The Wyoming Plane That Crashed & The One That Didn’t
Car crashes happen all day every day. Plane crashes are rare, so when they do happen they make a lot of news.
Recently a Casper City Councilman, Bruce Knell, and his wife Stacy were flying from Casper to St. George, Utah for a golf tournament, when Knell’s Lancair plane lost power over a field one mile from the St. George Regional Airport.
“I remember losing power,” Knell told Cowboy State Daily from his bed in St. George Regional Hospital. He said he couldn’t recall the exact sensation of his rapid fall. The plane “just literally fell out of the sky.”
Chris Navarro, who also lives in Casper, Wyoming, posted a story of what he called "The Scariest moment of my life."
Mr. Navarro is the Artist Owner of Navarro Gallery, where you can find some amazing sculptures and paintings.
I want to share a story of the scariest moment in my life, writes Mr. Navvarro. It was August 17, 1997, I had flown my son JC. to compete in a Wyoming Junior Rodeo in Rocksprings Wyoming. The rodeo was over and we were getting back to the airport just at sunset. I had checked the weather and noticed a thunderstorm coming in from the southwest about 30 miles out. I did a quick prefight of my plane a 1959 Cessna 182 Skylane. We jumped in and took off and were heading northeast back to Casper a distance by air of 170 miles.
My plane would do about a 150 mph and I was in front of the storm and would make it Casper in an hour and 15 minutes. As my plane left the end of the runway, I noticed the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. I was climbing out to 9,500’. 15 minutes into the flight I was in total darkness. I was starting to get worried when I realized it was a moonless night with heavy clouds and I was flying over the Red Desert and there were no lights or land marks.
I was really scared now because it was total black outside, I could not see the ground and the windshield visibility was 0 and I was in big trouble I had just flown into hard IFR conditions. I was a VFR pilot in a VFR rated airplane and just made a life threating critical mistake. I looked over at my young son who was in the seat next to me already taking a snooze. I could feel my heart beating when I realized not only had I endangered my own life but that of my young son.
I could feel the panic starting to rise in me as my adrenaline started to pump through my body. I started getting mad at myself, how could I be such a dumb ass for getting into this jam. My next thought was to relax stay calm and work the problem you have to get out of this use your head!
I had been flying for a few years and had over 300 hours probably with only 5 hours of hood time and maybe 12 hours of night flying. I was not instrument rated but I was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. I always read their magazine reports and remember the story that determined the average VFR pilot had '178 seconds to live' upon entering instrument meteorological conditions.
Because the pilots would become disoriented with vertigo and start chasing their instruments and over correct the plane into a spin. It is a dangerous situation.
American research showed that 76 percent of VFR into IFR or IMC Instrument meteorological conditions accidents involve a fatality. This is exactly what killed John Kennedy Jr his wife and sister in-law.
Relax be calm don’t make any quick movements just watch and concentrate on your instruments. Just keep the wings level and straight.
I started holding the yoke which controls the alerions of the plane with just my left index finger and thumb with the lightest of touch.
I next decided I would only turn the plane using a 100% rudder to stay on my heading and for holding my altitude and elevation I would use only the trim wheel.
That is all I was going to think about and that’s what I did for the next longest 30 anxiety filled minutes of my life.
I kept flying like that until I saw the lights of Casper. I was never so happy and relieved as I was when I saw the city lights and the Casper Airport runway.
We had a smooth landing my son woke up and we pushed the plane in the hanger. My son never knew how close we had come to having a disastrous night.
I promised myself I would never make that mistake again and I never did.
I grew up in a family of aviators My father and 3 older brothers were all military aviators and I soloed my first plane when I was 19 years old.
I remember my oldest brother Rick was a Navy pilot and later a Delta Captain when I started flying, he told me flying won’t kill you it’s the decisions you make when flying that will.
True words brother.