Steamboat Springs A day after participating in a memorial flyover for a friend killed in a Steamboat Springs airplane crash, an Englewood pilot had to emergency land his own plane the same type of vintage military craft his friend flew on a Denver street.
John Zayac was flying his SNJ-5 to Reno, Nev., for an airshow Saturday morning when he was forced to land on South Colorado Boulevard after his engine stopped. He was not injured in the landing.
Zayac was a friend of Joseph Gunnels, one of two men killed when his SNJ-5 crashed near the Ramada Vacation Suites Hilltop Sept. 3.
"I did certainly think of Joe at that point and I heard his voice saying, 'Don't screw around, get the damn thing on the ground,'" Zayac said. "Joe was a no-nonsense guy."
Zayac had participated in a flyover Sept. 8 at a memorial service for Gunnels. In the flyover, Zayac was part of a team of four planes flying in what is known as a "missing man formation." In that formation, the third plane in the flyover pulls up in the midst of the maneuver, representing the deceased pilot who has exited and is missed by his squadron, Zayac said.
"I was very fortunate because of the training I received," he said. "A lot of that training was definitely a direct result of Joe and three or four other pilots."
Meanwhile, Investigator Norm Wiemeyer of the National Transportation Safety Board continues his investigation of the Steamboat crash that killed Gunnels and Steamboat resident David White.
Wiemeyer has just begun his investigation and expects it to last from four to six months. Most NTSB investigators will work on 15 to 20 cases at a time, so they often can't turn their attention to any one case for a prolonged period of time, Wiemeyer said.
Wiemeyer made a preliminary investigation of the plane at the crash site Sept. 4, after which the plane was hauled to Greeley, where Wiemeyer will examine it in more detail. The initial investigation has already shown Wiemeyer a lot, though.
For instance, Wiemeyer found that the controls in the front and back of the airplane were in different positions after the crash. The controls, however, are mechanically connected so that they will be at identical positions at all times. Although changes in control position are not unusual in a crash such as this one, because controls get pushed around during a crash, Wiemeyer will look further into this development.
In addition, Wiemeyer found that the landing gear was up and the flaps were retracted on the plane.
Wiemeyer hasn't yet scheduled a further examination of the plane, though he expects to do so soon. He is currently collecting log books and maintenance records on the plane and is preparing to interview the two other pilots who participated in the flyover with the SNJ-5. He has waited to do so because he wants to "let the dust settle a bit" and allow the pilots time to psychologically heal.
Once he does examine the plane in more detail, Wiemeyer will take apart the engine and the propeller and check on items such as the throttle.
Wiemeyer is also waiting to see if anyone videotaped any part of the crash and can send him the video as evidence. The day of the crash, an eyewitness said that he had seen a man videotaping the crash. The man ran away before the police arrived, the witness said.
"Videos are the best witness information we can get," Wiemeyer said.
Once the investigation is complete and the report is filed, a copy will be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration and the report will be open to the public. Public inquiries can be directed to the NTSB's Washington, D.C .office at (800) 877-6799.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org