Preliminary report on Almanor plane crash issued

Delaine Fragnoli
Managing Editor

Investigators still have not identified cause of fatal accident

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report Jan. 20 on the Jan. 6 plane crash at Rogers Field that killed two Chester residents, Ronald and Janet Gilmore.

The report does not establish a cause for the accident. It could be several months before the agency issues a final report.

The report puts the time of the crash at 6:45 p.m., the same time the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office reported receiving several 911 calls about a plane in distress.

The flight originated from the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa at about 5:30 p.m. The weather in Chester at the time of the accident was calm and clear with unlimited visibility. Temperature was 28.4. Pilot Ronald Gilmore was familiar with Rogers Field, flying in and out on a regular basis.

Investigators interviewed two witnesses: a neighbor of the Gilmores, who lived in the housing tract immediately to the north of the airport, and a woman who was walking her dogs along First Avenue, which runs partially adjacent to Rogers Field.

Victor Hursh, the neighbor, told Feather Publishing at the time of the crash that he routinely heard Ronald Gilmore announce his inbound flight location and landing intentions over his home scanner.

On the night of the crash he “heard Ron announce he was entering the flight pattern and then report his turn to right base for runway 34. I also heard the plane and it sounded like it was running just fine.”

Hursh told NTSB investigators that he walked out onto his deck to observe the plane. He could hear the sound of the airplane as it traveled from his left to his right, which was consistent with the normal sound he often heard as aircraft join the traffic pattern. He could not see the plane, but that was not unusual given the 70-foot-tall pine trees around his property.

Hursh told investigators the sound of the plane was “unremarkable, with no indication of distress.”

He returned to his house and heard no more radio transmissions — a departure from Gilmore’s regular routine of transmitting a position report as he approached the right base and another final report after he cleared the runway.

The second witness, the woman walking her dogs on First Avenue, said she heard an airplane to the southwest that sounded “normal and appropriate.”

But a short time later she heard an airplane to the north that sounded much louder with a “full-bore, pinning” noise.

According to the report, she looked to the north and observed “red, green and white lights fly from left to right in a sloping descent. The lights descended behind some trees and toward the lake. She then heard the sound of a thud followed by the noise of cracking ice.”

The report puts the accident site about 3,500 feet northeast of the approach end of runway 34, the only runway at the airport plowed in winter.

The debris field spanned a distance of about 900 feet, with plane parts scattered at intervals. The first identified point of impact was a “foot-deep, 7-foot-long, teardrop-shaped swath of excavated snow.”

The main fuselage came to rest 700 feet beyond the initial impact point. The entire cabin was crushed and bent at a 90-degree angle.

The engine was the final piece of debris, lying about 200 feet beyond the fuselage. The pilot and passenger seats, which had been ripped from their moorings, came to rest partway between the fuselage and the engine.

The investigators said all major sections of the airplane were accounted for and there were no indications of pre- or post-impact fires.

The NTSB led the investigation, and representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Teledyne Continental Motors also examined the accident site.


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