Sunday, July 17, 2022

Cessna P210N Pressurized Centurion, N731BJ : Fatal accident occurred July 14, 2022 in Buffalo, Johnson County, Wyoming

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.

Investigator In Charge (IIC): Cawthra, Joshua

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Casper, Wyoming

Armis Strategies LLC

Location: Buffalo, Wyoming
Accident Number: WPR22FA253
Date and Time: July 14, 2022, 12:31 Local 
Registration: N731BJ
Aircraft: Cessna P210N 
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On July 14, 2022, about 1231 mountain daylight time, a Cessna P210N, N731BJ, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Buffalo, Wyoming. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Recorded Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) data showed the airplane departed from Powell Municipal Airport, (POY) Powell, Wyoming, and progressed along a southeasterly course, while it ascended to 17,450 ft mean sea level (msl). The airplane remained at that altitude for about 9 minutes, 17 seconds until it descended to 15,400 ft msl for about 12 seconds (Figure 1). The data showed that about 2 seconds later, the airplane ascended to 15,575 ft msl, which was followed by a descent to 14,500 ft msl for the last 4 seconds of recorded ADS-B data. The last recorded ADS-B target was located about .46 miles northwest of the accident site. 

According to local law enforcement, fire crews, who were responding to reports of a wildland fire, located the wreckage of the airplane about 1400, within rugged mountainous terrain about 14 miles west-northwest of Johnson County Airport, (BYG) Buffalo, Wyoming. The wreckage was contained within an approximate 30-yard by 50-yard area and mostly consumed by fire. There are no known witnesses to the accident sequence.

The wreckage will be relocated to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna 
Registration: N731BJ
Model/Series: P210N 
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: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBYG,4934 ft msl 
Observation Time: 12:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 32°C /8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.18 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Powell, WY
Destination: Buffalo, WY

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: 44.435409,-106.95072 (est)

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances. 

Date: 14-JUL-22
Time: 18:00:00Z
Regis#: N731BJ
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: P210
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: Fatal
Total Fatal: 2
Flight Crew: 1 Fatal
Pax: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 91

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.

Charles Schell was a longtime pilot, first flying for the U.S. Army from 1991-2003 and then flying private planes for decades after.

Kelli Schell and her husband Charles were killed when their Cessna P210 plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest neat Buffalo, Wyoming on July 14, 2022.

BILLINGS — Friends and family are mourning the loss of a Georgia couple who died last week when their private plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest near Buffalo, Wyoming.

Charles and Kelli Schell took off from Powell, Wyoming around 12 p.m. on Thursday, July 14 in their Cessna P210 with Charles - an experienced pilot - flying to Buffalo. A Salt Lake City air traffic controller reported the plane missing to the Johnson County Sheriff's Department the following day. Later Friday, the U.S. Forest Service was called to a fire near the Willow Park Reservoir in the Bighorn National Forest and discovered the plane wreckage.

"I'm going to struggle with it, my wife is going to struggle with it for a long time," said Hank Didier, a longtime friend of the Schells.

Schell spent 12 years as a U.S. Army aviator, working mostly with Apache helicopters. Didier said Schell also had his private license for decades, flying all across the country including multiple trips to Wyoming and Montana.

"Almost all of their vacations they would fly themselves," Didier said. "I traveled to Montana with Charly last year, fishing along the river. We fell in love with the vista, the beauty of the area. That really stuck with Charly."

The Schells landed in Powell on July 5 according to flight records. Posts on their respective social media accounts show the couple around Red Lodge for most of the time between July 5-14, hiking trails and eating at local restaurants.

"I would never think twice about flying with Charly," Didier said. "He was an excellent pilot and took it very seriously."

"If a person’s been trained in the military, it’s very good training," added Dan Hargrove.

Hargrove directs Rocky Mountain College’s aviation school. He knows summer in the Rocky Mountain region can be tricky for even the best pilots.

"Airplanes don’t work as well when the air is thin and the air is hot," he said. "In the summer, the air is just bumpier."

The Schells' plane crashed about 15 miles from their destination of Buffalo. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has not released any details on a cause as of yet. The one thing friends know: the couple died doing what they loved.

"It’s the freedom to be able to move around anywhere you want, when you want," Didier said. "His passion drove me into flying. I’ll continue to do it and think about them when I do."

The Schells always tried to help others, no more so than through Toughest Kids, a charity they founded to help children going through adverse circumstances in life. Kelli was still the chairman of the board.

"Kelli was the nicest, warmest human being you’ve ever met," Didier said. "I truly learned what charitable giving and selflessness looks like from those two."

If you’d like to pay your respects, consider making a donation in the Schells’ honor here.

