of the cockpit voice recorder” were recovered from the crash site and have since been taken to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington, D.C., for processing. Investigators have been able retrieve information from both devices, an FBI spokeswoman said.

During the recording of the call from Russell’s former co-worker, he told a dispatcher that Russell was “not a maintenance guy, he’s just a ramper.”

But the man added Russell recently had been trained for the Tow Team, which would’ve taught him “how to turn the airplane on and work some of the systems so that you can get it towed from one gate to the other.

“That’s how he knew how to turn on the airplane and start the engines and all that,” the man said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, the 27-year-old man, who asked not to be named for fear it might harm his aviation career, said he called authorities to “set the record straight” on misinformation in early media reports that described Russell as a maintenance worker, and to further explain how Russell knew how to move aircraft.

“I was expecting somebody to call me back,” the man said. “But nah, no one ever did.”

Monteith also provided further details Tuesday about his encounters with Russell, saying he immediately recognized Russell’s photo during news reports of the Horizon flight incident.

During the first encounter, Monteith said Russell “seemed unusually friendly and chatty” when he followed Monteith to the aircraft he was piloting about a year before he stole the airplane.

“So then he asks, ‘Do you mind if I watch your flows?’ And at that point, I got a little hair or hackle up on my back and thought, ‘You know, there’s no reason why he would need to know how to set up this aircraft,’ ” Monteith recalled.

The pilot said he began stalling on other tasks until other members of the flight crew showed up and Russell finally left.

On a later occasion last year, Monteith said he saw Russell in the captain’s seat of another SkyWest jet joined by a fellow Horizon ramp agent, prompting him to confront them.

“To see anybody in the cockpit of one of our airplanes without a SkyWest representative present is highly unusual,” he said. “So I kind of just went over and said, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing in here?’ ”

After they told him they were training to tug the aircraft, Monteith said he told them: “You look like you’re doing more than that and don’t need to be there.”

Monteith said he didn’t report the incident at the time because “it’s kind of a delicate issue.”

“We don’t have a specific security mandate saying those with clearance can’t be in a plane’s cockpit,” he said. “And if these really were legitimate guys and they’re authorized to be there, I would potentially be creating an abrasive situation.”

After reporting his encounters with Russell to authorities last month, Monteith said he also relayed them to his employer and believes SkyWest is reviewing the reports.

Story and audio ➤ https://www.seattletimes.com

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N7223J: Accident occurred September 13, 2018 at Spanish Fork Airport (KSPK) Utah County, Utah

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah

https://registry.faa.gov/N7223J

NTSB Identification: GAA18CA553
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 13, 2018 in Spanish Fork, UT
Aircraft: Piper PA28, registration: N7223J

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Crashed due to unknown circumstances.

Date: 13-SEP-18
Time: 21:15:00Z
Regis#: N7223J
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA 28 140
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: MINOR
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: SUBSTANTIAL
Activity: INSTRUCTION
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 91
City: SPANISH FORK
State: UTAH




SPANISH FORK, Utah, Sept. 13, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — An instructor and student pilot suffered non-life-threatening injuries Thursday morning when their small craft, being flown by the licenced pilot, crashed on the side of the Spanish Fork Airport runway.

The incident happened at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to information from the Lt. Brandon Anderson, Spanish Fork Police Department.

“Police, Fire and EMS were dispatched to the Spanish Fork Airport on a report of a Piper Cherokee PA 28 that had crashed just off the runway on takeoff,” a statement from Anderson says.

“The plane was being flown by an instructor with a student pilot as a passenger.

During the process of taking off the plane became airborne and for an unknown reason veered to its right. The pilot attempted to right the plane but was
unsuccessful and the plane crashed off the side of the runway coming to a rest in a ditch.”

The pilot and student were able to exit the plane. Their injuries consisted mostly of cuts and bruises, Anderson’s statement says.

“The names of the pilot and student pilot are not being released at this time. The pilot is a 28-year-old male and the student pilot is a 35-year-old male.

“The FAA and NTSB were contacted and are investigating the cause of the crash.”

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


A flight instructor and student pilot walked away with only minor cuts and bruises after their plane crashed on a runway Thursday morning in Spanish Fork.

The Spanish Fork Police Department reported that the two men had barely taken off from the Spanish Fork airport at 8:30 a.m. when the plane unexpectedly veered to the right.

