Ol' Buffalo Aviation Page

Copyright 2007, 2017 by Blaine S Nay, Cedar City, Utah, USA
Captain, Boeing 747, Atlas Air; Captain, Boeing 737, MarkAir
Serving the online community since 1992.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you're reading this in English, thank a veteran.

Type "Ctrl-D" to add this page to your bookmarks.

Buffalo Nickle

Ol' Buffalo

Website Menu

Ol' Buffalo Blog

Nay/McNee Email Log-In

Subscribe to MarkAir Message Group

Subscribe to Nay/McNee Message Group

Subscribe to Daily Thought-Provoking Quotes Via Email

Follow me on Twitter






Black Powder



Do It Yourself






Gun Control

Ham Radio





Issues and Politics

Job Search


Mental Health



Outdoor Cooking

Personal Finance





Reference Desk





Time Hack



Privacy Notice

Porn Warning

Virus Warning


Contact Webmaster

Yup. Same airplane at Tonopah, Nevada after its final flight on 17 Jun 2007.

My Time In The Life Of N6511R

Hover your mouse over each photo for comments.

Here is the ad photo that caught my eye in the fall of 2006. Another photo of N6511R at her former home in Arkansas. Nice paint. Nice interoir.

I bought this Beechcraft Sierra B24R from a father-son partnership in Arkansas. She was in good shape with fairly new paint and interior. The engine had a bit over 340 hours. A look at the logs indicated that she's had several owners including at least one flight school. The deal was sealed via emails and by phone. I got a thorough Sierra check-out by a CFI in Ohio in his airplane, then traveled to Arkansas to fly her to her new home in October, 2006.

Here she sits on the ramp just after I brought her to her new home in Utah (CDC). Here is the panel as it was just before I bought her.
A shot of the left panel just after I brought her home. A shot of the right panel just after I brought her home.

After over 30 years of flying military and airline hardware, I'd been kinda spoiled. I had to have an HSI and wanted an IFR GPS to replace the old Garmin III VFR GPS. I arranged for Flight Trails Helicopters in Mesa, Arizona to do the avionics upgrade.

  • HSI - Century slaved NSD-360A (the old course indicator #2 was removed)

  • Fuel Flow Indicator - Electronics International FP-5L (below the HSI - talks to the GPS!)

  • GPS & Comm-Nav #1 - Garmin GNS-430 connected to the HSI

  • Comm-Nav #2 - Michel MX-170B connected to the remaining Course Indicator

  • Transponder - Garmin GTX-327 (talks to the GPS!)

  • DME was updated to be remotely tuned by either Nav 1 in the GPS or Nav 2 in the Michel

  • The KR-85 ADF/boat anchor still works, so I elected to keep it, but probably should have had it removed

Several times during the installation, I'd get a call or an email from Flight Trails regarding problems they'd encountered.

  • Both the pitot and static lines needed repair. While doing that, they discovered a leak in one of the landing gear

  • The old King transponder wasn't transmitting, hence the new Garmin transponder

  • The Comm antennas needed replacing

  • While doing the antenna work, they discovered rotten cabin vent hoses

  • While running the wiring for the Fuel Flow indicator, they noticed holes in the exhaust system

  • The factory fuel indicators were giving bizarre readings. That was corrected and gave an excuse to add the Fuel Flow Indicator system (which has consistently been off less than 1/2%)

While these problems resulted in cost overruns, but gave me a better, more reliable airplane. Additionally, my annual inspection a few months latter went smoothly with no new-found discrepancy other than worn brakes. I am very happy with the work done at Flight Trails.

She spent a couple of months in Mesa for an avionics upgrade. Here is her new HSI above the new Fuel Flow Indicator. She also got a new IFR-certified Garmin 430 and a new Garmin 327 transponder to go with her new Michel MX-170B comm-nav.

I have found the Sierra to be a pleasure to fly -- especially after getting all this work done. I even had occasion to fly a couple of real-IFR GPS approaches on the west coast.

This month (June, 2007) I took a trip with my bride of 34 years. We flew from Cedar City, Utah to the Seattle area to visit some grandkids. We continued to the San Francisco area where my wife attended a week-long conference.

On 17 June, 2007, we headed home to Cedar City. We made a fuel/potty-break stop in Tonopah, Nevada. I filed a VFR flight plan from Tonopah, Nevada to Cedar City, Utah via DUATS but had not yet activated it.

The aircraft was loaded 3 pounds under the maximum gross weight. Preflight checks showed the engine, propeller, magnetos and flight controls to be operating normally. Doors were verified as closed. Trim was set in the white band marked on the trim indicator. I selected one notch (15 degrees) of flaps for the takeoff.

