Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Beechcraft F33A Bonanza, N3156W: Fatal accident occurred July 28, 2020 in Malbis, Baldwin County, Alabama

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. 

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Continental Aerospace Technologies; Mobile, Alabama

QT Flyers LLC 

Location: Malbis, AL

Accident Number: ERA20LA262
Date & Time: 07/28/2020, 1901 CDT
Registration: N3156W
Aircraft: Beech F33
Injuries:2 Fatal 
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On July 28, 2020, about 1901 central daylight time, a Beech F33A, N3156W, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Malbis, Alabama. The private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate a rating for airplane single-engine land, he did not have an instrument rating. Family members reported that the pilot's original plan was to return home to the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL), Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on either July 29 or July 30, depending on the weather. The pilot had a business meeting scheduled for July 29.

On the afternoon of July 28 the pilot called flight service for a weather briefing. A review of that recorded briefing revealed that the pilot inquired about the weather for his route of flight from Jack Edwards National Airport (JKA), Gulf Shores, Alabama to MSL, for both the afternoon of July 28 and the following day July 29th, with his preference for the following day at 1200. 

The briefer responded "it doesn't look good" for the following day, with thunderstorms, rain showers, low ceilings and reduced visibility expected, and that visual flight rules (VFR) flight was not recommended. 

The pilot then inquired about the weather for a flight that afternoon around 1800. 

The briefer responded "That's not looking so good right now" and advised that there were thunderstorms and rain showers over the area, and a convective SIGMET for the southern portion of his route, which noted an area of thunderstorms moving eastward. 

For the northern portion of the route, a center weather advisory was in effect for developing thunderstorms, and "weather" was currently building along and on both sides of the route and around the destination. 

The briefer advised that VFR flight was not recommended.

The pilot responded "It looks like my best shot is, I'm gonna probably go this afternoon because it's going to be worse tomorrow…what I'm seeing… reported… online anyway is that everything is VFR as we speak … are you seeing anything… between here and Muscle Shoals that's not VFR?" 

The briefer responded "I have some clouds that are between 1,200 and 2,000 feet and…then some higher clouds…multiple layers of clouds, I don't see anybody that's reporting [instrument meteorological conditions] either visibility or ceilings but there are clouds that are you know getting down pretty close to it even though they're scattered. You get into the areas where the precipitation is, and it could be IFR." 

The pilot responded "Well, I feel confident that if I go during the daylight that I can, unless I got a solid line of thunderstorms, that I can go around a lot of precipitation."

The pilot added "If I'm going VFR I'm going this afternoon, unless I got clouds that are getting low enough that I can't fly… and I haven't heard anything to tell me that." 

The briefer then offered a recent weather observation from Mobile, Alabama (about 25 miles west of the intended route of flight) which indicated a visibility of 1.5 miles in heavy rain and mist, and advised that areas along the route of flight that may be experiencing rain showers or thunderstorms may have the visibility or ceilings reduced to instrument meteorological conditions, as it did in Mobile. 

The pilot and briefer then discussed where the precipitation was occurring, and the location covered by the convective SIGMETs in the area before concluding the call.

According to a customer service representative at a fixed based operator (FBO) at JKA, the pilot and his wife spent about 1 hour in the FBO, and the pilot kept checking the weather in the flight planning room, and on a monitor in the lobby which displayed weather radar from FlightAware.

The pilot called a family member about 1800 and said that he was unsure if he would be able to depart that evening and discussed returning to the house for dinner. About 15-20 minutes later, the pilot telephoned again, and said "they had a window and were leaving after all."

According to preliminary air traffic control (ATC) radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airplane departed JKA about 1845, and toward the north. At 1847 the pilot contacted ATC and requested VFR flight following, and advised that his intended altitude was 3,000 ft. At 1854, the airplane turned left about 90 degrees (heading west) and descended from 3,200 ft to 2,500 ft. 

A witness located in her back yard about 1/2--mile from the turn reported hearing a small airplane nearby and described the engine sound as making the "same sound as when crop dusters dive." She tried to look for the airplane, however the "cloud cover was just too thick" and the "vertical visibility was very low". The airplane then sounded as though it recovered and flew away.