"The pilot attempted to right the plane but was unsuccessful and the plane crashed off the side of the runway, coming to a rest in a ditch," a press release stated.

The 28-year-old pilot and 35-year-old student were able to escape the blue Piper PA-28 Cherokee plane on their own, officials reported. They suffered minor injuries including cuts and bruises.

The plane was being flown by the instructor and the student was riding as the passenger during the time of the crash.

Both men were transported to a local hospital. Officials are not releasing the names of the student or pilot at this time.

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.

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







SPANISH FORK — Two men were cut and bruised Thursday after crashing a small plane during takeoff at the Spanish Fork Airport, police said.

According to a news release from Spanish Fork Police Department, the pilot, 28, and his student, 35, had just become airborne around 8:30 a.m. when their Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee veered to the right "for an unknown reason."

"The pilot attempted to right the plane but was unsuccessful and the plane crashed off the side of the runway coming to a rest in a ditch," the release stated.

The men, whose names were not released, were able to get out of the plane on their own and were taken to a local hospital to be treated for their injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.

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

Varying oxygen levels in cockpit sickened pilots, Air Force says



The Air Force training command said Thursday that a problem with varying levels of oxygen concentrations in the cockpit was identified as the major factor in unexplained physiological events that have sickened dozens of T-6 Texan II pilots this year.

The San Antonio-based command, which has investigated malfunctions in its onboard oxygen generation system since it grounded the T-6 in February, also revealed how it plans to fix the problem.

“So far, technical efforts to date and analysis of data collected have determined that pilots have been exposed to significantly changing levels of oxygen concentration,” Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, head of the training command, said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

He said the system sometimes was producing more oxygen than a pilot needs, which caused problems for some aviators.

Problems with the onboard oxygen generation system, or OBOGS, on the training plane had prompted as many as 11 pilots with the 12th Flying Training Wing to refuse to fly the aircraft. They took the action after aviators had suffered unexplained physiological episodes — called UPEs by the Air Force — that can incapacitate pilots and even lead to their deaths.

Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, recently told the San Antonio Express-News that investigators had found the root cause of the problem and would begin making fixes.

Kwast said symptoms experienced by some of the pilots were similar to a lack of oxygen, lack of carbon dioxide or other related conditions.

The Air Force Materiel Command created an independent review team to investigate the problems. Investigators learned that the OBOGS filter and drain valves failed at a much higher than anticipated rate. These parts were repaired or replaced.

The Air Force has said that the OBOGS shutoff valve, which funnels air from the engine into the system, failed at a much higher rate than expected. Inspections showed that 85 percent of the shutoff valves inspected failed in the open position, allowing unrestricted air flow. Investigators also found that the same percentage of inlet filters had evidence of moisture but with no significant effect to airflow.

Given that some oxygen system components failed at higher than expected rates, the T-6 Program Office on Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, directed inspections on a more aggressive timeline. Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of the 19th Air Force, said that purging excess moisture from the system appears to keep the OBOGS operating more efficiently over time.

Texan II pilots, meanwhile, have been given extra training and procedures to help them respond to possible oxygen system malfunctions. The training command will add study materials for T-6 aviaiors that will focus on identifying symptoms, responses and corrective procedures for all types of events, not just hypoxia.

More fixes are on the way as well. The Air Force has started a redesign of the T-6 OBOGS system to stabilize the variation in oxygen levels pilots breathe — a process likely to take from two to four years. Experts also are working with the plane’s manufacturer to adjust the OBOGS software algorithm to stabilize oxygen concentrations.

The Air Force said those measures should reduce physiological events, but more will be done, including a broader redesign. New maintenance procedures drawn from several different Air Force and Navy T-6 bases also will be introduced.

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, who leads the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team, will collaborate with Air Force officials and other military branches to determine if the OBOGS measures planned for the T-6 will be applicable across other aircraft that use the oxygen system.

The OBOGS failures resulted in at least 61 reported unexplained physiological episodes during the first six months of this year. The Texan II resumed flight in March as the Air Force announced a more frequent cleaning, testing and maintenance schedule for the oxygen system while the search for a root cause ensued.

The Navy grounded its T-45 Goshawk, a jet trainer, after pilots suffered similar physiological episodes. Hypoxia, a lack of oxygen that is potentially fatal, was suspected when an instructor pilot and student bailed out of a T-45 from Naval Air Station Kingsville that crashed Aug. 14, 2016.

