Doomed flight originated in Mac  

Published: May 26, 2005

Of The News-Register

HILLSBORO - The powerful twin-engine turboprop that crashed Tuesday on takeoff from the Hillsboro Airport, killing a Yamhill County couple and a Washington County couple, was on a flight that originated out of its home base in McMinnville.

Pilot Mychal McCartney, 60, and his wife, Pam, 58, residents of the section of rural Hillsboro lapping into northern Yamhill County, died with their close friends, Art and Jean Pogrell of the Washington County community of Cedar Mill. The four were on a dinner outing to Salem when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

The McCartneys, whose home was off Bald Peak Road, owned Max Aviation & Development Co., located northwest of Newberg.

Mychal McCartney, registered owner of the Mitsubishi MU-2 involved in the crash, bought and sold planes and developed and operated car washes through the family company. Pam McCartney worked for Tri-Met, metropolitan Portland's transit system, until her retirement in 2001.

McCartney had 17,000 hours of flight time, including many hours in a series of Mitsubishis, which feature a 40-foot wingspan. However, the powerful, high-speed plane is notoriously difficult to fly.

Linda Henderson and her husband, Don, had been invited along on the outing, but passed on the opportunity because she feels uneasy about flying in private planes - even one as large as the MU-2, which seats six comfortably and up to nine in a pinch.

She didn't pay much attention when news broke about a plane crashing near Hillsboro, not immediately making the connection. When she learned what plane it was, she could hardly think of anything else.

"It's the kind of thing that takes your breath away," the Aloha resident told The Oregonian on Wednesday. "They invited us to go along, but we said no because I don't like flying on small planes."

Mychal McCartney, Don Henderson and Art Pogrell, a 68-year-old entrepreneur, were all Royal Rosarians - the official ambassadors of Portland's Rose Festival. Pogrell's wife, Jean, 64, worked for Bank of America.

"We were all good friends," Linda Henderson told The Oregonian. "We went out to dinner a lot. We were all wine-lovers."

Federal investigators said it could take months to determine why the 32-year-old plane crashed. Initial indications, they said, show the turboprop lost power in its left engine moments after lifting off the runway in McMinnville about 5:50 p.m.

Investigators said McCartney had purchased the craft less than a month ago and decided to use McMinnville Municipal Airport as its home base. After leaving McMinnville, they said, he and his wife stopped in Hillsboro to pick up the Pogrells.

The crash occurred upon takeoff. The plane failed to gain sufficient altitude and went down.

"It could possibly be a loss of power in one engine," said Debra J. Eckrote, a senior air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, after getting her first look at the wreckage Wednesday. "I don't see a lot of power in the left engine."

Eckrote said witnesses reported seeing the plane roll to the left before spiraling into the ground, a clue the left engine had failed.

According to federal reports, the 1973 Mitsubishi had been involved in two serious incidents early in its life.

One of them, in 1979, stemmed from a landing gear problem. The other, in 1982, stemmed from failure of the left engine.

The Oregonian quoted a Texas lawyer specializing in aviation cases as saying he considers the MU-2 "the most dangerous twin-engine turboprop airplane every made." Given its extensive crash record, he said, it shouldn't be flying.

He told The Oregonian: "There is a window from the time the aircraft departs the ground. If there is an engine failure, it is virtually impossible to keep the airplane from flipping over and crashing."

And engine failures are by no means unknown in the MU-2. Nor are other problems.

According to National Transportation Safety Board records, more than 200 people have died in more than 180 accidents in models of the MU-2.


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