At 1854:17, the air traffic controller asked the pilot, "Do you need any help on that that cell off to your north there? Looks like you took uh pretty harsh westbound turn." The pilot did not reply. 

About 30 seconds later, the controller contacted the pilot, and advised him that if he continued westbound for about 10 miles, he would be "clear of all that weather north of you." The pilot did not respond. 

At 1855:53, the controller successfully handed off the flight to another controller, and the airplane began a turn to the north. When the new controller asked the pilot what his intentions were, he replied "right now I'm trying to get through [unintelligible] clouds here." 

The controller then asked the pilot if he intended to continue to toward the northwest and advised that a west heading for about 5 or 6 miles would "get you in to less precip."  The pilot acknowledged. 

At 1856:25 The controller advised that there was an area about 5 miles north of his current position, about 10 miles in diameter, of "heavy to extreme precipitation." The pilot did not respond and there were no further communications between the pilot and ATC for the next four minutes. 

The airplane's track continued in a north-northeasterly direction (see figure 1), and climbed to an altitude of about 5,200 ft. After having traveled about 5 miles on the northerly heading, at 1859 the airplane began a 360° turn to the left, during which the altitude increased from 5,000 ft to 5,800 ft and then decreased back to 5000 ft. 

Over the next two minutes, the track became erratic as the altitude decreased from 5,000 to 1,275 ft and the groundspeed varied up and down between 150 and 34 knots. At 1900:23 the pilot transmitted only a partial callsign and there were no further communications from the pilot. The airplane's last position was recorded at 19:00:47, located about 0.1 nautical mile northeast of the accident site.

Figure 1 – The airplane's radar-derived flight track (magenta) overlaid on top of the Mobile, Alabama WSR-88D weather radar scan for 1857. The white circle shows the approximate location of the airplane at that time. 

The 1855 weather conditions reported at HL Sonny Callahan Airport (CQF), Fairhope, Alabama, located about 18 nautical miles southwest of the accident site, included overcast skies at 1,200 ft, visibility ½ (statute) mile, heavy rain, temperature 23° C, dewpoint 22°C, wind calm.

Examination of the accident site by an FAA inspector revealed that the airplane struck trees, impacted a field, and came to rest upright at the end of a 215 ft long debris path. The path was oriented along 271° magnetic heading. Most of the fuselage above and forward of the wings was consumed by a post-impact fire. Both wings exhibited leading edge crush damage. The wing center section, areas near both wing roots and the right-wing leading edge sustained significant fire damage. The empennage was largely intact.

The engine was completely separated from the fuselage and was found 40 ft to the southwest of the main wreckage. The engine sustained impact damage but was largely intact and did not sustain any fire damage. The engine case appeared intact with no holes or breeches.

According to FAA airworthiness records, the airplane was equipped with electronic primary and multifunction displays. The primary flight display included a synthetic vision function. The records indicated that at the time of their installation, neither the multifunction nor the primary display were equipped to receive or display weather data.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech

Registration: N3156W
Model/Series: F33 A
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions

Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: CQF, 92 ft msl
Observation Time: 1855 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / 22°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1200 ft agl
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Unknown
Departure Point: Gulf Shores, AL (JKA)
Destination: Muscle Shoals, AL (MSL) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal

Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 30.713333, -87.705000

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 

Timothy and Doris Rhodes

After spending time with family, on July 28th, 2020, Tim and Doris Rhodes boarded a plane in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and lost their lives in a tragic accident not long after takeoff. Their final flight took them to be with God in their forever home. 

