Commander Accident Kills Famous Photographers

Aviation International News » October 2002
May 7, 2008, 6:18 AM

Rockwell Aero Commander 690A, Bishop, Calif., Aug. 11, 2002–Well known wilderness photographers Galen and Barbara Rowell, another passenger and the commercial-rated pilot were killed when their Aero Commander 690A crashed about 0123 PDT. The aircraft, N690TB, owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed when it crashed at Bishop Airport (BIH) following an in-flight loss of control during a descending turn in the airport’s traffic pattern. The airplane was being operated under Part 91 and VMC prevailed during the night flight. No flight plan had been filed for the flight, which originated in Oakland, Calif., 50 min earlier.

Witnesses said the aircraft entered the pattern normally, turned onto base leg and began a descent. When it turned onto final approach for Runway 30, the airplane’s bank angle suddenly increased until reaching between 70 and 90 deg. It then rapidly descended before hitting the ground about 1.6 nm southeast of the runway threshold. NTSB investigators found fuel in the vicinity of both engines, though there was no post-crash fire.

The passengers had arrived at Oakland by scheduled airline and were loaded aboard the Commander along with several hundred pounds of luggage. NTSB investigators learned that Rowell had offered to pay the pilot for the flight but was told by the pilot that he “did not have enough time in the aircraft type to act formally as a charter pilot.” They agreed to give the pilot some of their professional photos in trade for the service. Weather was not identified as a factor in the accident.

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