Wednesday, March 24, 2021

New Utah law, inspired in part by Beechcraft A24R Sierra N9798L crash, says pilots must have insurance

ROY — The lawsuit from a 2017 crash of an airplane on 1900 West in Roy lingers on, more than three years after it was filed.

The pilot, apparently, was not insured, leaving Samantha Sandoval — hit in her car in the September 12, 2017, incident while driving along the roadway — traumatized and with bills to pay, according to Utah Rep. Cheryl Acton, a West Jordan Republican.

But in a bid to give victims like Sandoval at least a measure of help going forward, Utah lawmakers this session approved a bill requiring general Utah aviation pilots with airplanes to carry at least $100,000 in liability insurance. Gov. Spencer Cox signed House Bill 77 into law last week and with the action, Utah becomes just the 12th U.S. state with minimum liability insurance or aircraft financial responsibility requirements, according to Acton and U.S. General Accounting Office data.

"I think it's a good improvement," Roy Mayor Bob Dandoy said. Over the years, Roy, which abuts Ogden-Hinckley Airport in Ogden, has been the site of a number of crashes of small aircraft, and leaders in the city are particularly mindful of the issue.

However, the new law isn't a panacea, some say.

The Federal Aviation Administration is mainly concerned with the safety of aircraft and doesn't have rules related to liability in crashes, according to Acton. Thus, it's up to states to craft legislation, and HB 77, motivated by a deadly 2020 crash of a plane in West Jordan that destroyed a home there as well as crashes like the one in Roy, is her effort in that direction.

In the absence of insurance to help in the aftermath of certain plane crashes, victims have to resort to court action, Acton said. And going to court, she went on, "makes it time-consuming and difficult." At the same time, though, she didn't want to put liability requirements too high in HB 77 and make insurance costs overly burdensome for aircraft hobbyists.

Indeed, Bryant Garrett, manager of Ogden-Hinckley Airport, said the idea behind HB 77 is good. The insurance requirements, though, are a bit skimpy. "It was done for the right reasons with good intentions, but it's a little short on money," he said.

At the same time, Garrett said many airports, including Ogden-Hinckley Airport, already require insurance of pilots who house their airplanes at their facilities. In Ogden, pilots are required to have at least $1 million in insurance.

Robert Fuller, the lawyer representing Sanodval in her lawsuit against the pilot of the 2017 airplane and others allegedly involved, echoed Garrett's sentiments on the liability levels. "It's a good start," he said.

He also noted, though, that medical costs in an airplane crash can quickly mount. Better would be implementation of uniform insurance requirements at the national level, applicable to pilots with airplanes across the nation.

The feds are aware of the issue. A 2015 General Accounting Office study into the insurance question says commercial air carriers are required to carry liability insurance under federal law. No such federal requirements exist for owners of small aircraft, though.

"In some cases, accidents involving uninsured or underinsured [general aviation] aircraft owners have occurred where individuals (passengers or third parties) who incurred losses received little or no compensation," reads the 2015 report.

In the 2017 plane crash, the pilot, Lawrence Erick, was carrying out a "pre-buy inspection" of the craft involved, a Beechcraft Sierra, according to a statement he made to federal transportation officials shortly after the incident. He is believed to be from Arizona, according to Sandoval's lawsuit. While in flight, according to Erick's statement, the craft experienced technical issues, precipitating his effort to land on 1900 West and the collision with the Sandoval vehicle.

Sandoval filed suit in 2nd District Court in Ogden on Feb. 2, 2018, against Erick and others involved in airplane maintenance at Ogden-Hinckley Airport. Erick has denied blame in the matter and the suit winds its way through court.

