Monday, November 07, 2022

Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, N84R: Fatal accident occurred November 03, 2022 near Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport (I35), Harlan County, Kentucky

Dr. David George Sanford

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): Gerhardt, Adam

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas 

Location: Harlan, Kentucky
Accident Number: ERA23FA048
Date and Time: November 3, 2022, 10:09 Local
Registration: N84R
Aircraft: Beech A36 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 3, 2022, about 1009 eastern daylight time, a Beech A36 airplane, N84R, was destroyed when it impacted terrain at the Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport (I35) Harlan, Kentucky. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by the pilot as a personal flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Review of preliminary Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data found that the airplane departed from Knoxville Downtown Island Airport (DKX), Knoxville, Tennessee, at 0932. The flight track continued northeast, and the airplane arrived into the I35 airport area about 1000. Subsequently, the flight track showed the airplane fly a tight left airport traffic pattern for runway 8. A total of three approaches were flown towards runway 8, with the final approach track ending at 1009:54 about .10 nautical mile from the runway 8 threshold.

Review of archived audio recordings of the I35 common traffic advisory frequency from found that as the pilot entered the traffic pattern area he stated, “Harlan tucker guthrie bonanza 84 romeo is two and a half to the west will circle for landing Harlan Tucker Guthrie.” There were no further radio communications recorded. The ADS-B flight track recorded around the I35 traffic pattern.

According to a pilot-rated witness that was at the I35 airport terminal, he heard what he believed to be the accident airplane complete two approaches to runway 8 about 1000. The witness never saw the airplane due to the visibility being severely restricted by morning fog. He characterized that the first approach seemed to be high, and the second approach sounded “really low”. For both passes the witness reported that the engine noise was a steady piston engine sound, with no noticeable change in power.

After the second pass, the engine sound became more distant, and he did not hear the accident airplane again, nor did he hear any sort of boom or the accident airplane’s eventual impact with terrain.

At the time of the accident, airport surveillance video showed fog that restricted visibility to about 175 ft.

The airplane impacted a ravine and steep rock wall about 50 ft below and 375 ft before the runway 8 threshold. All major portions of the airframe were located, and a post-crash fire consumed a majority of the cockpit, fuselage, and portions of the left wing. A drone image shows the view of the final approach to runway 8 and the disposition of the wreckage.

Flight control cable continuity was established from the elevator, rudder, and elevator trim tabs to the fire damaged forward cabin area. The left and right aileron control cable ends were identified in the forward cabin area and traced to the outboard wing areas where they were separated in tensile overload. Due to the impact and fire damage, the position of the flaps, landing gear, and fuel selector could not be determined.

The cockpit, switches, levers, and flight instruments were all severely damaged or entirely consumed by fire. It was not possible to obtain any instrument reading from the recovered instrumentation. The attitude indicator was disassembled, and its gyro and housing exhibited rotational scoring.

The engine had separated from its mount and the airframe. A large fracture hole was observed at the right forward area of the engine crankcase which was consistent with impact related damage. All propeller blades had separated from the propeller hub. Only one propeller blade was recovered at the accident site. The blade exhibited tip curling and leading edge gouging. All top spark plugs and lower Nos.1, 3, and 5 spark plugs when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug chart, exhibited a worn out, normal to severe condition.

The oil filter when removed and examined displayed no evidence of debris or metal contaminants. Both magnetos produced spark when rotated by hand. The fuel manifold was safety wired and remained partially attached to the engine. When disassembled, its fuel filter screen was clear of debris and the manifold smelled of aviation gas. The engine could not be rotated by hand.

The vacuum pump remained attached to the engine accessory section. When the pump was partially disassembled, its gears were intact, and the unit appeared normal.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He was issued a 3rd class medical certificate on November 9, 2015, where he reported a total flight time of 2,315 hours. He subsequently completed the FAA Basic Medical course on April 12, 2021.

