On December 3, San Diego residents Jerry Black, along with his passenger Larry Gallego, crashed in Black’s Piper Mirage airplane into a field at Mammoth Yosemite Airport (seven miles from Mammoth Lakes).
According to police and Sierra Wave Media, while attempting to take off, high winds forced the plane into the field’s “segmented circle” — a near-the-runway circle of metal signage used as a traffic-pattern aid for aircraft. One of the plane’s wings was torn off.
In an interview with Mammoth Lakes Police Department officer Grant Zemel, he said Black sustained minor injuries to his head but medical aid was not needed.
A light winter storm was predicted for December 3, bringing erratic wind speeds, reportedly at 35 knots (about 40 MPH), at the time of the crash. Zemel believes Black turned into the gusty wind for take-off, then the wind stopped, and he assumed it would burst again. “That’s my guess,” said Zemel.
The airport was reopened at 2:30 p.m., two hours after the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the accident. The airport’s manager says Black’s insurance company will eventually pick up the wreckage for repair or salvage.
The airport runway paralleling Highway 395 in the Eastern Sierras is often subject to heavy eastwardly crosswinds coming off the Sierra Nevada mountain range from the west. Mammoth’s commercial flights from LAX, San Diego, and San Francisco on Alaska and United Airlines are often canceled or delayed when winter storms approach.