The tragedy of Flight 22

July 19, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the tragedy of Piedmont Flight 22 over Hendersonville.

Disasters in the air

Identified by geologists as being among the oldest ranges on the planet, the Blue Ridge Mountains proffer breathtaking backdrops. Whitewater plunges over mountain cliffs and chasms. Creeks and branches crisscross the vales between their time-eroded slopes. Ice-cold springs course beneath their foundations of granite. And hikers and birders find respite in their wooded, wild-flowered trails.

Nevertheless, these ridges command respect from those venturing upon them — and through their perilous airspace.

Over the years, tragedies have tarnished the splendor of Henderson County’s otherwise idyllic milieu. Catastrophic weather conditions including fog and downdrafts have brought down aircraft. Added to that, pilots’ unfamiliarity with the defiant terrain and the sheer height of the ridges, have resulted in disaster. Pockmarked with crash sites, Henderson County’s mountains have witnessed their share of air disasters.

Tragic anniversary

This July marks the 50th anniversary of the most catastrophic air disaster in North Carolina’s history. The incident involved the collision of a private airliner and a commercial airliner above the Dana area on Wednesday, July 19, 1967.

Piedmont Flight 22, a Boeing 727 jetliner carrying 74 passengers and a crew of five, departed from Asheville Regional Airport’s Runway 16 at 11:58 a.m. En route from Atlanta to Roanoke, the itinerary included a stop at Asheville and a scheduled termination at Washington, D.C.

As it climbed above Hendersonville, a Cessna 310 charter flight, which had originated in Springfield, Mo., tore into the jet’s right underbelly near its front landing gear. The impact and explosion welded the Cessna into the jetliner’s underbelly.

The accident claimed the lives of all 82 people aboard the two crafts.

Before the impact, the Cessna had been traveling at 205 miles per hour and the jetliner was climbing at a ground speed of about 275 miles per hour.

Local resident Charles Geffrey “Geff” Hoots recalled, “I was playing alone in the yard, underneath my grandfather’s parked aluminum boat, when the two planes popped loudly in the sky above me. Just seconds later I heard a booming explosion, and the ground under my feet shook so strong that I fell down on my face.”

The Cessna

The red Cessna, piloted by John David “Dave” Addison (1919–1967) of Lebanon, Mo., had taken off from Charlotte and was inbound to the Asheville airport. Some sources faulted Addison, a pilot of 22 years and a World War II U.S. Army private, for not having radioed the tower at Asheville for landing clearance.

Other sources blamed a confusing transmission message by the ATC and minimal control procedures utilized by the FAA in its handling of the Cessna. The Asheville tower did not have radar in those days but relied on VHF Omni-directional Range (VOR) employing radio signals. Addison’s deviation from his IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) clearance — approximately nine miles south and east of the glide pattern into Asheville — put him in a flight path allocated to the 727.

According to the FAA, Addison’s two-engine Cessna swept out of the pallor and flew directly into the 727. Weather conditions indicated a “2,500-foot ceiling with broken cloud cover and four miles of visibility in hazy conditions.”

Addison’s passengers were Ralph Reynolds (1919–1967), vice-president of Lanseair, Inc. (an aviation insurance and development company) and owner of the craft; and Robert Eugene Anderson (1930–1967) — both of Springfield, Mo.

The Manhattan Pacemaker

Flight 22, the first jet in Piedmont’s fleet, was nicknamed the “Manhattan Pacemaker.” The craft was built in Seattle and had been leased by Iran National Airlines as part of the fleet of the Shah before Piedmont bought the jet.

Because fog had delayed flights that morning, Flight 22 was running 30 minutes behind schedule.

Passengers on Flight 22 included vacationing families and children returning home from camps. Thirty-six food brokers from around the country also counted among the passengers. The brokers were headed to a Stokely-Van Camp convention in West Virginia.