The ASOS reported gusting winds to be from the northwest and a temperature of 21 degrees, That gives a very high density altitude of about 8,400 feet. Normally-aspirated engines are dogs under such conditions.

At approximately 2100 UTC (1400 PDT) I took off on runway 33 at the Tonopah, Nevada airport. I rotated at 80 knots. Throughout the short flight, the engine was producing full power. No abnormalities were apparent until I was about 30 feet above the ground and climbing at about 100 mph. At that point, I was at least half-way down the runway and initiated retraction of the landing gear. The landing gear retracted at slightly different rates which caused momentary but noticeable yaw (typical for this aircraft). Simultaneously with the landing-gear-caused yaw, the left (pilot's) door popped open about 3-4" and I felt a slight increase in drag. The aircraft simultaneously began an uncontrollable slow roll the right and slowly pitched down. On impact, I estimate that the aircraft was in a right bank about 20-30 degrees and had pitched down about 10-20 degrees. I tried to correct the un-commanded roll and pitch, but the aircraft struck the ground approximately 100-200 feet right of the runway and approximately even with the runway's end. The wreckage was only about 50 feet from the initial point of impact, so the airplane and our bodies absorbed most of the kinetic energy on that first impact. The perception I had was a single lawn-dart stop into the desert -- not a slide or a bounce. There were no marks in the soil between the first impact point and the aircraft's final resting place. So, it did not slide to a stop but apparently bounced. The stall horn never sounded nor was there any other evidence of stall such as airframe buffet. I believe that the loss of roll and pitch control resulted from a disruption of normal airflow over the left elevator with the door ajar.

At the moment of impact, the engine was still producing full power and the flaps were still set at one notch. I was able to exit the aircraft after using my pocketknife to cut my seatbelt and shoulder belt. My wife was unable to exit the aircraft because the structure had crushed in a way to wedge her legs between the rudders and her seat. She had to be removed by rescue workers who dismantled part of the aircraft to free her legs. Although there was the smell of fuel fumes, there was no post-crash fire. The gusty winds dissipated the fumes before they could reach a flammable concentration.

The gentleman from whom we had just bought fuel reported to the FAA that he heard me take off and that the engine sounded normal. He assumed that we were safely on our way. As mentioned previously, I had filed a flight plan, but had not yet activated it, so the flight following process would not have begun searching for us at our estimated arrival time at Cedar City. On top of that, our Emergency Locator Transmitter did not activate on impact as it should have. Were it not for our proximity to the airport, my possession of a cell phone, our being within cell phone coverage, and the fact that I was not incapacitated, we might have sat unrescued for many hours or even a few days.

As you can see from the photos below, the airplane was destroyed.

Front view. The north-west end of runway 33 is in the background. Here, one can see the backside of the instrument panel.
A closer look at the back of the instrument panel. That's a new prop spinner I had installed just after I got my baby in October 2006.
Photo taken from the direction of travel. That's the nose gear in the foreground. The main gear are in the wings. My wife was in the right front seat. Her legs were trapped between the rudder peddals and her seat.
No, Beechcraft did not install this cargo door on the right-hand side. I had this new dorsal fairing installed during this year's annual.
That tailcone is new. The fairing around the anti-collision light was installed during this year's annual.
This wing still contains 20 gallons of 100LL. The right wing had leaked dry by the next day whien this photo was taken. My door came open after takeoff and broke loose on impact.
A look into the cockpit. The plexiglass is scatered around the wreckage. Emergency personnel had to do a little demolition to get my wife out.
A look at the panel from the cargo area. I think I got the ragged tear/cut on my left hand from the yoke slamming backward on impact.
There's my precious new GPS -- bought it on eBay! In the center of the screen, one can see the nose gear. To the right and on the near edge of the dirt road is the mark left by the initial impact of the nose.
My wife's injuries included a compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) and fractured/dislocated bones in the left foot, and a fractured sternum where the yoke hit her. My injuries were limited to bruises, a 12-stitch laceration on the left hand, a fracture in the left ankle, a dislocation in the shoulder, and my pride. We were very lucky to have survived. A couple of the people in the emergency room said that we were surrounded by angels. Of that, I am sure. But some of those angels included the members Tonopah's all-volunteer EMT team and fire department who took care of us at the crash scene and got us to the hospital. More mortal angels cared for our injuries in the Tonopah hospital and flew my wife to Las Vegas for care that Tonopah was unable to provide. After my wife's release from the hospital, still more angels (our neighbors) bought in home-cooked meals so I could focus on tending my wife.

Of course, I have gone over this accident in my mind a thousand times. All I can come up with is that I was unable to cope with a combination of factors which included high density altitude, high gross weight, wind shear, disruption of airflow over the wing and elevator due to the open door, the distraction of the open door, degraded performance due to the drag of the open door, and insufficient altitude to recover from the un-commanded pitch and roll.