Charles and Kelli Schell were hiking near Red Lodge in the days before they were killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, Wyoming.

A well-known Northeast Georgia couple who owned and operated the Cateechee Golf Club in Hartwell has died. The club announced the deaths of Charles “Charly” Schell and Kelli Taylor Schell on its Facebook page Saturday.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy heart that we announce the untimely passing of Charly and Kelli Schell. The love Charly and Kelli shared for Hartwell and its community inspired the purchase of Cateechee in 2017. Cateechee has provided special memories for many of us, and we will continue the legacy that Charly and Kelli paved; and the business model that embraces the community.”

The post did not say how the couple died, although friends say they died in a plane crash. The Schells, both 50, had been traveling through the West lately.

Charly Schell was the Chief Executive Officer of Bison Advisors, an investment advisor firm based in Hartwell. He founded Bison and Armis Advisers after leaving Forge Consulting, which he co-founded in 2003, according to LinkedIn.

The Schells were both graduates of North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia). He served as an Army pilot before becoming a business consultant. She was the owner and general manager of the Cateechee Conference Center. The two were known for their extensive work with charities and their contributions to the community.

“The City of Hartwell sends its deepest condolences to the families of Charly and Kelli Taylor Schell and to the Cateechee family. Their untimely passing leaves our community with a void that can’t be filled,” Hartwell Mayor Brandon Johnson posted to Facebook.

Hundreds more expressed shock and sadness over the news.

“Had just been enjoying their photos of their trip in Montana this week. Just heartbroken for their loved ones. Such a loss to our community too. They were so involved with and loved Hartwell. God bless and comfort their children. Family and friends. They will be truly missed,” Leigh Hall commented.

“This is the saddest post we’ve seen in a long, long time. Prayers for everyone surrounding this loss!” Randal Davis wrote.

Michelle Wetherbee echoed the sentiments of many others with these simple words, “My heart is broken.”

Mayor Johnson credits the Schells with saving the Cateechee golf course when they took it over from the city several years ago. “Without them, we most likely would’ve lost one of our greatest assets.”

“Simply put, they loved Hartwell and Hartwell loved them. We will all work to continue their legacy by working together to see Hartwell reach its full potential. Please join me in praying for their kids and family during the coming days.”

The Schells leave behind two adult children, parents, and a host of family and friends.

Authorities say both people on board a private plane enroute to the Johnson County Airport died when the plane crashed in a remote area of the Bighorn National Forest. The victims have not yet been identified.

The crash is also believed to have caused a small fire on the forest, according to Bighorn National Forest Service officials.

In a press release Sunday, Johnson County Sheriff Rod Odenbach said that on July 15, 2022, the Johnson County Sheriffs Office received a call from air traffic control in Salt Lake City, Utah, of a missing aircraft. The aircraft had departed the Powell Municipal Airport, Powell, Wyoming, on July 14 at approximately noon, with two people on board en route to Buffalo, Wyoming, but the plane did not arrive at the Johnson County Airport. Dispatch called the local airport and verified that the plane did not reach its destination.

A short time later, the Sheriff's Office received a report from the US Forest Service that their firefighters had been called to a fire and had located wreckage from an airplane near the Middle Fork of Rock Creek in a remote area of the Bighorn National Forest. It appeared that the plane crash was the cause of that fire.

Members of the Sheriff's Office, Johnson County Search and Rescue, US Forest Service, and the Johnson County Coroner's Office met at 9:00 PM on July 15 with the US Forest Service firefighters to gather details about the wreckage. Witnesses from the US Forest Service stated that there were no survivors and remains were unidentifiable.

Because of the time, remote location, an active fire in that area, hazardous conditions and access to the area would most likely be on foot, it was decided that a team would be sent early the following morning.

On July 16 at approximately 5:30 AM, a team left Buffalo enroute to the crash site. The team arrived on foot at the crash site at approximately 9:30 AM. The team reported that there were no identifiable markings on the aircraft an there were no survivors.

The remains of the victims were transported from the crash site to the Johnson County Coroner's Office by members of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, Johnson County Search and Rescue, US Forest Service, and the Johnson County Coroner's Office. The remains were transported to the Johnson County Coroner's Office for identification.

On Friday, Bighorn National Forest officials said that the fire was estimated to be 1-acre in size.

Two people died Thursday when a small plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday.

The plane went down while while flying to Buffalo from Powell. It ignited a wildfire that, as of Friday afternoon, had burned about an acre of forest near Willow Park Reservoir, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The aircraft departed Powell Municipal Airport at about noon on Thursday. The following day, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office learned from air traffic control in Salt Lake City that the plane was missing with two people on board.

