Monday, December 06, 2021

Piper PA-31-350 Navajo (Panther conversion), N64BR: Fatal accident occurred December 05, 2021 near Rogue Valley International Medford Airport (KMFR), Jackson County, Oregon

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; Portland, Oregon

Location: Medford, Oregon
Accident Number: WPR22FA055
Date and Time: December 5, 2021, 16:52 Local 
Registration: N64BR
Aircraft: Piper PA-31-350
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On December 05, 2021, at 1652, a Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain airplane, N64BR, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Medford, Oregon. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot and passenger made a flight on November 24, from the airplane’s home airport in Fallon, Nevada to Medford. After landing, the pilot noticed the airplane was leaking a large amount of fuel from the right wing-root. The pilot arranged to make the necessary repairs with a fixed based operator (FBO) at the airport and drove a rental car back home to Nevada. On December 4, a mechanic at the FBO notified the pilot that the maintenance to the airplane was completed. The pilot responded that he would plan to get the airport about 1430 the following day (on the day of the accident). The pilot and passenger drove to Medford arriving about 1600.

The radio communication times could not be confirmed for accuracy for the purposes of the preliminary report. The pilot received an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance and was issued the BRUTE7 departure procedure with the LANKS transition. During the exchange of the clearance instructions, the pilot requested the controller read back the departure procedure and transition phonetically. The pilot’s family and a business associate stated this was very normal for the pilot and he would often have people clarify names and instructions. The published BRUTE SEVEN Standard Instrument Departure (SID) with a takeoff from runway 14 consisted of a “climbing right turn direct MEF [Medford] NDB [nondirectional beacon],” and continue to the BRUTE intersection on a bearing of 066°.

After receiving the clearance, the controller informed the pilot the overcast layer base was at 200 ft above ground level (agl) the tops of the layer was at 2,500 ft. After the airplane departed the pilot made a radio communication to the controller asking “will you be calling my turn for the BRUTE7?” The controller replied that he would not be calling his turn and that the pilot should fly the departure as published making a climbing right turn to overfly the approach end of runway 14 before proceeding to the BRUTE intersection (see Figure 1 below). The pilot acknowledged the communication, which was his last transmission. Several seconds later, the controller stated that he was receiving a low-altitude alert that the airplane’s altitude was showing 1,700 ft. He made several attempts to reach the pilot with no response.

The radar and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) information disclosed that the airplane arrived in the run-up area for runway 14 about 1643 and then continued onto the runway about 6 minutes thereafter. The airplane departed about 1649:30 and after crossing over the south end of the runway, it climbed to about 1,550 ft mean sea level, equivalent to 200 ft agl (see Figure 2 below). The airplane then began a gradual right turn and climbed to 1,950 ft maintaining an airspeed between 120-130 kts. As the airplane turn continued to the north the altitude momentarily decreased to 1,650 ft (about 350 ft agl) with the airspeed increasing to 160 kts. Thereafter, the airplane then increased the bank angle and made a 360-degree turn initially climbing to 2,050 ft. At the completion of the turn, the airplane descended to 1,350 ft, consistent with it maneuvering below the cloud layer. The airspeed increased to about 160 kts and several seconds later, the airplane climbed to 2,250 ft with the derived airspeed showing below 15 kts. Six seconds later was the last radar return, located about 990 ft north-northwest of the accident site. 

Video footage was obtained from several fixed security cameras on buildings around the accident site. A review of the footage revealed that the airplane descended below the cloud layer and then climbed back up. About 16 seconds thereafter, the airplane is seen descending in a near vertical attitude (see Figure 3 below). The airplane’s position and strobe light appeared to be illuminated throughout the video. The preliminary review of the recorded audio from the camera footage revealed that there were sound components at frequencies that correspond to the normal operating speed range of the airplane engines.

The accident site was adjacent to the garage bays of an automobile dealership located about 2,800 ft west-southwest from the departure end of runway 14. A majority of the wreckage had been consumed by fire and sustained major crush deformation. Various items in the cockpit were not burned, including numerous paper sectionals and IFR charts of which there were several current departure procedure plates for the Medford Airport.

The Piper PA-31-350 Navajo (Panther conversion), airplane was manufactured in 1977 and was powered by two Lycoming TIO-540-J2B series engines driving two, four-bladed Q-Tip propellers. The airplane was equipped with a Garmin GNS 530W and an autopilot.

The pilot had previously owned a PA-31-350 and purchased the accident airplane in 2013. According to his electronic logbooks he had amassed about 1,500 hours in a PA-31-350 of which 280 hours was in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The logbooks indicated that the pilot had departed from Medford in August 2018 and 2019 by way of the JACKSON1 and EAGLE6 departure procedures, respectively.

Investigators compiled a comparison of ADS-B data from two airplanes that departed before the accident airplane (at 1507 and 1556) and two that departed after (1734 and 1813). A comparison of flight tracks from the three airplanes that departed runway 14 revealed that all began the right turn after the accident flight (see Figure 4 below).

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N64BR
Model/Series: PA-31-350 
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: IMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMFR, 1313 ft msl 
Observation Time: 16:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C /4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 200 ft AGL
Altimeter Setting: 30.39 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Medford, OR
Destination: Fallon, NV (FLX)

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: 42.36066,-122.87706 

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

Donald Sefton

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release a preliminary report later this month on the initial cause of a fiery small plane crash that killed two Fallon residents after takeoff from a Medford, Oregon, airport.