The FAA/NTSB accident investigation revealed that Beechcraft Sierras were the subject of a 1990 Beechcraft "Safety Communique" concerning cabin door operation/openings. The Communique states that an open cabin door does not change an airplane's flight characteristics. However, it does state that an aircraft's climb performance can be decreased up to 130 feet per minute from handbook values, and that the decrease in climb performance can be more significant at high density altitudes. The performance section of the Pilot's Operating Handbook indicates the airplane should climb at about 300 feet per minute at the gross weight we had on that day. Subtract from that a 130 feet-per-minute penalty for an open door and the airplane can be expect to climb, at best, 170 feet per minute. That's just not much performance to deal with wind shear a few feet above the surface.

With over 20,000 hours in my logbook with nary a scratch on an airplane, I can say I'm no rookie. Nevertheless, I got into a very serious situation that I could have avoided by waiting a few hours for cooler air and for the gusty winds to die down. I could have flown with a lighter fuel load (we only need a bit more than half the 40 gallons we had on board). My wife and I could have traveled with a bit less luggage. I could have checked the security of that door one more time.

It's a hard-learned lesson about heavy-weight operations at high density altitudes with gusty winds. If everything else goes well, you'll probably get away with it. But, there is no margin for anything to go wrong. And it did. And there are no do-overs.

"Young man, was that a landing or were we shot down?" -- Elderly woman's challenge to an airline pilot

Back to Top

Index to Aviation Web Page

Click here to support this website with a voluntary $2 donation. Even better: Skip this donation and buy something you need from one of my advertisers. They're companies I trust for service, quality, and price.

While we thank them for their support of this website, the ol' Buffalo had no role in picking the GoogleAds herein. Their appearance is not an endorsement by the Ol' Buffalo.

visit mormon.org.

Mormon blogs

Mormon blogs

Index to LDS missionary reunion websites

Campaign for Liberty's mission is promoting and defending the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. I am the Campaign for Liberty.

A program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

Join NRA here.

I teach most NRA firearms courses

I can certify new instructors for most NRA firearms courses

Concealed Carry

Join the NRA Good Guys List!


The Firearms Coalition

Support 2nd amendment

Gun Owners of America

Second Amendment Foundation

Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Second Amendment Project

Tom Gresham's Truth Squad - No lie left unchallenged!

Keep and Bear Arms

Armed Citizens Network

Civilian Marksmanship Program

Utah State Rifle and Pistol Assn

Utah Shooting Sports Council

International Practical Shooting Confederation

United States Parctical Shooting Association

Single Action Shooting Society

Appleseed Project: Become a rifleman!

American Sheepdog

Provides legal and financial assistance to selected individuals and organizations defending their right to keep and bear arms

Gun facts

Bruce Colodny, firearms lawyer

Mule Deer Foundation

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

National Wild Turkey Federation

Stop poachers!

A human right

College students, parents and concerned citizens who support the right of concealed carry license holders to carry on our college campuses

Gun Rights Radio Network podcasts

Enforce the Bill of Rights!

Support 2nd Amendment

Utah Summer Games

GunBroker.com Online Gun Auction

Walther firearms

Springfield Armory

Ruger firearms

Smith & Wesson firearms

Thompson/Center firearms

Rock River Arms

Kahr Arms

Shop Brownells.com!


Champion Shooters Supply

Sportsmans Warehouse


Gander Mountain

When you're serious about stopping power

Bulk Ammo specializes in high volume ammunition orders online

Reloading and shooting supplies

Graf & Sons: The Reloading Authority

Shop Sinclair International

Ballistic Products

Topographic and aerial-photo maps

10th Amendment Pledge

LDS Freedom Network

Enforce the Bill of Rights!

Please review these petitions and join the list of Patriots willing to stand on the frontlines in defense of liberty

All sales proceeds at PatriotShop.US support our Mission of Service to America's Armed Services.

This day in history

Liberty Watch Radio

Liberty Watch Radio


Evil Conservative Industries

Cedar Fort Books

In Association with Amazon.com

Weight-control products including dietary supplements, meal replacement bars and shakes.

Purity Products

The source for satire



Daily Cartoon provided by Bravenet

This day in history

Legal Documents Online @ Legalzoom

True North Log Homes

Plans for woodworking projects

Plans for woodworking projects

Vegetable and flower seeds, gardening supplies

Life member, ARRL

I served 12 years on active duty in the US Air Force.

I retired after serving 23 years in the US Air Force, Alaska Army National Guard.



PDF995 document-to-PDF converter

Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Get this FREE ezine!

Safe Surf Rated

ICRA Rated

SubmitFree: Submit to 25+ Search Engines for free!