Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

December 7, 2012

NTSB releases preliminary reports on two plane crashes

Progress staff reports
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary reports on two recent plane crashes in Cherokee County.

The reports, published Wednesday, provide basic facts about the crashes, but no conclusions will be released until a final report is completed, said NTSB public affairs officer Keith Holloway.

In the first incident, 60-year-old Jacksonville resident Debra Birch died when her plane crashed at Cherokee County airport Nov. 18.

Birch had recently been recognized  by the Cherokee County Pilots Association for her inaugural Nov. 7 flight.

Facts in the report include:

"On November 18, 2012, about 1635 central standard time, a Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft, LLC model J250-SP light sport airplane, N635J, was substantially damaged when it collided with an airport hangar during an aborted landing at Cherokee County Airport (KJSO), Jacksonville. The student pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured.

"The student pilot’s husband, a commercial pilot, reported that he and his wife had flown together immediately before the accident flight and that there were no anomalies experienced during that flight. He stated that his wife, who had soloed for the first time earlier in the month, wanted to practice solo landings in the traffic pattern. He reported that after exiting the airplane he witnessed the accident flight, which consisted of two landings on runway 14 (5,006 feet by 75 feet, asphalt). He stated that the first landing appeared to be fairly flat, consistent with an inadequate landing flare. The airplane was then observed to taxi to the approach end of runway 14 before the next takeoff. On the second landing, the airplane again appeared to have a flat attitude upon touchdown. The airplane was observed to bounce upon touchdown, which was followed by an audible increase in engine power. The airplane was then observed to enter a nose-high attitude as it began a slow climb. The student pilot’s husband stated that after the airplane had climbed about 100 feet above the runway he heard another increase in engine power and saw the airplane enter a descending left turn. The airplane continued in the descending left turn, while remaining in a nose-high attitude, until he lost visual contact as it descended toward hangar structures located on the northeast side of the airport. Several additional witnesses provided similar statements about the airplane’s pitch-attitude, engine operation, and flight path following the bounced landing.

"According to the student pilot’s flight logbook, since beginning flight training in May 2012 she had accumulated 33.2 hours of flight experience and had completed two solo flights, totaling 0.7 hours. Her first solo flight, 0.5 hours in duration, was completed on November 7, 2012, and consisted of three landings. The second solo flight, 0.2 hours in duration, was completed on November 15, 2012, and consisted of two landings."

The second crash killed an Oklahoma pilot on Nov. 26 near Wells.

John Thomas Steeper, 64, of Broken Arrow, Okla., was the only occupant of the plane and was killed in the crash.

Facts from the report include:

"On Nov. 26, 2012, about 2124 central standard time, a Cessna 421C airplane, N67SR, was substantially damaged during an in-flight encounter with weather, in-flight separation of airframe components, and subsequent impact with the ground near Wells, Texas.

"The airplane sustained impact and fire damage to all major airframe components.

"Witnesses near the accident site reported hearing an explosion and then seeing a fireball descending through the clouds to the ground.

"The airplane came to rest in an inverted position.  The fuselage and both wings suffered extensive fire damage. The lower fuselage was almost completely consumed by fire. The upper fuselage was recognizable but also had significant fire damage.  A baggage door from the nose of the airplane was located about 0.6 miles southeast of the main wreckage.

The entire wing structure had suffered significant fire damage and was almost completely consumed by fire. "