Other possible causes of UPEs involve hypocapnia, a state of reduced carbon dioxide in the blood, and hypercapnia, excessive carbon dioxide in the blood, usually caused by inadequate respiration.

The T-6A grounding came after 22 physiological episodes were recorded in January, the most ever seen in the single-engine, two-seat turboprop since it was introduced in 2000. The training command declared it safe.

Pilots harbored doubts and complained that months of investigation by the Air Force, Navy and NASA had yet to explain why the system failed or how it would be fixed. Some argued that they were not told about the severity of reported physiological episodes.

The Air Force, though, has said it is keeping pilots in the loop.

“Since our T-6 operational pause, we have made every effort to communicate with every instructor and every student exactly what we’ve found,” Doherty, the 19th Air Force commander, said in the statement Thursday. “Transparency remains of utmost importance to use as we all work together to ensure that our pilots are safe and know the way ahead.”

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

Tapanee Pegazair-100, N129LZ: Fatal accident occurred December 02, 2016 in Mount Vernon, Posey County, Indiana


Duane Alan Daws, 64, of Mt. Vernon, Indiana 


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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Indianapolis, Indiana

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

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

http://registry.faa.gov/N129LZ 


Location: Mt Vernon, IN
Accident Number: CEN17FA046
Date & Time: 12/02/2016, 1237 CST
Registration: N129LZ
Aircraft: Gordon PEGAZAIR P 100
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On December 2, 2017, about 1237 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Pegazair P 100 airplane, N129LZ, impacted a field near Mt Vernon, Indiana. The commercial pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Carmi Municipal Airport (CUL), Carmi, Illinois, about 1150.

A witness stated that the airplane was flying overhead at about 400 - 500 feet above ground level, westbound, when he heard the engine quit running. The airplane then initiated a descending right turn, north bound, and then the engine started running again. The airplane maintained a northerly heading, for about ¼-1/2 mile, and then the engine quit a second time, started a decent, pitched up, rolled right, and then pitched nose down impacting the ground. The witness said that he went the accident site and there was a strong odor of gasoline and immediately called 911.

A second witness stated that he saw a similar flight path for the airplane but that the engine was running on impact. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 64, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/21/2012
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/12/2012
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 2000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 118 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He reported a total flight experience of 2,500 hours, with 0 hours in last 6 months, at the time of his last airman medical exam on March 21, 2012, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate that expired on March 31, 2014.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot did not hold an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate nor did he hold a repairman certificate for the airplane. The pilot had no FAA record of previous accidents, incidents, or enforcement actions.

The first and last entries in the pilot's logbook were dated December 2, 1978, and June 29, 2014, respectively. The logbook indicated that he received a private pilot check ride on June 22, 1980. The first logbook entry for flight in the accident airplane was dated March 18, 2012, and indicated that it was 25-minute local flight from CUL with two landings. The remarks section for this entry stated, "High speed taxi + lift (no pattern)." All the subsequent flight entries were for flights in the accident airplane.

The memoranda section of the pilot's logbook included an endorsement, dated May 12, 2012, by a flight instructor, stating that the pilot received a flight review. The only flight entry dated May 12, 2012, was for a 45-minute local flight from CUL in the accident airplane. The remarks section of this entry contained an individual's name and did not cite that a flight review was performed. There were no subsequent flight review endorsements in the pilot's logbook. Title 14 CFR 61.56 requires pilots to obtain a flight review every 2 years to act as pilot-in-command and flight reviews must include a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training.


Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Gordon
Registration: N129LZ
Model/Series: PEGAZAIR P 100
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 9908108
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/15/2013, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 194.65 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Corvair
ELT:
Engine Model/Series: 190
Registered Owner: Deregistered
Rated Power: 120 hp
Operator: Pilot
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane was a Gordon Pegazair P 100 model, which was manufactured in 2007 and was equipped with a Corvair 190 automotive engine.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration website, FAA Registry, Aircraft Inquiry, the airplane was originally registered to the previous aircraft owner, who was also the builder of the airplane. That registration expired May 14, 2013. The pilot, who was the owner of the airplane, had not reregistered the airplane after he had purchased it, and no subsequent application was made for registration.

Aircraft records obtained during the investigation had a special airworthiness certificate issued July 14, 2007 to the aircraft builder/previous owner. There was no current airworthiness certificate or an application for an updated airworthiness certificate in the aircraft records or in the FAA aircraft records database.