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; Salt Lake City, Utah

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ogden, Utah 
Accident Number: WPR17LA202
Date & Time: September 12, 2017, 13:37 Local Registration: N9798L
Aircraft: Beech A24R 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Windshear or thunderstorm 
Injuries: 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The airline transport pilot reported that general maintenance had recently been completed on the airplane, and this was the pilot's first flight in the airplane and the first flight since the maintenance. The pilot completed two engine run-ups before taking off to practice touch-and-go landings. During the takeoff sequence, all instruments indicated normal. The airplane climbed to about 200 ft but then stopped climbing. The pilot reported that the engine did not sound obviously rough; however, the altitude was not increasing, and airspeed was decreasing. He enriched the mixture with no improvement. He turned on the fuel boost pump and received a little extra power for about half a second. He then tested the magnetos, which both indicated normal. He attempted to maintain altitude; however, his airspeed was steadily decreasing, so he chose to land on a nearby road, during which the airplane impacted a car and then the ground before it was consumed by fire.

The weather observation just before the accident indicated the wind was variable at 3 knots, with the visibility at or greater than 10 miles and clear skies. The weather observation just after the accident indicated the wind was at 14 knots gusting to 19 knots, with visibility at or greater than 10 miles and clear skies. A gust front was moving northeastward toward the accident site about the time of the accident. The leading edge of the outflow or gust front moved past the accident site right around the time of the accident. Witnesses reported that shortly after takeoff, the engine sounded "weird" and was "sputtering" or "puttering." The postaccident airframe and engine examination revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Thus, it is likely that the erratic and strong wind conditions reduced the airplane's ability to maintain the initial takeoff climb.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The airplane's inability to maintain an initial takeoff climb for reasons that could not be determined based on available information.


Aircraft Climb capability - Attain/maintain not possible
Not determined (general) - Unknown/Not determined
Environmental issues Convective turbulence - Effect on operation
Environmental issues Gusts - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Initial climb Windshear or thunderstorm (Defining event)
Initial climb Off-field or emergency landing
Initial climb Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Post-impact Fire/smoke (post-impact)

On September 12, 2017, about 1337 mountain daylight time, a Beechcraft A24R airplane, N9798L, collided with a vehicle shortly after takeoff from the Ogden-Hinckley Airport (OGD), Ogden, Utah and landed onto a roadway about one mile southwest of the airport. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries and the person in the vehicle sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.

The pilot reported that this was the first flight after recent general maintenance and his first flight in this airplane. After two engine run-ups on the ground, the pilot took off to practice touch-and-go landings. During the takeoff sequence, all instruments indicated normal. The airplane climbed to about 200 ft, but then stopped climbing. The pilot reported that the engine did not sound obviously rough and it was maintaining full power, however, his altitude was not increasing, and airspeed was decreasing. He enriched the mixture and there was no improvement; he turned on the fuel boost pump and received a little extra power for about half a second. He then tested the magnetos, and both indicated normal. He attempted to maintain altitude, however, his airspeed was steadily decreasing, therefore, he elected to land onto a nearby road. During the landing sequence the airplane impacted a car, then the ground, before it slid to a rest and was consumed by fire.

Witnesses reported that shortly after the airplane took off from the airport, the engine was described as sounding "weird", "sputtering", or "puttering." The airplane appeared as if it stopped climbing before it started to descend to a nearby road. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial 
Age: 63, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: None
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 1, 2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: February 27, 2017
Flight Time: (Estimated) 22000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 20 hours (Total, this make and model), 10000 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 70 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N9798L
Model/Series: A24R 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1972 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: MC-117
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: May 1, 2005 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2750 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2300 Hrs as of last inspection 
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: IO-360-A1B
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 200 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

An airframe and engine examination was conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector the day after the accident. The throttle and mixture control cables were manipulated within the cockpit; the mixture moved accordingly, but the throttle was seized. Further examination revealed the throttle arm on the throttle body was damaged and unable to be moved; when disconnected, the throttle plate moved accordingly. The rocker covers were removed from the engine and there was no evidence of thermal discoloration or a stuck valve. The spark plugs were removed and were consistent with "NORMAL" when compared to the Champion Check-a-plug chart. The upper spark plugs from cylinder #2, and #4 showed evidence of corrosion on the threads, but that did not extend to the electrodes. The engine was rotated by hand, thumb compression was obtained in each cylinder, gear and valve train continuity was established, and the magneto's impulse coupling was heard.

