Yorba Linda, Calif., residents William "Bill" Rooney Jr. and William Patrick Rooney III were killed Sunday in a single-engine plane crash about a mile northeast of Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Yorba Linda, Calif., residents William "Bill" Rooney Jr. and William Patrick Rooney III were killed Sunday in a single-engine plane crash about a mile northeast of Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

Plane crash kills 2 near Hayden

Single-engine craft goes down at YVRA on Sunday morning


— A single-engine plane crashed one mile north of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Sunday morning in heavy snow. The two passengers, William "Bill" Rooney Jr. and his adult son William Patrick Rooney III, were killed.

West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman said the airplane, a Pilatus PC-12 fixed-wing, single-engine turboprop aircraft, took off from YVRA at about 9:40 a.m. en route to Chino or Orange County, Calif.

"We never heard from it again," Rickman said.

Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger said the airplane took off west, and it is not clear how the plane ended up north of the runway.

"It should not have been there, in all probability," he said.

Klinger said he suspects the plane was attempting a return to YVRA, but there had been no radio contact indicating a problem.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said the plane took off in low visibility Sunday morning. Just before the takeoff, visibility was reported as low as 3/4 of a mile and it was snowing heavily.

YVRA officials were contacted by air traffic controllers at the Denver Center when the airplane did not appear on radar.

Ruppel said the plane made initial radio contact with the Denver Center before takeoff, but failed to radio in when it reached 10,000 feet. It typically takes about 15 minutes for the plane to reach that altitude, when it can be picked up by Denver radar, Ruppel said.

When the plane was reported missing, Rickman confirmed with YVRA officials that the plane had not returned to the Hayden airport.

A short time later, Rickman said, he received a call from a Galaxy Aviation employee who was driving along Routt County Road 51 and observed a fire in the middle of a snowy field. Rickman responded to the scene and walked through thigh-deep snow to the fire, which he said originated from the plane crash.

County Coroner Rob Ryg said the Rooneys were from California but own a home in Steamboat Springs.

The plane is registered to Rooney Consulting & Aviation LLC out of Brandon, Ore., according to Federal Aviation Administration records. William Rooney was the registered manager of Rooney Consulting & Aviation.

Rooney family friend Joannie Johnson described Bill Rooney as a very warm man and careful pilot. Johnson's daughter, Jana Johnson, is engaged to another of Bill Rooney's sons.

Johnson, who has flown with the Rooneys several times in the Pilatus plane, said Bill Rooney wasn't one to take risks.

"He was a very careful man," she said. "Safety was No. 1. That's why he bought the Pilatus. It's probably one of the safest planes there is."

National Transportation Safety Board records indicate eight fatal plane accidents involving Pilatus aircraft since 2000.

Bill Rooney visited Steamboat about every other weekend, Johnson estimated, and he was in the process of renovating a barn on his Steamboat ranch for his son's wedding.

"He's been going to Steamboat most of his life," Johnson said. "He loved Steamboat, that's where his heart was."

After confirming the crash, Rickman returned to the site - a privately owned wheat field - in the YVRA snowcat with a team of six firefighters to extinguish the blaze. Ryg also responded to the crash site to aid with recovery efforts.

Rickman said a National Transportation Safety Board investigator is scheduled to arrive in Hayden today to examine the crash site and begin the investigation.

According to FlightAware, a Web-based flight tracking service for commercial and private aircraft, the plane flew from Chino to YVRA on Thursday, arriving at 11:22 a.m. The flight took about 2 1/2 hours.

The deadly crash comes just less than three weeks after Routt County residents Joe and Suzette Brumleve were killed in a single-engine plane crash near YVRA. The Brumleves were flying from Hutchinson, Kan., to Hayden when their plane went down in snowy conditions about 10 miles west of the runway at YVRA. A memorial service for the Brumleves was held Friday at Christian Heritage School.


JLM 8 years, 3 months ago

Seems kind of cheesy to reveal the identify of the victims when law enforcement and decency suggests otherwise. A bit of compassion and sympathy are not contrary to the First Amendment. Shame on you Pilot!

A Pilatus is a heck of an airplane and a very, very safe airplane. Sad accident. God bless all involved.


bruce 8 years, 3 months ago

This is absurd! I know the family personally, and I read this before many of them even knew about it! It doesn't take a genious to figure it out! Show respect for the family! No one NEEDS this much information at his point! The media needs to have some compation, they have run amok.


flotilla 8 years, 3 months ago

Agreed Bruce. Totally unnecessary and disrespectful. How very sad that this is what our media outlet comes down to.