The last two logbook entries of the airframe logbook were dated April 2, 2012, at a tachometer time of 26.2 hours for a "completed annual conditional inspection" and July 15, 2013, tachometer time 194.65 hours for a "completed annual inspection." There were no subsequent maintenance entries in the logbook. Both entries were signed by the same the A&P who held an inspection authorization (IA).

The engine logbook had the last two entries for an "annual inspection" by the A&P IA, dated July 15, 2013, at a tachometer time of 194.65 hours. There were no subsequent inspections entered in the engine logbook that were signed by an A&P, but there were 10 later entries dated from July 15, 2013 to November 24, 2015, that cited maintenance work involving engine oil and filter changes, engine compression check, spark plug changes, the replacement of ignition points, and engine timing checks. The last entry dated November 24, 2015 had a tachometer time entry of 489.23 hours. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: CUL, 388 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1235 CST
Direction from Accident Site: 345°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 7°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Carmi, IL (CUL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination:
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1150 CST
Type of Airspace:  Class G


Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  37.933333, 167.772500 (est)

The accident site was located in a flat dirt field about 17 nautical miles southeast of CUL. The power lines and trees adjacent to the field were undamaged.

The engine was separated from the airframe and was about 20 ft south of the airframe. A ground scar consistent in shape and length to the wing's leading edge was oriented lengthwise north/south on each side of the separated engine. [SG1] The fuselage was upright, and the tail-to-nose orientation of the airplane was approximately north/northwest. There was no evidence of fire or soot on the engine or airframe.

Examination of the flight control system revealed that the wing flaps and both leading edge wing slats were in the retracted positions. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the control surfaces to the cockpit controls.

The left- and right-wing fuel tanks were empty, and the fuel lines from the tanks to the fuel selector and from the fuel selector to the engine were broken open. The fuel selector panel was damaged by impact forces, and the fuel selector was positioned between the "LEFT" and "BOTH" positions. Both fuel tanks exhibited outward expansion consistent with hydraulic forces. There was an odor consistent with fuel present at the accident site.

The engine did not exhibit any evidence of mechanical failure. Engine control continuity to the cockpit was confirmed through overstress separations of the controls. The cockpit engine control positions could not be determined due to impact damage. Both propeller blades were broken off at the blade roots and displayed features consistent with overstress.

The airplane was equipped with an MGL Avionics EFIS display that contained an SD memory card. The display and memory card were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorder Division for download. No data pertinent to the event were recovered due to the extent of the damage to the SD card. 

Medical And Pathological Information

On his most recent medical certificate application, the 64-year-old pilot reported a history of a neurology evaluation in September 2011 for memory issues, but no records of the evaluation were contained in the FAA records. On that application, he denied any other medical concerns or the use of medications.

The pilot's personal medical records documented a history of a progressive neurodegenerative disease beginning in 2011. His symptoms included significant visual-spatial and language dysfunction, and he was diagnosed with alterations of consciousness and encephalopathy. In August 2015, he was prescribed the Alzheimer's treatment medication donepezil. His most recent record of altered consciousness was April 2016 when the pilot reported transient episodes of altered mental status, loss of balance, slurred speech, and weakness. At that time, he was no longer using any medications. No records of a detailed neurologic evaluation after April 2016 were located.

The Posey County Coroner's Office, Mt Vernon, Indiana, performed an autopsy of the pilot and determined that his cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. No natural disease was identified.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing and detected ethanol at 0.070 gm/dl in vitreous and 0.038 g/dl in blood. No carbon monoxide or tested-for-drugs were detected. Ethanol is the intoxicant commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. It acts as a central nervous system depressant. After ingestion, at low doses, it impairs judgment, psychomotor functioning, and vigilance; at higher doses it can cause coma and death. Title 14 CFR 91.17(a) prohibits any person from acting or attempting to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while having 0.040 gm/dl or more ethanol in the blood. Because ingested alcohol is distributed throughout the body, levels from different postmortem tissues are usually similar. Ethanol may also be produced in body tissues by microbial activity after death. However, vitreous humor from an intact eye and urine do not suffer from such production to any significant extent in relation to blood.


