Wellstone Plane Was Out Of Control – Media Survey
The following is a summary of the facts available at this time via the media, surrounding Senator Paul Wellstone's airplane crash of 10-25-02. Judge for yourself, was this more likely an assassination or an accident?
From the 10-27-02 Sunday edition of the St.Paul Pioneer Press:
"They were no longer in control of the aircraft." said Don Sipola, a former president of the Eveleth Virginia Municipal Airport Commission, who has 25 years of experience flying at the airport. "That will be the $64 question---what occurred in the last few minutes that distracted them or caused them to wrestle control of the aircraft."
"Something caused them at low altitude to veer off course," Sipola said.
The angle of descent also indicates an out of control flight, Sipola said. The normal approach for the aircraft is a descent of 3 degrees, he said. But Siploa said the NTSB investigators told him Saturday that the plane was descending at 30 degrees.
"This was a real steep bank, not a nice, gentle don't-spill-the-coffee descent," Siploa said. This is more like a space shuttle coming down. This was not a controlled descent into the ground."
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune 10-26-02:
The state of Minnesota operates two King Air 100's. Jesse Ventura uses the planes.
Tom Kirton, an associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fl. said he flew a similar King Air model for five years as a corporate pilot before joining the school, which also has one. "The King Air is the finest airplane I have ever flown," he said. "The engines were totally reliable."
"Performance on take off and landing was suberb. I mean, its got power to spare," Kirton said. "You take off and lose an engine, most folks could bring it down very, very easily on one engine and land a perfectly normal landing."
Jeff Johnson, an associate professor in the aviation program at St.Cloud State University, said he has flown about 500 hours in King Air 100's as a private pilot. He said the planes are forgiving, stable and reliable.
Johnson noted the King Air 100 has a flexible, boot-like device on the leading edges of the wings that the pilot can make "expand like a balloon to break ice off."
He said he was told that only one pilot is required to fly the plane, two were hired because a Senator was on board.
The pilots of Wellstone's plane... Conry had nearly 5200 hours of flying time and the highest certification a pilot can attain, his company said. Guess had 650 hours and was certified as a commercial pilot; he graduated from UND's aeronautics program.
The weather at the Eveleth airport was a mix of mist and light snow at the time of the crash.
Greg Spoden, assistant state climatologist said that at the Eveleth airport visibility was about 3 miles at the time of the crash.
End of Star Tribune article.
As CNNFirst Reported: Breaking News.
The crews on the ground found two large sections of plane. The tail section was intact. The weather did not have anything to do with the crash, said the on the scene reporter.
Wolf Blitzer tried to correct her.
He said, “The plane was flying into the storm of freezing rain, right?”
There is no evidence that weather had anything to do with the crash.
The on-the-scene reporter stuck to her guns.
From the 10-29-02 Minneapolis Star Tribune:
However, the team was able to make this significant discovery: the plane's landing flaps, which allow a slower and steeper approach to a runway, were extended 15 degrees on EACH wing.
This information tends to discount the possibility, discussed by some local pilots, that one flap may have malfunctioned, putting them in different "asymmetric" positions and causing the plane to slowly turn 90 degrees from its westward approach to the runway in the moments before the crash.
According to Executive Aviation, which operated the plane, Capt. Richard Conry flew his second-to-last flight Thursday, to Bismarck, N.D. His co-pilot on that flight told the NTSB that Conry didn't seem sick or tired on that flight.
Conry spent much of Wednesday undergoing a required test of his flying proficiency, the Star Tribune has learned. Executive Aviation spokeswoman Mary Milla said Monday that Conry passed the so-called check ride, which was administered by a company pilot designated to conduct the exams by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The proficiency checks are required of commercial aviators every six months to maintain licensure.
"He passed the check with flying colors," said Conry's wife, Johanne, on Monday. She also said her husband was in good health and well rested for the Wellstone flight.
From the 10-29-02 St.Paul Pioneer Press:
"Investigators...have ruled out physical problems with the pilots and one important piece of equipment."
Dr. Thomas Uncini, St.Louis County's chief medical examiner, said Monday his preliminary conclusions are that the two pilots were in good physical condition and there were no signs that they suffered a heart attack or stroke. "No, it didn't happen," he said of medical problems. "It looked pretty straightforward."
Frank Hilldrup, lead investigator for the NTSB said the landing gear appeared to be down but was too damaged by fire to determine if it had been locked into place.
Another pilot who landed a slightly larger twin engine plane at the airport on Friday, a couple of hours before Wellstone's plane crashed, said in an interview that he experienced no significant problems.
Veteran pilot Ray Juntunen said there was very light ice, "but nothing to be alarmed about. It shouldn't have been a problem."
He said he ran into moderate icing conditions at 10,000 feet and requested permission to drop to 5,000. At that altitude, he had only light icing. When he dropped to 3400 feet, to begin his approach, "the ice slid off the windshield," he said.
According to the NTSB, Wellstone's pilots received warnings of icing at 9,000 to 11,000 feet and were allowed to descend to 4,000 feet. Juntunen said he was able to see the airport from five miles out, and another pilot landed a half-hour later and told him the clouds were a little lower, but still not bad.
Radar tapes indicate the plane had descended to about 400 feet and was traveling at only 85 knots near the end of its flight. It then turned south, dove at an unusually steep angle and crashed.
From the 10-26-02 edition of the St.Paul Pioneer Press:
The weather Friday was dismal, gray, foggy, with light snow, but the landing should have been routine, said Gary Ulman, assistant manager of the Eveleth Virginia Municipal Airport.
Shortly after 10 a.m., Ulman heard the pilot's voice on the radio and saw the landing lights flash on after the pilot clicked the signal from the cockpit.
But the plane didn't land.
"After a while, I thought to myself, 'Where the hell are they?' "
Ulman jumped into his own private plane and took off in search of the missing aircraft."
If the icing conditions were so bad (which they weren't) why would Ulman take his own plane up?
They had just radioed in that they were coming in for a landing. They were only about 7 miles out. They gave no indication of any problem. The NTSB has confirmed that several times.
There was no problem with icing at the altitude they were flying.
Airport manager Ulman even took his plane up proving that icing was not a problem.
The landing gear was down.
The plane was "forgiving, stable and reliable."
The engines were "totally reliable."
You could land it "very, very easily on one engine."
"Performance on taking off and landing were superb."
The pilots were experienced veterans in good health and well rested.
Only one pilot was required to fly the King Air A100 but they had two as an extra precaution for safety.
Bush had made it his number one priority to get Wellstone out of the Senate, presumably thru the election process.
Bush himself had come to Minnesota to stump for Republican Norm Coleman. "Americans for Job Security", a Republican controlled "tax-exempt" group pumped over one million dollars into ads against Wellstone.
Wellstone had voted against Bush's Homeland Security. He had voted against some of Bush's judicial appointees. He pushed stronger environmental programs while Bush pushed the opposite way.
Wellstone pushed hard for genuine measures to counter corporate fraud while Bush pushed for cosmetic ones.
Wellstone pushed hard for an independent 9-11 investigation over Bush and Cheney's strongest objections.
Wellstone voted against giving Bush a free hand to invade Iraq and it actually increased his popularity in Minnesota. He was pulling ahead of Coleman and it looked like he would win re-election.
They lost all control and all communications in his plane instantly, without warning during a landing approach.
Is this sabotage, assassination or an accident?
You be the judge.
- Compiled by Rick Ensminger