Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Piper PA-28R-180 Arrow, N4958J: Fatal accident occurred October 24, 2019 - Shelter Cove, California

Kayla Rodriguez, 27 and  Justin Winfrey, 43.

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

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


Location: Shelter Cove, CA
Accident Number: WPR20FAMS1
Date & Time: 10/24/2019, 2100 PDT
Registration: N4958J
Aircraft: Piper PA28R
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On October 24, 2019, about 2100 Pacific daylight time, N4958J, a Piper PA-28R-180, departed from the Shelter Cove Airport (0Q5), Shelter Cove, California, with a destination of Gnoss Field Airport (DVO), Novato, California. The airplane did not arrive in Novato and was reported overdue by family. The airplane is presumed to have crashed. The private pilot and passenger have not been located. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area surrounding the accident flight and no flight plan had been filed.

According to witnesses, the pilot and passenger had departed from DVO about 1800 en route to 0Q5 for dinner with a planned return to DVO that same evening. A witness observed the airplane depart 0Q5 at 2100 and reported that the sky was "completely dark with no horizon."

On November 3, 2019, the search for the missing airplane was suspended; there was no wreckage debris located during the search.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were no preflight weather briefings or Air Traffic services provided to the pilot. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N4958J
Model/Series: PA28R 180
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/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: KUKI, 626 ft msl
Observation Time: 2056 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 53 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 31°C / -9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots / , Variable
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Shelter Cove, CA (0Q5)
Destination: Novato, CA (DVO)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Unknown
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: Unknown
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.789167, -123.971111 (est)

Justin Winfrey


  1. The requirements for flying at night without an instrument rating are too lax. I remember the first time I took off on that kind of night; it was an attention getter. There is absolutely no difference between that and being IMC in the clouds. Three trips around the traffic pattern with city lights and runway lights doesn't prepare you for, or keep you current for, what is essentially an IFR flight. Most get away with it and learn, some do not.

  2. According to the chart supplement, 0Q5 is day operation only. Surely he was aware of this?

  3. @Anonymous 12:35 - nice catch. I noticed the Airnav page for 0Q5 does not list the daytime only remark. This is a good reality check for me to be using the Chart Supplement and not Airnav, which was typically my go to for airport information (convenience of it being online).


  4. It's been closed at night for as long as I've been checking--several years. It's a tough airport to get into. Daytime use only, marine layer fog in the AM much of the year, no instrument approaches, no WX reporting on the field, webcam on the field is unreliable. But what a beautiful place to go once you manage to!

    I hope for their family's sake they find out what happened. It's surrounded by ugly terrain on all sides with few if any places for a forced landing.

  5. There are two great points about checking the status of the airfield and likewise about the Chart Supplement. I have been using fltplan.com for YEARS and didn’t see any mention of this until. I explicitly open the AFD link, so I echo anon’s point about double checking with the CS. HOWEVER, there are some red flags about operating here at night. For starters, there is no airport lighting. I can’t think of a bigger red flag operating at any airport near sunset-sunrise. Also, any runway having a right hand pattern is usually indicative to the pilot that there is something they need to heed (terrain in this instance).

    The first two sentences of the airport remarks in the CS for 0Q5:

    Unattended. Day use only; CLOSED ngts.

    The things that jumped out to me in the remarks, prior to reading the CS were:


    Being surrounded my mountains at night is a situation I desperately try to avoid. In the case that I can’t, I treat it as an IFR flight. Mountains don’t have lights.

  6. Based on sunrise/sunset times for the area on that day, looks like he got away with making a landing in fading light at 0Q5, just over an hr from his departure from DVO. Leaving 0Q5 at 2100, straight out departure on runway 120, should have him over the coast till town of Westport, north of Fort Bragg. An ABC 7 news article said radar of his flight was lost at about that point in the flight back . He didnt make it 30 miles before he disappeared.

  7. Poor risk management seems like this time of year these happen more with short days.