Peter Knudson, public affairs officer for the NTSB in Washington, D.C., told the LVN on Monday it will take about two weeks for a preliminary report to determine cause of the December 5 crash that killed the pilot and plane owner Donald Sefton, 69, owner of Systems Consultants, and Valerie Serpa, 67, executive director of the Churchill Arts Council and the Oats Park Arts Center. The crash at the Airport Chevrolet lot occurred shortly after takeoff.

“December 19 is our goal for the preliminary report,” said Knudson, who spent several weeks in Churchill County a decade ago after a 2008 Peterbilt hauling two side-dump trailers failed to stop and rammed into an Amtrak passenger train. “It will detail facts and circumstances, and then a more detailed report will then dig down into other areas.”

Knudson said the final report could take six months.

One week ago, NTSB investigators took the wreckage of the Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain to its regional field office in Seattle. Knudson said inspectors will take information from the crash site and look at other records.

According to flight logs, Sefton’s plane left Fallon on November 24 and arrived in Medford at noon. He departed the Medford airport at 4:50 p.m., but the plane crashed minutes after takeoff.

KDRV-TV in Medford reported an NTSB senior aircraft accident investigator will work closely with different experts, while other investigators in Washington will examine radar data, video footage and audio recordings to understand the cause.

Investigator Zoe Keliher from the Seattle NTSB field office confirmed the plane had been in Medford for maintenance.

“Me, a representative from the engine manufacturer and from the airplane manufacturer — those are, respectively, Lycoming Engines and Piper Aircraft — will be convening up there and doing an entire aircraft examination layout … tearing down the engines and looking at all aspects of the airplane to see if there’s any mechanical anomalies that we could detect,” she said.

Two sources provided videos to KDRV television in Medford that show Sefton’s plane descending rapidly and at a near-vertical angle. The Medford Fire Department and personnel from the Medford airport extinguished the flames.

From takeoff to the accident, the plane was in the air for less than 3 minutes.
“What’s known is that Medford firefighters arrived on scene near Airport Chevrolet to find at least 20 vehicles that were fully involved,” Chief Eric Thompson told the Associated Press. “We know that the aircraft took off from the Medford airport, they had just filled up with fuel, they had 128 gallons of fuel on board and the incident occurred only a few minutes after they took off.”

KDRV also reported Keliher saying Sefton had left the plane in Medford for servicing and minor repairs to a fuel line before returning to Fallon. He and Serpa drove back to Medford on a nine-hour trip to fly back together. KDRV informed the LVN that December 5 was foggy with the cloud layer at about 200 to 300 feet off the ground.

Sefton, who moved to Fallon in the 1980s, is owner of System Consultants. According to its website, “This organization primarily operates in the Business Oriented Computer Software business / industry within the Business Services sector. This organization has been operating for approximately 42 years. Systems Consultants is estimated to generate $5.3 million in annual revenues, and employs approximately 60 people at this single location.”

Steve Endacott, who is the city of Fallon’s emergency management director, said he handled military projects at Systems Consultants until he left nine years ago. He said Sefton relocated from Southern California to Fallon because of the business-friendly climate.

“He got to know Fallon, bought a ranch or farm,” Endacott said. “He was involved with the Arts Council, and he was quite generous with donations to the community. He was very generous within the Fallon community, including sponsoring two scholarships every year for Churchill County High School graduates.”

Endacott began working on part-time military software projects in 1994 until his supervisor left.

“He started military software projects such as the ground training software for a fighter that was used in Desert Storm,” said Endacott, who ran the SCI Military Special Projects division. “The Stealth Fighter that Don designed the first simulator for was the F-117A, which was operating out of Tonopah Test Range at the time. That got him started with military project and was the catalyst for his move to Fallon and his work with Strike-U aboard NAS Fallon.”

During his time with Systems Consultants, Endacott said the company also worked with Strike U, the predecessor to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center at Naval Air Station Fallon. Endacott said he was also involved with the unmanned aerial vehicle command testing center.

Endacott said other projects included helping the city of Fallon archive its records and providing hunting tags to other states’ wildlife departments.

“In addition to processing the big game draws for Nevada, Utah and other states, Systems Consultants created and led multiple tactics, training and technology programs involving Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones), weapons and tactical aircraft projects,” Endacott added.

An In Memoriam was posted on the Churchill Arts Council website:

“Valerie J. Serpa was the heart of the Churchill Arts Council and Oats Park Art Center. Founding the Council in 1986 with her late husband Kirk Robertson, Valerie served as the Council’s Executive Director from 1991-2021 while working tirelessly to create a permanent home for the Council in what would become the world-class Oats Park Art Center.

“A native Nevadan born and raised in Fallon, Valerie created a world of meaningful relationships by bringing individuals from all walks of life together through the Arts. Famous for her brilliant smile, sharp wit, and incredible generosity, Valerie touched countless lives.

“The Churchill Arts Council’s Board of Directors, volunteers, and members are dedicated to continuing Valerie’s mission of championing the Arts, while honoring her legacy and vision.”

Serpa earned a degree in Art History and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Master’s Degree in Visual Culture from Antioch University. Her late husband, Kirk Robertson, who died on May 1, 2017, was also involved with the arts council.

