Doctor Dies In Tragic, Unsuccessful, Emergency Landing
Investigators are picking over the remains of Dr. Jay S.
Richards's Mooney 231, N27ER, which crashed Thursday just 30 feet
from the taxiway that could have been his deliverance. The
51-year-old anesthesiologist from Portland, Oregon died instantly
when his plane plunged into an orchard of filbert trees. Richards
made a mayday call that his plane was losing power, moments after
being cleared to land at Hillsboro Airport. He had departed
Hillsboro earlier that day.
While the investigation has a long way to go to determine the
facts in the case, some things can be inferred from the condition
of the wreckage. The plane apparently crashed on its nose and right
wing with little forward motion, suggesting a stall; and the plane
was in sight of a private airpark in North Plains, Oregon.
The airpark, Sunset
Airstrip (1OR3), lies just inside the Hillsboro Class D airspace,
and is best known in the enthusiast community as the home of Dick
Van Grunsven and the original birthplace of Van's Aircraft. Sunset
features a 200-foot-wide and 3,000-foot-long turf runway, and an
intersecting taxiway. It is possible that Richards may have stalled
trying to stretch a glide to the taxiway. While the runway was
around a thousand feet from his point of impact, the taxiway was
The FAA aviation safety inspector on the scene, Jack M. Swensen,
told reporters that the plane most likely spun; the plane left
sheared-off tree limbs as evidence of its trajectory. The right
wing, nose, and forward cockpit of the compact Mooney were badly
crushed; the left wing and tail were not so severely damaged. The
landing gear was down, and the position of the flaps is
Swensen was expected to turn over the investigation to NTSB
investigators, as is routine.
The severe deceleration forces in the crash would not have been
survivable. There was no fire, and first responders concluded that
Richards was killed instantly.
Richards had a current medical and was an instrument-rated
"He will be missed in
many ways," Dr. Jeffrey Johnson said. Johnson is a surgeon who also
flies a Mooney and who worked with Richards at Providence St.
Johnson remembered Richards, with whom he'd flown, as an
enthusiastic, safe pilot. "He had a passion for flying," Johnson
told the Portland Oregonian newspaper. "He was a very careful,
conscientious pilot, who was very experienced and very
The investigation will continue. The FAA has an initial report
on the FMI link already, and NTSB will follow with a preliminary
report, which will contain more factual information, later. This
will be followed by a factual report, usually in a matter of
months. It may be a year or more before the actual Board has met
and voted on a statement of probable cause.