Timothy Ray Rhodes, born December 01, 1955 to Ralph and Wyolen Rhodes, was a lifetime resident of Florence, AL. He was the Owner of Tim Rhodes Properties and Shoals MPE. In 1986, working out of one truck, he started Tim Rhodes Electric which later became Shoals MPE. There was one thing that motivated and drove Tim to his success that was his family and knowing that he was creating a legacy to leave behind for each of them. Balance between work and family was something that was very important to Tim. The advantage of starting his work days early allowed him time to spend with his children and grandchildren — whether that was watching a game from a bench, flying the grandkids around the house in one of his planes, or sharing the weekend at the beach with family. Tim was a perfectionist and expected the best out of everyone. Some may say he gave tough love, but he had worked so hard to get to where he was, and he wanted nothing more than to see all of his family be successful. Tim was a member of the Home Builders Association, Association of General Contractors and Shoals Air Services Committee.

Tim had a huge soft spot for children. One thing that would brighten his day was the sight of a child. There was nothing he loved more than to be in the presence of children laughing and playing. During holidays, while other adults were socializing, Tim would be seen in the middle of grandchildren, making sure they were having a good time and being a kid himself. Being a pilot of 20 years, Tim also enjoyed flying and showing others his planes.

Tim was preceded in death by his father, Ralph Rhodes, and his brother, Roland Rhodes.

Doris Dean Thomas Rhodes was born October 01, 1956 to Tommy and “ Tootsie" Marie Richardson and was a lifetime resident of Florence, AL. Truly an Angel placed here on earth to so many, Doris made such a positive impact on anyone with whom she came in contact.

Doris was known as the glue that kept the family together, always making sure everyone was taken care of, even if it meant doing without for herself. Throughout all of her success she remained the most selfless and humble soul who never met a stranger. This love was taught to her at an early age thru her Mother and MaMaw Murphy, both of whom she idolized and looked up to so much. Love was something Doris never ran out of, and one would question how she had so much to give. Holidays, birthdays, or any occasion, she used as an excuse to get her family together, since there was nothing she loved more. Grandchildren, nieces, and nephews were the center of her life. If there was one thing she would want to leave behind it would be unity. She would desire her entire family to grow closer through this experience.

All that knew Doris held her in the highest regard and loved her dearly. Her compassion, nurturing nature, and wisdom will live on as a legacy of love.

Doris was preceded in death by her grandfather, Hob Murphy; grandmother, Marie Murphy (MaMaw); mother, Tootsie Richardson; and brother, Charlie Richardson. 

Tim and Doris were high school sweethearts and were joined in marriage on January 06, 1973. They had two children, Darian Rhodes and Beth Dorsett.

Family was their everything, and having everyone together was always so important for both Tim and Doris. Whether you were at Rhodes Landing, the beach, or on the lake, they made certain that family and friends shared all aspects of their life together. Being a self-made successful couple, neither of them ever forgot where they came from, and they always gave back to those they loved. 

Tim and Doris Rhodes are survived by their son, Darian (Shannon) Rhodes, and their three daughters, Emma, Lillie, and Bella; daughter, Beth Dorsett, and her three sons, Dreyden, Drake, and Dallan; Tim’s mother, Wyolen Rhodes; brother, Steve (Deb) Rhodes; sister, Deb (Mike) Bevis; Doris’s brother, William (Angie) Thomas; sister, Mary Barnett; and a host of other family and friends. 

Tim and Doris provided countless lifelong memories for their children, extended family and friends, and they will forever live in our hearts and memories. They would both tell us today to remember them with smiles and laughter, for that is how they will remember us all. 

Visitation will be August 14th, 2020 at Faith Church. The funeral service will begin at the church with Mike Bevis officiating. A private family burial will take place in Rhodesville United Methodist Church Cemetery.

Active pallbearers for Tim Rhodes will be Ricky Agee, Junior Witt, Dustin Rhodes, Shane Palmer, Paul Parrish and Mike Palmer. Active pallbearers for Doris Rhodes will be Jeremy Thacker, Jimmy Thompson, Charlie Burchell, Tim Higgins, Rusty Howell and Brandon Rhodes. Serving as honorary pallbearers for the family will be Paul Darby, Milton Hearn, Dusty Rhodes and Marshall Mitchell.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to: Easter Seals NW AL at 1450 Avalon Ave - Muscle Shoals, AL 35661.

STAPLETON, Alabama — It has been officially confirmed it was a husband and wife from Florence who were killed in a small plane crash July 28th in a wooded area near Stapleton.

