Remains of missing airplane found near Hagerman;
Utah pilot killed in crash
A single-engine Piper Comanche airplane missing on a flight from Caldwell to the Bountiful Airport near Salt Lake City, was discovered Tuesday morning about 10.5 miles west of Hagerman.
The plane, piloted by Craig Jewett, 41, of Centerville, Utah, crashed Sunday night and was discovered less than one-half mile from the last known radar coordinates. A Twin Falls County search and rescue team located the plane at about 10:25 a.m. Tuesday just inside the Elmore County line.
Jewett, the plane’s only occupant, died in the crash.
Warren Kenner, also of Centerville, flew Jewett to Caldwell Sunday where the latter had arranged to purchase the 1965 Comanche, considered to be a relatively complex, high-performance plane with retractable gear and a variable-pitch propeller.
After a brief test flight in Caldwell, the two pilots departed the airport in their respective planes around 8 p.m. for a return to Utah. They tried to maintain radio contact with each other on the return flights, but conversations were sporadic. Jewett reported that a door on his aircraft was not shut tight and that he wanted to land briefly in Twin Falls or Mountain Home.
Kenner lost radio contact with Jewett at about 8:40 p.m. Sunday and continued his flight to Utah.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Service Station, operated by Lockheed-Martin in Prescott, Ariz., was notified of the overdue plane at 9:07 p.m. Monday. It began checking with local airports and law enforcement agencies to determine if the missing plane had landed.
It also issued a request for information and alerted the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. ITD’s Division of Aeronautics was notified of the overdue aircraft at about 10:35 p.m. Monday. The division is responsible for coordinating air searches for overdue or missing planes in Idaho.
Twin Falls County Search and Rescue began planning a ground search shortly after midnight Monday and dispatched search crews at 5:20 a.m. Tuesday to the area west of Hagerman.
The Division of Aeronautics had three Civil Air Patrol planes – based in Boise, Nampa and Burley – along with its own aircraft on standby Tuesday morning awaiting a break in the weather to begin an air search.
The area between Glenns Ferry and Hagerman received a dusting of snow Tuesday morning and was covered by clouds. The Treasure Valley had a mix of snow and rain with low clouds and reduced visibility. ITD officials had hoped to launch the air search shortly after 11 a.m.
When it became apparent the plane was overdue, the Division of Aeronautics requested radar data from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Salt Lake Air Traffic Control and from the Mountain Home Air Force base to narrow the search parameters.
Retrieved radar data indicated the plane was flying erratically – a quick change in direction and altitude – just before it disappeared.
An emergency locator transmitter (ELT), required for all aircraft, may have been destroyed on impact. It was not transmitting a signal that would have assisted in locating the crash site.
Coordinates provided by both radar systems at the Salt Lake Air Traffic Control and the Mountain Home Air Force Base helped pinpoint the crash site. The wreckage was found in an isolated area that was accessible only by all-terrain vehicles. The Elmore County Sheriff and coroner arrived at the crash site Tuesday afternoon.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board based in Seattle arrived in Boise late Tuesday and began a formal investigation this morning.
See Idaho Statesman story about fatal trip
Plane may have broken up in air