Friday, October 15, 2004

Wind, altitude loss blamed in air crash

Ketchum businessman crashed on airport approach

Express Staff Writer

Severe, churning wind conditions and insufficient altitude on a nighttime approach to Friedman Memorial Airport led to last year?s fatal crash of a Ketchum pilot-businessman who?d just completed a roundtrip flight to Boise.

The cause of the Nov. 19, 2003 crash of 61-year-old James Woodyard in his single-engine Cessna Turbo 210 was, according to conclusions posted by the National Transportation Safety Board, ?the pilot?s failure to maintain adequate altitude above mountainous terrain while maneuvering during descent. Factors included the mountainous terrain, the high wind condition and dark night light conditions.?

The report can be found on the NTSB?s Web site:

In the narrative of its investigation, the NTSB said that Woodyard, a popular, 30-year resident of the Wood River Valley and successful developer, left Boise in his aircraft about 5:45 p.m. for the short flight to Hailey.

Some 31 minutes later at 6:16:27 p.m., Woodyard contacted the Friedman Memorial control tower, reporting he was 10 miles west of an airport navigational beacon south of Friedman. The controller told Woodyard to report when he was three miles from the airport on final approach to the northwest-southeast runway 31.

But at 6:18 p.m., the NTSB report said Woodyard, whose conversations with the tower were taped, informed the tower that ?we?re (sic) gonna do a three sixty (360-degree circling turn) out here and lose altitude if that?s okay.?

At 6:23:22 p.m., the controller asked Woodyard?s position. ?Ya, we?re about five (miles) from the field ... ah at seven thousand five hundred getting set up again? for a new landing approach.

Eight seconds later at 6:23:30 p.m., Woodyard was cleared to land by the controller, and four seconds later at 6:23:34 p.m., Woodyard replied with a cryptic and clipped ?clear ta...? before the radio fell silent.

Because searchers concentrated their efforts south and west of the airport where Woodyard?s last known position was reported, it was five days before the wreckage was sighted on the northeast side of Lookout Mountain, some five miles southeast of the airport, 307 feet below the summit.

NTSB investigation said winds at the time were unusually severe. One pilot who landed prior to Woodyard?s clearance said westerly winds were as high as 50 miles per hour, requiring a significant crab angle of the aircraft to the left to remain on course for landing. And another pilot who landed later reported encountering a wind shear.

The NTSB?s scenario shows that Woodyard was blown west of the final approach to Friedman by the unusually strong winds, and was circling to the left back to try another land approach when he struck the peak of Lookout Mountain in the darkness.

According to the NTSB, Woodyard reported his flying time as 1,350 hours when applying for renewal of his third class medical certificate, with 40 hours in the last six months.

Investigators examined the wreckage of the 1979 model Cessna, a popular six-passenger, high-wing aircraft capable of cruising speeds of 200 miles per hour, and found no indications of engine, instrument or airframe failure. However, investigators said the wreckage showed signs of fire, presumably from the impact.

The wreckage was not recovered until Dec. 8, 2003, and then taken to Boise for examination.

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