Airplane crash starts wildfire

The crash of a small airplane started a fire near the California side of Lake Tahoe last month.

The fire consumed 20 acres of Plumas National Forest. According to Forest Service spokeswoman Tricia Christofferson, smokejumpers responding to the blaze found the burned aircraft and the remains of two people inside. The aircraft was tentatively identified as a Citabria or Decathlon. The Butte County Sheriffs Department put out a call to the public for help in identifying the victims. The task was made more difficult because it was not known where the airplane originated from or where it was going. No one reported the aircraft overdue or missing for several weeks.

It was later found that the owner of the aircraft, a Citabria Champion 7EC, was on a fishing trip and did not learn about the crash until his return, when he determined that his airplane was missing. According to a preliminary report filed by the NTSB, the owner, a CFI, told investigators that he had endorsed his business partner’s logbook to allow him to fly the plane. The partner had received his commercial certificate for flight in a tailwheel-equipped airplane just two weeks before the accident. The owner told investigators he cautioned his partner not to take passengers until he had at least 10 to 20 hours more experience and not to do any mountain flying until he had received training, which they planned to do in a few weeks.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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