NTSB Identification: CEN17FA046
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 02, 2016 in Mt Vernon, IN
Aircraft: Gordon PEGAZAIR P 100, registration: N129LZ
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 2, 2016, about 1237 central standard time, a Gordon Pegazair P 100, N129LZ (deregistered N-number), impacted a field near Mt Vernon, Indiana. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight originated from Carmi Municipal Airport (CUL), Carmi, Illinois about 1150.

Beech 95-B55 (T42A) Baron, N413D: Fatal accident occurred September 17, 2016 in Broadus, Powder River County, Montana

Patricia Verhelle, left, with an unidentified accountant, an unidentified attorney and her teenage grandson, Timothy P. Brown, outside a court building in Marathon, Florida. Brown owns two hotels in Marathon area.


Harbor Springs — The cause of a 2016 plane crash in Montana that  claimed the lives of three members of a Michigan family remains a mystery, according to Federal Aviation Administration  records.

The deaths were tragic enough for relatives and friends but having no conclusion is difficult, said Patricia Verhelle, whose daughter, Tricia Marie Verhelle-Brown, 45, perished in the crash on Sept. 17, 2016, along with her husband, Timothy S. Brown, 64, and the couple’s son, Theodore “Teddy” Brown, 13.

“The FAA do a terrific job but it’s hard to take after two years there is no conclusion,” said Verhelle in a phone interview from Harbor Springs. “All they have found is no one really knows what caused it.

Verhelle said federal aviation officials examined weather conditions and reassembled the aircraft, which seemed to be in working order; an autopsy of her son-in-law, the pilot, didn't turn up any alcohol or drugs in his system.

“So if it wasn’t the weather, the plane or my son-in-law,” she posed. “… then what caused it?”

Verhelle said she takes comfort in that her daughter’s oldest son, Timothy, then 15 years old, was home with her in Michigan.

“They wanted him to go on the trip but he declined because he was carrying 16 credits at North Central College and thought he should stay home,” she said. “I might also have been on that same trip. We all used to fly together. We had all flown Up North a week or two before and walked the Mackinac Bridge.”

The Browns were visiting national parks in Montana, she said, and were returning to Michigan with a stop planned in Rapid City, South Dakota, when — for still unexplained reasons — the 1974 twin-engine Beechcraft Baron plummeted from the sky about 90 minutes outside Billings County and crashed into a flat, grassy plateau at an elevation of about 3,751 feet. The crash and the bodies were discovered within an hour, she said.

“They were on a straight line after Billings and through some slight turbulence when he took a hard left and then a right,” she said. “Something happened. He might have been turning to see a herd of elk but something occurred. Maybe a warm pressure area. Maybe windshear.

“And about then is when it (plane) went straight down, pancaked,” she said.

The aircraft was spotted on the ground by a ranch caretaker, according to investigative records. Verhelle’s son-in-law was strapped in the pilot's seat and it was initially believed that he was the sole occupant of the plane. He had no pulse. Then it was determined the impact had yanked her daughter and son-in-law into the back of the plane. Both were dead and autopsies indicated they likely bled to death, she said.

“Tim was an amazing pilot and very experienced,” she said. “But he was also what I call a sissy pilot. He wouldn’t fly if there was rain or a cloud in the sky. He certainly didn’t take chances. He didn’t do drugs and wouldn’t drink a drop of alcohol 24 hours before flying. And he was meticulous, one to check everything out before taking off, right down to making sure everyone had their seat belts on.

“His motto was ‘hours of idleness and seconds of terror.'”

Verhelle wishes the autopsy might have been more thorough on her son-in-law.

“They never checked if he might have had a heart attack, and it's too late now,” she said.

“Unknown or undetermined”

Officially, the crash event has been defined as “unknown or undetermined” in the Aviation Accident Report with the National Transportation Safety Board. Federal records reflect it was daytime, about 12:36 p.m., and “there were no witnesses to the crash and no significant weather was in the area at the time …” There was no radio traffic indicating anything was wrong in the air and radar last tracked the aircraft on an altitude of 5,800 feet.

According to a federal analysis, the aircraft was found to have collided with the ground in a “nose-low near vertical attitude.” Later the airframe, engine and propellers revealed no discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation.

“The reason for the departure from the cruise flight and the loss of control could not be determined from the available evidence,” the NTSB  concluded.

Brown had an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for single and multi-engine aircraft. He had a flight instructor certificate for single-engine aircraft, and the Baron had a “double yoke” arrangement — two steering wheels — because he planned to teach his sons how to fly. He had taken his last FAA medical exam on March 3, 2016.

