Surveillance video of Dale “Snort” Snodgrass’ fatal accident (warning, graphic content that might be upsetting to some) has been released and it shows the takeoff sequence that ends in seconds with the crash. The video, which includes radio exchanges with the tower, shows Snodgrass lining up normally for takeoff from Lewiston Airport in Idaho on July 24, but the takeoff quickly goes wrong.

On the takeoff roll, the aircraft remains in the three-point configuration, which is sometimes used for short and unimproved runways, but Snodgrass had thousands of feet of concrete in front of him and actually took off from midfield. After the aircraft leaves the runway, it pitches up almost to the vertical and rolls left before diving into the infield. It’s quickly consumed by a post-crash fire as the controller calmly directs first responders to the scene. Snodgrass was a decorated naval aviator and flew many different warbirds at airshows across the country.

37 COMMENTS

      • Many years ago, I ruefully admit, I flew a Bonanza from HPN to RDG with a somewhat similar control-lock system still locked. (My only excuse is that there were two of us, both pilots, and we hurriedly shared the preflighting. Both of us missed the control lock.). Obviously the Bonanza didn’t have a stick, so maybe the lock only affected the rudder pedals; I don’t remember. In any case, there was enough flexibility in the system that I was perfectly able to taxi and fly the airplane. It was my first time flying a Bonanza, so perhaps an experienced Bonanza pilot would have recognized stiffness in rudder operation; I didn’t.

        My only point in relating this embarrassing story is that maybe we shouldn’t assume that a control lock of this sort prevents taxiing. It sure didn’t in my case.

  1. Do these A/C have gust locks? A few years ago a Skylane like the one I own crashed (with fatality) not too far from where I live, and it was determined that the gust lock was still in place. After that I have never failed to use the checklist – especially making sure to do the “killer items.”

    • Yes, the front seat rests on Cessna-type rails, but in that specific airplane, there was only one notch of seat travel, because the rear seat had not only a full set of controls but a full instrument panel, and the front seat only moved an inch or so before its back came up against the back side of the rear-seal panel. Not enough travel to make continued flight anything more than a minor difficulty.

      • Excellent information. Having experienced a sudden seat “release” on rotation that cause was my first thought on viewing the video, but obviously that could not be the case. Coupled with someone else pointing out the roll & liftoff was essentially all from a 3-point attitude it does seem there was some other elevator issue.

  2. I agree with Arthur, that the seat could have slid back.
    That seat rail, on the L-19 was always fairly flimsy to begin with, if it is similar to ones that I worked on while I was stationed in Germany. Then again, there was the powerful turboprop engine that will rock you back in your seat on takeoff. Hopefully, the seating wasn’t too badly burned so that they can actually find out what happened. The fire department was slow to respond as far as I could see, twisting and turning to get to the scene of the accident. RIP to the pilot.

  3. The horribly slow response to the accident by bystanders and the fire that erupted afterwards makes me wonder… yea, the crash looked bad, but could he, or did he survive only to be urned alive…
    I’ve been looking at a chemical fire extinguisher used by Porsche enthusiasts sold a Pelican Parts… they are kind of expensive, about $80 each for a little stick, but could they save you from burning to death when trapped in an accident? They appear to be set off by fire. If they were installed in front of the fire wall, they could even work in flight to put out fires…

    Just a thought.

  4. I can’t believe the slow response from CFR and airport ops. Were those trucks coming from a different airport? It also sounded like the airport ops personnel didn’t know if the airport was closed or not. An airport that has air carrier operations should be able to respond better than what I saw and heard on this video.

    • That was my exact thought as I watched people running around… finally someone approached and the aircraft slowly began to catch on fire. It did look like a very hard hit, but I have to wonder… could he have been saved?

  5. From what I could see of the scenario, the Emergency Response was abysmal, to say the least, and even when they did arrive, what was stopping them from moving closer to the accident? Such a sad end for a great pilot. RIP.

  6. Lewiston is an FAR 139 airport, meaning it has an airport operating certificate and can support commercial passenger airline traffic. Its ARFF index is A, so it must provide at least one vehicle carrying at least 450 or 500 pounds of dry chemical (depending on the type) and 100 gallons of an AFFF/water mix. The ARFF vehicle in the video is at least Index B, so the airport exceeds the index requirement.

    Part 139 does not require 24/7 ARFF coverage. The airport must provide the coverage during air carrier operations, defined as “…the takeoff or landing of an air carrier aircraft and includes the period of time from 15 minutes before until 15 minutes after the takeoff or landing.” Lewiston has arrivals by Skywest (Delta connector) at 0207, 1429, and 1857, and departures at 0905 and 1519.

