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The NTSB report on Galen Rowell's plane crash

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The NTSB report on Galen Rowell's plane crash

Postby Buck Forester » Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:58 am

I'm sure all of you know who Galen Rowell is, especially if you're in this High Sierra Photography section of the forum. He was a great inspiration to me, as well as to others here, I'm sure. I took his death pretty hard, harder than any non-family member I've ever had. (John Denver's death was pretty tough too). I was always wondering about the full NTSB report on the plane crash while approaching Bishop airport that killed him. I finally came across the full report. Many of you may have already read it, but if you haven't and are interested, here's the report. God rest his soul (as well as the others on the plane).

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Postby Robert » Sun Jun 11, 2006 9:57 am


The report you provided a link to is called the "Factual" report. It provides a great deal of technical mumbo-jumbo and can lead to some confusion about what really happened to that flight.

If you look at the NTSB website, you'll see three different report types. Preliminary, Factual, and Probable Cause reports. Here's a link to the Probable Cause report. ... 251&rpt=fi

In my 20+ years experience in aviation maintenance, I can sort of read between the lines in that Factual report. It sounds to me like the pilot (who also owned the aircraft) was engaged in trying to offset his expenses by flying passengers for hire. He was not properly certified to do that nor was the pilot "current" in this type of aircraft for night operations. This is, of course, only my opinion.

Furthermore, the report told about a discrepancy with the airplane's pressurization system. The pilot was reported to have told the mechanic who found the discrepancy that he had a part on order and would repair it at a later date. If an aircraft has a mechanical discrepancy which is not within some acceptable limits provided by the manufacturer, the aircraft is not airworthy and should not be flown....period.

I know this diatribe doesn't do any good after the fact, but it serves as a lesson for others who might find themselves in similar situations. When you get into an airplane, you think the person at the controls knows what he's doing and has the legal right to be there. That sometimes isn't the case. Ask questions.

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Postby nazdarovye » Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:20 pm

As a pilot, and also a photographer who has long admired Galen Rowell and his work, this one hit me hard, too. (His wife was a pilot as well, and wrote a fine book on their adventures flying to South America.)

The bottom line of the report, regardless of whether the pilot was fully compliant with the regulations (and he should have been), is that he appears to have made a simple and unfortunately not uncommon mistake: he stalled the plane (aerodynamically) on the base to final turn.

What a tragic waste.

- Steve
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