The Pilot should issue an apology to not only the Rooney's but to every person reading this. If this is how I found out about a death in my family, I would throw up. The fact that the reporter wrote it but that the editor let it go to print, shows the lack of respect the Pilot has for human emotion.


flotilla 8 years, 3 months ago

Agreed. It is a sad, unfortunate, even avoidable tradegy. My deepest sympathies to the family.


aichempty 8 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, for far too many experienced pilots, the first time they find themselves in a situation they can't handle is also the last time.

The debris pattern indicates the craft came pretty much straight down. That would mean, "out of control." Probably in a spin or a vertical dive. A Pilatus under control, without engine power, would have either been able to make a safe landing or would have left a more dispersed trail of debris. The fact that everything appears to have burned in pretty much a single spot points to the spin/dive/ out of control scenario.

This is such a shame, and a waste.

Don't ever get in an airplane that's going to take off into a snow storm unless it's a commercial airliner.


JLM 8 years, 3 months ago

A Pilatus is a very high powered turbine aircraft and is a very safe aircraft with excellent redundant systems and an autopilot.

While it is easy to engage in conjecture and I don't disagree with the observation that the debris field suggests an unusual attitude or loss of control, it is difficult to believe that an experienced pilot would not have simply engaged the autopilot and followed the departure instructions climbing to and holding at the CHE VOR until attaining the appropriate altitude.

If the pilot had been into the airport countless times, as indicated, he would have been well versed in the departure procedure including the climb while holding. This would have been the same every time unless departing VFR (visual flight rules).

While snow is always potentially disorienting, an experienced instrument pilot would have been flying the gauges from departure under any conditions and the snow would have been irrelevant. You have to trust the instruments.

Many folks who regularly fly in snow find it very relaxing. I have flown in snow several times and it is not frightening at all.

My good wishes and sympathies to all.


aichempty 8 years, 3 months ago


I agree there's nothing frightening about snow. It's when the stuff accumulates as ice and clogs an intake, the pitot static tube, static air vents, etc., that snow becomes problematic.

I learned early on in my Navy flying career that flying "partial panel" all the time rather than waiting for an attitude gyro to fail was the safest way to proceed. It's a long story, but following an incident where I had to take over the flight controls from the pilot in command after he had a bad case of vertigo (induced by an "auto pilot" problem), and execute an "unusual attitude" recovery at 1500 feet over the Tallahassee, FL, municipal airport, I learned how important it is to be ahead of the aircraft. Everything turned out fine that night, and I ended up shooting a GCA to minimums at a military field (our alternate) to end the mission safely. The next morning, however, heading home to Pensacola in VFR conditions, we had a generator failure, combined with a cross-tie relay failure, which tumbled my ADI, disabled the autopilot, deactivated the stability autmentation system, killed the intercom, and generally did just about everything bad that an aicraft can to a pilot's ability to fly in instrument conditions. When we got the generator back on the line, the first thing the pilot in command said was, "I sure am glad that didn't happen last night over Tallahassee."

So, the point is that when you take off into instrument conditions in a single-pilot, single-engine aircraft, anything that goes wrong automatically becomes a compound emergency.

In the case we're discussing, the NTSB report (see the new story in the Pilot this morning) says so far that the aircraft impacted the ground upside down at a high rate of speed. That tells me that aircraft was in a spin, probably a compound or inverted spin, resulting from pilot vertigo. If the instrument-rated pilot became impaired for some reason, and the other fella was left trying to fly the thing IFR, that would be a perfect setup for the stall-spin-highspeed impact scenario supported by the evidence on the ground.

Possible causes are pilot incapacitation, instrument failure, icing of the pitot tube and/or static ports (due to a pitot heater failure -- stuff happens), or any one of several other problems, including engine failure and derivative effects on A/C or engine vacuum pump powered flight instruments.

Back in my day, every Navy flight trainee got spin recovery training in an airplane that required "positive control inputs" to recover. That means you couldn't just let go of the controls and the airplane would recover by itself. Nobody belongs in a light airplane in instrument conditions unless they've had spin training. Nobody.

So, again, I'm telling everybody who reads this, don't take off in a snowstorm on anything less than a commercial airliner with two properly rated pilots at the controls. It's far better to be a day late than never to arrive at all.


pudge 8 years, 3 months ago

To the Rooney family, regardless of how it happened , the outcome was and is devastating to all who knew and loved Patrick and his Dad. Our thoughts and Prayers are with you forever. The Gomez family in Texas. Raul,Jymme Damian and Sharia


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