Serpa was a board member from 1987-1989 and served as the board’s chair from 1989-1991. She became the council’s first executive director in 1991. According to her biographical information, “She oversees the day-to-day operations of all Council programs and activities including booking of the Council’s performing and visual arts season, publicity and promotion, artists-in-residence, scholarship and mini-grant programs, and is responsible for the development, coordination and fundraising for the Council’s programs.”

The family said a service may be conducted in February, but plans are still being worked out.

Valerie Jean Serpa

Valerie Jean Serpa, beloved Aunt, Great Aunt, Sister, Stepmother, Mother-in-law, and dear friend to so many, died tragically in a small plane crash in Medford, Oregon on Sunday, December 5, 2021. The tremendous loss of this incredibly intelligent, beautiful woman with the most radiant smile is not easy to share; her loss will be deeply felt for some time.

Valerie, 67, was born and raised in bucolic Fallon, Nevada. As a Native Nevadan, she treasured Nevada, in particular its eclectic and lively rural towns. Her early years were spent helping on the family land where hay and cattle were part of the family business. She was adept at and enjoyed running the harobed in particular. Following high school graduation, she was able to purchase the Serpa family home, where her father was born. Over the years, she remodeled and renovated her home and surrounding property to honor the original architecture and to encapsulate a most outstanding collection of art, all the while maintaining the essence of a lived-in home. She continued helping with the family work as she continued her education, taking classes to expand her understanding of culture, history, and art. She earned a degree in Art History and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a graduate degree in Visual Culture from Antioch University.

Valerie’s passion for the arts led to her joining the Churchill Arts Council at its inception in 1986. Shortly after, she met and married the gentleman who was to become the love of her life, Kirk Thomas Robertson. Valerie and Kirk shared their vision for an arts community and helped to renovate Oats Park School into the Oats Park Arts Center complete with a performing arts theater, art and exhibit galleries, and a museum store, all available to their community and beyond. Valerie continued on with their shared passion of this work following Kirk’s death in 2017. She was instrumental in procuring funding for not only the renovations, but for the ongoing performances and exhibits. She was an arts leader, an author, and a great collaborator. We are committed to continuing to celebrate her life and incredible accomplishments by supporting her passion and dedicated work in the visual, performing, and literary arts through the Churchill Arts Council and Oats Park Art Center, both located in Fallon, Nevada, as we know this would bring her great joy.

One of her greatest pastimes was pouring over of the incredible collection of books she and Kirk had amassed: she recently renovated her library to enhance the collection. Her intelligence about works of art, articles on works of art, and culture was awe-inspiring. She loved poetry—particularly Kirk’s own published works. Kirk was the poet. Valerie was the poem.

Valerie loved to travel, and she and Kirk visited several countries, taking in art, cuisine, and beauty. She loved Italy and the versatility of the word prego, which could be used in a myriad of different ways for different meanings. She and Kirk often traveled to New York to visit friends and to take in performances of potential, always unique, performing artists to bring to Fallon during the performance season, a tradition that Valerie continued following the loss of Kirk. She had a trip to New York planned for January 2022.

A world-class cook, Valerie was well-known for her fabulous gatherings of family and friends, where guests shared food and lively discussions. The food she prepared with so much love and served with home-spun yet worldly flair, was unparalleled. Her flower and vegetable gardens sprang forth bounties of beauty. She and Kirk were well-known for their peppers and homemade salsas. Following the consumption of delectable cuisine creations and conversation, the evening would end with heartwarming fires. She was the perfect, welcoming and loving hostess. You always left wanting to return.

Valerie was also known for her kind and loving heart. This was often seen through social gatherings yet also through her love of animals. Visiting her home would yield sightings of cats, horses, donkeys, beloved chickens and their luxury chicken coup known as “Poulet Palais Chichas,” and there would definitely be several peacocks high in their tree or telephone pole perches.

Valerie loved her family and friends fiercely. She wanted nothing more than to bring family and friends together and to bring art into their lives. You knew her well if you spent time sharing a cup of her black, thick as mud, delicious coffee, which she always offered in her marvelous china but she herself drank from her favorite patterned bowl so that she could drink in the aroma and warm her hands. Her heart and soul were already warm and kept those who knew her warm too. Everyone who loved her prays to sit again at her table, wherever that might be. There will be wine, for sure, and laughter, and joy, and beauty.

Valerie was preceded in death by her husband Kirk Thomas Robertson, and by her parents Joe Serpa, Jr. and Joanne Serpa. She is survived by her brother, Joseph M. Serpa of Reno and niece Val MacFarlane and her husband Brandon and great nephews Jace and Coen of Sparks; sister Tina Doty and her husband Bobby, and nephews Daniel and Andrew of Fallon; sister Julie Serpa and niece Brooke Fitch of Reno; niece Amber Getto and her husband John and niece Mallory, nephew Caleb Casey and great nephew Emerson Casey, nephew Wyatt Getto and his wife Aleisa, and nephew Myles Getto of Fallon; and Kirk’s oldest son Cody WindRiver and his wife Shannon and their children Cienna, Mirabel, and Mobby of Fallon; and Kirk’s youngest son Jesse WindRiver and his wife Lindsey. She is also survived by her mother’s brothers and sisters and their families as well as numerous cousins and extended family.

A gathering of family and friends to celebrate the life of Valerie will be held February 13th at the Oats Park Arts Center in Fallon, Nevada - more information soon. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Churchill Arts Council in Fallon, Nevada; P O Box 2204 Fallon, NV 89407.

