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Lobdell: Catch up with a wrap up

December 06, 2010|By William Lobdell

Some follow-ups on recent columns:

Mystery Solved?

I received an interesting e-mail from a veteran private pilot who gave one possible explanation for the single-engine plane crash in Newport Beach's Back Bay that killed three people.

In a recent column ("Lobdell: Unsolved mysteries in Newport-Mesa," Dec. 3), I wrote that I couldn't figure out how an experienced pilot could have run out of gas and, facing an emergency landing, chose to go down in the muddy flats of an estuary instead of a nearby street or park.

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Here's the reader's take: First, a Musketeer Beechcraft, the type of plane that went down, with two passengers, has a range of about 550 nautical miles, not the 1,000-mile nautical range stated in several news articles and in my column.

Second, the pilot — flying from Baja to Torrance — would have gotten gas in San Felipe, stopped in Mexicali to exit Mexico and then in Calexico to enter the United States. Taking off and landing three times takes a lot of gas, as does getting over the mountains near Julian.

The distance from San Felipe to Torrance is about 500 miles, so even though the plane would have flown near the Ramona and Fallbrook airports, a decision was made to keep going.

The reader said that the fuel gauges aren't very accurate on older planes (the Musketeer was a 1968 model), and the pilot was probably "in a hurry to get home [after] a long day in the saddle. [He] thought he could make it. The gas gauges [probably] looked OK."

As for landing in the Back Bay, the pilot likely did it "because of the wide open, smooth water with no obstacles, and it was just in front of John Wayne Airport! With retractable gear he would have made it (because he would have been able to glide longer). In the end, he ran out of altitude, time and landing choices."

Doesn't sound so mysterious anymore, does it?

What's Fair

Facilities Management West, the winning bidder for the 150-acre Orange County Fairgrounds property, though the sale hasn't gone through yet and may never be completed, is trying to buy pieces of equipment and other assets, intellectual property, and a license to privately operate the fair from the Fair Board ("Lobdell: Stay vigilant on fair happenings," Dec. 5).

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