Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Fuel Exhaustion: Cessna 172M Skyhawk, N9919V; accident occurred July 08, 2019 near Newport Municipal Airport (KONP), Lincoln County, Oregon

A Newport attorney has filed a petition with Newport’s City Recorder and the Secretary of State’s Office, to remove Mayor Dean Sawyer from office based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) findings that pilot Mayor Sawyer had violated numerous FAA flight rules. Those rules include “recklessly endangering life or property, failing to conduct mandated aircraft inspections and more than ten years of failing to undergo medical certifications required to fly aircraft.” For all of the above the FAA told Mayor Sawyer that he was barred from flying for 200 days and must comply with all FAA rules and regulations and be re-certified if he wants to fly an airplane again. 

Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer, right, is pictured next to the Cessna 172M Skyhawk, N9919V, that crashed on July 8, 2019.

Mayor Sawyer has maintained that the crash landing was not the result of running out of fuel because, he maintains, he had plenty of gas in his airplane. He says he had sufficient fuel for the the short flight north during which he gave his passengers a birds-eye view of migrating whales passing along the Oregon Central Coast. He said his aircraft suddenly began to lose power so he made a B-line back to Newport. But the plane’s power continued to degrade and all Mayor Sawyer could do was to find a flat piece of beach to land on. The landing was sufficiently rough that an adult woman passenger was seriously injured, but survived. Her son and Sawyer were not injured. Sawyer later arranged a money settlement to compensate the woman for her medical bills.

The FAA investigated the aircraft and apparently the issue of how much gas was aboard the aircraft could not be conclusively confirmed. Sawyer told the FAA inspectors that when he and his passengers took off they had plenty of gas. He said it’s a very short flight from the Newport Airport to Depoe Bay. Sawyer said no one expected a near disaster that described their belly flop landing on the beach just north of the Newport jetties.

Again, Mayor Sawyer was barred by the FAA from flying for 200 days. The FAA said there was probable, but not conclusive findings, that the crash was caused by the plane running out of gas. Mayor Sawyer contends that the plane suffered major damage on impact making a finding of whether or not there was enough fuel on board, difficult to determine. But he continues to maintain he had plenty of gas aboard when he and his passengers took-off to look at the whales.

Meanwhile Newport area Attorney Susan Reese Painter filled out a petition, filed it with Newport City Hall and with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, to remove Mayor Sawyer from office in connection with the plane crash and in light of his issues with little or no aircraft inspections while also failing to under-go medical certifications. All are required of American pilots under the supervision of the FAA.

The petitions to recall Mayor Dean Sawyer are expected to hit the streets soon.  Mayor Sawyer contends that he’s been a very positive, active mayor, helping to push Newport forward on a lot issues.  He said the plane crash should not overwhelm his commitment to Newport and its citizens in addition to his years of service as a police officer and a civic leader.

Deborah Reasoner looks at an X-Ray image of her upper right arm, which shows the steel plate and screws that now hold the bone together. The fracture was one of many injuries she sustained as a passenger in Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer’s plane when it crash landed in 2019.

Newly released documents show the Federal Aviation Administration found Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer was “careless and reckless” and committed seven violations of air-safety regulations when he took two people on a whale-watching flight in 2019, then crash-landed on the beach, seriously injuring one passenger.

That passenger, Deborah Reasoner, 62, of Molalla, said in a recent interview that she met Sawyer through a friend the day before Sawyer took her and her then-7-year-old son — her biological grandson, Jase, whom she adopted — on a sightseeing flight. She spent 17 days in a Portland trauma unit after the plane crashed on the beach near the north jetty of Yaquina Bay in Newport.

Reasoner suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple fractures. She underwent multiple surgeries, including removal of all her bottom teeth. The wreck fractured her right upper arm bone, which is now held together by a 10-inch plate and 12 screws. She fractured her left leg’s calf bone, tore numerous muscles and ligaments, and damaged nerves in her limbs. She still awaits shoulder and knee surgery.

