something stinks here 

10/27/02 8:38:44 AM Pacific Standard Time

i read this article and several things are screaming out at me about a
real "stinker" going on here. first of all, i did a bit of flying in my
earlier days. in fact, i did some flying in northern minnesota and flew
in-and-out of eveleth. if the pilot had remotely pinged the runway
lights, then he was either in the approach leg of the landing or in
manuvers peformed just prior to that. he could see the runway with the
lights on. why would he fly away from it? if there was icing, and it
seems as if that probably wasn't the case, why would he fly away from
the airport? why would he be crabbing as he "came in" if the winds were
light at the time of the crash? (crabbing is an attitude achieved in
flight to overcome a crosswind while landing. the plane is angled into
the wind while in final approach to the runway until just a few feet
before touchdown. the sideways motion seen from the ground resembles a
crab's movements during locomotion.) also, why did the fuselage burn the
worst while the fuel is kept in the wings which were torn off in the
crash? yes, the north woods are the "swamps at the north end of the
mississippi", but, having lived in that area, i can say that the bodies
should have been able to been removed before now, especially if they are
allowing family members to travel to the site. there shouldn't be anyone
saying they ran out of fuel because there was a big fire and the engines
were running normally at the time of the crash.


10/27/02 4:37:14 AM Pacific Standard Time 
The pilot did turn on the runway lights. So much for the theory that somebody in the woods was mimicking runway lights.
As he walked back to the hangar, Ulman heard a pinging sound over the airport's sound system, an indication that the pilot had used a remote-control device to turn up the runway lights in preparation for landing.
Do you fly? I don't know squat about piloting an aircraft, but if trees were sheared for 150 feet in a direction away from the airport (see graphic)...
... but they were already 3 miles off course when 30 seconds before they were on course and turning on the runway lights (this 30-second figure came from a local pilot on local news who showed a photo of the landing strip and discussed the whole scene on Friday; he'd made the landing many times himself), where was he going?
A resident said the plane went over his house at 100 feet, but, of course, we don't know where his house is located. He saw the plane "crabbing to the right."
Carmody said the cockpit was "gone"? Why was it "gone"? Where did it go? This stinks!
BTW, it looks like Mondale may be placed on the ballot. He may be a more formidable opponent to Turncoat Colemen than Wellstone! Ha!
It could take long time to determine cause of crash

EVELETH, MINN. -- The remains of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter and five others who died Friday morning in a plane crash south of town were removed from the burned wreckage Saturday.

As federal investigators tried to piece together what caused the crash, authorities confirmed that the plane was off course and heading south -- away from the airport -- when it came down.

The plane was 90 degrees off a routine approach to the westbound runway at the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport.

Further, its angle of descent was "steeper than the normal approach," said Carol Carmody, acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

She said investigators flew over the crash site in a helicopter Saturday to outline the the scene. While in the air, she said, investigators saw treetops sheared at sharp angles, revealing the plane's path as it plunged into wooded, marshy terrain about 2 miles southeast of the airport.

Carmody said the damage to the trees began 150 feet from the spot where the plane was found.

Paul and Sheila Wellstone, their daughter, Marcia Markuson, and three campaign aides were headed to Virginia to attend a funeral for the father of DFL state Rep. Tom Rukavina when the plane crashed. The two pilots aboard also died.

A witness who lives near the airport told authorities Saturday that he heard the plane pass over his house while he was watching TV. When he looked out his window, he saw the aircraft about 100 feet over his house. He said it was jerking or "crabbing to the right."

Less than a minute later, Carmody said, the man felt the impact of the crash and heard a "loud shot."

Carmody said the wreckage was confined to a relatively small area -- about 300 feet by 190 feet.

"It was very badly burned," she said.

Carmody said the plane -- a Beechcraft King Air A100 -- was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, which is often helpful in determining the cause of crashes.

On Friday, she said that she had been told the plane did have such a device, but she said Saturday that she had been misinformed. Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, cockpit voice recorders are not required on such planes.

