Tuesday, April 24 , 2018, 10:02 pm | Partly Cloudy 53º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Santa Barbara Pilot in Fatal Crash Near Palm Springs Was Trying to Avoid Tall Peak, NTSB Says

Radio transcripts reveal apparent cockpit confusion before Piper PA28 slammed into side of 11,503-foot Mount San Gorgonio

A Santa Barbara pilot was attempting to navigate around Southern California’s tallest peak last month when his small plane crashed in rugged terrain, killing him and his passenger, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report obtained by Noozhawk.

Santa Barbara pilot Bob Trimble was trying to avoid Southern California’s highest peak, Mount San Gorgonio, on Oct. 17 when his plane crashed near Palm Springs, killing him and passenger Terri Day.
Santa Barbara pilot Bob Trimble was trying to avoid Southern California’s highest peak, Mount San Gorgonio, on Oct. 17 when his plane crashed near Palm Springs, killing him and passenger Terri Day. (Accurate Aviation photo)

Veteran pilot Bob Trimble was at the controls of the single-engine Piper PA28 at about 3:50 p.m. Oct. 17 when it slammed into a boulder-strewn ridge some 23 miles northeast of Palm Springs, near 11,503-foot Mount San Gorgonio.

Trimble, 71, and his passenger, Terri Day, 50, both employees of Accurate Aviation in Santa Barbara, had flown to Palm Springs International Airport earlier in the day to attend an event at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Trimble was operating under visual flight rules and had not filed a flight plan prior to the crash, according to a preliminary NTSB accident report, created with the help of radio and radar data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane took off from Palm Springs on a northerly heading, and a few minutes into the flight, Trimble made radio contact with the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control, which confirmed it had the aircraft on radar.

The weather conditions that day were scattered cloudiness with a cloud ceiling of about 7,000 feet, according to the NTSB report.

Trimble and the flight controller had several radio exchanges about his intended course and the nearby mountains.

At one point, according to the report, the controller asks, “Just to be clear, you do have the terrain in sight to your left, right?”

Trimble confirmed that he did, and told the controller he was going to perform a 360-degree turn to gain altitude.

The two then had a discussion about Trimble’s intended course:

Controller: “Are you guessing you are going to wind up north of Big Bear or do you think you’re going to be able to get up through Banning Pass ... ?

Trimble: “I’m going to try to go through San Bernardino and out to the desert ... ”

At this point, the plane had reached an altitude of 7,000 feet, and began a series of six climbing, 360-degree turns, according to the report.

When it reached 10,800 feet, the plane headed west directly toward San Gorgonio.

Moments later, there seemed to be some confusion as Trimble and the controller discussed his planned route around the peak:

Controller: “So you’re going to go north side of the peak then ... correct?

Trimble: “Um, say again.”

Controller: “N72J, are you going to go north side of the peak there or south side there?”

Trimble: “Umm, I show that we’re heading right to San Bernardino.”

Controller: “OK, I show an eleven-seven peak between you and San Bernardino.”

Trimble: Um, I’m at ... ten thousand, six hundred (feet) ... and I’m still climbing.”

The aircraft flew west for another seven minutes, then began to descend before the final radio exchange between the two:

Controller: “Piper 72J, you are descending once again in an area of higher terrain just west of you. I have a peak that I show to be at eleven thousand, seven hundred feet just west of your position ... Verify that you still have the terrain in sight.”

Trimble: “Negative! Negative!”

The controller then instructs Trimble to remain calm, to maintain his altitude and to head east if possible.

There was no response, according to the report, and the plane continued to descend for another 45 seconds before slamming into the San Bernardino Mountains at an elevation of about 7,200 feet.

The plane was destroyed by the impact and subsequent fire, and both Trimble and Day aboard are believed to have died instantly.

Trimble, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was the general manager of Accurate Aviation. He also was also a faculty member at Santa Barbara City College in the Department of Alcohol and Drug Counseling and served the recovery community in several capacities.

Day was Accurate’s human resources and training manager, and recently had become engaged to the company’s president, Tom McGregor.

A final report on the crash will be compiled by the NTSB, a process that can take weeks, if not months.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >