BOISE – A small plane that crashed this week in southwestern Idaho apparently broke up in flight, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board says.
Another pilot flying a second aircraft said the pilot who crashed reported he was cold because the door was not fully latched, and was considering landing in Mountain Home to close it.
NTSB investigator Tom Little said the wings and tail appeared to have broken off the 1965 Piper Comanche in the air.
“It happens if a plane is overstressed,” Little said Thursday, declining to elaborate.
Little said weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash late Sunday that killed Craig Jewett, 41, of Centerville, Utah.
Jewett had recently bought the plane from a southwestern Idaho man and was flying it back to Utah.
He and another pilot, Warren Kenner, flew to Idaho on Sunday in Kenner’s single-engine Cherokee to pick up Jewett’s plane.
With Jewett in his new plane and Kenner in his, they left the Caldwell Airport on Sunday between 7 p.m. and about 8 p.m., authorities said. “The plan was: Just fly straight home, and I’ll follow you,” Kenner said.
Kenner lost sight of Jewett in the faster Comanche not long after takeoff, but communicated by radio for about 40 minutes. Kenner said Jewett told him he was ascending and descending rapidly like a roller coaster.
“Early on, I think he was doing quite a bit of that for fun. You get a new toy,” Kenner said. “We talked about the weather. You could see mountain obscurations.”
Jewett told Kenner he might land in Mountain Home, about 50 miles east of Boise, to close the door of his aircraft because it was not fully latched.
Kenner lost radio contact with Jewett when he passed over the mountains near Twin Falls in south-central Idaho.
Mel Coulter, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aviation, said the last radio contact Jewett had was around 8:40 p.m. Sunday, when the plane was at an altitude of about 1,600 feet. He said no flight plan had been filed.
Kenner said he was later baffled by radar that showed Jewett never made it to Twin Falls, but instead was circling between Boise and Mountain Home when he crashed.
“It could have been Craig having fun, it could have been Craig having a problem,” Kenner said. “There are a lot of I-don’t-know’s.”
The wreckage was found Tuesday in Elmore County.
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