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NTSB posts preliminary report on Nunn airplane crash

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Wednesday, July 9th, 2008 at 12:50 pm in Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

The National Transportation Safety Board has posted its preliminary report on the fatal June 28 airplane crash of Oakley residents Erik and Tanya Nunn and Craig and Michele Wilson.

Click here to link to the NTSB web page and enter the aircraft registration number, N4063W, in the appropriate field in order to read the preliminary report.

It’s a bare-bones account of the crash that occurred outside of Las Vegas near Mount Charleston, Nevada. It offers no speculation or conclusions about the cause of the accident. The NTSB can take up to a year or longer to determine the cause of a plane crash.

According to the report, the Piper PA-32-300 hit the ground around 2:50 p.m. about 20 minutes after pilot Erik Nunn, who was a run-off candidate for the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, took off from the North Las Vegas Airport. Nunn received his pilot’s license on Sept. 11, 2006.

Fueling records at the airport show that Nunn had fueled the plane with 43 gallons of 100-octane fuel on the day of the accident.

Two witnesses saw the Piper before it crashed, including a U.S. Forest Service employee who told investigators the plane passed just below his residence, located about 7,550 feet in elevation on the side of Mount Charleston. The aircraft was flying “straight and level, did not appear to be gaining altitude and that the engine noise was ‘full throttle.’ ”

A second woman near the same location said the “engine was running and that the wings appeared to be rocking. She looked away and heard a popping sound, and when she returned her gaze, (she) observed a fire erupt in the area.”

The plane struck a tree roughly 40 feet off the ground on a 10-degree uphill slope at the base of Mount Charleston at an elevation of roughly 7,600 feet. The leading edge of the wing section had a “12-inch circumferential indentation that corresponded to the diameter of the tree trunk,” the report said.

There is no mention in the report of the plane hitting a power line, which was stated in several news accounts of the crash. (Click here to read a Las Vegas Review Journal story and see photos.)

At the time of the accident, the NTSB report said, the skies were clear, winds were 11 knots gusting to 18 knots, visibilty was 10 miles and the temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Investigators had the wreckage removed from the site for investigation, according to the report.

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  • John W.

    This sounds like a mechanical problem of some kind rather than pilot error. However, I was surprised to learn that Erik had not been a licensed pilot very long. I’ve always heard that mountain flying in small planes can present all kinds of challenges to inexperienced pilots. Very tragic, especially for the kids.

  • John W.

    This sounds like a mechanical problem of some kind rather than pilot error. However, I was surprised to learn that Erik had not been a licensed pilot very long. I’ve always heard that mountain flying in small planes can present all kinds of challenges to inexperienced pilots. Very tragic, especially for the kids.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    John,

    I utterly lack the qualifications to evaluate the technical information provided in the NTSB preliminary memo as to the likely cause of the crash.

    But, like you, I’ve also heard that flying over the mountains in small airplanes poses challenges. When I lived in Carson City, Nev., near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, pilots I knew would talk often about the risks of flying in through the rising hot air from the desert.

    No matter what the cause of the crash turns out to be, it’s pretty clear that airplanes are far less forgiving on our frail human bodies than automobiles that break down or crash due to driver error.

    My husband and I sail and we often talk about the added dimension of water in the event of catastrophic failure of the boat or a mistake at the helm. It’s something we think about every time we leave the dock, although I suppose we should worry more each time we leave the driveway in our car, too.

    It’s very, very sad, indeed.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    John,

    I utterly lack the qualifications to evaluate the technical information provided in the NTSB preliminary memo as to the likely cause of the crash.

    But, like you, I’ve also heard that flying over the mountains in small airplanes poses challenges. When I lived in Carson City, Nev., near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, pilots I knew would talk often about the risks of flying in through the rising hot air from the desert.

    No matter what the cause of the crash turns out to be, it’s pretty clear that airplanes are far less forgiving on our frail human bodies than automobiles that break down or crash due to driver error.

    My husband and I sail and we often talk about the added dimension of water in the event of catastrophic failure of the boat or a mistake at the helm. It’s something we think about every time we leave the dock, although I suppose we should worry more each time we leave the driveway in our car, too.

    It’s very, very sad, indeed.

  • Paul Tinnirello

    This is very very tragic, left a huge impression on me. I fly for fun. This type of accident raises many many questions, it also reminds us just how one seemingly little mistake can turn out to be the test of our lives.Flying gives us the test first and the lesson afterwards.None of us, no matter how experienced, we aren’t in the clear. My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and all of the families.
    Paul Tinnirello

  • Paul Tinnirello

    This is very very tragic, left a huge impression on me. I fly for fun. This type of accident raises many many questions, it also reminds us just how one seemingly little mistake can turn out to be the test of our lives.Flying gives us the test first and the lesson afterwards.None of us, no matter how experienced, we aren’t in the clear. My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and all of the families.
    Paul Tinnirello