Sunday, August 29, 2021

Kobe Bryant, COVID blamed for tardy National Transportation Safety Board report on plane crash that killed Indiana men: Beechcraft 35-B33 Debonair, N9529Y

"Montana here we come."
August 29, 2019

EVANSVILLE, Indiana — Two years after the plane crash that killed three Evansville men in Montana, their widows still await a National Transportation Safety Board report that never seems to come.

The NTSB's explanation for that involves basketball legend Kobe Bryant and COVID-19, the coronavirus that rages around the world.

The story begins shortly after the crash that killed Grant Weythman, Tim Arnold and Allen Eicher on August 29, 2019, when the federal agency told the Courier & Press it would likely take a year to complete the final report on the incident.

But that was months before COVID-19 happened in early 2020, which was also about the same time Bryant was killed along with eight other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. In the interval, the NTSB has blown past several estimates of when its report on the Montana plane crash would be ready.

Coronavirus concerns prevented NTSB investigators from going to accident sites or to see airplane manufacturers last year, said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the agency.

Meanwhile, the investigator assigned to the Montana case was pulled off of it to work on the Bryant case. Holloway said the NTSB's western region, which took charge of both investigations, has just two or three aviation investigators who are stretched thin.

But the Bryant investigation was completed and an exhaustive 72-page report on it published in February, and there's still no estimate on when the Montana case findings will be released.

NTSB spokesman Holloway acknowledged the crash that killed the three Evansville men happened months before the Bryant crash. He noted the aircraft the basketball legend was in was larger than the one Grant Weythman was flying on August 29, 2019, more people were killed and the accident itself was more complex.

The report on the accident in Montana likely won't be longer than two pages when it does come out, Holloway said. But no one knows when that will happen.

A July 13 email from the NTSB to the widows of Arnold, Weythman and Eicher said a "draft factual report" on the incident is under review. Citing an investigator's workload, the NTSB said it has no timetable.

The widows are of two minds.

Sabrina Weythman, Tammy Arnold and Kathy Eicher do think the NTSB's report could help provide closure. They are united in saying Grant Weythman would not have flown as low as witnesses said — 50 feet above ground — unless something was wrong.

But they also know no report will bring their men back to them.

Grant Owen Weythman

Timothy R. “Tim” Arnold

Allen Kurtis Eicher

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; Helena, Montana

Location: St. Ignatius, MT
Accident Number: WPR19FA246
Date & Time: 08/29/2019, 1600 MDT
Registration: N9529Y
Aircraft: Beech 33
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On August 29, 2019, about 1600 mountain daylight time, a Beech BE-35 airplane, N9529Y, impacted terrain on a private ranch, near St. Ignatius, Montana. The private pilot and the two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to the pilot who was operating it as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed around the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Miller Field airport (VTN) in Valentine, Nebraska and was destined for St. Ignatius airport (52S) in St. Ignatius, Montana.

According to a witness, the pilot routinely flew low over a ranch to alert the ranch hands that he would be landing at 52S and required a ride back to the ranch. On this occasion he was observed flying lower than normal. Multiple witnesses reported that they heard the airplane approaching then saw sparks erupting as the airplane flew passed wires located about 50 ft above the ground. All the witnesses reported seeing the airplane descend to the ground where it tumbled for about 400 ft.

The airplane was found inverted in a level hay field on a heading of about 095°. An area of flattened hay and grass was observed extending back from the airplane 400 ft on a bearing of 255°. Numerous components of the airplane were found strewn along the ground scar. A downed power transmission line was observed about 830 ft to the west of the wreckage. Some airplane components were found in the vicinity of the downed powerline. The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N9529Y
Model/Series: 33 35B33
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: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMSO, 3205 ft msl
Observation Time: 1553 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 25 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / 7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 300°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 11000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None 
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 47.275833, -114.124167


  1. Truly a tragedy all the way around, as all losses of life are. It's beyond frustrating to those who lost loved ones that celebrity and the salacious people not to mention the media and drive for headlines and attention, not to mention eyes-on (aka viewers) drove the attention from this investigation to the other one. It's a copout for the NTSB for saying there was more people on Bryant's aircraft because, unless it was a major airliner with ~100 people, there's been many NTSB reports that go by chronological order, not be lives lost.

    I've actually work with crash sites and investigators on the ground, it's not the individuals so much who choose to do what is, in fact, a low-paying often thankless job, but their managers who usually themselves have no aviation backgrounds, merely a political favor or plant from one party or another, a gimme-a-job that will pay more than those who, you know, actually DO the investigation and have to put all the pieces together.

