Petaluma, CA Civil Air Patrol Colonel Dies in Crash of His Mooney M20, Apr 2018

Colonel Carleton Morrison, Vice Commander, Pacific Region, Civil Air Patrol The remains of a Mooney M20J rest in a field on Manor Lane near the Petaluma Municipal Airport on Saturday morning. The 75-year-old pilot was found dead at the scene about 10 p.m. Friday. Colonel Carleton Morrison, Vice Commander, Pacific Region, Civil Air Patrol

A small plane crashed Friday evening, April 6, in Petaluma, killing the pilot, officials said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said only that he was believed to be a 75-year-old man from San Diego County. In a statement posted on Facebook, Colonel Jon Stokes, Pacific Region Commander of the Civil Air Patrol, wrote that the man was Colonel Carleton Morrison, Region Vice Commander of the Civil Air Patrol.

Stokes said that Morrison was previously a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps who served in Vietnam and retired after 20 years in the military.

"Col Morrison was the type of airman that we should all aspire to be; dedicated, compassionate and always forward looking," Stokes said. "He will be missed every day."

The search for his plane -- which Stokes said was Morrison's personal aircraft-- began at 6:40 p.m. Friday when the Air Force called the sheriff's office about an emergency transponder activation from a small plane in Petaluma.

"Deputies responded to the coordinates given on Sonoma Mountain and were unable to immediately locate the plane," Crum said.

Around the same time, a woman from San Diego County called Petaluma police to say that her husband was overdue home. He was believed to have left the Petaluma Airport for San Diego County, flying alone on a Mooney M20 fix-winged airplane, Crum said.

Around 10 p.m., sheriff's deputies saw a small fire in a remote ravine near the 3600 block of Manor Lane. They hiked to the location and found the downed aircraft, Crum said. Morrison was pronounced dead on scene.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.


75-year-old pilot who was heading home to San Diego County was killed when his small plane crashed into a ravine in Northern California Friday evening, authorities said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has not confirmed the identify of the pilot, but the family of Carl Morrison of Fallbrook posted a message on Facebook Saturday morning saying the plane Morrison was flying crashed near Petaluma.

“We are so saddened by the passing of our husband, father, and friend,” the post said. Morrison was the vice commander at Pacific Region, Civil Air Patrol and principal at Morrison Law, a firm based in Fallbrook.

The post said Morrison was on his way home after a business trip.

The first hint of trouble came about 6:40 p.m. when the U.S. Air Force received an emergency transponder activation from an aircraft. The military notified the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and deputies searched the coordinates on Sonoma Mountain in eastern Petaluma but didn’t find any sign of a crash, said sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum.

Around the same time, a woman called Petaluma police and reported her husband was overdue home. She said he was supposed to have taken off from the Petaluma Municipal Airport in his Mooney M20 and flown home, Crum said.

About 10 p.m., deputies spotted a small fire in a remote ravine. Deputies hiked to the area and found the downed plane and the body of the pilot.

“Carl was a good man,” said Tom Wilson, a Fallbrook writer and photographer who was a friend of Morrison’s for more than 20 years at the Fallbrook Community Airpark. “He was intelligent, family-oriented, principled … you could take him at his word, very professional.”

Morrison served for 20 years as a member of the Marine Corps, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel and serving time in Vietnam.

Morrison ran his law firm out of the Fallbrook airpark and frequently flew to the Bay Area to conduct business, Wilson said. “It’s absolutely a shock,” Wilson said. “He kept his airplane in very good condition and he used it a lot.”

According to his law firm’s website, Morrison earned four university degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1966 and a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago in 1976.

A devout Mormon, Morrison had an extensive family that included eight children and 22 grandchildren, according to a story about the accident in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Wilson said he last saw Morrison a week ago at the airpark when the attorney drove by.

“When he got out of the car for our initial greeting I figured we’d shake hands but he gave me a hug,” Wilson said. “And that was the last time I saw him … It’s a very nice way to remember him.”

The California wing of the Civil Air Patrol posted the news on its Facebook page.

“Col Morrison was the type of Airman that we should all aspire to be; dedicated, compassionate and always forward looking,” said the post signed by Pacific Region commander, Col. Jon Stokes. “He will be missed every day.”

- The San Diego Union-Tribune


Another crash involving another Colonel and Pacific Region Civil Air Patrol Vice Commander: