YUMA, Ariz. – The cause of an airplane crash carrying a passenger from Yuma , Ariz., and piloted by a former Yuman is still under analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration months after the accident, according to its occupants.
Gary Mayer, formerly of Yuma, who now lives outside of Tulsa, Okla., piloted a Beech 35-B33 single-engine airplane that skidded to an emergency landing in a field six miles from Tucumcari last Aug. 31.
The plane carried passenger, Kathryn Blohm, Mayer's sister-in-law who resides in Yuma.
Mayer said, he is unaware of what caused his aircraft to lose power soon after take-off in Tucumcari. The flight originated in Yuma and stopped for re-fueling to continue on a visit to Oklahoma where Mayer just built a new home.
"The engine made a funny noise and lost power," Mayer said. "I wish I knew what caused it. I think about it quite a bit but I'd rather put it behind me."
The FAA interviewed Mayer about the accident a week after it occurred but they have not issued an explanation for the cause, he said.
When they got up to 600 feet they both heard a popping noise and the engine lost power, Blohm said. Mayer then adjusted the fuel mixture controls to different lean and rich positions with no change in engine power, she recalled.
"I didn't get scared I trusted that Gary would handle the situation, " Blohm said.
"We got really close to the ground and the tip of the right wing hit and then the body of the plane hit the ground and it came to a stop."
"It was an indescribable impact. We had our seat belts on and my chest hit the control panel."
Blohm suffered eight cracked ribs and fractures of both her ankles as well as a broken pelvis and a cut over her right eye. Mayer had a broken right foot and cuts on his scalp that required 200 stitches.
The aircraft touched down near I-40, she recalled. There were two houses in the vicinity and some power poles Mayer was worried about but they were never in danger of hitting anything, Blohm said.
"After we crashed he told me to get out of the plane but I couldn't move because my ribs were broken," Blohm said. "The funny thing is, neither of us thought to take off our seat belts and we were both bleeding but neither of us remember seeing any blood."
A highway patrolman spotted the aircraft as it lost altitude and telephoned for an ambulance that arrived within minutes. They were air lifted to a trauma hospital in Amarillo, Texas where they stayed for eight days and then transferred to YRMC, a medical facility in Yuma.
On Jan. 31, 2008 a National Transportation Safety Board investigator at facilities in Phoenix examined the aircraft and stated in a report, "no anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal engine operation prior to impact."
The NTSB report also stated that the probable cause was, "pilot's failure to properly set the mixture prior to departing in high density altitude conditions, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power and degraded climb capability."
"I've been told by several pilots, it was 95 (degrees) in Tucumcari and it is at 4.500 feet and because of the weight of a full fuel tank that's most likely the cause," Blohm said.
She added, the FAA has issued no opinion that she is aware of but it was her understanding that it may require nine to 12 months for them to complete their analysis.
Mayer explained, that previously he and his wife had taken off from the same runway with three passengers aboard, luggage and a full tank of gas and never had problems. It is possible the plane could have been affected by a heavy load but he is not certain, he added.