Green Mountain Airpark, WA Father and Son Die in Yak-52 Plane Crash, May 2008

Benjamin James Runyan Benjamin James Runyan, Jr

From the Columbian Newspaper, Vancouver, Washington:
Proebstel-area plane crash kills Clark County pilot, son
Saturday, May 03, 2008
By JOHN BRANTON, Columbian staff writer
PROEBSTEL — Ben Runyan, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, and his son Ben Runyan Jr. died Friday afternoon in a plane crash near the private airstrip the father owns east of Orchards.
The Russian-made 1981 YAK-52 military training plane, which the elder Runyan rebuilt several years ago at his Green Mountain Air Park, crashed into a wooded area not far from home.
Witnesses to the Proebstel-area crash began calling 911 about 4:30 p.m. The scene, 1,000 feet south of Northeast 58th Street near 207th Avenue, was difficult for firefighters to find, said Capt. Kevin Murray with the Vancouver Fire Department.
"We had multiple units in multiple areas," Murray said. "We sent resources in virtually all directions to ascertain where the plane crashed."
A neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he was working on his farm across 58th Street when he saw the plane about 100 feet off the ground and descending.
"All I did was to see it spiraling down," he said. "Then we heard the sound of it hitting. I just heard a thud."
"I just heard it coming in real low and there was an impact sound," said neighbor Joyce Morgan.
When firefighters found the crash scene, the father and son were dead.
Cmdr. Rusty Warren with the Clark County Sheriff's Office said the father, 66, was at the controls and "they were performing some kind of maneuver" before the impact.
"We don't know if it was mechanical failure or pilot error or what it was," Warren said Friday night.
A medical problem is another possibility, Warren added.
Sheriff's deputies and fire officials sealed off the area to protect evidence that might reveal what happened.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were at the scene Friday night to begin their investigation.
Firefighters with the technical rescue team were using a small bulldozer to pull the plane, which broke into sections, from the brush and blackberry brambles, Murray said.

A career in flight

In 1996, Ben Runyan told The Columbian he got a plane ride on his mother's lap in Arkansas when he was 6 and decided he would become a pilot. It was 1948.
"I knew right then what I wanted to do, and I never wavered from that," he said.
In 1971, in a flight test in an early four-engine passenger jet, a Convair 880, he earned a captain's job with Delta and flew for the company for 30 years.
He loved small planes like the single-engine YAK-52 best.
"With a little plane you can get upside down," he said. "Land in a cow pasture. Go to the Bitterroots for a hunting trip."
The Runyans moved to Clark County about 1989. Flying around one day, he looked down at the asphalt strip at Green Mountain and decided to land.
That's when he learned it was for sale, due to the death in a plane crash of its former owner, Bob Taylor. Runyan purchased the 26-acre property at 5530 N.E. 199th Avenue.
The peaceful and somewhat secluded air park has a pond and grazing areas for horses and mules. And there are several hangars where Runyan worked on his "projects," which in 1996 included a vintage Czech-built Super Aero 45, then the only one of its kind in the United States.
There also was the airframe of a 1934-era Cessna Airmaster, the company's first important production model.
"I'm going to retire one of these days and get these projects done," he said with a smile during the interview.
Ben Runyan Jr., 31, was a resident of Houston, according to public records.
Runyan's wife, Sally Marie, is a longtime pilot. The Runyans also have a daughter, Leah.

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VANCOUVER -- A father and son were killed in a small plane crash this afternoon in the Green Mountain area of Clark County.
The victims were identified as pilot Benjamin J. Runyan, 66, and passenger Benjamin Runyan Jr., 31, said Capt. Kevin Murray of the Vancouver Fire Department.
Firefighters were on the scene of the crash, reported about 4:30 p.m.
The single-engine, propeller-driven Yakovlev Yak-52 crashed in a rural area, said Mike Fergus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Seattle.
It reportedly took off from the private Green Mountain air strip, 5530 N.E. 199th Avenue, and crashed about a half mile east.
An FAA investigator and the county medical examiner were en route to the scene Friday evening.
A retired Delta Airlines pilot, Ben joined CAA in 2005 and was the owner of Green Mountain Airport in Vancouver, WA.

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VANCOUVER, Washington -- Federal investigators are searching for what caused a small plane to crash Friday in the Green Mountain area of Clark County, killing a father and son.
The victims were pilot Benjamin J. Runyan, 66, and passenger Benjamin Runyan Jr., 31, said Capt. Kevin Murray of the Vancouver Fire Department.
A woman who answered the phone at the Runyan residence in Vancouver on Saturday said, "My husband died doing what he loved," before she hung up.
The single-engine, propeller-driven Yakovlev Yak-52 crashed about 4:30 p.m. said Mike Fergus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Seattle.
It reportedly took off from the private Green Mountain air strip, 5530 N.E. 199th Ave., and crashed about a half mile east.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

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National Transportation and Safety Board report (https://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=20080508X00...):

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 02, 2008 in Vancouver, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/28/2008
Aircraft: Yakovlev Yak 52, registration: N62813
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Witnesses located near the accident reported seeing the airplane takeoff, make a 180 degree turn, and fly down the runway at an altitude of about 30 feet above ground level (agl). As the airplane crossed the end of the runway, it pitched upwards into a steep climb, and the pilot did an aileron roll to the right, about 200 feet agl. The witness said that at the completion of the roll, the airplane appeared to be in a level attitude when a slight movement was observed, "as if it hit turbulence." The airplane subsequently descended in a nose-low attitude, eventually descending below a tree line. Examination of the airplane revealed no anomalies with the engine or airframe that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The pilot's failure to maintain an airspeed sufficient to avoid a stall during a low altitude aerobatic maneuver. Contributing to the accident was the low altitude at which the pilot initiated the maneuver.