Saturday, April 24, 2021

Swearingen SA226-T(B) Merlin IIIB, N59EZ: Fatal accident occurred April 23, 2021 in Winslow, Navajo County, Arizona

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 traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

Location: Winslow, AZ 
Accident Number: WPR21FA175
Date & Time: April 23, 2021, 15:30 Local 
Registration: N59EZ
Aircraft: Swearingen SA226-T(B)
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On April 23, 2021, about 1530 mountain standard time, a Swearingen SA226-T(B) twin-engine airplane, N59EZ, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Winslow, Arizona. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The airplane departed from Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona, about 1412 and was destined for Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport (INW), Winslow, Arizona. No flight plan was filed and there was no contact with air traffic control during the flight. Radar tracking depicted the airplane accomplishing several turning maneuvers in the vicinity of the Winslow airport and general accident
area at elevations ranging from 7,100 ft mean sea level (msl) to 4,850 ft msl for about two minutes before the radar track ends.

The airplane came to rest in a rock quarry adjacent to Arizona State Route 87 about 4 miles east of the Winslow Airport. The entire airplane was contained within a flat portion of the quarry; the sides of the rock quarry were about 40 ft in elevation and surrounded the accident site. A postcrash fire consumed the wreckage.

The first identified point of impact was a disturbance to the ground about 10 ft from a barb-wire fence; the wood posts were fractured, and the barbwire was pulled out, the two metal posts about 12 ft apart were not damaged or disturbed (see Figure 1).

The debris path was on a 028° heading that led to the main wreckage. The main wreckage was about 410 ft from the first identified point of impact and came to rest inverted. Both wings separated from the fuselage, and both engines separated from their respective wings. The two four-bladed propellers were found at the accident site, both propeller assemblies had separated from their respective engines and were found in the debris field. (See Figure 2).

The airplane was recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Swearingen 
Registration: N59EZ
Model/Series: SA226-T(B) 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: 
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: 
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point:
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: 
Altimeter Setting: 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 35.015706,-110.63785 

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

William "Bill" Whittington

NAVAJO COUNTY, Arizona  — The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are looking into the circumstances surrounding the fatality crash of a Swearingen SA226T twin-engine small airplane (tail number N59EZ) near Winslow Friday, April 23 that killed two men from the Phoenix area.

Navajo County Sheriff’s Office deputies found William Whittington, 71, of Scottsdale, and Stephen Kirkby, 48, of Cave Creek, dead near the burning airplane.

A press release from Navajo County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Swanty stated that NCSO deputies along with officers from the Winslow Police Department, Winslow Fire Department and troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety went to the scene of the crash north of Interstate 40 near the junction with State Route 87 at 3:20 p.m. on April 23 where they reportedly found the airplane on fire and the two known occupants nearby.

“Upon arrival, the aircraft was on fire and was extinguished by Winslow Fire Department personnel,” Swanty stated in the press release.

The airplane is registered to Global Air LLC in Scottsdale.

It flew out of the Scottsdale Airport, apparently destined for Winslow.

The Swearingen SA226T is a nine passenger turbo prop airplane with cruising speeds of more than 300 mph and maximum speeds up to 345 mph.

WINSLOW, Arizona — One of the two men killed in a plane crash near Winslow last week was a famous race car driver. Bill Whittington was a former IndyCar and sports car racer. He was 71 years old.

James Patrick of Patrick Motorsports in Phoenix said Bill Whittington was a motorsports legend.

"He was a very interesting guy to get a glimpse of what it was like to race in those years with some of those famous cars I always dreamed about being around. It was legendary, to say the least," said Patrick.

Along with his brother Don -- the Whittington family became a fixture in American sports car racing in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1979, they won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the biggest motor races in the world.

"It was just a different era of racing, and it was more of a privateer --kind of local guys could go out there and race. It wasn't as professional as it is today, and the teams are sponsored by the big manufacturers and are paid big dollars. Back then they didn't pay people to race," said Patrick.

For years, Whittington raced at major raceways across the country driving high-powered Porsches.

"Drivers were known to have their hands in the engine bay with wrenches. Bill was always that guy," said Patrick.

Patrick got to know Whittington when they did work on his Porsche. He said Whittington was down-to-earth and passionate, always working on a project.

"He also raced airplanes and motorcycles and off-road cars. Just a wide span of anything that was burning fuel and going fast," said Patrick.

Whittington and his brothers were convicted of drug smuggling in the 80s.

According to Autoweek, U.S. authorities accused them of drug smuggling to help support their racing. In 1986, Bill pleaded guilty to tax evasion and smuggling marijuana, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and had to surrender $7 million in money and assets. A year later, Don pleaded guilty to money laundering and got an 18-month sentence. Dale did not go to prison. Bill was released in 1990, Don in 1988.



  2. An extremely rare overall victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans in a lower class car. The team of three drivers won the whole race in a Porsche 935 -- beating the entire field including dozens of the top tier prototypes meant to drive 20-30 mph faster than the Porsche 935. Usually the lower class cars come to compete among themselves and score a "class victory" and without any serious thought of winning the overall race.

    Easily one of the proudest moments of the entire Porsche 911 lineage to score an overall victory at Le Mans in 1979. Some of the enduring magic of the Porsche 911 is embedded in this incredible victory.

  3. Having a good time until something happened. Notice high descent rate without increasing ground speed in final data points- was gear extended and flaps out?

    Fri 06:18:30 PM 34.9994 -110.5830 272° 157 181 6,400 -1,333
    Fri 06:18:50 PM 35.0031 -110.6004 281° 158 182 5,900 -1,333
    Fri 06:19:15 PM 35.0051 -110.6219 277° 148 170 5,400 -1,200
    Fri 06:19:40 PM 35.0146 -110.6376 350° 148 170 4,900 -1,200
    Ground level from topo maps shows 4800 ft MSL in the crash area.

  4. Flight track passes over KINW as if initially contemplating RW4, followed by breaking away, with alignment at crash looking like attempt to land RW29 that fell short.

    RW29 makes sense for archive AWOS report of wind 250 degrees, 19 kt gusting 28 at 2156Z. Traffic at the field may account for the extended track between initial orbiting of KINW and the crash.

    No recording at KINW.

    KINW 232156Z AUTO 25019G28KT 10SM BKN110 23/M06 A2990 RMK AO2 PK WND 28032/2128 SLP074 T02281056 TSNO