The same day, the forest service notified the sheriff's office that firefighters has located the wreckage of a plane while responding to a fire in a remote area of the Bighorn National Forest northwest of Buffalo, the sheriff's office says. They determined there were no survivors, and that the remains were not identifiable.

On Saturday, a team set out to find the wreckage on foot. They found the crash site at 9:30 a.m., about four hours after setting out from Buffalo, the sheriff's office says. The team confirmed that there were no survivors.

The aircraft did not have any identifiable markings, the sheriff's office reported.

A search team -- which included members of the sheriff's office, the forest service and Johnson County's search and rescue and coroner's offices -- transported the remains back to Buffalo. 

There was no immediate update on the size of the fire. Local forest fire crews were being assisted by smoke jumpers based in West Yellowstone, Montana, and the Wyoming state helicopter.

CASPER, Wyoming — The skies over a section of land northwest of Buffalo are restricted today as law enforcement investigate a plane crash.

Temporary flight restrictions have been placed in airspace 15 nautical miles northwest of Buffalo to provide a safe environment for investigation into the accident, as well as search and rescue, according to the FAA’s flight restriction website.

The restriction began at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 15. It is scheduled to last until 11 p.m. Monday, July 25.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the investigation is still active, and that further information will be released later on.

U.S. Forest Service - Bighorn National Forest

A fire was detected late July 14, 2022, approximately 2.5 miles southeast of Willow Park Reservoir on the Powder River Ranger District. The fire is about 1 acre in size and is in the headwaters of Middle Rock Creek. District resources have successfully hiked into the fire and their suppression efforts are being aided by a load of smokejumpers out of West Yellowstone and the Wyoming State Helicopter.


  1. I wonder if weather was a factor. Wife was in Buffalo and was sending me pictures of the incoming storm that same day. Flightaware track is interesting. About 10 minutes before the last signal, it looks like it gets well over Vne while maintaining altitude up until the last signal.

    1. Vne is related to airspeed, not speed over ground. Flightaware is reporting speed over ground.

  2. Relevant METAR From BYG:

    KBYG 141953Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM VCTS CLR 32/08 A3018 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT S SLP146 T03220083
    KBYG 141950Z AUTO 10SM VCTS CLR 32/08 A3018 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT S

    The satellite from that time shows an agitated TCU field that popped up right over the crash area NW of BYG between 1:00 and 1:30p MDT. The corresponding radar doesn't show any precipitation until around 1:38p, which isn't surprising, given the TCU would have been shifting to the mature phase of the thunderstorm lifecycle at about that time.

    1. departure conditions:
      ARCHIVED METAR OF: 20220714 // FROM: 18 TO: 19 UTC
      KPOY 141815Z AUTO 12008KT 10SM CLR 27/09 A3018 RMK AO2
      KPOY 141835Z AUTO 12006KT 10SM CLR 28/06 A3018 RMK AO2
      KPOY 141855Z AUTO 12010G14KT 10SM CLR 29/06 A3018 RMK AO2
      KPOY 141915Z AUTO 16007G14KT 104V174 10SM CLR 29/07 A3017 RMK AO2
      KPOY 141935Z AUTO 15008KT 10SM CLR 30/07 A3017 RMK AO2
      KPOY 141955Z AUTO 13006G09KT 10SM CLR 29/07 A3016 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT S AND W

  3. Peaks to over 13k in the vicinity of his flight path.

    1. Yes, but those had been cleared minutes before and they should have been on descent into BYG on the back side of the Bighorns. I think the rapid formation of the TCU right at the time of the crash will play heavily into this.

  4. ceiling of 23,000, can be limit caution, or planning for back doors. Tops out @ 17,450.

  5. It looks like N731BJ was a turbine conversion. Speed and turbulence may have been a factor.

  6. Very unstable weather in higher terrain ? Engine failure In wooded terrain ?

    1. Their flight path was extremely stable until well past the crest of the Bighorns, and even then only showed a divergence in the last few seconds of data.

      If they’d have lost an engine from there, at that altitude, they could have easily glided all the way to BYG.

    2. Their final logged speed of 251kts and a 2,600fpm descent rate aren't indicative of an engine failure. More likely that they experienced a downdraft which exceeded structural limitations or caused spatial disorientation. Rest in peace to this couple

  7. flatlanders in unstable weather above high terrain! RIP.

    1. I stand corrected "had his private license for decades, flying all across the country including multiple trips to Wyoming and Montana."

    2. Flatliners' survivor here. Be nice. He flew Apaches and F16s for military.

  8. N731BJ flew into TCU conditions and was caught in a Microburst. The intense and powerful down-draft winds of the microburst slammed the aircraft into the ground.