The aircraft, while 42 years old, had gone through routine maintenance, according to Verhelle and Brown’s flight logbooks, annual inspections dated May 25, 2016, had been completed and signed off. Both engines had been overhauled.

Verhelle recalls a postcard which Brown had received months earlier about a recall on a part for the plane. She was not sure if he had taken care of it but expected because of his nature, it was something he would have done.

Timmy takes over

Her grandson, whom she refers to as “Timmy,” is very intelligent and she described him as “red-haired, handsome about 6-foot-2 and 17 going on 30.”

The teen doesn’t shy away from challenges. In 2015, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his father.

Shortly after the crash, the teen told a reporter he planned to run the family hotel businesses in their memory. He has since taken over making decisions at three hotels in Michigan and two in Florida. His father owned and operated the Colonial Inn of Harbor Springs; a Holiday Inn Express and a Breakers Resort, both in St. Ignace; and the Seashell Beach Resort and Kingsail Motel in the Florida Keys.

“My son-in-law left me a note that in the event of his death, all of his businesses should be maintained for his sons, should they decide they ever wanted to pursue them,” said Verhelle.

With the encouragement of family and help of private tutors, Tim jumped several grades in school and, at the age of 17, has almost completed two years of college. His plan is to transfer to the University of Michigan next year and complete his undergraduate work before enrolling in a business college, or possibly Harvard.

Her grandson’s interest is so intense that he has interrupted his college education at times to focus on the hotels, like after Hurricane Irma in 2017 — about a year after the crash — leveled one in the Florida Keys and seriously damaged another.

Timmy Brown filed as an emancipated minor so he could live on his own in his parents house with his dog and turtle, she said. In spare time from school and demands of being the owner of five hotels, he also pursued flying. He soloed at 16 and plans to have his own plane, like his father, next year.

“Its been a bumpy road but he’s doing great,” she said. “He has had to drop out of school to take care of some things but in general, nothing defeats him.”

https://www.detroitnews.com

Timothy Scott Brown, 64
Tricia Marie Verhelle Brown, 45
Theodore Robert Brown, 13


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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Helena, Montana
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Continental Motors Inc; Mobile, Alabama

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

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

http://registry.faa.gov/N413D 

Analysis 

The airline transport pilot and his passengers departed on a personal cross-country flight and flew southeast toward their destination. Radar tracking indicated that after departure, the airplane attained an altitude of about 5,600 ft mean sea level (msl) in about 13 minutes. Radar data became intermittent; however, when radar contact was reestablished several minutes later, the airplane tracking was consistent with the course and altitude of the flight. The last data tracks identified the airplane at 5,800 ft msl.

The wreckage was located on flat open land at an elevation of 3,751 ft about 58 miles southeast from the last radar return. There were no witnesses to the accident, and no significant weather was in the area at the time of the accident.

Ground signatures and an examination of the airframe revealed evidence that the airplane collided with the ground in a nose-low near vertical attitude. Damage signatures and a teardown examination revealed that the propeller damage for both the left and right-side propeller assemblies was similar with the physical damage indicating rotation with power on at the time of impact.

Postaccident examinations of the airframe, engine, and propellers revealed no discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation.

The reason for the departure from cruise flight and the loss of control could not be determined from the available evidence.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The airplane's departure from cruise flight for reasons that could not be determined based on the available information.

Findings

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise
Unknown or undetermined (Defining event)

Uncontrolled descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Location: Broadus, MT
Accident Number: WPR16FA182
Date & Time: 09/17/2016, 1236 MDT
Registration: N413D
Aircraft: BEECH 95 B55 (T42A)
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Unknown or undetermined
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 17, 2016, about 1236 mountain daylight time, a Beech 95-B55 airplane, N413D, impacted terrain about 30 miles southeast of Broadus, Montana. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. The flight departed from the Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Billings, Montana, about noon, and was destined for Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), Rapid City, South Dakota.

The airplane wreckage was found by a ranch caretaker as he was returning to work from lunch, about 1300. The caretaker reported hearing an airplane during lunch (between 1130-1200), but he did not go outside to look for it nor did he hear the airplane impact the ground.


Figure 1 - OpsVue flight track of the accident airplane.


Track data for the flight was obtained from Harris OpsVue, which uses Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar data and applies an altimeter correction to estimate altitude. The altitude data may have an error of +/-300 ft.