Additional passengers were Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs/Secretary-Designate of the U.S. Navy John T. McNaughton (1921–1967) and his wife and son. Still others were Georgiana (“Jeorgina”) Lopez Basurto (1945–1967), Grant E. Bubb (1905–1967) and Herbert Kiessling (1890–1967), each of Hendersonville. Basurto’s boyfriend, Kirby P. Rector (1943–1967) of Clyde, N.C., was also onboard.

Officials believed the pilot of the commercial jet, Capt. Raymond Frank Schulte (1918–1967) of Norfolk, Va., had attempted to avoid the collision. Losing power quickly after the impact, Schulte made a right turn in what seemed to have been a maneuver to make it to nearby Interstate 26. Theoretically, Schulte believed an emergency landing on the freeway might have been possible.

Thomas Calvin Conrad (1936–1967) was first officer on the flight and Lawrence Cary Wilson (1930–1967) was second officer.


Investigations suggested that the Cessna’s pilot had likely been distracted while making dial changes to his radio settings.

Witnesses on the ground told news reporters that the smaller craft pulled up sharply and then exploded upon impact. The 727 briefly continued its progress forward at an altitude of 6,132 feet before suddenly nosing over, exploding into flames and breaking into two sections.

Passengers, luggage and fuselage debris rained from the sky, and one human corpse crashed through the roof of a home. The body of a boy dangled from the branches of a tree. Luggage, clothing and cocktail napkins drifted from above, snagging in treetops.

The calamity transpired above the airspace of the Holiday Inn motel and Martin Levine’s Camp Pinewood (at one time called Orr’s Camp). At the time of the collision, 145 children between the ages of 6 and 14 and the counselors took cover indoors and under canoes as wreckage and bodies plummeted to the ground.

A profusion of the debris landed in and around the camp’s dumpsite. Henderson County sheriff James F. Kilpatrick (1920–1976) dispatched every available piece of rescue equipment and each off-duty and reserve officer to the scene. The State Highway Patrol ordered its entire area force to report for duty.


Aviation investigators reassembled sections of the jet’s fuselage in a field, which is now the site of McDonald’s on Four Seasons Boulevard. In those days, before fast-food restaurants, a muddle of signs and the Blue Ridge Mall cluttered the scenery, the area enfolding the crash site was mostly farms and rural greenways. The Blue Ridge Academy for Boys stood on the present site of the mall.

In the aftermath of the tragedy — the first major accident investigated by the newly formed National Transportation Safety Board — officials worked to keep curiosity seekers and the media from the crash site as investigations proceeded. Hendersonville residents described the general atmosphere as solemn — for many days — as they attempted to persevere with their daily lives. Victims’ families filed 16 lawsuits seeking nearly $11 million in damages against Piedmont, Lanseair and others.

In memoriam

Paul D. Houle of Chesnee, S.C., author of “The Crash of Piedmont Airlines Flight 22,” spearheaded efforts to erect a Flight 22 memorial. Mounted on a 12½-ton boulder, the bronze plaque documents the names of the victims. Houle is a former traffic-accident investigator with the United States Army.

Officials dedicated the monument in July 2004 on the 37th anniversary of the crash. The monument to the eighty-two victims stands one-quarter mile from the crash site at the intersection of Jack Street, Orr’s Camp Road and Mitchelle Drive off Four Seasons Boulevard.


2 hurt when small plane crashes near North Carolina coast

Two people were hurt when a small plane crashed near the North Carolina coast.

Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith told local media the single engine plane came down in some woods about 7 p.m. Wednesday shortly after taking off from the local airport.

Smith said the pilot and passenger were able to get out of the plane. They were taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Their names have not been released. There was no word on their condition.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating. The FAA said the plane was a Beechcraft Musketeer BE23.

Distractions Are Deadly: How You Can Avoid This Accident

Swayne Martin – BoldMethod

While pilots are usually good at multitasking, too many accidents each year are caused by distractions in the cockpit. Most distraction related accidents boil down to two problems: not knowing your airplane well enough, and not maintaining a sterile cockpit.