According to preliminary FAA air traffic control (ATC) records, there was no known communication between the pilot and ATC, nor was there any flight plan opened or on-file for the accident flight.

At the time of the accident, a Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) was in effect noting that all airport lighting was unserviceable (out of service).

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N84R
Model/Series: A36 
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: I35, 1552 ft msl
Observation Time: 10:15 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 8°C /8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 200 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 200 ft AGL 
Visibility: 0 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.37 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Knoxville, TN (DKX) 
Destination: Harlan, KY (I35)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 36.857933,-83.365427 

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.

Dr. David George Sanford
October 26, 1967 ~ November 3, 2022 (age 55)

David George Sanford, 55, passed away Thursday, November 3, 2022. He was born October 26, 1967, in Knoxville, Tennessee, to the late Georgia Sharp Baker and Charles Sanford and he was also the stepson of the late James Baker. He is survived by his beloved wife and children, Amy, George, and Mira all of Knoxville, Tennessee; a sister, Lisa (JD) Sanford Howard of Knoxville, Tennessee; a special aunt, Jessie Malin of Rector, Arkansas; a sister-in-law, Alice (Mark) Elkins of Middlesboro, Kentucky; and his in-laws, Judy and Dewey England of Harrogate, Tennessee. His niece and nephews, Collier Elkins, Caroline Elkins, Luke Howard, and Robert and Daniel Hall also survive him. His brother, Alan Sanford, preceded him in death. David leaves behind a devasted host of relatives, friends, and colleagues.

David was a graduate of Middlesboro High School, Lincoln Memorial University, and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. After completing his internship at St Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, and ophthalmological residency at the UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, he came home to the mountains to open his practice. For twenty-five years he cared for patients in Middlesboro, Harlan, and throughout the region. Dr. Sanford relished both the privilege and opportunity to make a difference in the lives of his patients by helping them to see better. He was known not only for his skill as a surgeon but for his humility, kindness, and his terrific sense of humor. “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” ― Hippocrates

David grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where he met and married Amy. In the decade before George and Mira were born, David and Amy traveled and worked together while anxiously awaiting the day when they would become parents. David loved a hobby and throughout his life he passionately pursued piano, guitar, radio DJing, flying, dirt bike riding, running, hiking, and tennis. With every venture he assembled a fellowship of enthusiasts whose comraderie and friendship sustained him. His greatest joy was watching George and Mira grow and develop their own passions. From swimming and lacrosse to cross country, Lego, and video games, if his kids wanted to try it, he was all in. David was also a thoughtful and committed longtime member of the recovery community.

David’s funeral will be held at Sevier Heights Church on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 3:30 pm.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Violet’s Village at or to Steps House Inc at

This obituary is a courtesy to the family of Dr. David George Sanford by the Anderson-Laws & Jones Funeral Home of Harlan. 

Aircraft struck a cliff while attempting to land on runway. 

Date: 03-NOV-22
Time: 14:15:00Z
Regis#: N84R
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: 36
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 1
Flight Crew: 1
Pax: 0
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 91

Kentucky State Police secure the scene following the crash of a small airplane at Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

Harlan County, Kentucky -  A single-engine airplane crashed on Thursday near Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport in Harlan, resulting in the death of one individual.

According to Harlan County Deputy Coroner Jim Rich, Dr. David Sanford, 55, died as a result of a plane crash near Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport in Harlan on Thursday.

According to Kentucky State Police Public Relations Officer Shane Jacobs, KSP Post 10, Harlan, was notified of the incident on Thursday morning.

“At approximately 10 a.m., Post 10, Harlan received multiple calls in reference to a loud noise,” Jacobs said. “A short time later, a small plane was discovered crashed just south of the airport.”

Jacobs confirmed there were no known survivors of the crash, with one fatality verified as of approximately 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

KSP Det. Andy Soltess is in charge of the death investigation. The FAA will investigate the cause of the crash

The Harlan County Rescue Squad, the Harlan City Fire Department, and Sunshine Fire Department responded to the scene.