NTSB releases report on Guntersville pilot's deadly Florida cras - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

NTSB releases report on Guntersville pilot's deadly Florida crash

William Greenhaw (Source: WAFF) William Greenhaw (Source: WAFF)
GUNTERSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Guntersville Airport manager Bob Martin confirmed that William Greenhaw was found dead in his plane’s wreckage north of Cross City, Florida on the morning of Dec. 22, 2017.

The FAA issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) for a Beechcraft BE-35 aircraft that did not arrive when expected at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Florida on Dec. 22.

According to Guntersville Airport manager Bob Martin, federal investigators contacted the airport Dec. 21 to say they’ve been searching for a plane all day with no success. 

Guntersville Airport officials said the plane was piloted by William Greenhaw. Airport officials also say they were contacted that morning and were told that possible wreckage may have been found in North Central Florida.

Officials tell us the Greenhaw's last communication with his son was a text message and in the message, Greenhaw told his son that he was having headwinds and he would be late arriving.   

The aircraft reportedly took off Dec. 20 afternoon heading for Melbourne, Florida but never arrived.

The FAA says the aircraft departed from Guntersville Municipal Airport in Alabama on December 20. The pilot was the only person on board. A concerned family member reported that the BE-35 did not arrive, and the FAA issued the ALNOT to alert airports, public safety agencies and search and rescue officials to begin looking for the aircraft.

Greenhaw did not file a flight plan, so air traffic control did not provide service for the flight. 

The FAA does not search for aircraft, local authorities and search and rescue officials conduct the search.

Friends say Greenhaw was in excellent health for his age and was well known in the aviation community in the Guntersville area.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on Jan. 5, 2018. It reads as follows:

On December 20, 2017, about 1900 eastern standard time, a Beech G35, N354WD, was destroyed when it impacted wooded terrain, while maneuvering near Cross City, Florida. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the planned flight to Melbourne International Airport (MLB), Melbourne, Florida. The flight originated from Guntersville Municipal Airport (8A1), Guntersville, Alabama, about 1530 eastern standard time.

The pilot's family reported the airplane overdue and it was subsequently located in marshy wooded terrain on December 22, 2017. Review of preliminary radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed a target with a 1200 transponder code, that was consistent with the accident airplane. During cruise flight, as the target proceeded over Florida, it climbed from 3,400 ft mean sea level (msl) to 7,100 ft msl. It then made two left 360° turns, followed by a rapid descent to 1,400 ft msl. The target then flew east at alternating altitudes below 2,500 ft msl, and then turned south toward Tallahassee, Florida, flying s-turns and descending to 1,400 ft. The target proceeded south at 1,100 ft msl until 1849, when it flew near a cold front boundary. At that time, the target completed numerous course deviations, including three complete left circuits and two right circuits, before disappearing from radar coverage about .4 mile east of the accident site.

A debris path was observed; beginning with freshly cut tree branches descending about a 45° angle and extending approximately 50 ft on a magnetic heading of 240° to the main wreckage. The main wreckage came to rest inverted and was oriented about a 060° magnetic heading. The engine was in an approximate 3-ft-deep crater about halfway along the debris path. One propeller blade remained attached to the engine and one propeller blade had separated. The separated propeller blade exhibited tip curling, s-bending, leading edge gouging and chordwise scratching. The propeller blade that remained attached to the propeller hub exhibited s-bending. The vacuum pump remained attached to the engine and was removed for examination. When the vacuum pump driveshaft was rotated by hand, intake air and exhaust air were confirmed to their respective ports. The vacuum pump was then disassembled, and all the vanes were intact. Rotational scoring was noted on the vacuum pump housing.

The landing gear and flaps were retracted. The cockpit was crushed and the pilot's lapbelt remained intact, but was cut by rescue personnel. The fuel selector was found positioned to the left main fuel tank and the magnetos were on both. The mixture control was in a forward position while the propeller and throttle controls were in a mid-range position. The attitude indicator was not recovered; however, the turn and bank coordinator was recovered. It had separated from the instrument panel and its face was destroyed. When the turn and bank coordinator was disassembled, its gyro was intact and exhibited rotational scoring. The altimeter had also separated from the instrument panel and indicated 2,600 ft with a setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.

The right wing inboard section and flap remained attached. The outboard section of right aileron separated and was located about 10 ft north of the engine. The left wing remained partially attached to the fuselage and was folded upward. The left flap and left aileron remained attached to the left wing. The right ruddervator remained attached to the right stabilator. The inboard half of the left ruddervator remained attached to the left stabilator. The outboard half of the left ruddervator had separated and was located about 15 ft south of the main wreckage. Control continuity was confirmed from the right aileron and the left aileron bellcrank to the mid-cabin area. Ruddervator and ruddervator trim continuity were confirmed from the control surfaces to the control stick in the cockpit. Measurement of the ruddervator trim actuator corresponded to a neutral setting.

The pilot, age 78, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on August 6, 2015. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 4,405 hours. The pilot applied for BasicMed privileges on September 1, 2017.

The six-seat, low-wing, retractable tricycle-gear airplane, serial number D-4458, was manufactured in 1956. It was powered by a Continental E225, 225-horsepower engine, equipped with a constant-speed, two-blade Hartzell propeller.

Cross City Airport (CTY), Cross City, Florida, was located about 11 miles southeast of the accident site. The recorded weather at CTY, at 1855, was: wind from 210° at 9 knots, gusting to 15 knots; visibility 10 miles; overcast ceiling at 600 ft; temperature 21°C; dew point 21°C, altimeter 30.05 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

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