Tough logistics

Federal investigators arrived on the scene Friday night but didn't get a thorough look at the wreckage until daybreak Saturday, when they rode all-terrain vehicles through the bogs and mud. They also carried shovels to dig their way out of the muck.

Two of the vehicles carrying investigators got stuck on their way to the scene.

"It's made logistics complicated," Carmody said. "It's a tough trip."

Once at the site, investigators found the aircraft in several charred pieces.

Carmody said the fuselage was destroyed, the cockpit was "gone," the left wing was badly burned and the right wing was "damaged considerably."

She also said damage to the engine blades showed that the engines were still running and powering the aircraft when it hit the ground.

One task still facing investigators is the recovery of several valves and cockpit switches that could indicate whether the plane's de-icing equipment was functioning, said Robert Benzom, the NTSB official in charge of the investigation.

At the time of the crash, the temperature was near freezing and light snow was falling. Some authorities have speculated that ice build-up on the wings may have been a factor.

When asked how long it would take to determine the cause of the crash, Benzom said: "We've been known to spend at least a year on accidents like this."

Carmody said autopsies of the victims should be completed today at a hospital in Hibbing. She also said investigators plan to remain at the site for several days to complete their work.

On Friday night, one of Wellstone's two sons arrived in Eveleth and was briefed by St. Louis County Sheriff Rick Wahlberg. Carmody said she expects other relatives of the victims to visit the site sometime today.

"Sometimes family members like to go and see where their loved ones died," she said.

Local pilot on scene

Gary Ulman, the assistant manager at the Eveleth airport, may have been the last person to hear anyone aboard the plane.

One of the pilots radioed in that the plane was 7 miles from the airport, which would have it about three minutes away from landing, he said. It was a routine message that gave no hint of trouble.

It required no response from Ulman, who had just finished fueling an airplane and was putting away some paperwork when he heard the pilot talk.

As he walked back to the hangar, Ulman heard a pinging sound over the airport's sound system, an indication that the pilot had used a remote-control device to turn up the runway lights in preparation for landing.

The plane never came in, and Ulman later got a call from an air traffic controller in Duluth, wanting to know what had happened to the plane.

When a plane lands at the Eveleth airport, the pilot is supposed to call in and cancel the flight plan so the airspace can be reassigned. When a flight plan isn't canceled, it's usually because the pilot forgot to make that call, he said.

Ulman went out on the tarmac and didn't see the plane.

"We had to presume it was missing," he said.

He called controllers in Duluth, and they enforced standard search-and-rescue procedures. Ulman took a plane up for a look while air traffic controllers started calling fire and law enforcement agencies.

Almost as soon as he was in the air, Ulman noticed two areas of smoke to the east. One was white smoke, probably from a residential chimney. The other was blue smoke.

"It didn't look right," he said.

Ulman went for a closer look, and as he saw the wreckage, he concluded that the crash site was "too broken up for anyone to survive, and with the amount of fire there, the only way they could survive is by a miracle."

The main body of the plane was in flames, about 20 feet away from the tail, and there appeared to be a small section on fire. He assumed the fuselage broke apart on impact.

When he returned to the airport, a local fire official had more news for him: "We think it may be Wellstone on board."

In the air for a second time, Ulman said it appeared the plane was pointing away from the airport. To him, that indicated that the pilot made a decision at some point to turn away. The path of damaged trees -- from northwest to southeast -- also indicated that the plane was coming down while going away from the airport.

"Normally you would come in and land straight on the runway," he said. "The winds were light at the time, so landing direction did not matter"

While there has been speculation about the wings icing up, Ulman said he talked to a United Parcel Service pilot who landed at the airport Friday morning and reported that he had no problem with ice shedding from the wings despite the foul weather.

Over the years at the airport, located about 175 miles north of the Twin Cities, Ulman has met many of the state's politicians: Wellstone, Gov. Jesse Ventura, U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor who is running for Wellstone's seat.

"It's kind of sad," he said, "seeing all the flags at half-staff."

Back in Eveleth, residents had another way to pay their respects. Outside Goodfellas restaurant off Highway 53, a sign out front said simply, "Goodbye, Paul. Thanks."

-- The writers can be reached at