NTSB senior aircraft accident investigator Zoë Keliher

Friends of the victims in Sunday's fatal plane crash in Medford remember them as pillars of the local community in Fallon, Nevada, a small town with a population of just under 9,000.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that 69-year-old Donald Harbert Sefton and 67-year-old Valerie Jean Serpa perished in the accident.

"It's terrible. It's really, it's really sad. it's really a loss for our community. Both Don and Val were amazing people who contributed so much to this community, and it's a terrible loss," said friend Rachel Dahl, who knew them both.

Dahl says Sefton moved to the Fallon area in the late 1980’s. He ran Systems Consultants, a computer software business, ever since.

"Don is a great guy. He ran his company and was very successful in the business world, a incredibly intelligent person, but he was really supportive of our small community and really loved our community," she said.

In 2015, Sefton started a scholarship fund for students through his company. That is how he met the Chairman of the Board of the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada, Kevin Melcher.

"I can tell you that he was a wonderful man and he will be greatly missed by a lot of people," Melcher said. "Despite what happened, I was thankful to hear that nobody in Medford on the ground got hurt."

Serpa grew up in Fallon and was heavily involved in the arts. She was the Executive Director of the Churchill Arts Council, which hosts a wide range of creative endeavors in the city.

"She built this organization and raised all the money to restore that building, which is now the most beautiful theater, art gallery, and meeting space," Dahl said. "She was just this beautiful, cultured, lovely woman who taught us all how to love and appreciate the arts."

Dahl says she is particularly close with Serpa's sister, and that Serpa was present at the city's Christmas tree lighting event last Friday as a member of the community.

"There's so many people who were very, very close to her, but what she was able to do with the community in embracing all of us and making us feel comfortable with what she was doing. She was magic that way," she said.

A memory Dahl points to that most exemplifies Sefton is the time she was looking to restore an old theater in Fallon. He was the first person she called.

"He wrote us a thousand dollar check right then. It was our very first contribution. He probably wouldn't want me to tell that, but he did that kind of stuff all the time and no one ever knew that he did that," she said.

The NTSB expects to have a preliminary report out on the cause of the accident within the next two weeks.

MEDFORD, Oregon — The charred remnants of a plane that crashed into the Airport Chevrolet dealership lot on Sunday were hauled away Wednesday by investigators from the federal National Transportation Safety Board, the next stage in an investigation aimed at discovering what went wrong.

Two people died when the Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain crashed into the dealership lot Sunday evening — producing an explosion and fire that also destroyed several cars parked in the lot and damaged Airport Chevrolet's Service wing.

NewsWatch 12 learned Wednesday that customer vehicles awaiting pickup after being serviced were among the wreckage.

The pilot and a single passenger killed in the crash were identified Monday as 69-year-old Donald Harbert Sefton and 67-year-old Valerie Jean Serpa, both of Fallon, Nevada, a small city located east of Reno and Carson City. The aircraft was registered to Sefton.

Officials from the NTSB and FAA arrived in Medford on Monday afternoon to take control of the inquest from local authorities. NTSB senior aircraft accident investigator Zoe Keliher said that the two bodies were recovered by the medical examiner soon after their arrival.

The team spent Tuesday working through the remains of the aircraft and documenting groundscars from the impact it caused on the surface of the dealership parking lot, Keliher said — working to salvage any possible clues from components that weren't obliterated by the explosion and flames.

As of Tuesday, NTSB was still in the "fact-finding phase," which means that were documenting everything at the scene and trying to determine what could produce meaningful data. When they do find something of interest, it is taken off-site for analysis.

With the debris catalogued, the agency began hauling it away on Wednesday morning — loading pieces, much of it charred beyond recognition, into a trailer so that it can be transported up to the Seattle area for the next stage of the investigation.

A preliminary crash report from the NTSB is expected to be released within the next two weeks. But according to the NTSB's normal procedures during a crash investigation, the final report with a probable cause for the crash may not be determined for 12 to 18 months after it occurred.

According to flight logs, Sefton's plane originally left Fallon Municipal Airport on the morning of Wednesday, November 24 and arrived in Medford at noon that day. On Sunday, he departed the Medford airport at 4:50 p.m. and was supposed to arrive back in Fallon at 6:50 p.m., but crashed just minutes after takeoff.

Video provided to NewsWatch 12 from two sources shows that the plane ultimately descended rapidly and at a near-vertical angle before slamming into the Airport Chevy lot, creating a plume of smoke and then exploding into flame seconds later. But one of the videos also shows Sefton's plane prior to the crash apparently fighting to gain altitude — swooping down into the frame and pulling back up, remaining out of the frame for several long seconds, then reappearing in a terminal loop earthward.

In a recording of the air traffic control chatter, it's possible to hear the airport tower communicating with Sefton in the lead-up to the crash, giving him instructions on how to maneuver after takeoff. Then an alarm begins to sound.

"Low altitude alert, Navajo six four Bravo Romeo, check your altitude immediately," the air traffic controller says. "That's altimeter at 3-0-3-9er, your altitude indicates 1,700 ... Navajo six four Bravo Romeo, are you on talk? Navajo six four Bravo Romeo, how do you hear?"

