Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Beechcraft S35 Bonanza, N876T: Fatal accident occurred October 03, 2021 near Western Carolina Regional Airport (KRHP), Andrews, Cherokee County, North Carolina

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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Charlotte, North Carolina Textron; Wichita, Kansas

Highrider LLC

Location: Andrews, North Carolina
Accident Number: ERA22FA001
Date and Time: October 3, 2021, 19:48 Local 
Registration: N876T
Aircraft: Beech S35 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On October 3, 2021, about 1948 eastern daylight time, a Beech S35, N876T, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Andrews, North Carolina. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot, who purchased the airplane in June 2021, was performing a cross-country flight that originated at Liberty Municipal Airport (T78), Liberty, Texas, about 1234 with the intended destination of Macon County Airport (1A5), Franklin, North Carolina. Due to weather conditions, the pilot diverted to Western Carolina Regional Airport (RHP) in Andrews. A witness on the ramp, who was also a pilot, reported that the accident pilot entered the left downwind of the traffic pattern for runway 8 from the east and flew north of the runway; however, the published traffic pattern for runway 8 was right-hand traffic due to rising terrain north of the runway. The witness further reported that the pilot’s first approach was too fast, and he performed a go-around. The pilot continued to fly a left traffic pattern and landed on his second attempt.

While on the ground at RHP, the pilot purchased 60 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel, received a weather briefing through Leidos, and filed an instrument flight rules flight plan to Lancaster Airport (LNS), Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Takeoff minimums and obstacle departure procedures for RHP (an uncontrolled airport) required pilots to remain within 3 nautical miles of the airport while climbing in visual conditions to cross the airport westbound at or above 4,900 ft mean sea level (msl). Then climb to 7,000 ft on a heading of 251° to the Harris (HRS) VORTAC 356° radial to HRS before proceeding on course. The procedure is not authorized at night.

Review of preliminary FAA Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data indicated that the pilot departed runway 8 and made a slight left turn toward the northeast. The last recorded data point showed the airplane about 3,750 ft, in a 656 ft-per-minute climb at 98 knots, on a course of 042°. The last ADS-B data point was located about 500 ft laterally from the initial impact with pine trees at an approximate elevation of 3,950 ft.

The RHP weather at 1945 included scattered clouds at 1,400 ft, broken clouds at 3,200 ft, and 7 miles visibility in rain. Sunset at Andrews was about 1917 and the end of civil twilight was about 1941.

Initial examination of the accident site and wreckage revealed that all major structural components of the airplane were accounted for. The airplane collided with tall pine trees and continued another 600 ft before colliding with another tree. The wreckage impacted the terrain in a steep, nose low attitude and came to rest inverted. The wing flaps were found in the retracted positions; however, all three landing gear were extended.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. According to a witness, he had recently transitioned from a Piper Warrior equipped with fixed landing gear.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech 
Registration: N876T
Model/Series: S35
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: RHP,1699 ft msl
Observation Time: 19:45 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C /18°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 1400 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3200 ft AGL
Visibility: 7 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Andrews, NC (RHP)
Destination: Lancaster, PA (LNS)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 35.248309,-83.787619 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email witness@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

Dwaine Leon Thompson and Bobbie Collins Thompson

Dwaine Leon Thompson and Bobbie Collins Thompson

Crews found the wreckage of a plane crash that killed two people in the North Carolina mountains after days of searching.

The Beechcraft S35 Bonanza took off from Western Carolina Regional Airport just before 8 p.m. Sunday, according to a news release from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Minutes later, air control in Atlanta “received a signal from the aircraft emergency location transmitter.” 

The sheriff’s office said crews searched for the missing plane and the occupants throughout that night and into Monday afternoon — but didn’t find anything.

Crews then located the plane’s wreckage Tuesday and confirmed that both people onboard died when the plane crashed into a mountainside just north of Andrews, which is about 95 miles west of Asheville.

“The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office extends our prayers for the family and wishes to express our sincere gratitude to all those (who) were involved in bringing this to a conclusion,” the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were on the way to investigate the crash.


  1. Surrounded by mountains on 3 sides. Looks like the plane took off from 8 and flew into the side of the mountain. Departure procedure and NOTAMS with an abundance of information.