    It seemed the NTSB uses COVID as a crutch and/or a reason to basically save a few pennies but not traveling to crash sites, such as the one near me of a prominent but ambulance chasing lawyer ( who NTSB didn't travel to, simply saying "nah, we'll let the local people figure it out," which those people aren't trained for, and were miffed as much as anyone. The NTSB from their middle managers all but abdicated their jobs while pulling in the same paychecks but allowing themselves basically paid vacations to do more of the nothing they already were doing. Much of the investigation during COVID could be conducted on-site with precautions or with manufacturers, most of whom didn't shut fully down, planes still need to fly. There was still people they could talk to, things they could look at, masks and all, but no, heaven forbid the middle-managers have to approve schedules or pay a taxpayer's dime they could pocket themselves.

    Again, important to note, this is usually not the field officers and investigators, they're not even allowed to expense a coffee, and they make less than a Costco stocker. This is the middle-manage six-figured lazy fatcat bureaucratic plants who do nothing and enjoy it that way. They make the call on who can travel, and how far, and if an investigator finds something that one of these plants find something there's no conflict of interest big enough for the middle manager to bend enough light to cover evidence or put off a bereaving family getting closure. After all, to these political hacks and their nepotism, their conscience doesn't bother them enough to care.

    1. She has moved on, but for some Insight into the NTSB, look up chairman Deborah Hersman. Board member 2009-2014, chairman last two years.
      A political science major. Worked as an intern for Rep. Bob Wise (D-west VA). Other qualifications include a CDL with a school bus endorsement, and that she "worked on" but did not earn a private pilot license. The chairman of the NTSB. Virtually no qualifications.
      She was followed by two, who at least superficially, appear to have some related qualifications, but, Aug 2021, Jennifer Homendy is the newest presidential appointment to this position, and, again, appears to have virtually zero qualifications.
      I don't believe for a second that the NTSB is apolitical.

    2. "The chairman of the NTSB. Virtually no qualifications."

      That's par for the course with the current complete incompetent administration which sees checks in diversity boxes more important than actual qualifications for the job. It's pathetic, and as we watch the collapse in Afghanistan and American deaths (with more to come to be sure under the inevitable following global terrorism), not unexpected. Hold on for another three and a half years because we are in for one wretched time ahead until Americans fire them all. They are all in over their head from the top down.

    3. Please stick with the facts

      Your boy the Self Admitted Serial Sexual Predator, Two Bit Grifter, and Draft Dodger
      SURRENDERED to the Taliban in Feb of 2020

      As to the qualifications of the NTSB Chairman
      They don't need a pilot per say
      They need a MANAGER

  2. NTSB is silent on the "Pilatus PC-12/47E, N56KJ: Fatal accident occurred November 30, 2019 near Chamberlain Municipal Airport (9V9), Brule County, South Dakota. The pilot and eight passengers from the eleven onboard sustained fatal injures. The surviving three passengers are in stable condition, all members of a prominent Montana family."

  3. Covid has cost lives and jobs for some. For government paper pushers, it is paid time off.

    1. Don't blame the NTSB - blame Congress ...

  4. It’s a shame how the NTSB has been neglected over the years, where if they were truly administered correctly and their reports published with more concise findings, it could be a valuable learning tool for pilots. To often I read that they either don’t show up or, the cause is vague, ie pilot error.
    Yes, Covid has been a blanket excuse for so many government bottlenecks and worse, system break downs. Covid has proven to be the greatest political weapon of all time, in any other universe it would be seen as “the flu”. No intention of trying to start a political debate, but the citizens of this country truly need to wake the hell up. Take a more critical look at the statistics of Covid without all of the government noise.
    As for the NTSB and the FAA, better leadership and better use of resources will undoubtedly save pilot lives.

  5. You can't complain about NTSB resources while also constantly asking for lower taxes and fees. It takes money for the NTSB to do what they do.

  6. The NTSB aircraft accident database used to be useful and interesting. I would sometimes use it when flight instructing in the mid 2000's to make a point. It has been reorganized, and is now virtually useless for that purpose, "browsing" is now either difficult or not possible. The CAROL system is NOT user friendly. My guess is that this was not an "accident", the data was probably reorganized at high cost into a barely useful system, just enough to give the appearance of transparency.

  7. Thank you Kenneth for setting the record straight.
    Also Board Chairman is merely an administrative position not an investigatory position. And the NTSB handles all transportation safety issues, not just aviation.

  8. This: "According to a witness, the pilot routinely flew low over a ranch to alert the ranch hands that he would be landing at 52S and required a ride back to the ranch. On this occasion he was observed flying lower than normal. Multiple witnesses reported that they heard the airplane approaching then saw sparks erupting as the airplane flew passed wires located about 50 ft above the ground. All the witnesses reported seeing the airplane descend to the ground where it tumbled for about 400 ft."

    Do we need the NTSB report for this one?

  9. Doesn't seem like you need the NTSB to figure out what happened here.