Moments later, when the air traffic controller begins speaking again, his voice is charged with urgency as he calls for the Medford airport's rescue and firefighter team:

"Truck 80, Medford Tower, the aircraft appears to have crashed over by the Subaru Chevron [sic] dealer, approximately one mile from the airport due south."

There were no reports of injuries to anyone on the ground. It took several hours for fire crews from the Medford Fire Department and the Medford airport to extinguish flames from the gas-fueled fire.

Airport Chevrolet said on Monday morning that it had reopened its Sales Department, but its Service Department remained closed due to the damage caused by the crash and the adjacent investigation.

Automation Way, the street to the north of the dealership off Biddle Road, was back open as of Sunday night following the initial crash response. Medford Police announced Tuesday that Chevy Way, the street to the south that was closest to the crash, was back open for through traffic.


  1. Straight down, caught on video:

  2. Track:

    1. 4:50 pm PST = 16:50 PST, +8 = 00:50 Z UTC Day 06 December

      KMFR 060050Z AUTO 00000KT 3SM BR OVC002 04/04 A3038

    2. In other words, takeoff weather was about average for west of the Cascades this time of year.

  3. KDVR News TV ABC affiliate NewsWatch 12 has video from security camera across the street, it went in vertically at high speed. It did not hit the Chevy Dealership building but in the parking lot on adjacent service road Automation Way.

    1. The original security cam video is the first posted comment here..

    2. Comms with tower:

    3. Pilot was instructed to fly the BRUTE 7 departure, which requires an immediate right turn.

      BRUTE 7 Page 1:
      brute 7 Page 2:

    4. Wrong. Nowhere in the BRUTE 7 departure procedure does it say "immediate right turn". It says "Climbing right turn". Anyone who has an instrument rating knows that you don't immediately execute a departure procedure turn. You must first climb on runway heading until passing 400 feet above the departure end of the runway and only then may you start any turn. Turning immediately after takeoff is an excellent way to run into obstacles and terrain or become spatially disoriented.

    5. Not wrong. And you have embarrassed yourself by not looking at the black path line drawn on page 1. Surprising to learn that climbing is required after a takeoff, because clearly the original commenter intended to imply turning in ground effect. Crikey, mate!

    6. The 4:37am posting is correct. The "black path line" shows where to go, not when. These procedures are not predicated on requiring an immediate turn. Think about it. 400 ft is very reasonable to consider starting a turn. Just my humble opinion. (ATP, ATC, Geospatial/aeronautical analyst)

    7. "BRUTE SEVEN DEPARTURE (BRUTE7.BRUTE) 21JUL16, NOTE: Chart not to scale."
      expected is "A standard rate turn defined as a 3° per second turn, which completes a 360° turn in 2 minutes. This is known as a 2-minute turn, or rate one (180°/min)."

    8. Yep, the 4:37am comment is correct and the 6:10am comment came from a flight sim gamer who has never flown a real plane a day in their life. You never just "follow the black line" like it's some sort of video game. Read AIM 5-2-9.e.1:
      "Unless specified otherwise, required obstacle clearance for all departures, including diverse, is based on the pilot crossing the departure end of the runway at least 35 feet above the departure end of runway elevation, climbing to 400 feet above the departure end of runway elevation before making the initial turn, and maintaining a minimum climb gradient of 200 feet per nautical mile (FPNM)... "

      This is IFR departure procedures 101 here. If you use some common sense, you'd understand that requiring a turn immediately after takeoff exposes the aircraft to hitting surface obstacles on an extremely wide arc around the runway. To design a departure without a ridiculously high minimum, you'd need a clear departure surface all around the runway and need to move ATC towers, airport buildings, etc far away from the runway at most airports. Read the TERPS guidelines sometime, you'll learn a lot.

    9. Newly-rated instrument pilot here. First of all this guy clearly wasn't prepared to fly the DP. But my specific question is about the role of the Medford NDB. What is its purpose here? To me (notwithstanding the fact that I have a GTN750 to use in place of the ADF), I would take off, basically ignore the NDB, climb to 400 feet AGL before initiating a right turn to a heading of 060 to intercept the 098 degree radial from the Rogue Valley VOR, BRUTE, LANKS, and syonara. It doesn't seem challenging at all.

      Now if you get airborne, don't have the VOR tuned, don't have the radial tuned, and blindly ask if you're getting vectors when you're already in IMC, I can see where that might be a problem.

      Seems to me the guy didn't know about the DP, accepted it anyway, didn't prepare to fly it in any way (it's possible he didn't even have a copy of it?), got into IMC and expected ATC to do the flying for him. Mind-boggling.

    10. Never mind, I see he was taking off runway 14. Still not a difficult procedure, but you have to be prepared for it, have the avionics set up, etc. Clearly this guy was just not mentally involved in the flight. He was a passenger from the time he arrived at the airport. As I've gained in experience it has really hit me what it means to be PIC. It is a privilege, but it is also a very serious responsibility. I just cannot fathom his lackadaisical attitude at a departure into low IMC.

    11. Yeah your spot on. I dont think he laid eyes on the sid he even askes if its a brute7 or route7. Mfr published departures are eagle6/brute7/gnats7/jackson1. How does brute get confused with route? He is still abeam with Departure end at 270 turn when should have been abeam the NDB this man should have used his credit card and got a motel then left at 11;00 when imc cleared. They would bith be alive. Aircraft was in MFR for service on fuel line. Minor repair.