“I spent months not being able to dress myself or pull down my pants to use the bathroom,” Reasoner said. “I cannot style my hair or do my makeup or do most of the normal things a mom should be able to do for herself and child. For the first six months, I could not form my words or my thoughts properly due to the traumatic brain injury. I still experience issues with this. The doctor tells me it may always be this way.”

The News-Times first reported early last month that the FAA suspended Sawyer’s pilot certificate for 200 days because of violations found by crash investigators. On March 10, the newspaper made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FAA seeking its investigative file on the July 8, 2019 crash. The agency provided 273 pages of moderately redacted documents to the News-Times late last week.

The records show the FAA cited Sawyer, a retired police officer who was first elected Newport’s mayor in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020, for seven violations of federal regulations, including a prohibition on operating an aircraft “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

Sawyer was also cited for operating an aircraft not in airworthy condition, not obtaining the legally required annual aircraft inspection in four years, not undergoing the biennial flight review by a certified observer, an aircraft registration that expired in 2012, and not renewing his medical certificate since 2006.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the crash found the probable cause was the pilot’s failure to ensure the plane had sufficient fuel, leading to engine failure when the fuel ran out.

Sawyer did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the newly released documents and the FAA’s previously unreported allegation that he’d committed seven violations of federal regulations and acted carelessly and recklessly. He previously pointed to radio traffic in which first responders reported smelling gas at the crash scene. He said he was sure he had enough fuel for the trip when he left Newport Airport and argued that the craft’s fuel system was too damaged in the wreck for the NTSB to make a determination.

According to a statement of basis for enforcement action in the newly released records, the mayor operated his Cessna “in a manner that resulted in an accident.”

The FAA records show that Sawyer offered to surrender his pilot certificate, but the FAA refused, calling it an attempt “to avoid certificate action or legal enforcement action.” The agency later proposed a 310-day suspension.

The records show Sawyer entered a settlement with the FAA in June 2020, in which he agreed to a 200-day suspension without the right to appeal. An FAA spokesperson wrongly said last month that the mayor’s suspension began Jan. 8, 2021. The new records show the suspension expired on that date, and began June 23, 2020. The agency returned Sawyer’s license Jan. 6 and restored his flying privileges two days later, though the mayor said in March he still had not updated his medical certificate he needs to legally fly.

Reasoner said that on the day of the flight, everything seemed fine until the mayor took a sharp bank to the left to head back toward the airport, turning the craft on its side. A few moments later, the engine began to surge and sputter, and she said Sawyer worked frantically at the controls while repeatedly telling her to prepare for a crash.

“I yelled, ‘How do you prepare for a crash?’” Reasoner said. “I yelled, ‘My son is on this plane, you cannot crash.’ … I then tried to figure out how to get into the back seat with my child so I could hold him in my arms, but there was not enough room, and so I just turned around and held him up against the back of my seat.” 

She covered his eyes and told him that she loved him, asked God to protect them and, as she turned one last time to see how close they were to the ground, the plane crashed on the side where Reasoner sat, partially ejecting her with her feet still in the aircraft. 

She was knocked cold by the impact and remembers just bits and pieces about the following hours, such as a crowd around the airplane. (According to an investigator’s report, the mayor told the investigator that within minutes of the crash, there were “a bunch of stupid Samaritans at the aircraft.”). She also recalls pain when a doctor at the hospital in Newport manipulated a dislocated limb before she was taken by helicopter to a Portland hospital.

Reasoner filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Sawyer the week after the crash. She said her lawyer told her the pilot’s insurance would not pay a claim, and the attorney eventually began pressuring her to settle.

At one point in negotiations, the attorney told her Sawyer asked that she pay half the fee for storing his wrecked airplane, which the lawyer said she “obviously” wouldn’t do.

Reasoner cannot disclose the amount paid in the March 2020 settlement with Sawyer, but called it a joke and said she felt bullied into accepting it. “After I had to pay my medical expenses and lawyer and everyone I owed, I ended up with almost nothing. Yet I will live with these injuries and hardships for the rest of my life,” Reasoner said.

