Posted on Wed, Feb. 09, 2005
Crash of Cirrus plane kills pilot in California mountains
NEWS TRIBUNE, NEWS SERVICE REPORTS
SODA SPRINGS, Calif. - Placer County sheriff’s officials Monday found
the body of the pilot of a Cirrus plane that disappeared from radar
Sunday after it left Reno-Tahoe International Airport and went down near
the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.
Authorities have not released the pilot’s name.
The plane’s pilot had told the Oakland Center air traffic control
facility in Fremont on Sunday night that his wings were icing and he was
going down, said Donn Walker, a Los Angeles-based Federal Aviation
Administration spokesman. At the time, he was over a rugged area
accessible only by snowmobile, helicopter or ski because of the heavy
A snow-groomer at the Sugar Bowl ski area reported about 1:45 a.m. that
he had found aircraft parts and a parachute.
The plane is owned by a small, Marin County construction management
company, Alamar Construction, in Novato. An official at Alamar said
employees were having a “rough time” Monday.
Officials said early indications were that the $500,000, single-engine
plane began to disintegrate after its parachute was deployed while the
aircraft was going more than 350 mph, about three times the speed
considered safe for deployment.
“We think it did significant damage to the plane, possibly ripping it in
half,” Capt. Rick Armstrong said.
Bill King, vice president of business administration for Duluth-based
Cirrus, rejected the suggestion that deploying the parachute could have
torn the airplane apart. It’s just not possible, King said.
Jim McDonald, editor of Aero-News.net, an online magazine that tracks
the aviation industry, also was skeptical of Armstrong’s account. He has
tested the parachute system and said it is designed to give way well
before it would cause any damage to the airplane fuselage.
The parachute system is designed to be deployed at a maximum speed of
McDonald believes the pilot exercised poor judgment, taking off at night
in poor weather over mountainous terrain.
“I’m very careful about trying to prejudge these kinds of things, but
with the weather data that was out there, and the forecast for icing
conditions, there’s no way I can imagine charging into that,” he said.
McDonald said that while the airplane did have de-icing equipment, it
was not designed to handle prolonged flight in icy weather.
“It works exceedingly well, but it basically is designed to give you one
to one-and-a-half hours to find some place to get down,” he said.
NTSB officials expect to begin investigating the crash site this
morning, accompanied by a team from Cirrus Corp., King said.