Wrightwood, CA Three Civil Air Patrol Members Die in Crash of CAP Cessna 182 During Search Mission, Jan 1995
Date and time of accident: 01/14/1995, 1136 PST
This time, they lost one of their own.
While searching for a downed flier in the snow-covered wilderness of the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, the Civil Air Patrol lost a crew in an accident just as sudden and tragic as the hundreds of aircraft crashes it searches for every year.
The unpaid civilian volunteers of this search-and-rescue arm of the Air Force fly in the most dangerous of circumstances--low, slow and typically over treacherous mountains in threatening weather.
On Saturday, that combination turned deadly as a Cessna 182 carrying pilot Robert A. Leman and observers Brian Perkin and James C. Spadafore, crashed on the rugged slopes of Mt. Baldy, killing all aboard.
Worsening weather forced the CAP aircraft out of the air, and on Sunday morning the Sheriff's Department located the wreck. And as the harsh weekend weather cleared to blue skies Monday, officials were able to remove the bodies. Just why the plane crashed is still under investigation.
It's been 12 years and thousands of missions since the Civil Air Patrol lost one of its crews in an air crash, and members of this quasi-military unit are taking the loss of the three members hard.
"We never expect this," said Patrol Chaplin Dan Dyer. "It's like losing part of your family."
In the search-and-rescue trade, you deal with someone's tragedy on just about every mission, added Col. Sydney Wolfe. "But it's not normally our own," said Wolfe, based in San Jose where the ill-fated flight originated. "A lot of us are in shock, disbelief. We just don't understand it."
The Civil Air Patrol is kind of a flying Red Cross, a Salvation Army in the sky that searches for lost aircraft, lends a hand in all sorts of natural disasters and provides training for youth.
The patrol--founded in 1941, just days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor--is the civilian auxiliary of the Air Force.
It's primary purpose is to lead missions to find missing aircraft and rescue survivors. In California alone last year it mounted more than 360 missions, making it the busiest of the 50 state organizations, or wings as they are known. Nationally, the CAP handles thousands of aerial missions each year.
the pilots and observers are all volunteers. About half of patrol members are pilots, but they all love aircraft and flying.
"It's the mystery of flying that has been felt since Kitty Hawk," said Capt. Wyn Selwyn, a member of the Francis Gary Powers Squadron based in Lancaster.
The roster of members is diverse, from truck drivers and clerks to doctors, academics and housewives. Many are retired, and many are veterans who like staying close to a military organization, said California Wing Commander Angelo Porco.
Most use their own aircraft without any reimbursement beyond a token payment for fuel. In California, there are more than 4,000 active members who supply several hundred private aircraft.
The CAP also owns and operates 27 small, single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft funded by grants from the Air Force.
These slow, propeller-driven aircraft are better suited for search efforts than the faster, state-of-the-art Air Force jets, because they can get closer to the ground and allow their binocular-wearing observers to take a longer look. "It's low, slow and dangerous," said Porco, noting that in searches, the aircraft are often just 500 feet above ground.
After last year's Northridge earthquake, the Civil Air Patrol used its crews and available aircraft to ferry public officials to disaster sites for inspections. The patrol also helped police and firefighters commute by air to affected areas in Los Angeles from their homes in far flung areas such as the Antelope Valley.
Sometimes, missions are more terrestrial. "After last year's earthquake, we flew forklifts and skip-loaders," to help in relief efforts, Porco said.
CAP members also are trained in land-rescue techniques and are often called on to help in wilderness searches. On Sunday, CAP members were among the 30 rescuers racing overland to the crash site hoping to find the three crew members still alive.
Such missions are mounted like any other complex military operation, said Selwyn, who first joined CAP in 1948 as a cadet.
- Frederick M. Muir, LA Times, January 17, 1995
A CIVIL AIR PATROL (CAP) CREW WAS CONDUCTING A SEARCH AND RESCUE MISSION IN MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN. AFTER 40 MINUTES OF FLIGHT TIME, THE PILOT REPORTED 'OPS NORMAL' TO CAP OPERATIONS. ANOTHER AIRCRAFT, WHICH WAS CONDUCTING A GRID SEARCH IN AN ADJACENT AREA, REPORTED HEARING AN ELT SIGNAL 25 MINUTES LATER. REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO CONTACT THE ACCIDENT AIRCRAFT BY RADIO WERE UNSUCCESSFUL. LOCALIZED WEATHER CONDITIONS WITH STRONG WINDS, DOWNDRAFTS, AND TURBULENCE WERE NOTED BY OTHER SEARCH AIRCRAFT AND PILOT WITNESSES FLYING IN THE AREA AT THE TIME. THE AIRCRAFT IMPACTED NEAR THE CREST OF A RIDGE AND WAS FOUND ORIENTED VERTICALLY TO THE HORIZON. EXTENSIVE AND FULL SPAN REARWARD LEADING EDGE CRUSH DEFORMATION WAS OBSERVED ON BOTH WINGS. NO AIRFRAME OR ENGINE DISCREPANCIES WERE FOUND DURING THE INVESTIGATION.
