Bighorn National Forest, WY 3 Civil Air Patrol Members Killed When Their CAP Cessna 182R Crashes During Search For Missing Teen, Aug 2007

Three people died in Wyoming when a Civil Air Patrol plane crashed during a search for a missing teen who was found alive an hour after the mishap.

SHELL (AP) — Three members of Wyoming's Civil Air Patrol, out searching for a missing teen, were killed when their plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest, authorities said Tuesday.
The plane went down Monday evening, August 20, 2007, as the crew searched for a teen who disappeared the day before while fishing. On Tuesday, rescuers reached the remote crash site and recovered the bodies of the crew members, said Jeanne Stone-Hunter, spokeswoman for Civil Air Patrol's Wyoming Wing.
The pilot of the Cessna 182R was identified Tuesday night as Lt. Col. James Henderson, 59, of Cowley. The two passengers were Senior Member James Meyer, 53, of Sheridan; and Capt. Patricia Larson, 52, of Sheridan, Stone-Hunter said.
Henderson last made radio contact with another pilot in the area at about 4 p.m. Monday, she said. The missing teen, Keith Bellack, 16, of Gillette, was found alive about an hour later, although his condition was not immediately known.
The Civil Air Patrol plane left the Sheridan airport about 1:30 p.m. Monday for a two-hour search mission. When it failed to return, the Civil Air Patrol alerted the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and a search for the plane began, Stone-Hunter said.
About 7:30 p.m. Monday, a U.S. Forest Service helicopter responding to reports of a wildfire spotted the wreckage.
"The aircraft was destroyed by fire," said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.
FAA records show the plane was built in 1980 and registered to the Alabama Civil Air Patrol. The Civil Air Patrol's national headquarters is located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
The plane was based out of Cowley, about 50 miles northwest of Shell, and had received a recent maintenance check, although Stone-Hunter did not know the exact date.
"It hadn't been too long ago," she said. "All our planes get pretty regular routine maintenance and engine checks."
The Civil Air Patrol is a nonprofit U.S. Air Force auxiliary organization that performs 95 percent of the nation's inland search and rescue operations, according to its Web site. The group has about 56,000 members nationwide, including more than 250 in Wyoming, and also specializes in aerospace education.

- AP, August 22, 2007


National Transportation Safety Board Issues Probable Cause On Wyoming CAP Downing - Says Turbulence, Low Visibility Likely Factors:
The National Transportation Safety Board released its Probable Cause report this week on the downing last year (August 20, 2007) of a Wyoming Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182R. The Probable Cause Report was adopted as of January 31, and states strong winds and low visibility were factors in the August 20, 2007 mishap.
As ANN reported, pilot James Henderson, 59, and crew members James Meyer, 53, and Patricia Larson, 52, were killed in the crash. They were flying in search of a missing 16-year-old male, who was later found unharmed.
Witnesses told investigators they saw the CAP aircraft flying at an estimated 400 to 600 feet off the ground, nearly 2,000 feet lower than what was called for in the prevailing conditions.
Weather reports for that day show gusts up to 25 miles per hour. "Mission procedures state that the pilot should adjust the search altitude based upon the winds aloft -- 10 knots of wind results in an addition of 1,000 feet to the search altitude and 20 knots of wind results in an addition of 2,000 feet to the search altitude. The pilot reported on his mission planning statement that his search altitude would be 1,000 feet." reads the NTSB report.
Smoke from wildfires contributed to the low visibility, reports the safety board, which combined with the winds likely contributed to the loss of control. Turbulence below 14,000 feet was advised for the entire area, according to a NOTAM included in weather briefings for August 20.
"The pilot's inability to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering in mountainous terrain due to gusty wind conditions, and lee side turbulence," ruled the NTSB. "Contributing to the accident was the pilot's improper in-flight planning and decision making, and his failure to follow operational procedures regarding altitudes flown."
The Civil Air Patrol operates a fleet of 580 single engine piston aircraft from 52 Wing locations across the nation. All CAP crews are trained and operate over 90 percent of inland search and rescue missions.
The aircraft in the accident received its last inspection in September 2006, according to the NTSB, and had 3492.6 hours total airframe time.

- Aero News Network

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