The OpsVue data indicated the airplane departed BIL, about noon, squawking a transponder code of 0456, and made a right turn toward the southeast. About 6 minutes later, the airplane had climbed to an altitude of 5,500 to 5,600 ft. and began squawking a transponder code of 1200. Track data consistent with the accident airplane continued for about 13 minutes.

No data was available between 1213:13 and 1225:03; data consistent with the airplane's course then resumed at an altitude of about 5,800 ft and continued on the southeast course for about 36.5 nautical miles (nm). No data was available between 1233:04 and 1235:28; another track then began at an altitude of 5,800 ft, still heading southeast and about 7.3 nm from where the track stopped. At 1235: 57, the track started a left turn with data ending at 1236:04 at an altitude of 5,800 ft. The last data point was located about 43.35 nautical miles southwest of Broadus, Montana.

The accident site was located about 58 miles southeast from the last identified radar track at an elevation of 3,751 ft. (about 30 miles southeast of Broadus). 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 64, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/03/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 4116 hours (Total, all aircraft), 0 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The 64-year-old pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multi-engine land. He also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine. On the pilot's most recent FAA medical application dated March 3, 2016, he left the total flight time question box blank. However, on his FAA medical application dated March 4, 2014, the pilot reported 4,116 total flight hours. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BEECH
Registration: N413D
Model/Series: 95 B55 (T42A) A
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1974
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: TC-1726
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats:
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines:
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer:
ELT:
Engine Model/Series:
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The 1974 twin-engine Beech 95-B55 (T42A), serial number TC-1726 airplane, was powered by two Continental Motors, Inc., IO-470-L21A engines (left: serial number 454399; right: serial number 454385). The engines were equipped with Hartzell Propeller, Inc., model BHC-C2YF-2CHUF propeller assemblies.

According to logbook entries dated May 25, 2016, annual inspections had been completed and signed off for the airframe, engines, and propellers. Total airframe and left engine time in service was 4,337.5 hours; the left engine had 653.2 hours since overhaul and 16 hours since the last annual inspection. The right engine had 4,326.3 total hours, and 1,410.3 hours since overhaul and 16 hours since the annual inspection. During the annual inspection, an overhauled cylinder was installed at the No. 2 cylinder position on the right engine. The propeller logbook entry reported 80.5 hours since overhaul. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBIL, 3581 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 154 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1753 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 287°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 10000 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 13 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 250°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / 3°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Billings, MT (BIL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Unknown
Destination: Rapid City, SD (RAP)
Type of Clearance: Unknown
Departure Time: 1200 MDT
Type of Airspace: 

A National Transportation Safety Board Meteorologist reviewed the weather for the area at the time of the accident. The accident site was in a warm air sector of a front with westerly wind of 15 to 20 knots over the region, with clear skies. A review of the National Weather System national weather radar composite for the period depicted no weather echoes over the region at the time of the accident.

The closest official weather observation was located at Dawson community Airport (GDV), Glendive, Montana, located about 9 miles east of the accident site at an elevation of 2,458 ft. The observation reported wind from 220o at 13 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear below 12,000 ft above ground level (agl), temperature 26o Celsius (C), dew point 7o C, altimeter 29.77 inches of mercury.

No specific turbulence was reported near the accident site below 12,000 ft.

Airport Information

Airport: BROADUS (00F)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 3282 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Unknown
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  45.119167, -105.035833 

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, an FAA inspector, and a representative from Textron Aviation, the airplane manufacturer, responded to the accident site. The airplane came to rest on flat open land covered with tall grass on a 143° magnetic heading. The main wreckage was confined to the impact area, with all major components identified at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit controls to all primary flight control surfaces.

Both the left- and right-wing bladder fuel tanks had been breached; however, the smell of 100 low-lead fuel was evident. The nose landing gear was retracted and pushed up and aft into the cockpit where it impacted the front carry-through spar.

The left wing was canted forward and had leading-to-trailing edge crush damage the length of the wing. The ground scar was consistent with the width and length of the left-wing leading edge. The left engine was canted down and partially separated from the wing, and the propeller assembly separated from the engine and was located about 10 to 15 ft forward of the main wreckage. The propeller blades had light chord-wise scratches. One blade was bent aft mid-blade but remained attached at the hub; the other blade was loose in the hub. The propeller spring was buried vertically in the ground aft of the left wing leading edge ground scar.