Probable Cause and Findings
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
the pilot's loss of aircraft control and subsequent inadvertent stall/spin following an encounter with a localized mountain wave condition and turbulence while conducting a search mission in close proximity to mountainous terrain.
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On January 14, 1995, at 1136 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 182R, N9706E, was destroyed by ground impact in mountainous terrain while maneuvering near Wrightwood, California. The aircraft was owned and operated by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and was on a search and rescue (SAR) mission as a public use aircraft. Visual meteorological conditions were prevalent at the time and a composite VFR/IFR flight plan had been filed for the operation. The certificated commercial pilot, his observer, and scanner sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated from Cable Airport, Upland, California, at 1029 on the day of the accident.
The crew was conducting a search and rescue (SAR) as assigned by the California Wing of the CAP. CAP operations conducted a mission briefing for three SAR aircraft and made grid assignments in the search area. All three aircraft departed IFR, and after breaking out in VFR conditions, initiated searches in their assigned areas. At 1111, the pilot reported "ops normal" to CAP operations. Another CAP aircraft, which was conducting a grid search in an area adjacent to and west of the accident site, reported hearing an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal at 1136. The CAP reported that the minimum altitude for conducting searches is 500 feet agl.
The pilot was a CAP trained and qualified search and rescue pilot. He received his initial check flight on September 10, 1983. A review of his training records showed he had received satisfactory entries including "mountainous terrain procedures," such as "wind/updrafts/downdrafts" and "mountain wave effects" in his CAP training records. He attended a CAP "mountain clinic" on May 18-19, 1990. His last check flight was conducted on April 4, 1994, and he was rated as "mountainous terrain qualified."
All three occupants of the aircraft were certified pilots. On this mission pilot duties were limited to the PIC.
The aircraft forms and records were reviewed by investigators with no discrepancies noted. The aircraft was equipped with fully functioning dual controls.
The pilot was given a verbal weather briefing by the CAP operations officer based on weather obtained through a direct user channel access terminal (DUAT). Localized weather conditions including downdrafts and turbulence in the vicinity of mountainous terrain were noted by witnesses flying near the accident location.
Two CAP aircraft were searching on grids adjacent to the east and west of the grid occupied by the accident aircraft.
The crew in the grid to the east reported weather in the search area as clear with unrestricted visibility. Cloud layers were visible about 40 miles to the west. Winds were said to be from the west with the top of Mt. San Antonio obscured by clouds. In that area, cloud bases were estimated as 7,500 to 8,000 feet with tops variable from 9,000 to 10,500. While flying a Cessna 206 on a search pattern on the north side of Mt. San Antonio they reported encountering significant downdrafts. During one west to east pass on the leeward side of a ridge, intense downdrafts were encountered and the pilot was forced to turn north and away from higher terrain. They noted that as the morning progressed clouds began moving into the area, hampering their search.
The second crew to the west of the accident site reported being VFR as they entered the search area. They also reported seeing clouds in the vicinity of Mt. San Antonio with bases between 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Conditions were described as smooth with no turbulence until their search path reached the northeastern portion of the grid. The crew noted that as the morning progressed weather in their "search area began to deteriorate."
A flight test engineer who was flying in the vicinity of the accident site and north of the predominant east/west ridgeline, reported light to moderate clear air turbulence and lenticular clouds building up between 1015 and 1100 on the day of the accident. He stated that he returned to the area later that day and then departed when he noted that the conditions had intensified.
CAP mission planning included instructions to all crews to establish and maintain air-to-air communication between search aircraft upon their arrival in their assigned search areas. The aircraft was on an assigned transponder code of 0215 and was visible on radar until 1129.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On January 15, 1995, the aircraft was found by aerial search personnel at the 7,700 foot level of the Angeles National Forest, at latitude 34 degrees 18.46 minutes and longitude 117 degrees 39.09 minutes, in an area covered by 80-foot pine trees. The site was near the crest of a ridge on terrain that sloped downward between 45 and 60 degrees. The ground was frozen and covered with about 1-foot of snow and ice. The final position of the aircraft was approximately 4 feet down slope from a visible ground scar. Tree limbs were found within 10 to 15 feet of the wreckage and exhibited evidence of fresh breaks. The terrain at the impact site was rocky and rescuers stated they believed they saw evidence on the ground of a fuel spill in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft.
