Good catch Chuck. With the pilot there were 17 on board and it never should have happened. Green pilot and bad maintenance and I lost 16 friends that day.
While we're on the subject, I do remember the FBI suspected at first that the contaminated fuel may have been intentional, most likely from the drug runners Cowboy (suspected) and Andrew Thornton (confirmed via duffle of coke found on his dead body) had skimmed from.
A short time later, the FBI said the contaminated fuel was not from sabotage. I always wondered how they came to that conclusion. Did they find the source of the contamination? Did they ever find more clues as to whether Andrew was with someone the night he bounced?
A short time later, the FBI said the contaminated fuel was not from sabotage. I always wondered how they came to that conclusion. Did they find the source of the contamination?
The NTSB report suggests that the contamination didn't come out of the blue -- still, other info sources would be useful as you suggest.
From NTSB report ATL85MA286 for Sept 29, 1985.
AS THE PLT & 16 JUMPERS DEPTD ON A SKYDIVING FLT, THE ENG LOST PWR AT APRX 300' AGL. THE ACFT THEN BANKED STEEPLY LEFT, SPIRALED IN A STEEP NOSE DWN ATTITUDE & CRASHED. AN EXAM REVEALED FUEL IN THE TANKS WAS CONTAMINATED WITH WTR & FOREIGN MATERIAL WITH THE APPEARANCE OF BROWN ALGAE. MILKY FLUID (APRX 65% JET FUEL & 34% WTR) WAS FND IN THE ENG FUEL CONTROL, AS WELL AS IRON CONTAMINANTS. DARK STRINGY MATERIAL WAS FND IN THE FUEL FILTERS. THE ACFT HAD BEEN REFUELED FM 55 GAL DRUMS WHICH CONTAINED CONTAMINATED FUEL. THE DRUMS WERE STORED UPRIGHT & RAIN WATER COULD LEAK THRU THE FILLER CAPS. N551CC HAD A HISTORY OF FUEL CONTAMINATION WHICH ON OCCASIONS CAUSED THE FUEL BYPASS INDICATOR TO DISPLAY. RPRTDLY, THE STALL WARNING CIRCUIT BRKR HAD BEEN DISENGAGED ON OTHER OCCASIONS, SO AS NOT TO STARTLE THE JUMPERS; HOWEVER, DUE TO DMG, ITS PREIMPACT PSN COULD NOT BE VERIFIED. ACFT WAS ESTD TO BE 370 LBS OVR ITS MAX WT LMT & 1' FWD OF THE CG LMT. THE9 PAX SEATS HAD BEEN RMVD TO HAUL UP TO 18 JUMPERS. PAX SEAT BELTS WERE NOT USED. LACK OF FAA SURVEILLANCE WAS NOTED
Cowboy had the Caravan at Xenia a few weeks prior to this for a 4 and 8 way meet. Fuel contamination shut the plane down for several hours on the first day of the meet. Same problem apparently. They also ran the Caravan out of fuel on an 8 way competition load and the early exit put some of us off the airport by several miles.
Weight and balance issues and the way the aircraft was loaded seemed "interesting" as well. With that and other incidents, you can probably find some that jumped from the airplane that were not real surprised by the crash. Sad because many of us lost good friends in the crash...
It was a sad day as we lost friends, but the comment that not all of us were surprised by the crash is quite accurate. It was the first Caravan to be used solely for jumping, and jumpers as well as Cowboy were still trying to figure the plane out. It was at East Troy just a bit before the crash and we had and emergency shutdown when the windshield became covered with oil. The reason, the oil filler cap was not replaced and the aircraft suffered massive oil loss during takeoff and climb out, that was exciting. Still it was a sad day to lose our friends...
This is hearsay but I heard that on some maintenance Cowboy didn't replace some clogged fuel filter because of cost and the aircraft was operating on the bypass system. Bring the water into the equation with a green pilot and serious problems. A good friend that was there and one of the first on the scene said that the airplane crashed in a field plenty big to set the Caravan down in. But it seemed that the pilot was trying to get back to the airport. The age old problem, ran out of altitude, airspeed and ideas all at the same time. Had he gone straight ahead the aircraft may have been a write off but some if not all may have survived.