Baldwin County Coroner Dr. Brian Pierce said Wednesday that his office has confirmed through dental records the identity of the woman killed in the deadly crash as 63-year-old Doris Rhodes of Florence, wife of the pilot, 65-year-old Timothy Ray Rhodes of Florence, who was identified on July 29.

Capt. Clint Cadenhead with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Central Investigations Command said the two were killed when the small plane crashed just after 7 p.m. July 28 in a heavily wooded area in the area of Mosley Road in Stapleton.

According to news media reports, the Beechcraft F33A Bonanza owned by QT Flyers LLC based in Florence, took off from the Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores at around 6:45 p.m. that day and was last seen around 7:01 p.m.

Cadenhead said BCSO received the call at around 7:15 p.m. July 28 when the crash was spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

Just before 8 p.m., the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office reported on social media that deputies and fire units were headed to the scene of a “general aviation plane crash.”

More than two hours later, BCSO posted that fire department units were able to make their way to the crash site by the use of ATVs.

“This was a heavily wooded area,” Cadenhead said. “There were no homes in the area and no roads leading up to the crash site, so it took crews a couple of hours to get to the site.”

Both victims were transported from the scene by ATV, then transported to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Mobile.

In addition to BCSO deputies and U.S. Coast Guard officials, Cadenhead said, officers with the Loxley Police Department, fire crews from Styx River, Loxley and Stapleton also responded to the crash.

According to the email sent by Cadenhead, investigators met with Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board the following morning. The NTSB will be the primary investigative agency handling the case, along with the Baldwin County Coroner’s Office.

STAPLETON, Alabama — (WPMI) — UPDATE August 9: The Baldwin County Coroner's Office has confirmed the identity of the second victim of this crash as Doris Rhodes of Florence, Alabama, the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office says.

Rain, mud, and tough terrain hampered recovery efforts Tuesday night and again Wednesday.

“Every bad condition that exists, that's what we had last night,” said Styx River volunteer fire fighter Hubert Dunbar.

We do know that the Beechcraft F33A Bonanza took off from Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores at about 6:45 last night and was scheduled to fly to Muscle Shoals. It was last seen on radar around 7:01 p.m. flying through a strong storm that moved through our area.

“We had to go quite a few miles up through the woods and down all these dirt roads to get back there to the crash site," said Dunbar.

A Coast Guard helicopter spotted the burning plane and landed near first responders to guide them to the crash site.

“He landed on behind us, and behind that, it just amazed me. That must have been the most experienced pilot there ever was because that was a tight L.Z.,” Dunbar says.

It took first responders and investigators several hours on 4x4s and ATVs to reach the scene. When investigators got there, they found two people dead.


  1. A rental car would have been a whole lot beter choice. You can see this accident coming because of the "Gotta get there" disease that affects so many pilots. The airplane was capable of making the trip, but with the weather and no instrument rating, the pilot wasn't.

  2. Tough call. Who hasn't decided to take off NOW before things get much worse? I will admit I have.
    And as for the rental car, well, they can crash, also.

  3. "And as for the rental car, well, they can crash, also."

    Not because of no instrument rating driver.

  4. Stay put! it ain't worth it..nothing trumps safety

  5. Fly without the constraints of ATC, fly VFR with flexibility,  flight following from ATC if you wish, but you are free to do whatever you want unless, of course, you are flying within the borders of airspace that requires compliance with ATC-assigned routing or altitudes. Still, safe, successful VFR flight requires a lot of forethought, something started in this flight, yet in the end impulse got him into the flight without an apparent BACK DOOR, and we know the rest of the story.

  6. On KR you are able to read about the people that were involved in these fatal accidents about how good they were to kids and they were such a loving person to everybody around them so on and so on an so on except this pilot did not give a shit about his wife and decided that it was time to kill her and himself. He was told straight up that " VFR FLIGHT NOT RECOMENDED" . This is the exact same type of flight that was put out by ASI where the pilot flew from Billings, Montana to Spanish Fork, Utah and was told four times before and during the flight that VFR FLIGHT NOT RECOMENDED but continued on to his death anyways. Why do we need the NTSB anymore nobody listens or learns anything anyways.