    1. Additional Remarks: ARPT SURROUNDED BY HIGH TERRAIN.

      WESTERN CAROLINA RGNL (RHP) TAKEOFF MINIMUMS AND (OBSTACLE) DEPARTURE PROCEDURES AMDT 1A 14JAN10 (10014) (FAA) TAKEOFF MINIMUMS: Rwys 8, 26, max. 180 KIAS 3400-2, max. 210 KIAS 3400-2½, max. 250 KIAS 3400-3.
      DEPARTURE PROCEDURE: Rwys 8, 26, procedure NA at night. Remain within 3 NM of Western Carolina RGNL while climbing in visual conditions to cross airport westbound at or above 4900. Then climb to 7000 via heading 251° and HARRIS (HRS) VORTAC R-356 to HRS VORTAC before proceeding on course.

    2. ADS-B review/mapping/topo comparison is consistent with simple CFIT during night climb over the dark mountain terrain leaving KRHP.

      Trip was from Texas to Pennsylvania. Track coming in to KRHP suggests a divert for weather ongoing at the time. The 3.5 hours spent on the ground at KRHP resulted in nightfall before flight was resumed.

      The last recorded ADS-B data point in Flightaware's track log (pinned on the google map linked below) is about a half mile before reaching the continuous 4,400' MSL ridge line that stretches across the flight path at that point between Joanna(Teyahalee) Bald and Little Bald, as seen on the Topozone map (zoom in/out to see named features).

      The aircraft's uncorrected pressure altitude was 3,750 MSL and ground speed was two miles per minute while climbing at approximately +700 ft/min on a 42° heading. Continuation of that heading and ground speed puts the aircraft at the ridge in less than one minute.

      Pinned Flightaware data point:

      Topozone map:


  2. Totally basic CFIT 101. Textbook. Sadly synthetic vision would have helped here... from an iPad or android phone of all things.

    1. As known, even the best trained with hours in the soup are not immune to "spatial disorientation, the mistaken perception of one’s position and motion relative to the earth.
      Any condition that deprives the pilot of natural, visual references to maintain orientation, such as clouds, fog,
      haze, darkness, terrain or sky backgrounds with indistinct contrast (such as arctic whiteout or clear, moonless skies over water) can rapidly cause spatial disorientation. Pilots can compensate by learning to fly by reference to their instruments. But a malfunction of flight instruments, such as a vacuum failure, in conditions of reduced visibility can also end in spatial disorientation, with the same lethal results." faasafety

    2. @gretnabear pointless much? He said if using an additional artificial source of VISUAL references, they might have faired better. And that's absolutely true with the new synthetic vision systems. Absolutely fantastic, removing a TON of the "mistaken perceptions" and even ADDING additional graphic warning indications for orientation, natural and artificial obstacles, traffic, rate of descent, and ground proximity. I can say confidently that this accident and thousands of others would be easily prevented with synthetic vision.
      The meaningless faasafety quote you supply no doubt addresses flying with steam gauges compared to looking outside.
      Pretty simple to comprehend.

    3. Many CFITS durimg initial climb after takeoff are "almost made it" events while pointed at terrain the pilots knew was out front. This pilot, like so many others, did not follow the published departure procedure instruction to gain altitude before crossing the terrain.

      Pilots who don't follow departure procedures will still have CFIT accidents with synthetic vision active. Basic airmanship discipline is lacking in these accidents.

    4. Also maybe a little bit of Getheritis? Their unplanned stop (as noted above) to wait out the weather could have evolved into an overnight stay and continue the next day.

      If the pilot briefed the departure and then ignored the guidance that's an error of commission. If he failed to brief the departure of an unfamiliar airport, that's an error of omission. In both cases as PIC the buck stops with him. Even more disconcerting is that he was instrument rated and should have been more cognizant of procedures designed to avoid exactly this outcome. His 10+ years of experience seems to have led to complacency which some believe is the number one killer of pilots, not mechanical or other system failures.

    PO BOX 817
    HUMBLE TX 77347-0817
    County: HARRIS
    Country: USA
    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: Third
    Medical Date: 3/2019
    BasicMed Course Date: 5/26/2021
    BasicMed CMEC Date: 3/17/2021
    Certificate: PRIVATE PILOT
    Date of Issue: 9/8/2010

  4. Sad to see what happened to him and his wife, as I just flew with him a few months ago. He was a very good man who would help anyone. He was going to take me and my son flying in late September, but his plane was getting new instruments installed.

  5. The crash site was located shortly after 11am Monday morning.