Ann Boland, Carol Gordon, Doug Holmes, Rod Howell, Steve Hunter, Josh Hutchinson, Harry Lane, Taylor Little, Tony Lyvers, Mark Pruitt, Jeff Saunders, Mike Schoebert, Andrew Williams, David "Cowboy" Williams, Paul Yin, Karl Zee and Steve Wilson (pilot)
'We' were on the way to altitude, riding Sugar Alpha at Warm Springs. 'We' had gotten run off from Westwind, for being the original "Tree People"... We caught the news from the pilot... Todd was sitting beside me, knowing that either Carol, or his mother, (the other load organizer for Cowboy),... would not be around anymore... That next week of funerals marked the last funerals I have ever attended....
And, it was almost 26 years, before I jumped another Caravan.... Even then, it felt kinda strange.....
I carved the N551CC on a 'memorial rock', overlooking Skydive Hawaii...
In 1987, I dropped by Jeff's gravesite, and 'talked' with him for a few minutes. It is not far from the former DZ, (now a neighborhood of big houses..). I was returning from Z-Hills... I turned to go back to the car, and some local guy was standing there. He said, "I have never seen someone do what you just did. I hope it helped you." It did..., a little.
One of my fond memories from West Wind was learning how to hacky. Another is the Tree People. I think Ben, Russ and Phil were the anchors for the "new" tree people after Billy bought from Teresa.
Later, before the DZ was developed, I stopped by to have a few beers, think about good times and remember a few friends. I have a jar of WWSPC peas on my desk as a paperweight. It's always nice when its presence pops out of the background and into my conscious thoughts and I recall Jenkinsburg from back in the day.
Sad and tragic. Don't they teach pilots how to handle this issue ? Land straight ahead or in the best area you can... no 180's !
Yes, they do. They also teach pilots to:
1. Check for fuel contamination, 2. Pay attention when warning lights come on, 3. Make sure the plane is within weight-and-balance limits, and 4. Reject a takeoff when the engine is obviously not developing full power.
But that was Cowboy (and his pilot) for you. Too full of arrogant self confidence to pay attention to well-established safety procedures.
As for the comment that this was the first Caravan that was used exclusively for skydiving, well, there's plenty of evidence to indicate that skydiving was not the plane's only (or even primary) use.
Hi, I'm Jeff Saunders nephew. You might remember me running around the DZ with my cap guns and riding that old dog around...lol..... anyways, I would love to have some of the pea rocks if you don't mind. Thank you.
I was going through my AIT Army training at Ft. Gordon in 1984. I had a little over 500 jumps at the time. We were not allowed to have a car during this training so I would catch a ride to West Wind from a local jumper, Mike Delang was his name. I jumped there for a few months until I finished my AIT training. I went to the DZ for what I thought would be the last time. I was going to my next phase of training, Jump School at Ft. Benning, on Monday. I wouldn't have a car at jump school so this would be my last weekend at West Wind. I was saying my good byes to everyone for the last time , promising that I would be back to visit some day. When I went to Jeff to say good bye, he asked me if I might get any weekends off during jump school. I told him I had no idea. He said " well if you get a day off, come visit us" and he handed me the keys to the dropzone van. I was speechless. He said "use it as long as you need it". I will never forget the looks on the Black hats faces (jump school instructors) when I came rolling into Ft. Benning in a van with WEST WIND SKYDIVING CENTER plastered on the side of it. I was called out by the instructors the first day of training and dogged pretty hard for the entire training. It was a wonderful time in my life and your uncle was a big part of it. I got to go back to the DZ a few more times during my stay at Ft Benning. I can't remember exactly how I returned the van to Jeff before going to my permanent party station at FT. Bragg. I visited Jeff and Teresa on my way back from the Mardi Gras Boogie, I think it was 1985, It was the last time I got to see them. If you are still in contact with Teresa, please tell her I said hello. Thanks, Cliff