Let’s take a look at what happened…


The Fatal Accident

On May 24th, 2013, a twin-engine Piper PA-34-200T Seneca broke up mid-air over Johnstown, NY. Both the pilot and single passenger were killed. According to the NTSB, “the volunteer medical transport flight was established on course toward an en route navigational fix. Upon reaching the fix, the flight was expected to continue toward the initial approach fix for an instrument approach at the Rome, NY Airport (KRME). About 5 miles southeast of the en route fix, the airplane began to deviate off course.”


“When asked by an air traffic controller about the reason for the deviation, the pilot stated that the airplane had turned “the wrong way” and indicated that he had incorrectly loaded the instrument approach into the airplane’s GPS. The controller provided a vector to the pilot to return the airplane to the previously established course, and the pilot acknowledged. About 1 minute later, radar contact with the airplane was lost” (NTSB).

How One Distraction Led To Deadly Disorientation

Spatial disorientation most commonly occurs when pilots lose exterior visual references. According to weather data, the pilot was likely in IMC.

Restricted visibility, turbulence, and the airplane’s unexpected off-course turn were all factors leading to spatial disorientation. But worst of all, the pilot became distracted with the operation and configuration of the GPS. Before reaching the fix, the sudden unintended course change clearly resulted in the pilot struggling to fly the airplane in a level attitude while figuring out correct avionics settings. According to the NTSB, the resulting ground track, rapid turning descent, and breakup were consistent with a loss of control as a result of spatial disorientation.


Undetected Spatial Disorientation

With his head down inside the cockpit, correcting for improper autopilot and GPS settings, the pilot most likely didn’t notice the airplane entering an unusual attitude. When bank and pitch changes at rates slower than 3 degrees per second, your inner ear (the vestibular system) has a hard time detecting the change, especially in cases where visual references are totally lost.


While inside the clouds and focused on the autopilot and navigation systems, the pilot probably didn’t sense any change in bank, pitch, or speed. According to the NTSB, “radar data indicated that the airplane entered a rapidly-descending left turn in the final moments of the flight during which it reached an estimated 80-degree left bank, lost about 3,700 feet of altitude in 36 seconds, and accelerated to an airspeed of about 240 knots before breaking up.” The airplane’s Vne speed was 195 knots.


How You Can Avoid This Outcome

While there wasn’t a cockpit voice recorder or surviving witness, there is one important lesson we can learn from this accident.

You must know how to operate all of your aircraft’s systems. In this tragic case, it’s likely that the pilot was startled by the unintended course change. As he struggled to re-load the approach and reset the autopilot, the aircraft entered an undetected unusual attitude. The saying “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” holds true in this case study. Always ensure you’re maintaining positive aircraft control before troubleshooting navigation systems or contacting ATC for assistance.


Why Sterile Cockpit Procedures Are Critical

A distraction or two can turn deadly quickly, whether you’re flying VFR or IFR. That’s why airlines have strict sterile cockpit rules for their pilots during critical phases of flight to reduce distractions. In a sterile cockpit, attention is focused solely on operational procedures and situational awareness. Even if you aren’t flying for an airline, there several things you can do to maintain a sterile cockpit:

  • Stop non-essential conversations (with both passengers and crew)
  • Keep your eyes outside the cockpit and scanning for traffic
  • Silence your phone and put it away
  • Don’t reset or operate any cameras you might’ve mounted to record your flight
  • Monitor the correct frequencies and listen for your callsign
  • Perform and verify all your checklist procedures

Critical phases of flight are usually checklist-saturated, traffic-saturated, and require a high amount of focus. Some of these critical times include traffic pattern operations, takeoff, climb, descent, and landing. Don’t just limit your sterile cockpit to these times, however. If you’re approaching bad weather, near other traffic, or in busy airspace for instance, you should follow the same precautions.