The pilot reported that on August 27, 2017, he arrived at the airport to do a pre-buy inspection of the airplane. During this time, he learned that the airplane had sat for a long period of time. During an engine run-up, a loose engine injector and a worn fuel line was noticed. The pilot then contacted a local mechanic to do an inspection for airworthiness. General maintenance was completed just prior to the accident flight. According to the pilot, the engine was cleaned, a compression check was completed, the fuel injector lines were either tightened or replaced, a fuel line was replaced, the hydraulic system was serviced, and the battery was serviced.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: OGD,4472 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 13:53 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 21°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 14 knots / 19 knots 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  / None
Wind Direction: 250°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.12 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 31°C / 9°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Ogden, UT (OGD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Ogden, UT (OGD)
Type of Clearance: Unknown
Departure Time: 13:35 Local
Type of Airspace:

At 1253, the METAR weather observation at OGD indicated wind variable at 3 knots, 10 miles visibility or greater, clear skies below 12,000 ft agl, temperature 30o C, dew point 8o C, and altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury. At 1353, the observation at OGD indicated wind from 250o at 14 knots with gusts to 19 knots, 10 miles visibility or greater, clear skies below 12,000 ft agl, temperature of 31o C, dew point 9o  C, and an altimeter setting of 30.12 inches of mercury.

A weather study was completed by a National Transportation Safety Board Meteorologist. Surface analysis charts depicted a surface trough located just west of the accident site stretching from central Utah northwestward into southern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued an Area Forecast Discussion, which mentioned that there was a 20% chance of gusty and erratic thunderstorm outflow winds to impact the area. In addition, the NWS issued an Airport Weather Warning for the Salt Lake City International Airport valid from 1330 to 1440 and warned of a west wind of 20-25 mph with gusts to 30-35 mph. The Integrated Terminal Weather System data indicated a gust front in between OGD and Salt Lake City, Utah, located 25 miles south of the accident site, at 1335 moving northeastward towards OGD and the accident site. The base velocity data, indicated the leading edge of the outflow or gust front moved passed the accident site right around the time of the accident. Gust front conditions were indicated on the display until 1350.

Visible Satellite Imagery indicated no cloud cover over the accident site at the accident time, however, a cloud boundary was apparent moving past the accident site between 1325 and 1345 with additional cumulous cloud development east of the accident site across the mountainous terrain by 1357. The additional cloud cover across the mountainous terrain east of the accident site formed as the outflow boundary/gust front moved eastward into the mountainous terrain inducing additional vertical motion.

The FAA's Advisory Circular AC00-6B title "Aviation Weather" issued in August 2016 is the primary basic training guide on many weather hazards, including gust fronts and outflow. It is stated that gust front conditions are associated with rain showers and more frequently with thunderstorm activity. Gust fronts create many hazards for aviation and can cause damaging wind at the surface.

The FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-24C titled "Thunderstorms" issued February 2013 is the primary basic training guide on thunderstorm hazards used for flight training guidance. The turbulence region of a gust front is identified from the leading edge or "nose", which would be marked by a sudden wind shift and increase in wind speed along with potentially moderate to severe turbulence up to 1,000 and
occasionally to 3,000 feet above ground level. A sudden wind shift and gusty winds associated with a gust front can be seen at OGD and SLC, when the gust front moved across those airports at the accident time. Multiple surges of cold dense air are typical results in individual strong gusts. Behind the "head" of the gust front, another area of turbulence is typically found near the "wake." This can cause wave formations with the density discontinuities between the warm and cold air masses resulting again in moderate to severe turbulence. Gust fronts are often observed extending up to 15 miles from the main precipitation core of the thunderstorm or rain shower.

Airport Information

Airport: Ogden-Hinckley Airport OGD 
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 4472 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 21 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 8103 ft / 150 ft VFR 
Approach/Landing: Precautionary landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:41.190555,-112.007774 (est)

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