Coolidge businessman Carl Douglas, who died in a plane crash last month along with one of his Stinger Welding employees, did not have a pilot’s license allowing him to carry passengers, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report from the NTSB on the Dec. 19 plane crash near Libby, Mont., refers to Douglas as a “noncertificated pilot.”
A search of the Federal Aviation Administration website, which lists pilots and their certifications and ratings, lists Carl James Douglas of Florence as a student pilot with a third-class medical certification. His medical certificate expired June 20, 2012. Medical certificates for pilots must be renewed after a certain period of time, depending on a pilot’s age and the class of medical certificate, according to the FAA. In Douglas’s case, his medical certificate was good for two years, after being issued in June 2010.
Student pilots are not supposed to carry passengers, according to FAA rules. And, student pilots are prohibited from flying “in furtherance of a business,” those rules state. Other restrictions are in place for student pilots as well.
The FAA issues pilot certificates — commonly referred to as licenses — “after deeming a pilot capable and able to safely operate a specific aircraft in U.S. airspace.”
Douglas, 54, and John Smith, 43, of Coolidge both died in the plane crash, which occurred early on Dec. 19, two minutes after midnight. Douglas was chief executive officer of Stinger Welding. The two men reportedly left Coolidge at 8:25 p.m. Dec. 18, headed to Libby, in northwestern Montana, where Stinger has had a second business operation since 2009. They were scheduled to attend a business meeting on Dec. 19 and a company Christmas party on Dec. 21. Stinger manufactures bridges.
Douglas acknowledged his FAA clearance to an instrument-approach landing in Libby at 11:53 p.m. Dec. 18, the NTSB report states. At that time, the plane was about 7 miles south of the airport. “(T)he pilot reported the field in sight” and canceled the flight plan, a reportedly common practice among pilots.
A Libby police officer reported to NTSB officials that he saw an airplane fly over the city of Libby, which is about 7 miles north of the airport, just before midnight Dec. 18. The officer said he saw the plane turn toward the airport. The officer went to the airport but did not see a plane there. According to the officer, while there was fog in town that night, the airport was “clear,” the NTSB report states.
The officer also said the airport’s rotating beacon was illuminated, but the runway lights, which are controlled by pilots, were not on. However, a person driving past the airport that night told The Western News in Libby that the runway lights were on when he drove by around midnight. The man told the newspaper he thought it was unusual for the lights to be on that late at night.
A search for Douglas and Smith was launched around 11 a.m. Dec. 19, after Stinger Welding employees reported the men overdue for a meeting. The wrecked plane was found at 6:35 p.m. that evening in the William’s Gulch area of Swede Mountain, which has a summit of 4,295 feet.
Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe told The Western News that searchers had to use snowmobiles to reach the crash site.
The preliminary report on the crash indicates the plane hit a tree as it crashed, strewing debris across a wide area.
That NTSB report essentially lists what investigators could determine from the scene. No one witnessed the crash and both people on the plane were killed.
A factual report on the crash is expected to be completed in about six months. A final report, which is expected to include the cause of the crash, won’t be completed for about a year, according to the NTSB.
The preliminary report states that the Beechcraft King Air 100, piloted by Douglas, collided with trees at Libby at 2 minutes past midnight Dec. 18. “The airplane sustained substantial damage from impact forces,” the report states.
According to the preliminary accident report, investigators at the scene found composite shards and a piece of the engine housing about 50 feet from the first tree the plane struck. The engine housing “had a hole punched in it,” the report states.
According to the report, the next point of contact for the plane was a 4-foot tree stump. Under the trunk, investigators found the plane’s nose gear, a couple of control surfaces and wing pieces.
One engine, with the propeller attached, was found 50 feet from the stump. The outboard half of one propeller blade was found to the left of that trunk and another propeller blade was found about 10 feet from the partial propeller, the report states.
Investigators also reported that several nearby trees had sheet metal wrapped around them. A portion of the instrument panel was found imbedded into a tree about 15 feet above the ground, they reported. Part of a wing, with the landing gear strut attached, along with three stabilizers, were found near the instrument panel, the report states. And, the rudder was a few feet away from the wing piece.
About 100 feet to the right of the main debris path, as investigators described it, was a 10-foot section of the aft cabin, connected by cables and wires to a 4-by-7-foot piece of twisted metal.
The second engine and the propeller hub with two attached blades were found at the end of the debris field.