  4. Tower controller seems to have experience dealing with this, perhaps somewhat impaired pilot from previous knowledge of him, and obviously talks much slower to him. Pilot's radio discipline is poor and tower corrects him. So could anyone, tower controller, pilot's wife, family stopped him from flying? Luckily no other deaths but his is still sad. Shooting from the hip here but that's what it looks like.

    1. Looking back through past flights that adsbexchange was able to capture doesn't find this aircraft frequenting MFR. Arrival there was on Nov 24th at 20:00 Z, timber of pilot's voice was about the same. Tower handling lots of traffic during N64BR's approach, including regionals.

      Had to be some schedule/plan pressure involved for a pilot to launch into those conditions when obviously not confident about accomplishing the BRUTE 7 departure. Wouldn't be the first time that weather decisions cost lives heading home on a Sunday evening.

      Nov 24 arrival comm:
      Nov 24 arrival track:

  5. This is eerily similar to the crash of N7933M that happened just one day earlier and one state south. Both were departures in LIFR conditions where the pilot entered a turn immediately after takeoff and overbanked it right into the ground. Takeoffs in LIFR conditions are nothing to be trifled with!

    1. There will always be pilots whose recent IMC departure experience consists primarily of hand flying straight out on the runway heading until the autopilot can take over. Those pilots will continue to crash during turns made early in the departure profile such as this accident and N7933M's at Visalia.

      Self-assessment before takeoff must be realistic. No pilot can expect to respond with superior airmanship skill and be able to resist sensory illusion under circumstances more challenging than what was recently experienced and successfully flown.

  6. "IFR departures: the forgotten procedure by by John Zimmerman."

    1. NDB tracking/homing .... An additional forgotten procedure that is so "simple" it is rarely taught or practiced

    2. "NDB tracking/homing" ... Despite the way the procedure is written, the location of the NDB (basically at the other end of the runway) mostly precludes any traditional tracking of the radio beacon. Quality automation will just treat it as a fix to try to more-or-less fly over while reaching the heading assignment, and an experienced pilot in anything much faster than a single-engine trainer type is going to see the procedure, in practice, as simply being a right hand turn to the heading shown after departing the NDB. If he was seriously trying to track the NDB on an old nav head, that might have contributed to disorientation/confusion and maybe the loss of control. Experience and clarity of thought means a lot in these situations, yet his radio work before departure was already sketchy, as the controller responds to accordingly.

    3. That is why I included "homing" in my comment.

      As I recall, you do not have to accept a SID and you can note that in the remarks section of your flight plan.

  7. From the ATC audio my understanding this was a "Controller assigns a Standard Instrument Departure (SID)" and from the PIC feedback he was unsure of what "BRUTE 7 departure procedure entailed. As noted in this article "You should not accept a clearance for a SID without at least reading the departure route description section; do not rely on your FMS/GPS to guide you through a SID without at least reading the departure route description."

    "SIDs are similar to ODPs, except that SIDs are generally developed to facilitate efficient traffic flow rather than ensure terrain/obstruction clearance (this is not always true...some SIDs are designed for terrain avoidance as we'll see below). The key part of the SID chart is the text portion which describes exactly what is expected of the pilot. SIDs can be quite complex and are covered in detail below.The most important part of any SID chart for a pilot is the “departure route description” section, that will tell the pilot exactly what is expected of them (this will be beaten into your head over the next few sections). You should not accept a clearance for a SID without at least reading the departure route description section; do not rely on your FMS/GPS to guide you through a SID without at least reading the departure route description."

    1. And I recall that SIDs do not have to be accepted especially if you note that in the remarks section of the flight plan form

    2. I agree, the pilot could have replied 'unable to accept SID departure, request vectors to en route' or something similar.

    3. All good points, but just a note that the site you linked is a reference for the VATSIM flight sim game and not intended for real pilots. While the information seems generally correct, some important details (for example, no departure turns prior to 400 AGL) are not discussed.

      See the fine print at the very bottom of the LAARTCC site:
      "The information contained on all pages of this website is to be used for flight simulation purposes only on the VATSIM network. It is not intended nor should it be used for real world navigation. This site is not affiliated with the FAA, NATCA, the actual Los Angeles ARTCC, or any governing aviation body. All content contained herein is approved only for use on the VATSIM network."

      A much better (and also free) reference would be the FAA's excellent handbooks here
      Particularly, the Instrument Procedures Handbook and Instrument Flying Handbook

  8. All of the comments here are complete conjecture.

    1. Okay, Gaffster, let's watch a radar plot of you flying the SID in those conditions with a 150+ knot aircraft and navigating it with a traditional ADF. I will also await your explanation for how the ATC recording was an example of clear and cogent pilot communications--"complete conjecture"? Not. Accidents have certain hallmarks and signatures around them and rarely depart from the same basic causes, like stall/spin, CFIT, and graveyard spirals.

    2. Of course they are, Gaffster. Everything is complete conjecture this early after an accident. What did you expect to see in the comment section, an official NTSB accident investigation?! If you want an official report, wait 2-3 years for the NTSB to release one and don't read anything on here. For the rest of us, it can be an educational experience to do an early run through on what the possible causes could be in an attempt to not make similar mistakes. If you want a memorial site with fluffy vapid comments, you came to the wrong place.

