It’s not often that pilots ask for the closure of a GA airport, but this is no ordinary circumstance. The cry comes in the wake of a 30-year-old UPS feeder pilot being fatally injured last week when the Cessna Caravan she was flying crashed into a potato processing plant during approach to the Burley Municipal Airport in Idaho. Now, the pilot’s father, who is also a pilot, wants to see the airport closed outright.
The Caravan was on its second attempt at the Runway 20 RNAV non-precision approach in wintery conditions when it crashed into the roof of the Gem State Processing plant, which is situated under the final approach course about a half-mile from the runway threshold. For now, it’s unclear whether the Caravan snagged one of the chimneys at the plant before impact. The pilot, Chelsea Brittney Infanger, held CFI-I, MEI, Sea and Commercial certificates with about 11 years of experience, and was operating with a 1st Class medical certificate, according to FAA records.
Infanger’s father, James Robert, an Idaho resident and private pilot himself, told the East Idaho News that he believes the airport is unusually dangerous and that it should be closed. “That airport needs to be closed, period,” Infanger said. “Many pilots have told me how unsafe the Burley airport is and how they’ve begged the country to relocate it. They’ve allowed this potato processing plant to continue to expand and this chimney comes up and has a huge amount of steam. If the wind is blowing, you fly right into this wall of steam. That was the case that morning.”
Weather around the time of the accident was reported as below-freezing, snowing and misty, with clouds as low as 2300 AGL and southerly winds around 8 knots. Online ADS-B data appears to show the Caravan dipping below the Minimum Descent Altitude on each approach attempt, but this must be verified by investigators. Hopefully, the upcoming NTSB preliminary report will reveal more hard facts from the accident sequence.