Sterile cockpits are all about eliminating unnecessary distractions. They’ll help you fly safer and more efficiently during the times you need it most.


‘Sully’ plane is a hit for N.C. aviation museum

Chicago Tribune – John Bordsen

The 2016 movie “Sully” didn’t get much Oscar love; the Tom Hanks film is only up for one Academy Award — for sound editing.

But the biopic got a lot of people flocking to the Carolinas Aviation Museum, home of the actual plane that Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed safely in the Hudson River. Visitor numbers more than doubled after “Sully” hit the big screen in September, museum spokesperson Jan Black said.

The storied plane is the centerpiece of the aviation museum near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where the Airbus A320 was scheduled to land on that fateful day eight years ago.

US Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from New York when it struck a flock of Canada geese, disabling its engines. Sully made an emergency water landing, and every one of the 150 passengers and five crew members survived the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

The recovered aircraft was moved in 2011 to the museum — an appropriate resting place given that at least half of the people onboard were from Charlotte, a major hub for US Airways, which completed its merger with American Airlines in 2015.

The museum’s hangar collection is dominated by the “Miracle on the Hudson” jet. To accommodate the height of the Airbus tail, the hulk sits low — maybe 4 feet above the pavement — on a custom-made mount. Monitors facing the 137,789-pound airliner show 2009 newscasts, interviews with passengers and the recovery of the Airbus from the Hudson.

But your attention keeps returning to the un-restored Airbus: the bottom that detached when making initial contact with the Hudson; the dings, dents and other mayhem visited on the lower fuselage; the left engine separated from the jet and recovered later. You can still spot dried “snarge,” the guts of geese that crippled both engines.

The museum’s storyboards, displays and well-informed docents help flesh out the story beyond the pilot-oriented film. For example, Flight 1549 was popular with corporate commuters returning to their jobs at Charlotte’s big retailers and banks. The execs’ team-building skills proved an asset when the downed jet had to be evacuated.

Adult admission to the museum is $12;


2 witnesses pull 84-year-old pilot from fiery plane wreckage in NC Read more here:

Two men who saw a plane crash in Burke County on Monday pulled the 84-year-old pilot from the burning wreckage of the single-engine aircraft on Monday.

After the plane went down, Tyler Woodard and Brian Stevens rushed over to rescue John Henry Shell Sr., television station WBTV reports. The crash happened Monday afternoon, according to the Burke County EMS.

Woodard told WBTV that he knew something was wrong when he saw the plane circling and heard its engine struggling near his apartment building.

“It hit the trees and exploded in flames,” he told WBTV.

Woodard and Stevens ran to the burning plane and pulled Shell to safety as he stumbled away, WBTV reports.

Morganton Public Safety Chief Ronnie Rector says Shell was taken to a nearby hospital and then transferred to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Officials did not give an update on his condition.

It is unclear what caused the crash, and Federal Aviation Administration officials are expected to begin an investigation Tuesday.

Burke County is about 190 miles west of Raleigh.

Read more here:


By Elizabeth A Tennyson – AOPA

AOPA is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case involving aviation products liability, an issue that could have a significant impact on the cost of flying.

At the heart of the case is the question of whether juries can impose aircraft design standards at the state level in aviation products liability cases, in conflict with the FAA’s federal regulatory and certification standards.

Defective Products

“If a product is defective, aggrieved parties should receive compensation for injuries resulting from the defect, but standards set by the FAA, not by juries or the states themselves, should be used to determine whether the manufacturer is liable in aviation products liability cases,” said AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead. “To do otherwise conflicts with the FAA’s areas of responsibility and threatens the affordability and safety of general aviation.”

Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp (Gibsonville, NC)

The case, Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., involves a 2005 airplane crash in North Carolina following an engine failure. The pilot was fatally injured, and his spouse filed a lawsuit against the engine’s manufacturer, claiming that the failure was the result of a design defect in the carburetor. In 2014, a U.S. District Court found that there was no design defect in the carburetor because the engine was certified and approved by the FAA. But in April of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed that decision. It found that the FAA’s federal regulatory role did not preempt state law standards of care in aviation products liability actions. It also found that the FAA’s certification and approval of the engine did not eliminate the possibility of a design defect. That ruling allows juries to hold a manufacturer to state design standards, even if the manufacturer satisfied all FAA regulations and the FAA approved and certified the product.

“This case presents an important question about the states’ role in ensuring continued operational safety of aircraft approved by the FAA,” AOPA wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the Supreme Court. “As owners and pilots, AOPA members have a substantial interest in the duties imposed upon manufacturers to address unsafe conditions in FAA-approved designs. These duties significantly affect the safety of existing aircraft and future aircraft produced in accordance with that design. Additionally, the cumulative cost effect of aviation products liability actions on manufacturers is also passed onto aircraft owners. Thus, state-law duties defined in an aviation products liability action affect the cost of purchasing new and maintaining existing aircraft.”

FAA Responsibilities

For decades, the FAA has been responsible not only for certifying new designs but also for monitoring, identifying, and addressing any unsafe conditions that may arise after an aircraft has been approved and certified. To ensure continued safety, the FAA may issue airworthiness directives and require manufacturers to make design changes in future production aircraft. It also must approve any and all voluntary changes to the aircraft’s design. In its brief, AOPA wrote that using state design standards in aviation liability actions interferes with these long-standing responsibilities of the FAA.

“It’s vitally important that manufacturers have one set of standards, established by the FAA, to adhere to,” said Mead. “Otherwise they can face the nearly impossible and very costly challenge of trying to follow a hodgepodge of potentially contradictory state standards. That’s bad for safety, it’s bad for manufacturers, and it’s bad for aircraft owners who end up, quite literally, paying the price.”

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) said it, too, planned to file an amicus brief in the case.

Vintage aircraft with pilot onboard crashes in Long View

Hickory Crash


Emergency officials in Catawba County say the pilot of a vintage aircraft has died after the plane crashed into a building in Long View.

Catawba County Emergency Manager Karen Yaussy said 81-year-old George Baxter Harris of the Hickory area was the only person onboard the Culver PQ-14A when it crashed Saturday around 1:10 p.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the aircraft was headed to Hickory Regional Airport when it crashed, adding that it had also left from the airport earlier.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force says on its web page that the Culver Aircraft Corp. built three basic models in quantity for the Army in 1940. The PQ series was initially designed as radio-controlled target aircraft for training anti-aircraft artillery gunners for the Army and the Navy.

Arson believed to be cause of Gastonia plane fire

A small plane erupted in flames Wednesday night on the tarmac of the Gastonia Municipal Airport.

Investigators believe arson was the cause of the fire that destroyed the $200,000 single-engine plane.

There was someone seen near the plane before it caught on fire, officials said.

A passerby saw the blaze that night and told firefighters at the nearby fire station.

IMAGES: Small plane fire at Gastonia airport

The Union Road Volunteer Fire Department and the Gastonia Fire Department  arrived at the tarmac at about 9:20 p.m. and saw the entire plane engulfed in flames.

The single-engine plane, which is a total loss, is registered to someone who lives in Atlanta, officials said.

RAW VIDEO: Flames engulf small plane on tarmac

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the blaze and no injuries were reported.

The plane was anchored to the tarmac, fire officials said.

“You normally don’t see airplanes burn sitting on the ground,” Billy Glover, Gastonia Fire Department.

The owner flew from Gainsville, Florida and landed at the Gastonia Municipal Airport at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.  He said he had no mechanical problems and nine hours later, the plane burst into flames.

Investigators hope to talk to some of the first people who witnessed the fire and officials are checking security cameras around the airport.

Fire investigators said it may take several weeks before they are able to determine a precise cause.