The right wing was canted forward and sustained damage from the wing root to the engine nacelle; the outboard portion of the wing remained intact. The right engine remained partially attached to the wing. The engine case was cracked forward of cylinders Nos. 5 and 6. The propeller assembly separated from the engine and was located underneath the right-side cabin fuselage. One blade was bent aft at the hub and slightly curved and was loose in the hub; the other blade had minimal damage and remained in the hub.

Ground scar signatures indicated that both the left-side and right-side propellers impacted the ground in a near-vertical attitude and separated from their respective engines.

The airframe, engine, and propellers were examined on October 25-27, 2016, at Osterman's Auto Service in Belgrade, Montana.

Visual examination of the left engine revealed that the bottom of the crankcase had been fractured due to impact damage. Crankshaft and camshaft continuity were established during a compression check, with thumb compression obtained at all cylinders. The cylinders were borescoped with no foreign debris observed. Both magnetos were manually rotated and produced spark at their respective ignition systems. The engine-driven fuel pump, throttle body/metering unit, and the fuel manifold valve were disassembled and examined with no discrepancies noted.

Visual examination of the right engine revealed that the crankcase, camshaft, and No. 6 connecting rod had been fractured; however, the fracture surfaces did not display any signs of lubrication or operational distress and were consistent with impact forces. The oil pan was crushed and removed to facilitate examination of the internal components of the engine. Because of the damage, a compression check was not performed; however, borescope examination of the cylinders revealed no preimpact anomalies. Both magnetos separated from the engine but remained attached to their respective ignition harness. The magnetos were manually rotated and produced spark through their respective ignition systems. The engine-driven fuel pump, throttle body/metering unit and fuel manifold valve were disassembled and examined with no discrepancies noted.

The damage to all propeller blades were similar. One blade from each propeller denoted as L2 and R1 exhibited chordwise/rotational abrasion; the majority of the striations were on the camber side of the propeller blades. The hydraulic unit on each propeller had fractured and separated from the propeller assembly and the pitch change rods were bent. The preload plate opposite to the L2 and R1 blades were marked near the high end of the normal operating range. The L2 and R1 propeller blades had fractured pitch change knobs. The R1 propeller blade bearings were fractured on the camber side of the blade with ball imprints visible on the blade.

The physical damage to both the left and right propeller assemblies were consistent with the development of power from each engine at the time of impact. The propeller manufacturer stated that the damage and blade angle impact marks suggested a low-power range of operation and sudden stoppage (less than one revolution) during the impact sequence. There were no discrepancies noted that would have prevented normal operation.

There were no discrepancies with the engines or propellers noted that would have precluded normal operation.

Medical And Pathological Information

The Department of Justice Forensic Science Division, Missoula, Montana, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries due to a light [air]plane crash, with the manner of death as an accident.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology testing on specimens of the pilot. Cyanide testing was not performed; carbon monoxide, volatiles, and tested-for-drugs were not detected.

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA182
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 17, 2016 in Broadus, MT
Aircraft: BEECH 95 B55 (T42A), registration: N413D
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 17, 2016, about 1300 mountain daylight time, a twin-engine Beech (Baron) 95-B55 airplane, N413D, impacted terrain about 20 miles east of Broadus, Montana. The owner/Airline Transport Pilot operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight departed from the Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Billings, Montana, about noon, with an intended destination of Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), Rapid City, South Dakota.

The airplane wreckage was found by a ranch caretaker as he was returning to work from lunch, about 1300. The caretaker reported hearing an airplane during lunch, but he did not go outside to look for it nor did he hear the airplane impact the ground.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, and a representative from Textron Aviation, the airplane manufacturer, responded to the accident site. The airplane came to rest on a 143-degree magnetic heading on flat land. The main wreckage was confined to the impact area, with all major components identified at the accident site. The airplane's control surfaces remained attached; the left propeller had separated from the left engine and was located just forward of the main wreckage. The right propeller separated and was located underneath the right side cabin fuselage. The nose landing gear was retracted, and pushed up and aft into the cabin where it impacted the front carry through spar.

Both the left and right wing bladder fuel tanks had been breached; however, the smell of 100 low-lead fuel was evident. Both the left and right wings were canted forward, with both engines partially separated from their respective wings. The left propeller blades had light chord wise scratches. The right propeller blades had no chord wise striations.

The airplane was recovered and is in a secured storage facility.