PA-28 fatal crash near KCNY Moab, UT 10/1/2023

iamtheari

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Not a lot of details yet. The crash was shortly after takeoff from the Canyonlands airport. The victims were a North Dakota state senator, his wife, and two of their children. The plane was a 1966 PA-28-140. They had evidently stopped for fuel on the way home from a family trip to Arizona. I don't know the Canyonlands airport as I've considered it as a fuel stop a few times but always ended up somewhere else along the route.
 
Well, the kids were younger, helpful with the weight. The rest, fuel load & cargo, could be adding up. Since it happened right after or during the takeoff, performance is often questioned. Very tragic accident no doubt.
 
Well, the kids were younger, helpful with the weight. The rest, fuel load & cargo, could be adding up. Since it happened right after or during the takeoff, performance is often questioned. Very tragic accident no doubt.
The plane was 620 nm from its home field and had gone about 320 nm from where they started out. I don't know if they planned a second stop for fuel but it stands to reason they would have, probably somewhere in WY.

As far as I can tell, the density altitude was around 5500 at the time. It was also getting to be night. Local time was about 8:30 p.m. when this happened. Sunset tonight is at 7:11 p.m. Civil twilight is 7:37 p.m. Terrain rises about 1,000 feet a few miles from the airport. Even with the full moon, nights over the Colorado Plateau are dark and I treat those conditions the same as IMC.

The pilot was a Lt. Col. in the ND Army National Guard, in command of an aviation battalion. If I have the right airman registry entry in front of me, he held commercial ratings for ASEL, helicopters, instrument airplane and helicopter, and Blackhawks.

Mr. McSpadden would be on YouTube to tell us that the investigation will look at these and other factors to find out what went wrong on this flight and it's certainly too soon for me to say how the outcome could have been avoided. Hopefully the surviving family finds closure and peace about what happened here.
 
From the above article:
He recalled a Saturday afternoon in the Senate chamber when Larsen talked with fellow senators for roughly an hour about flying planes and working on his private pilot’s license.
“He was passionate about flying. He really was,” Meyer said.
The sheriff’s office didn’t respond to inquiries about who was in the pilot seat when the plane crashed. In a December 2020 Facebook post, Larsen noted his wife had flown “her first flight as a pilot.” The post included a picture of a small, orange plane.
 
So sad RIP. Also Big loss to aviation to loose a pilot senator. One less advocate for GA

 
It certainly is a tragic weekend here. Combine with previous thread "PA-28 fatal crash near KCNY Moab, UT 10/1/2023"
 
News reports he crashed after takeoff after stopping at Moab for fuel after a visit to Arizona. ...2 adults, 2 kids, likely bags, full (or at least a lot of) fuel in a 180 HP airplane at a high DA airport at night in a very sparsely populated area. Sigh.

I've departed from there in my 180 HP Tiger, 200 lbs under gross on a warm day. It has a long runway with gently rising terrain in all directions. Climb rate is anemic. No way would I do that at night.
 
News reports he crashed after takeoff after stopping at Moab for fuel after a visit to Arizona. ...2 adults, 2 kids, likely bags, full (or at least a lot of) fuel in a 180 HP airplane at a high DA airport at night in a very sparsely populated area. Sigh.

I've departed from there in my 180 HP Tiger, 200 lbs under gross on a warm day. It has a long runway with gently rising terrain in all directions. Climb rate is anemic. No way would I do that at night.
The reports I’ve read said it was a PA-28-140, which if true is even more questionable.
 
I noticed this sentence in the story on the Fox website:

“Meyer said on Saturday afternoon, Larsen talked in the Senate chamber with fellow senators for roughly an hour about flying planes and working on his private pilot's license.”

Was he a student pilot?
 
I believe he just received his commercial.
 

“Meyer said on Saturday afternoon, Larsen talked in the Senate chamber with fellow senators for roughly an hour about flying planes and working on his private pilot's license.”


Was he a student pilot?

I received my PPL more than half a century ago. I still recount those adventures to new friends today. They are much more easily identified with for non pilots, than the training for instrument and commercial that I did later.

On the other hand, I have taken off at high density altitude airports, and circled in the vicinity until I had a significant altitude reserve, before leaving on my flight plan. At gross weight, I circle up until I have a reasonable margin for safety before leaving the airport is such places as a West Virginia valley, on an IFR flight plan. Altitude is impossible to buy when things go wrong.

It is not clear to me just how light it was as he left the Moab airport.
 
Truly, tragic and sad. If it was at max fuel with four people, even though two were younger, it had to be pretty much at gross wt.
 
