Fatal plane crash on I-15 marks Ogden area's 12th deadly one in 35 years

Friday , July 28, 2017 - 5:47 PM1 comment

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The tragic crash of a small airplane on Interstate 15 near Riverdale Road Wednesday served as a reminder of how quickly that misfortune can unfold.

But the data also indicates such crashes are fairly rare. 

According to National Transportation Safety Board documentation, there have been 68 small plane crashes in the Ogden area since 1982, 11 which were fatal. Wednesday’s crash, which took the lives of Perry and Sarah Huffaker and Layne and Diana Clarke, is not yet included on the list.  

Jon Greiner, manager of the Ogden-Hinckley Airport, said the FAA-certified facility handles about 70,000 operations per year. An operation includes take off and landing, and of that total, approximately 250 refer to twice weekly commercial flights. 

Dwight Baldwin, a member of the Ogden Airport Advisory Board, began piloting small planes at age 16. And now at 63, he has no plans to stop.

“I go to the airport every day, even if it’s just to look at airplanes,” Baldwin said. “We don’t know the cause of (Wednesday’s) crash, but I suspect everyone who’s a pilot asks if they’re training well enough and staying proficient. It probably crosses our minds when something like this happens.”

On Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said the crash’s official cause will likely not be determined for 12 to 18 months. However, a preliminary report — which would contain investigation details from the scene and plane — could be available as soon as early August, he said.

Martin O’Loughlin, a former U.S. Navy Top Gun and flight instructor who conducted mishap investigations in the Navy, serves as an aviation consultant and has two planes housed at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport.

While emphasizing he was not speculating on the cause of Wednesday’s crash, O’Loughlin did comment on factors that pilots must consider when flying in and out of Ogden.

“There are a couple of things we have to attend to in the high mountain areas. One is the high elevation — the airport is almost 4,500 feet above sea level, so the air is thinner here,” O’Loughlin said. “The second thing is, it gets really hot here.”

Higher temperatures and thinner air inevitably affect how airplanes behave.

“Engines don’t produce as much power, propellers don’t produce as much thrust, and wings don’t produce as much lift,” O’Loughlin said. “So it takes more runway to take off and land. That’s the No. 1 concern for us. Taking off in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, gives you more things to think about.”

In December 2010, a small plane crashed in a Roy neighborhood, but the West Haven pilot survived. That accident cut power to 1,700 customers, set two homes on fire and damaged a third.

At the time, residents said it was the third such incident in their immediate neighborhood near the intersection of 2075 West and 4300 South — just a few blocks away from the Ogden-Hinckley Airport.. 

“Unfortunately, aircraft mishaps are most likely to happen on takeoff and landing because that’s when the airplane is slowest and closest to the ground,” O’Loughlin said. “Municipalities move airports to the outskirts of town, and sooner or later people start building up around the airport.”

The following fatal crashes in the Ogden area were listed on the NTSB website:

  • Jan. 15, 1982 — A Cessna T210N crashed 28 miles northeast of Ogden after the pilot lost control during turbulent conditions. The pilot and two passengers were killed.
  • Sept. 2, 1985 — A Piper PA-34-200T crashed during a thunderstorm, killing the pilot and three passengers.
  • Oct. 19, 1988 — A home-built aircraft crashed about half a mile northeast of the airport due to loss of engine power, killing the pilot
  • July 12, 1990 — A Cessna P210R crashed after a loss of engine power. The pilot attempted to glide down a canyon when the plane struck a power line. Two pilots were on board, and one died.
  • Feb. 13, 1991 — A Beech F33A crashed into the Great Salt Lake after loss of engine power due to icy conditions. Four died in the crash.
  • Feb. 5, 1992 — A Piper PA-28-161 crashed during an instructional flight. Under the direction of the instructor, the pilot headed toward a ridge line while the instructor changed a battery in an intercom system. The plane crashed into mountain terrain. One died, and the other suffered serious injuries.
  • May 10, 1997 — A Cessna 182 collided with a Piper PA-28R-200 due to sun glare, causing it to crash in Clinton. The Cessna’s pilot and two passengers died, but the Piper managed to return to the Ogden airport.
  • July 11, 1999 — A Piper PA-22-150 crashed into trees in Roy after taking off from the Ogden airport. The pilot had communicated with the controller and intended to return to the airport but lost control of the plane, which was carrying 136 pounds more than the maximum allowed weight. The pilot and three others died in that crash.
  • Dec. 14, 2000 — A Mooney M20K crashed into a mountainside on its descent into the Ogden area. The pilot was fatigued after flying more than nine hours that night and encountered turbulence and snow as he prepared to come in for a landing. He was the only one onboard and did not survive.
  • March 22, 2001 — A Vangilder Christen Eagle II home-built plane crashed into the ground as the pilot and passenger practiced flying the experimental aircraft in an open field. The plane exceeded its aerobatic weight limit by 90 pounds. Both died in the accident.
  • July 16, 2002 — A Wheeler Doug 2000 crashed after the pilot battled wind gusts and lost control of the gyrocraft in its initial climb after takeoff. The pilot — a part-time flight instructor with a commercial pilot certificate — died along with one passenger.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck. 

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