The aircraft's final position was nose down with the main wings nearly perpendicular to the terrain. The nose was crushed rearward aft of the leading edge of the main wings. Both main wings exhibited extensive crushing along the leading edges extending from wing tip to wing tip. The was no discernable bending or twisting evident with either wing.
The fuselage was collapsed and was found in a near vertical position. The empennage had collapsed and rotated forward over the top of the main wings.
The flight control surfaces were in place; however, the associated control cables were either broken or loose. The instrument panel was destroyed and prevented the establishment of instrument readings and settings, as well as switch positions.
Rescue personnel reported that the No. 2 blade of the propeller had separated and was located several feet from the aircraft. The blade was not found again after the recovery process was completed. The No. 1 blade came out of the hub during the removal of the propeller from the crankshaft. The blade was bent aft and exhibited leading and trailing edge gouges and scaring.
The propeller governor had been partially separated in an aft direction. The governor base plate exhibited impact marks corresponding to individual oil pump gear teeth.
The oil sump was crushed upwards, as was the muffler. Both exhaust manifolds exhibited some crushing. The right intake manifold was fractured and the carburetor had been pulled off. The mounting bolts were found stripped. The carburetor was found with the throttle valve in the closed position and the mixture arm in the lean position. All four engine mounts were fractured. The oil filter, starter, alternator, vacuum pump, and both magnetos had separated and were missing. The rocker covers for No. 1, 2, and 5 were crushed and breached. The crankshaft was displaced rearward into the case and could not be rotated.
According to the Continental Motors representative, no preimpact discrepancies were noted during the inspection of the engine.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. The results from the toxicological screening of samples submitted to the Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) were negative.
At 1136, a strong but intermittent ELT signal was received by search aircraft and alerted them to the possibility of a downed aircraft. After repeated attempts to contact the accident aircraft by radio failed, a search was initiated based on the ELT signal. According to CAP personnel, the initial lack of ability to DF the signal made it difficult to quickly locate the aircraft. A second aircraft with DF capability joined the search. Due to deteriorating weather delaying the search, the aircraft was not located until 0846 the next morning.
The wreckage of the aircraft was found in an area not accessible by ground recovery equipment. Continued adverse weather conditions, several feet of snow, and the inaccessibility of the area precluded an on-site examination of the aircraft. Recovery was deferred until more favorable environmental conditions resumed and a military aerial recovery unit could be scheduled for retrieval. The aircraft was recovered on July 24, 1995.
The aircraft wreckage was released on September 6, 1995, in writing to the Commander of the California Wing of the CAP.
A plane searching for an aircraft that has been missing since Dec. 31 crashed near Mt. Baldy, killing three. 3 Killed in Crash of Search Plane Aviation: Civil Air Patrol unit went down Saturday while looking for a small aircraft reported missing in Mt. Baldy area Dec. 31. By KENNETH REICH TIMES STAFF WRITER UPLAND-The UPLAND-The UPLAND-The bodies of all three members of a volunteer Civil Air Patrol search team were found Sunday in the wreckage of their light plane in the San Gabriel Mountains, a tragic end to an attempt to find a plane and pilot missing for two weeks. The commander of the patrol's California California wing, Col. Angelo A. Porco, said it was the first time in 12 years that one of its search missions ended in a fatal crash. Among the victims was pilot Robert A. Leman, 48, of San Jose, a frequent leader not only of search missions but of emergency flights to deliver organs for transplants. "Our people yesterday had a job to do," said Porco. "Their loss hurts us as a family." The colonel said that after searching for little more than an hour, the plane plowed into a saddle at the 7,700-foot 7,700-foot 7,700-foot level between Mt. Baldy and Pine Mountain at 11:36 a.m. Saturday. That was the time, Porco said, that the Cessna 182's emergency locater transmitter transmitter began sending out a signal-without signal-without signal-without any prior warning of trouble from the craft. In the rugged terrain, and amid occasional wind and rain storms, it took other air units and ground rescue teams all day and night to designate a half-mile half-mile half-mile search area, he said. Then, around 9 a.m. Sunday, a Los Angeles County sheriff's rescue helicopter spotted the wreckage. Within 25 minutes, the sheriff's Air 5 rescue helicopter arrived on the scene, and paramedics using ropes climbed down to the plane. All the victims were still in the aircraft. A CAP deputy in San Jose identified the dead as Leman, a computer software engineer and commercial pilot who had been a Patrol volunteer for 12 years; Brian Perkin, 39, a products planner for Novell Inc. and an eight-year eight-year eight-year Patrol volunteer from Santa Clara; and James C. Spadafore, 62, a two-year Patrol volunteer.
- LA Times
Video - https://youtu.be/4VR4Cf0H3AI
Robert Allan Leman Find a Grave memorial - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49119632/robert-allan-leman
Brian Murray Perkin Find a Grave memorial - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/110358060/brian-murray-perkin