    3. Excellent response. Conjecture does not change the outcome or disrespect those who were killed. The pilot has already set the outcome in stone and killed himself and innocent passenger, which is the ultimate disrespect for human life.

  9. Did not sound like and instrument-rated pilot. Multiple errors on the clearance readback, did not seem to know about the SID, communication errors on the TO clearance, and then wanted a vector to a departure heading when the SID clearly shows the departure route and heading. One poster noted that the PIC seemed impaired, and I'm not sure he was, but he sure sounded like it. And overall a decision to depart in clearly IFR conditions calls his entire decision making ability into question. Slow speech, many errors, and what appears to be a spatial disorientation event. The video was brutal, all over in less than a half-second. Ugly!

    1. Yeah it was odd for him to ask if the tower was going to call his turn on the departure procedure. Definitely shows a lack of understanding of the DP. Also, looking at the ADS-B track, he turned too early and his rate of turn immediately after takeoff was over 6 deg/sec, double what a standard rate turn should be. Easy to get disoriented when you are overbanking in IMC like that.

  10. The Pilot was indeed instrument rated, well qualified, and had been flying for 7+ years (see below), however his proficiency is certainly questionable based on the ATC audio. The accident aircraft had been at KMFR since 24 November 2021, and the weather for the preceding three days before the accident had been almost continuous LIFR, so it's conceivable that there was some get-home-itis at play. He may have delayed his departure date as long as his and/or her schedule would allow, and believed they couldn't stay there any longer. 

    For those discussing the SID. As mentioned, unless otherwise instructed by ATC or procedure, you should never turn before 400 feet AGL. I was always taught (by a CFII who was also an ATC) to make my first turn at 400 AGL unless circumstances require otherwise. If terrain necessitated a turn by the departure end of the runway, it would probably be "Departure RWY 34 NA." The PA31 is a very high performance twin, the density altitude was low, and with only two POB, it's likely they were at or near 400 AGL at the time the first turn was initiated. 

    Certificate: COMMERCIAL PILOT  
    Date of Issue: 3/18/2015


    Type Ratings:
    C/N-B25 (SIC only)

    1. Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!

      "well qualified" ???

      While he may have demonstrated minimum proficiency at the point in time that he passed his instrument rating checkride, IFR flying is a highly perishable skill, and therefore assuming he was "well qualified" would be a bit of a stretch. EACH FLIGHT may be your last if you are not at the top of your game every time. Obviously, he should have been doing something other than flying that day.

  11. It saddens me that even comments from fellow pilots have to turn negative and vitriol so easily. Is there some type of anger gene that we all posses that shows its head when we type comments or get behind the wheel of a car. God help us.

    1. An accident, and the death of people, including innocents, as well as the destruction of property that results, is generally perceived as a seriously negative thing. When this entire category of flying has then shown that many of its pilots seem unwilling or incapable of learning from those tragedies and instead regularly repeat them with the same inevitable outcomes for themselves, their families, colleagues, and friends, leading to exorbitantly climbing insurance rates, tort claims against manufacturers, and other factors which threaten to end the viability of general aviation altogether, you're likely to read and hear some rather intolerant and negative responses to erroneous suggestions and analyses. I doubt that most veteran pilots and controllers have issues with road rage, but there are situations in which relatively level heads feel compelled to make strong statements. If they don't, they probably wouldn't have made it in the line of work they're in--obviously I'm speaking from a career in the industry. The softer approach typical of GA training and flight reviews clearly isn't cutting it.

    2. Patterns observable in nature do a better job of explaining the rudeness and vitriol than pretending to be on a righteous quest to "save" GA.

      The feistiest birds peck the others, the big dog seeing another wet a post runs up and marks it himself, and none of this represents anything new across the endless march of time."

      -As told to Tommy Conklin in El Salvador, 1971

    3. Speaking of pretense... Did your post lessen whatever rudeness and vitriol you felt was present in this discussion and debate? If Juan Browne and Dan Gryder cover it, maybe you can post in their YouTube comments all the nice things that they should have said instead. After all, what do airline pilots know? Maybe you could even start a "Positive Mental Attitude Towards Fatal Aircraft Accidents" blog. I'm sure it would be just what the GA pilot community can use most for improving accountability and safety.

    4. Starting to look like the "It saddens me" post mainly hits one person the hardest.

  12. A photo of the panel of the accident aircraft was posted at Looks like your standard steam gauge six-pack with a single Garmin 430 as the sole source of GPS nav data. Totally legal for IFR, of course, but no RNAV redundancy if you lose the 430.

    1. As a caveat to the above, it's unknown the age of all those photos, but some are dated 2011, so it's entirely possible the owner upgraded the panel equipment since they were taken.

    2. Notice the N64BR ad shows "Fresh annual inspection May, 2013"

      N64BR was a replacement for his previous Navajo, N969BD S/N 31-8152109 manufactured 1981 that he registered July 2003 and did not return to service after a fuel exhaustion desert landing ended that plane's career 5 miles prior to reaching its refueling destination at the Page Airport on May 28, 2013.

      Mr. Sefton was aboard but not listed as PIC or crew in N969BD's 2013 emergency landing. The pilot listed on Form 6120.1 had 876 hours PIC in type.

      WPR13CA245 Docket (Form 6120.1 + two photos):

      KR Posting, 2013:

    3. The short video with the vertical / near-vertical crash is cringeworthy. Sad. RIP. Can't imagine the view out the front in the few seconds prior to impact!!

