Fatal Crash of Beechcraft Bonanza (Weber County, Utah; 7/26/17)
On July 26, 2017, about 1240 mountain daylight time, a Beech A36TC airplane, N60WB, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing shortly after takeoff from Ogden-Hinckley Airport (OGD), Ogden, Utah. The private pilot, and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Peak 2 Peak, LLC, and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area about the time of the accident. A flight plan was not filed for the flight, which was destined for Yellowstone Airport (WYS), West Yellowstone, Montana.
According to the tower controller at OGD, the accident pilot contacted the tower and requested a northwest departure from runway 17. The controller instructed the pilot to enter the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern after departure due to a possible conflict with an inbound helicopter. The controller cleared the airplane for takeoff and it subsequently departed runway 17. When the airplane was about 1/4 mile from the departure end of the runway, the controller cleared the pilot to turn right to the northwest. Less than 1 minute later, the pilot stated, "Hey, I'm going down, zero-whiskey-bravo." The controller cleared the pilot to land, then watched the airplane as it descended and impacted terrain about 1/2 mile from the departure end of runway 17. Another pilot in the area reported seeing the airplane impact the highway.
Two mechanics at OGD heard the accident airplane take off. They stated that the sound was unusual, which made them look up to see what it was. When the airplane first came into view, they stated that it was about 100 ft above the ground and that it should have been about 500 ft or higher at that location, which was about 3,700 ft down runway 17. As the airplane passed by, they noticed that the engine sounded underpowered and that the tail of the airplane was moving up and down as if the pilot was struggling to keep the airplane airborne.
The airplane impacted the right side of a northward-bound freeway. Detailed examination of the airplane, engine, and propeller did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical deficiencies that would have precluded normal operation. Given the weights of the pilot, passengers, and fuel onboard, the airplane was near its maximum gross weight about the time of the accident. Additionally, the density altitude was about 6,500 ft. Both of these factors would have resulted in an increased takeoff distance and reduced climb performance, though review of performance data indicated that the runway available was adequately long to accommodate the airplane's predicted takeoff roll (2,109 ft) and distance to clear a 50-ft obstacle (3,401 ft). Although the actual loading of the airplane at the time of the accident could not be accurately determined, including the weight and location of any baggage and the positions of the rear passengers, it is likely that the airplane's center of gravity (CG) was outside of its forward end of the envelope as depicted on a weight and balance worksheet. A forward CG can result in nose heaviness and increased stall speed.
The pilot chose to operate the airplane under conditions which would have adversely affected its performance, namely, high gross weight, high density altitude, and with a CG that may have been forward of prescribed limits. Whether the pilot calculated the airplane's weight and balance before the flight and was prepared for the resulting negative effects on its takeoff performance could not be determined.
The pilot, age 48, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane rating. His most recent FAA third-class airman medical certificate was issued on October 22, 2015, with no limitations. The pilot reported no flight experience on the medical application. The pilot's logbook revealed a total of 396 hours of flight experience, which included 196 hours in the accident airplane. In the last 6 months, he had about 28 hours of flight experience, of which about 26 were in the accident airplane.
Given the lack of anomalies observed during postaccident examination, it is unlikely that the pilot experienced a loss of engine power or mechanical failure during the takeoff; therefore, the reason for the pilot's loss of control shortly after takeoff could not be determined by the NTSB.