The financial impact of her trauma lingers along with physical pain. For a long while she was unable to work at all, and her activity is still limited. Her credit score dropped 300 points since the crash, and she said she is in danger of losing her home.

But worst, Reasoner said, are emotional impacts on her and her now 9-year-old child. Jase suffered abrasions and was discharged from the hospital in Newport the day of the crash. Reasoner said he spent the next few days at Sawyer’s home with the friend that introduced them, during which he told her he cried for her.

“He now suffers from severe separation anxiety, and panics when he cannot see me,” she said. “He fears riding in cars, afraid we will crash. When he sees a plane, he panics. He also has anger issues” toward Sawyer.

Paul Bertorelli, an aviation expert, flight instructor and editor at large for aviation news site, produces videos examining best practices and real world scenarios, and in “Emergency Landing: Beach or Breakers," he addresses Sawyer’s crash without naming the pilot.

Framed by a photo of Sawyer’s crashed Cessna, Bertorelli mentions the pilot’s delinquencies in certification and inspection. (He told the News-Times, “It’s one thing to go for a few months, but a few years — that’s really willful neglect.”)

He notes in the video that the “investigation found not a drop of fuel in the airplane, the pilot apparently having run out of gas,” and asks, “was this related to the other fairly big things the pilot had just skipped over? Who knows? But the opposite of consciousness of safety is complacence, and if you suffer from that, you could wind up on a beach with no beer, no umbrella, no towel, but a broken airplane.”

Sawyer took this picture while flying over the lighthouse on July 8, 2019.

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Portland, Oregon

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Newport, Oregon
Accident Number: ANC19LA032
Date & Time: July 7, 2019, 17:00 Local
Registration: N9919V
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot and two passengers were returning from a sightseeing flight. While cruising at an altitude of about 1,200 ft, the engine began to surge between 2,100 and 2,600 rpm. To correct for the surging engine, the pilot switched fuel tanks, enriched the fuel mixture, and applied full throttle, to no avail. Unable to maintain altitude and to avoid undue harm to persons on the ground, he selected an area of hilly, sand-covered terrain for an emergency landing. During the emergency landing, the airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage.

The pilot stated that, the day before the accident, the left and right fuel gauges indicated about 3/4 full and 1/4 full respectively; however, he said it was possible that he had run out of fuel.

The airplane had not undergone an annual inspection in 4 years. Postaccident examination revealed that the main fuel line to the carburetor had separated at the carburetor casing and the strainer cable had stretched, releasing any contents that may have been present in the gascolator during the accident sequence. The carburetor half screws were in and safetied but loose and did not appear to be torqued. Brown deposits were observed on the exterior of the carburetor emanating from the carburetor half seam. Although it is evident that the carburetor had been leaking for an undetermined time, blue streaking would have been more likely if a significant and recent fuel loss had occurred. No fuel was found in the remainder of the fuel system, including the wing tanks, associated lines, and carburetor bowl.

Based on the lack of fuel present in the fuel system, it is likely that the pilot miscalculated the amount of fuel onboard before the flight, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent loss of engine power.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper verification of the fuel quantity during the preflight inspection, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent total loss of engine power.


Personnel issues Fuel planning - Pilot
Personnel issues Incorrect action performance - Pilot
Aircraft Fuel - Fluid level

Factual Information

On July 8, 2019, at about 1700 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172 airplane, N9919V, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Newport, Oregon. The private pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries and one passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Newport Municipal Airport (KONP), Newport, Oregon for a local whale watching flight.

According to the pilot, after locating and circling a pod of whales for viewing, they had decided to return to KONP. While in level cruise flight about 1,200 ft above mean sea level (MSL) the engine began to surge with the rpm fluctuating between 2,100 and 2,600 rpm. In an effort to correct for the surging engine, the pilot switched fuel tanks, enrichened the fuel mixture and applied full throttle, to no avail. Unable to maintain altitude, and in an effort to avoid undue harm to persons on the ground, he selected an area of hilly, sand covered terrain for an emergency landing. During the emergency landing the airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage.