Gaston Emergency Medical Services and the Gastonia Police Department also responded to the call.

Two from NC on Pigeon Forge helicopter crash


The Pigeon Forge Police Department is releasing the name of the victims that died in a helicopter crash in Pigeon Forge on Monday afternoon.

Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Jack H. Baldwin said Johna Morvant, 49, Peyton Rasmussen, 22, Parker Rasmussen, 18, and Michael Mastalez, 21 were passengers on the Smoky Mountain Helicopter Tour that crashed. Morvant lives in Kodak. Her two children, Peyton and Parker Rasmussen were visiting her from Huntersville, North Carolina. Mastalez who was from Propser, Texas was Peyton Rasmussen’s boyfriend.

Jason Dahl, 38, was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash on Rainbow Road, just before 3:30 p.m. Dahl’s girlfriend, Tessa Ashford, said even though the tragic event has been very emotional, her boyfriend died doing what he loved. She said they are originally from Oregon, but moved to East Tennessee a few years ago to follow Dahl’s love passion: flying.

“Jason loved loved the outdoors and it brought him great joy to share it, he was a great man. His spirit truly lifted up those around him,” said Ashford. She said she feels for the families of the passengers that lost their lives and asks for prayers for the families affected.

Like many others, Ashford is waiting to learn the results from a National Transportation Safety Board investigation to figure out what led to the tragedy. She said her boyfriend was a great pilot who was well respected by his colleagues.

The National Transportation Safety Board will present a preliminary report on the facts of the crash on its website by the end of next week, Schiada said. An investigative report containing the probable cause of the crash could take a year or more, he said, adding the investigation is a “methodical process.”

This is actually the second time a Smoky Mountain Helicopter has crashed in a little more than a year. On February 15, 2015, a helicopter operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters, was damaged following an uncontained engine failure and fire during takeoff.  The passengers were evacuated and there were no reported injuries.

Since the 1980s there have been at least nine accidents involving helicopters in Sevier County. Some residents have tried to ban helicopter rides from the Pigeon Forge for years, complaining of danger.

Dan Haynes, owner of Scenic Helicopter Tours, a competing helicopter company, said he would like to reassure people that helicopters are safe, because crashes are so rare. He said scenic helicopters are held to strict safety standards.

“If people took care of their cars like we take care of a helicopter, you would never buy a new car because it would always be like a new car. Every moving part of a helicopter has to be inspected or replaced after so many hours. Some of those it doesn’t matter what condition they’re in they have to be replaced,” he said.

They are regulated by standards set by both the helicopter manufacturers and the FAA, and pilots undergo extensive training for any possible situation.

Former race team pilot killed in Union County plane crash


A pilot died Thursday night after his plane crashed in a wooded area in Union County, authorities said.

Officials identified the pilot as Jim Cook, 68, of Lexington, N.C., Cook reported engine problems before the plane went down.

Investigators said he was the only person on board.

Union County deputies found the single-engine plane in the woods Thursday night, near Tarlton Mill and New Salem Road in Marshville.

Officials said Cook was flying from Daytona to Lexington and had dropped off a client when he crashed just before 7 p.m.

Deputies said he had reported engine trouble.

Cook was a long time pilot for Richard Childress Racing. He retired from the race team and was working part-time for various corporate customers.

He often flew the race team to and from Daytona.

The sheriff said that the plane nose-dived into the ground, but that it was pretty much intact.

The plane crashed about 60 yards from Terry Brooks’ back door.

“It was more than just a thud,” Brooks said. “It was almost like a small explosion.”

Brooks didn’t realize what happened until emergency crews showed up.

“It’s tragic,” he said.

The NTSB checked out the plane Friday for any obvious signs that might explain what caused the engine trouble that caught an experienced pilot off guard.

They will have to examine the black box to get a better understanding.

The FAA also sent team of investigators to the scene Friday to determine exactly what caused the crash.