“Meyer said on Saturday afternoon, Larsen talked in the Senate chamber with fellow senators for roughly an hour about flying planes and working on his private pilot's license.”
Was he a student pilot?
Larsen was an Army Aviator who completed rotary wing training in October 2006. He would have received a commercial-instrument rotorcraft rating upon graduation.
He served in the ND Army National Guard. As a captain, Larsen deployed to Iraq 2009-2010 as an aviation company commander (UH-60 Blackhawks). In 2016, he took command of an aviation batalion as a major.
No stranger to Army Aviation -- but no idea about the extent his GA fixed wing training/experience.
 
Larsen was an Army Aviator who completed rotary wing training in October 2006. He would have received a commercial-instrument rotorcraft rating upon graduation.
He served in the ND Army National Guard. As a captain, Larsen deployed to Iraq 2009-2010 as an aviation company commander (UH-60 Blackhawks). In 2016, he took command of an aviation batalion as a major.
No stranger to Army Aviation -- but no idea about the extent his GA fixed wing training/experience.
A lot of experienced aviators have gotten bitten this summer, almost all of them by poor ADM, it seems.
 
I was a 25 year Commercial/Instrument Rotorwing rated pilot, prior to getting PPL SEL at 47…knowing nothing about GA, so it’s a possibility…
 
Looks like he had a commercial certificate with ASEL, AMEL, Helicopter, Instrument (Airplane and Helicopter) as well as a C/S-70 (Blackhawk) type rating.
First class medical as well.
 
You are correct. Here's a link to the accident plane. Looks like it had 160 hp and was recently purchased.
The power flow would be good for a couple more HP as well.

Hard to tell if it was equipped or if it would have even made a difference but I didn't see any shoulder harnesses.
 
Just looking at pictures of the wreckage it looks like a typical stall/spin accident.
This is another time when it would have been better to stayed overnight at Moab.
A single engine, 150 hp, aircraft loaded close to gross weight at a density altitude of 5500 feet at night the odds were stacked against them.
When evaluating a flight's risk take 1. Night 2. Mountainous Terrain 3. Ice 4. IMC.
If any of the two are present take a motel room.
If it had been daylight, if he used the proper procedure and sacrifice the airplane they may have all walked away.
 
Just because the operating handbook says you can do it (barely), and the regulations say you can do it (dubious), doesn't mean you should do it, but of course I'm preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, another plug for our friends at the FAA and their PAVE Checklist, quoted in part:

* Can this aircraft use the runways available for the trip with an adequate margin of safety under the conditions to be flown?
* Can this aircraft carry the planned load?
* Can this aircraft operate at the altitudes needed for the trip?
* Does this aircraft have sufficient fuel capacity, with reserves, for trip legs planned?
 
Can this aircraft use the runways available for the trip with an adequate margin of safety under the conditions to be flown?


In training (at least mine), it seems like density altitude is mostly discussed in relation to required runway length. Perhaps there should be more emphasis on surrounding terrain. There’s a difference between a mile of runway that leads to a flat prairie and a mile of runway that leads to a mountain.
 
In training (at least mine), it seems like density altitude is mostly discussed in relation to required runway length. Perhaps there should be more emphasis on surrounding terrain. There’s a difference between a mile of runway that leads to a flat prairie and a mile of runway that leads to a mountain.
I sure hope instructors are teaching aviation common sense or something close to it nowadays.
 
You are correct. Here's a link to the accident plane. Looks like it had 160 hp and was recently purchased.
That ad says "789 lbs useful"...if it was fueled/filled that would only leave about 475 lbs for everyone/everything else...even if filled to just the tabs, that leaves about 550 lbs...I wouldn't want to take off with 4 people at sea level, let alone 5500 feet DA, with that margin. Judging by the family picture in the article, I'd say they are AT LEAST 500 lbs (but hey, I'm no carnival employee).
 
That ad says "789 lbs useful"...if it was fueled/filled that would only leave about 475 lbs for everyone/everything else...even if filled to just the tabs, that leaves about 550 lbs...I wouldn't want to take off with 4 people at sea level, let alone 5500 feet DA, with that margin. Judging by the family picture in the article, I'd say they are AT LEAST 500 lbs (but hey, I'm no carnival employee).

789 useful load
-300 full fuel (unk how much fuel)
-190 pilot (FAA passenger weight)
-179 wife (FAA passenger weight)
=120 left for luggage and 2 kids...

If close to accurate, clearly too heavy!
 
789 useful load
-300 full fuel (unk how much fuel)
-190 pilot (FAA passenger weight)
-179 wife (FAA passenger weight)
=120 left for luggage and 2 kids...

