State News

6 Die as Plane Crashes Trying to Land in Surry County Fog

Posted February 1, 2008

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— A twin-engine plane crashed Friday as it tried to land in low-lying fog at the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport, killing all six people on board, officials said.

Stephanie Conner, a Surry County emergency services shift supervisor, said investigators had confirmed there were no survivors.

Surry County officials said the Beechcraft King Air C90A crashed in a neighborhood near the airport around 11:30 a.m. The plane split in half after falling into a grassy area between two homes.

"It jarred my house, it hit so hard," said a woman to an emergency dispatcher in a 911 call released Friday afternoon. "And some lady was hollering just now."

"Oh, God, please somebody, get over here," another 911 caller said.

No one on the ground was hurt, said Warren Woodberry, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Woodberry said the plane left Polk County-Cornelius Moore Field in Cedartown, Ga., and was headed for Mount Airy.

Kelvin Boyette, the Mount Airy airport manager, said the passengers were on their way to Primland, a hunting and golf resort in Meadows of Dan, Va., about 25 miles north of the airport.

"The hunting resort van was actually waiting for them, and (the driver of the van) was the only person who saw the plane come out of the clouds," Boyette said.

Boyette said the plane was attempting to land when it missed on its approach, and it might have been trying to circle back for another attempt before it crashed.

"There was a really low fog, it was raining a little bit and (there was) an occasional sleet pellet. But visibility was more than a 2.5 miles," he said.

The plane is registered to Blue Sky Airways in Dallas, Ga., northwest of Atlanta, according to FAA records.

One of the men on board was identified, by his cousin, Ronald Rakestraw, as John Wesley Rakestraw, a pilot who owned a construction company in Dallas with the same address listed on the plane's registration.

Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, said that Rakestraw held a fundraiser for Perdue at his home during the governor's re-election campaign.

Also on board, authorities said, were Paulding County, Ga., Commissioner Hal Echols, developer Steve Simpson, Robert Butler, Frank Ruggiero and Tony Gunter.

Boyette said resort-bound hunters often fly though the airport, and the plane was the only inbound flight expected at the airport Friday.

Debris from the crass was largely confined to a small area between the two homes.

Firefighters sprayed the site with foam. Yellow tape was strung between light poles to block off the site.

"I've been in this neighborhood six years. The airport's just a hop, skip and a jump from here," Sandra Williams told WRAL News. "I've always worried something like this would happen, and today, it did."


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  • Travised Feb 1, 2008

    The other to consider is he could have lost his profile in air, similar to a sideslip when you need to slowdown on approach and you already have throttle all the way back. A loss of profile (it's the air flow with the wings that keeps you aloft) will cause you do drop like a rock.

    We use sideslips often when on final and having problems slowing down. It's just another procedure in aviation.

    As for winds, usually you don't want to fly if they are above 10kts. It tosses you around. If you do, you want to use a runway that the wind is going right down. Crosswinds are a bear to deal with, they will tip you.

  • ops12305 Feb 1, 2008

    Another video account from station closer to the scene

  • runny29840 Feb 1, 2008

    "Six people in a five passenger plane?"

    5 passenger seats, plus 2 crew seats (pilot, copilot).

  • ratnix Feb 1, 2008

    "don't 'tailwinds' travel east to west or west to east, not south to north?"

    Incorrect all around.
    Let's say you want to build an airport. First thing you do is a wind survey, and find out, over a year or three, which way the wind blows most of the time. Usually you'll find it going one way, and directly opposite it, most of the time. Let's say it's due east and due west.
    So you build a patch of asphalt and call it runway 9/27, since it lines up with 90 degrees (due east) and 270 (due west).
    Then someone wants to land. You head INTO the wind, if at all possible. 20kt headwind, 90kt approach speed, and it only looks like you're doing 70 when you touch down.

    If the wind is coming out of the west, you would prefer to land on runway 27. But if it's from the east and you try 27 with a tailwind, and you have to brake from an effective 110kt groundspeed instead of 70kt. That's almost twice the energy.

    Point being, a tailwind is relative to the plane's direction, not the compass.

  • hooligan Feb 1, 2008

    "The plane split in half after falling into a grassy area between two homes"

    go figure, a plane hits the grounds and breaks. i never thought that would happen.

  • hooligan Feb 1, 2008

    "Oh, God, please somebody, get over here,"

    sounds like you were all ready there.

  • Chuck U Farley Feb 1, 2008

    "shine - don't 'tailwinds' travel east to west or west to east, not south to north? "

    Not necessarily. Depends on what's causing them.

    "And, why would you assume that winds that may or may not have occurred in the RTP area would be of the same type and velocity in Northwestern NC? "

    Because the SAME cold front moved over both areas. The events would have been separated by a few hours, but it's unlikely that the intensity or track of the low pressure system changed significantly between the front's passing the two points.

    "Wind shear?"

    I'm not going to speculate on that speculation.

  • seankelly15 Feb 1, 2008

    shine - don't 'tailwinds' travel east to west or west to east, not south to north? And, why would you assume that winds that may or may not have occurred in the RTP area would be of the same type and velocity in Northwestern NC? Wind shear?

  • Adelinthe Feb 1, 2008

    While it's sad that six were killed, and I certainly am sending prayers of comfort to their loved ones, it's also amazing that no one on the ground was hurt.

    Perhaps it was a valiant effort on the part of the now-deceased pilot, because it looks like he deliberately set it down BETWEEN two houses rather than on top of one or the other. Only time and a thorough investigation will tell.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • KB2IYS Feb 1, 2008

    Blahblahblah said, "Six people in a five passenger plane? Could that be part of the reason the plane crashed? Just a thought."