    1. imagine every severe/fatal vehicle accident requiring a NTSB accident report, and for what purpose !

    2. Sometimes there are crashes for unknown reasons and the NTSB finds an unknown mechanical, electronic, or structural problem that caused the accident and by doing this, lives are saved in the future. In the obvious case of stupidity like the one that caused this accident, the NTSB investigation is a waste of taxpayer money and is not needed.

  7. Weather is unforgiving to the stupid! He was bullheaded enough to not believe what the briefer was trying to tell him. Lets see, nice supper and wait for clear weather or a good chance of dying? Lets go fly!! "Lots of clouds and thunderstorms". When you look on Flightaware and all the big jets are flying around an area of heavy red thunderstorms and you decide it's a good idea to go and fly right into it, you get what you deserve! Tragic for the family, I'm sorry for the families.

  8. in summary, within 9 minutes he's in denial of this dire problem.
    "airplane departed JKA about 1845, and toward the north. At 1847 the pilot contacted ATC and requested VFR flight following, and advised that his intended altitude was 3,000 ft.
    aware he's in trouble "At 1854, the airplane turned left about 90 degrees (heading west) and descended from 3,200 ft to 2,500 ft."
    in denial he's in trouble "At 1854:17, the air traffic controller asked the pilot, "Do you need any help on that that cell off to your north there? Looks like you took uh pretty harsh westbound turn." The pilot did not reply."

  9. Textbook case of get-there-itis. Wow.

  10. Sometimes in accidents caused by unknown reasons, the NTSB finds a potentialy fatal problem with the aircraft that if not corrected in other models of this aircraft, could cause more loss of life. In cases of accidents caused by stupidity, as this one obviously was, the NTSB investigation is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

  11. Over and over again. For the life of me, I can't figure out what possesses a non-instrument rated pilot to launch VFR into IMC...or for that matter, an instrument pilot into convective weather. A friend of mine took off on a 100 mile cross country in a Tomahawk, at night, and during a significant rain instrument rating and around 100 hours total time. He got lucky. Last summer the same guy, took off again and entered IMC and was trapped between layers for about an hour but was able to find a hole right on top of an airport. He made a safe landing but was unable or unwilling to fly the airplane home until the next day. Got lucky again...i believe he finally learned his lesson after that one! He is one of those guy's that believes his 130 hours of flight time match those of a 5,000 hour pilot.

    1. Any potential lawsuit will be against the FAA- deep pockets. They will claim that the controllers did not help enough or say the right thing.

      The pilot could do no wrong .... it has been done before and is being done right now with the Calabasas, CA helicopter crash

  12. This crash like countless others is a case proof why GARA should extend to everything GA. NO LAWSUIT PERMITTED IN CIVIL FOR ANYTHING RELATED TO GENERAL AVIATION.
    AOPA should concentrate its resources to fight off the lawyers and other stakeholders in the persecution of a small negligible (no pun intended) sector of the economy accounting for a DISPROPORTIONATE amount of legal matters.
    As if GA wasn't litigated enough on the CFR side and with all the regulations triggering violations etc...
    The minority we are in GA is persecuted by the majority of the civil system.
    Let it be known, let it be advertised. Let's separate those who fly with competence and the passengers who truly love Aviation knowing they have no legal recourse if something happens.
    Or a course in the legal liabilities should be mandatory as part of any pilot curriculum and 91.103 shall address legal liabilities warnings to passengers too.

    1. Unclear what you see that makes this one a "case proof". A non instrument pilot made an unfortunate decision to proceed and got closed out by IMC. Crash victims were pilot and spouse, zero injury or property harm to innocents on ground. What persecution lawsuit was filed?

  13. There are many examples of well qualified instrument rated pilots flying well equipped aircraft VFR into IMC and crashing too. Frank Tallman comes to mind. Don't put too much weight on this guys poor decision as many of us have gotten through a similar situation purely by the grace of God and hopefully learned our lesson!


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