In a telephone conversation with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector (ASI), the pilot stated that the airplane had not had an annual inspection in about 3 years, he had not had a biennial flight review in 5 or 6 years and he did not have a current medical certificate.

A review of FAA records revealed that the pilot's most recent third-class medical was issued July 30, 2004 with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses and would have expired on July 31, 2006. 

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 61.23 – Medical Certificate; requirement and durations, states in part:

(a) Operations requiring a medical certificate. Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, a person
(3) Must hold at least a third-class medical certificate -
(i) When exercising the privileges of a private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, or student pilot certificate, except when operating under the conditions and limitations set forth in §61.113(i);

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 61.56 – Flight Review, states in part:

(c) Except as provided in paragraphs (d), (e), and (g) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft unless, since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that pilot acts as pilot in command, that person has -
(1) Accomplished a flight review given in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated by an authorized instructor and 
(2) A logbook endorsed from an authorized instructor who gave the review certifying that the person has satisfactorily completed the review.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report submitted by the pilot the airplane's last annual inspection was completed on June 2, 2015.

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.409 Inspections, states in part:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no person may operate an aircraft unless, within the preceding 12 calendar months, it has had—
(1) An annual inspection in accordance with part 43 of this chapter and has been approved for return to service by a person authorized by §43.7 of this chapter; or
(2) An inspection for the issuance of an airworthiness certificate in accordance with part 21 of this chapter.

Wreckage recovery personnel independently confirmed that no fuel was recovered from the airplane's wing tanks, or fuel lines that were removed for recovery.

In a conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) the pilot stated that the carburetor float had been replaced, and previous mechanical problems with the airplane included a fuel drain on the engine that was difficult to close, and the carburetor leaking fuel. In addition, he stated that he had visually verified two days before the accident that the airplane had about ½ tanks and the day before the accident the fuel gauges indicate about ¾ full and ¼ full respectively; however, it was possible he had
run out of fuel.

An examination of the airplane by an ASI with the FAA revealed that the main fuel line to the carburetor had separated at the carburetor casting during the accident sequence, and the strainer cable had stretched releasing any contents that may have been present in the gascolator. However, no fluid was discovered in the remainder of the fuel system including the carburetor bowl. In addition, during removal of the carburetor bowl it was discovered that the carburetor half screws were in and safetied but loose and did not appear to be torqued, with evidence of fuel leakage at the carburetor half seem.

The closest weather reporting facility is Newport Municipal Airport (KONP), Newport, Oregon. At 1750, a METAR from KONP was reporting in part: wind, 310 at 8 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, clear; temperature, 62° F; dew point 57° F; and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches of mercury.

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Emergency descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 66,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: July 30, 2004
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1105 hours (Total, all aircraft), 985 hours (Total, this make and model), 1105 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N9919V
Model/Series: 172M 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1974 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17264555
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Date/Type of Last Inspection: June 2, 2015 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2299 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
Engine Model/Series: O-320 SERIES
Registered Owner:
Rated Power:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: 
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 00:50 Local 
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 310°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.02 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 14°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Newport, OR
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Newport, OR
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 15:30 Local
Type of Airspace: Unknown

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 44.580276,-124.058052(est)

Newport mayor likely at fault for running out of fuel on flight that crash-landed, FAA says

NEWPORT — Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer’s 2019 plane crash was probably caused by his failure to verify the aircraft’s fuel levels prior to a whale-watching flight, federal investigators said, and he ran out of fuel, forcing an emergency landing that seriously injured one of two passengers.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board also found that Sawyer failed to renew his medical certification since 2006, had not undergone the mandatory two-year flight review for five or six years and did not subject his small aircraft to required annual inspection for four years.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Sawyer’s pilot certificate was suspended for 200 days as of Jan. 8. The mayor denied that his certificate was currently suspended and said the true cause of the crash would never be determined because of the condition of the wreckage.

The NTSB report on the 2019 crash was issued in December. The News-Times learned of it recently.

