Saturday, August 13, 2011


Having just last evening returned home from a week of aviating and vacationing (beginning with the visit to First Flight described here), I got around this morning to catching up on local events. One item caught my attention with the headline "Two Die in Fauquier County Plane Crash". I clicked through to the story, saw the sub-head...and my heart dropped like a stone. "Shannon Beebe, 42, was flying single-engine aircraft when it crashed Sunday at Warrenton Air Park." I scrolled down quickly, hoping to not see Elizabeth's name, but expecting the worst...which is what I found: "WJLA is reporting that the female passenger was Alexandria attorney Elizabeth Pignatello.". Damn! Just...damn!

Pat and I had met Shannon and Elizabeth only recently, but we were immediately drawn to them. We spent most of a recent party sitting with them poolside, talking flying and airplanes and travel and family. They were relaxed and friendly and warm. We parted with plans to get in touch about organizing a "fly-out" for pilots based at KVKX. Shannon was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He'd graduated from West Point in 1991, and had served our country in the Balkans and in several posts in Africa. Currently posted to the Pentagon, he was a a noted expert on African affairs. Elizabeth was a patent and securities attorney in private practice, and a mom with two small children.

Shannon Beebe, a Commercial Pilot, was consumed by a love of flying. He didn't have an airplane of his own but he had lots of friends with airplanes and never seemed in want of a ride. He had logged 1,000 hours of bush flying in Alaska and Africa and that, along with seaplane flying, was what he loved the most. The airplane he was flying last Sunday was a friend's Maule M-7-235 on amphibious floats. The NTSB's Preliminary Report quotes a witness, in part:

...he had observed the airplane enter the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for the runway and while turning from the base leg to the final leg of the approach the airplane banked to the left. The airplane appeared to continue to bank to approximately 75 degrees, at which point the nose pitched over to an almost vertical attitude. The airplane impacted the ground in an open field prior to the runway threshold, and exploded.

This one hurts a lot.

Elizabeth Pignatello & Shannon Beebe...Gone West 8/7/2011


Stephanie Belser said...

Crap. Sorry, Frank.

I'm having a hard time thinking of why the airplane would bank that steeply, unless one of the people on board was suddenly incapacitated.

Frank Van Haste said...

Thank you, Steph...

This one is so hard to understand. I just don't want to accept that it was the same old stall-spin on the base-to-final turn. Shannon was too good for that, goddammit.

Incapacitation? Maybe the airplane broke? I dunno.

You be careful out there, okay?


blogger b said...

Was there ever a final determination as to the cause of the accident.

Brad (friend if Elizabeth).


Frank Van Haste said...

Brad, the NTSB finding of probable cause is here: