Posted on Tue, Nov. 05, 2002
Pilot killed in plane crash in New Mexico Associated Press LAS VEGAS, N.M. Â— A single-engine airplane crashed south of Las Vegas, N.M., killing the pilot of the craft, authorities said. Ralph Steenson, listed with a Cummings, N.D., address, died Sunday when the Cirrus SR20 he was in crashed near McAllister Lake Wildlife Refuge, officials said. "The pilot was the only occupant of the plane," said Lt. Rob Shilling of the New Mexico State Police. The crash was the second this year in New Mexico involving a Cirrus SR20. Two FAA investigators and one investigator from the National Transportation Board were being sent to New Mexico to determine the cause of the crash, he said. Cirrus Design Corp., based in Duluth, Minn., will participate in the crash investigation, said Bill King, the company's vice president for business administration. Steenson was flying from Fargo, N.D., to Albuquerque when the crash occurred between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., said John Clabes, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's southwest region. Steenson had not filed a flight plan and "was not talking to any air traffic controllers or anything" before the crash, Clabes said. The Cirrus SR20 is equipped with an airframe parachute deployed by a solid-fuel rocket from the rear of the airplane. The parachute is designed to position itself over the airplane's center of gravity, lowering the craft at almost 27 feet per second. It was not immediately known whether the parachute deployed on Steenson's airplane, King said. The parachute is a last line of defense in the event the airplane is not controllable, King has said. Steenson was a valued Cirrus customer who had toured the company's factory, King said. "It's a tough thing. Not only do we know our customers, but the fact of the matter is, we end up getting to know their families," King said. "We all feel a huge sense of loss." A Cirrus SR20 crashed May 28 east of Angel Fire, shortly taking off from the airport at the northern New Mexico ski resort. The pilot, John E. Swanstrom Jr., 58, of Duluth, Minn., was killed. The NTSB has not yet issued a final investigative report on that crash.