Sawyer, a retired law enforcement officer first elected as mayor in 2018 and re-elected in November 2020, crash landed his Cessna in the dunes near the north jetty of Yaquina Bay on the afternoon of July 8, 2019, following a whale-watching excursion with Deborah Reasoner, of Molalla, and her 7-year-old grandson.

Sawyer and the child sustained minor injuries and were treated at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport. Reasoner’s injuries were serious, and she was taken by Life Flight helicopter to a hospital in Portland. Sawyer’s airplane was a total loss.

In a lawsuit filed one week after the crash, Reasoner said she sustained “a severe spiral fracture of her right arm, fracture of her right leg, a severe subdural hematoma and traumatic brain injury.” The suit alleged that Sawyer was negligent for “failing to properly monitor the fuel in flight” and “failing, during preflight, to check the fuel level of the aircraft, which would have resulted in the discovery that the aircraft did not have adequate fuel for safe flight.” Reasoner asked for $1.5 million in punitive damages, medical costs and lost wages.

In March 2020, Judge Sheryl Bachart dismissed the suit with prejudice, which indicates it was settled out of court. Reasoner’s attorney, Todd Huegli, of Portland, told the News-Times he could only say that the matter had been resolved.

According to the NTSB’s report, an aviation inspector spoke to Sawyer by phone on the day after the crash. After finding a pod of whales, the mayor told the inspector, he was headed toward the Newport airport when the engine started to surge near the Nye Beach access point. Sawyer said he enriched the fuel mixture, increased to maximum throttle and switched fuel tanks, but the surge got progressively worse.

Losing altitude, “he considered landing in between the jetties at Newport (in the Yaquina River), but said he knew they would all die if he did that,” the report reads. “He considered the hard pack beach, but there were too many people on it, so he made a left 60-degree turn and landed in the dunes.”

The inspector asked Sawyer where the maintenance records for the aircraft were, to which he replied, “I might as well tell you now because you’re going to find out anyway, I haven’t had an annual on the plane for about three years, I don’t have a [biennial flight review] and I don’t have a medical,” according to the report.

Federal regulations require aircraft to be inspected annually to ensure good working order. Pilots must maintain a current medical certificate to screen for conditions that could make flying hazardous and submit to a flight review every two years under observation of an experienced operator. Sawyer told the inspector it had been five or six years since his last flight review. A review of FAA records found his medical certificate expired in 2006.

The report says Sawyer told the inspector, “It’s one of those things that has been on my list, but there are no good biennial flight review people here in Newport, so it’s too hard to get one done. “

Sawyer told the aviation inspector he’d visually verified the fuel level the day before the crash, and the plane’s two tanks were at 3/4 and 1/4 full.

According to the NTSB report, the airplane had not undergone an annual inspection in four years, and an examination of the wreckage revealed the fuel system might have had an existing slow leak. “The carburetor half screws were in and safetied but loose and did not appear to be torqued,” the report reads. “Brown deposits were observed on the exterior of the carburetor emanating from the carburetor half seam. Although it is evident that the carburetor had been leaking for an undetermined time, blue streaking would have been more likely if a significant and recent fuel loss had occurred. No fuel was found in the remainder of the fuel system, including the wing tanks, associated lines and carburetor bowl.”

The NTSB found that the probable cause of the crash was “the pilot’s improper verification of the fuel quantity during the preflight inspection, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent total loss of engine power.”

Sawyer said he was unaware of the report until the News-Times asked him to comment. He said the investigation into the crash was “inconclusive due to the fact that it had a forced landing, and there was damage to the aircraft fuel system components. We will never know what actually occurred.”

The mayor said work had been done on the carburetor prior to the crash. “When they report that the screws were not safety wired, that causes me a little pause,” Sawyer said. “Also, I am confident that when I left I had enough fuel for the intended flight that we made.” He pointed to a report of Newport Fire Department’s radio traffic during the incident, in which a first responder reported smelling gas.

The mayor denied that his certificate was suspended. “I have my pilot certificate right here. I’m not being suspended. They’ve closed this case. It’s done,” Sawyer said. He said he did receive a 90-day suspension last year for not having his medical certificate, but that suspension is expired. He said he has been unable to get the medical certificate updated, and he no longer has a craft in which to undergo a flight review.