  13. How on earth you wind up in a situation where you're asking if you're going to get vectors for the DP when you're already airborne and in hard IMC is beyond me. He clearly wasn't mentally prepared for what he was doing.

    1. The asking if the tower was going to call his turn occurred before takeoff. Wasn't airborne at the time.

      The hesitation and confusion about the departure instructions makes you wonder if maybe he had his heater running for a long time before taxi to get the cabin warm and was getting CO influenced from a burner leak.

    2. "The asking if the tower was going to call his turn occurred before takeoff. Wasn't airborne at the time."

      He absolutely was airborne at the time: "Medford Tower, N64BR is off, will you be calling my turn...?"

    3. Re-listened, yes, asked after takeoff. That's nuts.

    4. It's ATC's fault for not "calling his turn".

      Put this one down for a Darwin award...

  14. Mike, you hit the nail on the head, Sir!

  15. Questionable if "hard IMC" conditions existed, and appears not supported from the clarity of the "near-vertical" video. Unknown, yet possible ATC was simply issuing SIDs to facilitate efficient traffic flow.

    1. Nothing questionable about it unless you think that the SkyWest crew, the air traffic controller, and the weather observation were all being false. That's a bit of a stretch. All indicate that the ceiling was right at minimums at the field. The video offers no contradiction. There is no traffic flow at Medford to facilitate. There is surrounding terrain to be avoided with a SID, however.

    2. Since we now know there is no traffic flow at Medford to facilitate and the pilot was obviously not confident about flying brute seven, the question has to be asked: Should the controller have responded by offering the Jackson One departure?

    3. local IMC @ 4:49 PM 39.2 °F 38.9 °F 99 % ENE 1.5 mph 2.0 mph 30.43 in
      Elev 1319 ft, 42.35 °N, 122.88 °W

    4. Why post weather undergound when the METAR was already posted?

    5. Why would the controller offer the Jackson One departure and expect the pilot to know it and follow it any better than the Brute Seven? The Jackson One departure is not really any easier. It's still a climbing right turn after reaching an altitude after takeoff (1800 AGL instead of 1735 AGL on the Brute 7) and instead of direct to an NDB and two other fixes, you have to intercept a radial and climb in a hold over the OED VORTAC. Some might say that is even more difficult. The only easier option would be radar vectors, but that may not have been an option for a variety of reasons.

    6. why wunderground weather stations! they're everywhere, minute by minute surface conditions, with daily historical records, stations often located close to the GPS accident site and most important understood.

      ur Meteorological Aerodrome Report "METAR: KMFR 060050Z AUTO 00000KT 3SM BR OVC002 04/04 A3038" is hard to read, much less recall for most, thus needs a translation.

      Translated as best I can is...

      place KMFR Rogue Valley International Medford Airport

      date and time 060050Z, thus the first 2 digits indicate the day of the month. Followed by the 2 digits of the hour (00-23) and the minutes (00-59). Z is the abbreviation for Zero, time zone 0 is Greenwich Mean Time (UTC).

      AUTO reporting

      00000KT no WIND or SPEED in knots

      Visability 3SM, 3 statute miles)

      BR is MIST as recalled

      overcast clouds OVC

      i think elev 002

      not sure 04/04

      AIR PRESSURE A3038

    7. Maybe METARs are hard to read to you, but comprehending the format is piloting 101 and any certificated pilot can understand them at a glance. (in your example OVC002 means overcast layer at 200 AGL and 04/04 is temperature 04C / dewpoint 04C) There are hundreds of resources out there explaining them. is great place to view them and have them decoded for you. They are all accurate, reliable weather stations to FAA standards.

      On the other hand, wunderground stations do not have enforced requirements for accuracy or reliability. There would be nothing stopping you setting up a cheap wunderground sensor inside in your bathroom and reporting inaccurate statistics to the public. That's fine if you are just checking if you need a jacket to walk your dog, but if you are a pilot, your life could depend on it, so you need something far more accurate and reliable.

    8. Underground data is not ur first go to surface resource, yet available at locations where only a distant METAR is reported, especially for us looking back for historical data at GPS locations closets to an incident site.
      Weather Underground has high equipment stds for connectivity to their network, and promotes its 250,000 network stations as a global community of people connecting data from environmental sensors.

    9. Yeah. And the SkyWest crew lied about it, too. It's a whole conspiracy.

    10. Re: "Weather Underground has high equipment stds"

      Manufacturer's information on consumer weather station products do not show any accuracy specifications or any calibration to NIST-traceable standards.

      Is there any requirement that a WU-connected station be verified as having valid siting? No. Any requirement of calibration, either initially at factory or periodically field-rechecked? No.

      A network of sensors not individually verified as properly sited and not subject to traceable initial or recurring calibration would not be characterized as high standards by NIST.

      The unchecked siting "rules" match the famous pirate movie quote:
      "More what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules"

  16. Nice to see reduced time delay for the final report:

    Peter Knudson, public affairs officer for the NTSB said the final report could take six months.

    1. Eh, I'll believe it when I see it. Still waiting a year and a half for the final report from a CFIT accident that happened to a buddy of mine 1.5 years ago. It was more straight forward than this one, so I have no idea what is delaying it. Has anyone analyzed how long it has been taking them on average over time?

  17. And the prelim report is out.