    The majority of small airports that support commercial air service can’t afford to provide 24/7 on-airport ARFF services, so they can’t provide fire crews specifically designated for the airport. They’ll either 1) train airport employees (airfield maintenance, management, etc – most small airports don’t have an airfield operations staff per se) to perform ARFF duties, or 2) train local municipality structural firefighters at a nearby fire station to do ARFF. If it’s the latter (and in this case I’m guessing that it is), the firefighters know what the commercial flight schedule is, so they go from their structural station to the ARFF station and man the vehicle to be ready during the 15 minute before/after window. The response requirement time is 3 minutes to the mid-point of the furthest air carrier runway for the first vehicle and 4 minutes for any second and subsequent vehicles.

    So my guess is that the mishap occurred in between scheduled commercial flights.

    As for someone grabbing a fire extinguisher and running out there to put out the fire…with no protective clothing, they risk the chance of becoming a victim themselves, especially if there’s a secondary explosion, not to mention the risk of getting in the way of firefighting vehicles (yes, I know about the trucks running over the Asiana victims, and yes, they screwed up).

    • A lot of what you’re saying is true, but I really doubt they reposition their equipment to try to time the Skywest arrivals. Not to point out the obvious, but their was a Skywest aircraft sitting on the ramp. If the airport ops people do operate the equipment one of them should have told the tower the airport was closed also. Regardless of their setup, if they can apply foam in three minutes for an air carrier they should be able to do they same for a GA accident.

    • According to the airport diagram, there is a “Fire Station” located at Z-Z2 on the south side of 08-26. The Tower called CFR-74 (Crash Fire Rescue unit 74?) about 30 seconds after the crash, receiving a garbled response (CFR-74’s read back?) nine seconds later. The tower then clears CFR-74 to: ” … proceed as requested.” It seems that the ARFF unit was already manned and ready to go, plus, it seemed that Lewiston Tower expected them to be so. It appears that they may have some enhanced form of ARFF capability above and beyond the requirements of 139.319 that you cited … or maybe an unscheduled charter was due. I’m rambling here, but I guess the gist of my comment is that I agree with your interpretation of the standard and that the response time wasn’t all that bad.

      The three minute response time that you cited includes arrival and beginning application of extinguishing agent. They missed that mark by about 40 seconds. What really puzzles me about the ARFF response is the apparent timid approach to the burning wreckage. The ARFF vehicle appeared to stand off quite a ways and shoot foam from that position. This indicates to me a lack of familiarity with ARFF techniques. In the ARFF drills I’ve witnessed, extinguishing agent application began as the unit neared the target and continued as the unit approached the target as closely as possible. I guess that according to the book, the ARFF response was O.K.; however, in my opinion, it could have been better.

      • I agree with you that the amount of time between the ARFF truck’s arrival and the time it started discharging agent is puzzling, as well as the fact that it came to a complete stop before discharging agent. We train vehicle operators to be able to put the wet stuff on the red stuff on the roll, so I’m sure that the investigators will be asking those questions, it’ll be interesting to hear what happened.

  7. Naval Aviators fly strictly via AOA. “Snort” was a Naval Aviator’s “Naval Aviator”. I am sure his flight controls were locked. Hopefully, how they were locked will be determined. How much baggage was in the back seat? Was it secure? Did the flight controls become frozen due to a mechanical failure? What was the CG during the final flight?

    I did not see a “pitch up”. What I saw was a takeoff, in an unusual three point attitude followed by a a continuous, ever increasing nose up attitude until the airplane finally stalled. Not even a bobble or hint of any control movement to correct an ever increasing AOA. A Naval Aviator, especially one of his caliber, would be fine tuned to AOA making almost instinctive, corrective nose down inputs far in advance of exceeding the critical AOA. Just seeing him take of in a three point attitude was the first warning something was going wrong with out any apparent corrective inputs. This whole flight was a smooth, gradual yet ever increasing AOA without any change in attitude including no visually discernable control deflections of the elevator or ailerons.

    Sickening video of a fine aviator’s last, helpless moments.

  8. Based on his age, angle of impact, and g forces upon impact….its incredibly unlikely he survived the impact.
    Eyeball down, even with a dual should strap restraint the survivability is about 20-25 G’s max.
    RIP to a true aviation role model.
    Something went wrong….be awaiting results to see what truly happened. Sadly with the post crash fire, if it were medical related we will probably never know.