An FAA spokesperson confirmed that agency’s database lists Sawyer’s certificate as suspended as of a Jan. 8 action, for a duration of 200 days. The News-Times filed a public records request for details on the FAA’s enforcement action.

“I can’t think of any reason at all why this would affect his ability to perform his duty as mayor,” Council President CM Hall said. “My heart breaks for everyone involved. No one wanted anyone to get hurt.” City Councilors Ryan Parker and Dietmar Goebel declined to comment on the matter.

Newport resident Susan Painter contacted the News-Times about the report. “It is highly disturbing that Mr. Sawyer put not only his passengers but also the community at large at such risk by flying an airplane that was not properly inspected and without an appropriate medical certificate,” Painter wrote in an email.

A lawsuit has been filed against Newport’s mayor, following a July 8, 2019 plane crash.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, Mayor Dean Sawyer was the pilot.

A previous report from the Oregon State Police said Sawyer noticed a mechanical problem while flying over the Depoe Bay area, and chose to do an emergency landing near the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

But one of his two passengers, 61-year-old Deborah Reasoner, alleges that Sawyer failed to both maintain control and adequate fuel levels, leading to the crash. She is seeking more than a million dollars in damages, citing emotional distress as well as physical injuries that led to her hospitalization in Portland.

Neither Sawyer nor Reasoner’s attorney returned calls requesting comment for this story.  Lincoln County Circuit Court records show Judge Sheryl Bachart has been assigned the case.

Another passenger, a 7-year-old boy, was also in the plane. Like Sawyer, he was released with minor injuries after the incident. 

Officials say Mayor Sawyer has been a licensed pilot for forty years.


  1. Wow! Where do I even start?
    His comment say’s it all!
    A typical know it all “the rules don’t apply to me” half assed pilot. Thanks for being so reckless and nearly killing a young boy and his mother.
    Also thanks for raising everyone’s insurance for being so ignorant. The only good thing now is that the injured parties can afford now fly private jet anywhere they want with a real pilot in the cockpit.
    You sir, are the “stupid” one!

  2. What the hell did I just read? Well I suspect the CFI who trained this "pilot" and the DPE might also be in hot water since they are what we have as gatekeepers to prevent such people from ever being behind the controls of an aircraft.
    I still see the dude has his license listed on the airman registry so what gives FAA? Is it because he is former LE he got what seems to be a more lenient treatment?
    Yank his license please. And get the DOJ involved so he never as much as flies paper planes outside.

  3. Another jackhole who gives GA a bad name and another lawsuit endures. In his world whale watching > fuel level watching. I love how his defenders crow about having flown for 40 years. Too bad in aviation years are meaningless. And someone with 40 years of flying "experience" only having 1100 hours means he was NOT a very active pilot. That's an average of only 2.3 hours per month and no telling what gaps are he had in those 40 years. What an imbecile. Now my question is where is that money going to come from in that lawsuit.

  4. Mr Sawyer is a danger to himself and others. He apparently believes that he is above the law and can operate without regard to FAA regulations. Lifetime suspension of his Pilot's License is the only remedy for this behavior.

  5. I am currently a non-flying pilot because I don't have a current medical and I don't have a current BFR. Could I jump into a C-172 and successfully fly it? Probably. Would I be a safe pilot while flying it? No way in hell. I have always believed that, if you had enough bananas, you could teach a monkey to fly. But safe flying comes from your head, not from your ability to yank and bank. Mr. Sawyer clearly doesn't have enough smarts to fly safely. And I don't think he ever will.

  6. But the problem is why the airman registry still shows him having a PPL? He is former LE so was it a factor in more leniency? WTF if so...
    His license should be revoked or at least a strenuous 709 ride that tests all his skills. But serious FAA if someone is caught flying without a BFR, without a medical and also is a factor of an accident... shouldn't that be a complete revocation of all ratings and certificates?

    1. His cert was returned Jan. 8