    Microburst definition: A microburst is a localized and powerful downdraft created by a column of sinking air through the base of a storm or rain cloud. The phenomenon can be divided into dry and wet microbursts, both of which can cause severe damage to the surface and objects in their path.

    If one flies into TCU conditions and gets caught in a microburst and lives to tell of the experience, it is only by Divine intervention that he/she lives to relate the trauma of the experience.

    I know.

  9. I think it’s pretty likely there were intense updrafts and downdrafts (not necessarily microbursts) and either the structural limitations were exceeded or there was spatial disorientation leading to a spin or spiral. Haven’t heard anything about the debris field to support any conclusions.

    1. Reducing speed under those conditions is the appropriate response, but there have been several turbine conversion breakups where the pilot didn't slow to ensure structural margins.

  10. Pictures of plane don’t show any external wing mounted radar pod which single engine planes require if on board radar is added. If pilot was using satellite weather downloaded to his iPad or multi function display on Garmin type dash mounted display, the weather could be 5-10 minutes old . In fast growing pop up thunderstorms , the weather from a satellite download would be different From the thunderstorms shown on an onboard radar. All airlines and corporate jets have onboard radar. Have heard inexperience pilots say if they had only one source to see thunderstorms they would pick the satellite downloaded weather. But all experienced airline and corporate pilots want real time on board radar. I have flown with both. I like satellite weather for long range planning but want onboard radar when trying to pick my way around thunderstorms that change in seconds . This pilot was very rich and smart but may have made a huge mistake not spending money to buy an onboard radar that may have killed himself and his wife both only 50. Very sad mistake no airline pilot would make depending on 5-10 minute old satellite radar to avoid fast growing pop up thunderstorms in close proximity to flight path while trying to fly fast straight to destination being only 15 miles from destination

  11. Mountain flying is challenging year-round, even more so when aviating over high mountain terrain during the summer months when daytime air temps are higher, add in a mountain wave event when aviating over high terrain or operating in the high desert in close proximity of mountain terrain having not extended out far enough to not experience mountain wave. Highly skilled aviator or novice it's something all aviator's must be aware of and very cautious of if choosing to fly a direct line via (GPS) over mountain terrain, point (A) to (B) or the additional challenges in general that are associated with flying over high terrain. Typically, we will exit high terrain at 90 degrees (as soon as able) extend far enough out over the high desert (flat terrain) to avoid an encounter with mountain wave or a weather-related event (expected or unexpected) that would make a flight that more challenging for a pilot dodging weather while flying over mountain terrain. For us that perform SAR missions that involve mountain flying, flight training is performed over mountain terrain and often, so as to be prepared as best as possible for the additional challenges that may be experienced where mountain terrain will be encounter during a real time SAR Mission. Flying over mountain terrain is an exciting experience taking in the sights not normally encountered if traveling via ground transportation, and one can save time flying a direct line over mountain terrain, just be prepared for the additional challenges in doing so. Deviating, taking a longer route avoiding mountain terrain adds time to one's flight in addition to added fuel cost, but arriving safe is priceless. Just my thoughts here. Certainly not attempting to express what I think took place or should have done this or that or probably this happened, that's up to NTSB. Simply expressing the additional challenges an aviator may experience when flying in the high country. Always sad to hear that an AC has gone down with loss of life. Thoughts and prayers to the family, loved ones and friends of this couple.

  12. Photo shows not bad weather while aircraft is burning on ground. They were descending. Posible Vno markings ignored. Easy to try do do that. It was a turboprop 210.

    1. The picture of the fire was taken the following day.

  13. Had anyone considered that the plane could have lost pressurization upon take-off. It could be feasible that the pilot passed out from lack of oxygen. I know the rancher that the accident occurred at and he mentioned that there were no storms at the time of the incident. Who knows?

    1. He was only above 10,000' for 20 minutes (at 17,500' for 10 of those). I'm not saying you should rule out hypoxia, but it seems to be a stretch for both passengers to lose consciousness that quickly at that altitude. Everything seemed to be good, autopilot obviously flying the plane, but something clicked it off right before the end. There were buildups, no storms yet, but those can easily push plane and pilot beyond his or her limits.

  14. Pilot was very very wealthy insurance company founder so he easily could have afforded a Cirrus Vision Jet with parachute. The rear CG in Cessna 210 Turbine conversion is critical with fuel tank in rear baggage area and has caused several turbo conversions to crash. Think last year another very wealthy man crashed his 210 Turbine on takeoff at Atlanta small airport . Why do wealthy people buy old planes? 40 year old 210 Turbine conversion cost over $1M . New planes with parachute or older 2 engine jets are like buying insurance for this insurance executive