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Airplane crash kills two in Angel Fire

Pilot, passenger were from Kansas

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Update: Sunday, 8:00 p.m.

The two people who died in the plane crash Sunday morning at Angel Fire Airport have been identified as pilot Richard Joseph Schenk, 65, and Anne Schenk of Great Bend, Kansas, according to officials. Schenk was a commercial pilot, according to a post on the Angel Fire Fire Department Facebook page. 

Schenk was issued a commercial pilot license in 2009 but earlier this year had an unspecified  medical condition that disqualified him from renewing his license, according to FAA records. After an appeal he was granted a one-year special issue certificate until March 2020 when he would have needed to reapply.

Update: Sunday, 4:43 p.m.

“I can tell you from experience this flight was doomed from the start,” said Capt. Robert Katz, a flight instructor and commercial pilot out of Dallas after reading about the plane crash in Angel Fire that claimed two lives Sunday (Oct. 20). “It was 100 percent preventable.”

While investigators were still at the scene of the single-engine plane crash Sunday afternoon trying to determine exactly what happened, Katz went to the weather and airport data readily available to all pilots and gave his assessment: the pilot of the doomed plane ignored warnings about wind and terrain and made a bad choice. 

“The runway is aligned in a north-south orientation,” Katz wrote in an email. “The wind would present a direct crosswind to any airplane arriving or departing from either direction. This is the worst case scenario.”

He said pilots should do a pre-flight check before deciding if it is safe to fly; ignoring what the preflight check and weather data say is irresponsible.  He said most small planes are limited to a certain speed of wind to safely fly much the way a truck is only rated to carry a certain amount of weight. 

But airports, especially small ones like Angel Fire, leave it to private pilots to make the ultimate decision on whether to take off. 

Katz, who has been a flight instructor since 1989 and pilot since 1981, reviews airplane accidents almost daily. “It is an avocation,” he said by phone. “I learn from the mistakes these pilots make.”

Original story: A single-engine plane leaving from the Angel Fire Airport Sunday morning (Oct. 20) crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the two people on board, according to officials.

People were being asked to stay away from the area as investigators work the scene.  

Officials had not yet released the identities of the two people on the plane at noon Sunday and it is unknown if they are from Angel Fire. 

Lt. Mike Woolley, a firefighter and public information officer for the Angel Fire Fire Department, lives near the airport and heard it take off in windy weather.  He doesn't know what caused the crash but wind might have been a factor. "I thought, 'Why would anyone take off in this wind?" Woolley said, estimating it was around 22 knots.

Flight Aware, a live flight tracker, listed wind gusts of 25 knots, or nearly 29 miles per hour, at 8:35 a.m.

At 8:48 a.m. Angel Fire dispatch received a call that the plane had crashed in a field between Zeb's Restuarant and Mountain Supply True Value Hardware. Woolley said the plane clipped Zeb's as it tried to take off, though damage to the restaurant and bar was minimal. 

"This is an ongoing investigation and more information will be forthcoming," said Woolley in a statement on the department's Facebook page.  "The best thing the public can do is stay clear of the area."

He said investigators from the state Office of the Medical Investigator, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to the crash site.

Staff at the airport directed questions to the Angel Fire Fire Department Sunday morning.

Woolley, who owns Re/Max Mountain Realty, said in his 18 years in Angel Fire there have been several plane crashes in the area. 

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque issued a red flag warning east from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where Angel Fire is located, through the central mountain chain until 8 p.m. Sunday night, as a storm moves into the area bringing high winds.  A wind advisory also was issued for an area from Chama and Taos south through Santa Fe to Estancia until 7 p.m. Sunday night. West winds are expected at 30 to 40 miles per hour with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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