If close to accurate, clearly too heavy!
I actually keep a digital scale in my hangar...surprising how inaccurate people can be when I just ask their weight, adding for clothes, or "Christmas pounds", etc. I've had friends tell me they weigh 180, then had them get on the scale and it says "240", and I've found often times kids are waaaaaay off from what they say, or even what I think, they weigh.

The wives hate seeing the scale, but I have a system where they enter their weight into a my W&B program without me seeing it (I could calculate it after their entry by reversing the math, but I don't out of respect). I don't bring out the scale if I'm SURE I'm underweight, but anytime I know I'm pushing close to gross I do...and my local field is under 1000 MSL.
 
Some don’t give a hoot about weight. There were two couples who always travelled together in a club PA28. The guys were big, at least 270 each, and their wives were a buck eighty if they were a pound. All four, plus luggage, plus fuel to the tabs. I asked him about it, and he said “Take off with one notch of flaps, and you’re fine!”

Luckily they never became a statistic.
 
Just a guess

Pilot: 240 lbs
Wife: 180 lbs
Son : 100 lbs
Son: 70 lbs
Luggage: ~125 lbs (or more)
~ 715 lbs
Fuel: probably at max
Density altitude

Ok. I'm going with over max weight for this aircraft coupled with get homeitis.
 
I'll add in that these airplanes are old and so are the motors so performance is probably not the same as well first out of the factory. I myself am paranoid about weight. Here in Florida where the DA might reach 2k in a day I had reservations taking someone else that weighed 240lb along with me and my friend who both weigh about 180
 
If they were 200 lbs over gross weight which appears likely rate of climb appears to be about 350 FPM At that density altitude and assuming he nailed the climb speed. Looking at the airport notes it appears the flight probably never had a chance.

TAKEOFF MINIMUMS:
Rwys 15, 33, NA - Runway Surface.
Rwy 3, std. w/ min. climb of 405’ per NM to 6100 or 5000-3 for VCOA.
Rwy 21, std. w/ min. climb of 456’ per NM to 6100 or 5000-3 for VCOA.
DEPARTURE PROCEDURE:
Rwy 3, climbing left turn to 6700 on OAB R-298, thence...
Rwy 21, climbing right turn to 6700 on OAB R-298, thence...
...Climbing right turn to 10000 direct OAB VOR/DME. Continue climb in holding to 10000 at OAB VOR/DME (northwest, left
turn, 118° inbound) before proceeding on course.
VCOA:
Rwys 3, 21, obtain ATC approval for VCOA when requesting IFR clearance. Climb in visual conditions to cross
Canyonlands Field at or above 9400 before proceeding on course.
 
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I'll add in that these airplanes are old and so are the motors so performance is probably not the same as well first out of the factory. I myself am paranoid about weight. Here in Florida where the DA might reach 2k in a day I had reservations taking someone else that weighed 240lb along with me and my friend who both weigh about 180
When I moved to Florida, a neighbor cautioned me about flying in the summer because the DA can approach 2000’, “and you have to be careful about planning your takeoff”. Lol, so it’s like taking off from a few thousand feet below a lot of the places we fly to out west then?
 
Very true and when I went to South Dakota, I rented an airplane with a CFI because I had never flown in that DA. I wanted to be safe
 
if Moab is surrounded by higher terrain, which it is, there is likely a downdraft after takeoff if one is down wind from the obstacle, which one is if taking off against the wind. True either taking off to sw or ne.
 
Sadly, this is most likely too much weight for too little airplane. Where did the past learning go wrong?

If you are present at an airport with certain challenges (terrain, DA issues) please take a moment to engage the pilot if you think there is a chance they are unaware of the danger they are about to expose themselves to. Maybe a light bulb will go off. If not, at least you did your part.

I remember when I was a newly minted CMEL pilot flying as safety pilot with an owner/pilot of a C414. When I did the math on our takeoff weight during our flight in the Southwest US and said, “we will be X pounds over gross” he looked at me with some disgust and said “we’ll be fine”. First time I had experienced that and it was unnerving. The electricity for the light bulb wasn’t there. Later learned he had a reputation for being a risk taker.
 
Sadly, this is most likely too much weight for too little airplane. Where did the past learning go wrong?
That often depends on what the past learning was, and some pilots learn that flying "a little bit" over gross weight doesn't seem to cause any problems. But in this case, weight and balance may very well have had nothing to do with the cause of the crash.
 
Point taken, though my thoughts were an extension of the path this thread was on. If W&B end up not being the primary cause there is a high probability it will be a contributing factor.
 
No matter what the final report comes up with the aircraft did not have the performance to execute the departure. It needed at least a 500 FPM climb rate to meet the climb per mile gradient published.
 
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