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A Secret Mission, a One-Eyed Pilot, a Fiery Crash in Columbia

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posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 02:35 PM
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I started a thread about this crash when it happened, but found this article about it from December that really is incredible. There were screw ups so badly during this flight that it's amazing.

On October 4th of last year, a DeHavilland Dash 8 operated by a New Frontier crew, for Sierra Nevada, which was operating under Big Safari (confusing, ain't it) slammed into a mountain in Columbia, killing all but two of the crew on board. On board were two pilots (both survived and were unidentified as the investigation is ongoing), 28 year old William Burnette III, a former Air Force member, 66 year old Ralph Dietz, retired from the Air Force and having just left Homeland Security, Air Force Sgt. Martin Gonzalez, who was liaison and translator for Lt. Lloyd Nunez who was acting as the "Host Nation Rider".

The aircraft was operating out of Panama under the umbrella of Big Safari. Their mission was to monitor "go fast boats" that would run out of inlets in the area heading for the US with loads of drugs. The group would use civilian aircraft to be more discrete about the mission (how they were more discrete with the modifications made to the aircraft is beyond me).

Big Safari contracted the mission to Sierra Nevada, who had flown other operations for them in the past. They used a little known loophole, making the contract for the missions a no bid contract, to give the mission to Sierra Nevada. In turn Sierra Nevada steered a subcontract for crews to New Frontiers Innovations. Now here is where the fun starts.

The command pilot for the aircraft was a former Navy Seal. About 10 years ago, during a martial arts tournament, he took a blow to the head that ended up with his right eye coming out of the socket. During the ride to the hospital, he was forced to cup his eye in his hand, holding it in place. He never regained sight in the eye. He received a waiver from the FAA to be able to fly, even though he was blind in the eye, even though some colleagues were critical of his flying abilities.

The aircraft in question was bought in 2012. They immediately began to modify it, including cameras, a high tech radar, listening devices that would monitor cell phone and radio traffic, as well as extra fuel tanks that would allow for extended missions that would keep them from having to land and refuel. It was modified so extensively that the FAA deemed it Experimental, and granted an airworthiness certificate for "crew training, and market surveys" only.

The complaints from William Burnette about the pilots, included that they didn't know how to land the aircraft. They would come down too hard on some approaches, and miss their initial point on others. It also came out after the crash that the terrain warning system was unplugged because it didn't work right.

On this night, during the mission over the Caribbean, the pilots became lost. They wandered over Columbia, and by the time they realized it, it was to late. The aircraft slammed into a mountain, killing everyone in the back, and seriously burning the copilot. Both pilots attempted to go out through the cockpit escape hatches, but they were taped shut from the outside. They were able to get out through a tear in the cockpit.

There is no excuse for things to get this screwed up, except a total lack of oversight. Big Safari has been performing vital missions for the government, including UAV operations, since at least 2011, probably longer. I seriously doubt that anyone in the government even knows about them, except a few people, and they let them do what they want. The end result is the death of four people in a totally screwed up mission, on a plane that shouldn't have been flying that night.

Vocativ




posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 02:55 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Thanks Zaph. This is a very interesting read. Just on secrecy alone of these companies. S&F

Now if I can find the thread GARIAC posted about the aircraft tail number at Home Base in tonapah. Both are dash 8's

Edit. The to dash 8's are of course to completely different craft. Base camp TTR tail cn-235-96-6044. Belonging to the 427th ( I don't know if this craft ties in with sierra Nevada LLC. Or big safari).
Then there is the the custom bombardier dash 8 with tail # TD ( blurry ) af-94 or 96. -048.

My reasoning is o figure what the real purpose of BASE CAMP TTR. and if this now crashed dash has ever been spotted there. I can't find the thread but it seems to connect SIEERA NEVADA CORP. To the owner of TTR.
edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 02:57 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


ColOmbia...Amigo.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 03:01 PM
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Big Safari has been funding/running recon missions deemed "vital" for time immemorial. It is just a way to avoid regular procurement channels. In this example it was the modification of the Dash 8. It's entirely possible this was a Grade A cluster-****. The article reads like sensationalism, however.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 03:07 PM
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reply to post by _Del_
 


Oh, I guarantee that there's some sensationalism going on. But at the same time, I'm willing to bet that if we could get the report of the accident, we'd find that a lot of the basic facts are pretty close to what was in the article.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 03:18 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Re edited my original post when you responded. I just want to grasp how big of an opporation this could be. And why they feel the need to re certify handicap pilot. Doent seem right to risk safety over secrecy. Let alone a major modified aircraft.
edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)

edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 03:36 PM
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Bigburgh
reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Re edited my original post when you responded. I just want to grasp how big of an opporation this could be. And why they feel the need to re certify handicap pilot. Doent seem right to risk safety over secrecy. Let alone a major modified aircraft.
edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)

edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)


Willey Post broke many altitude and I believe speed records with just one eye.... Just saying..! He was the pilot when Will Rogers and he died in Alaska..... Wiley Post set two records for around the world solo flights.. In Oklahoma just north of Will Rogers Int airport is another airport called Wiley Post.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 03:42 PM
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reply to post by 727Sky
 


Lol. OK point taken


Edit. Again one eyed pilot and modified aircraft..
edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)


Wiley post was quite a distinguished pilot.
edit on 19-2-2014 by Bigburgh because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 04:57 PM
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Amazing.....too unbelievable NOT to be true. Why am I not surprised though?



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 05:40 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


So, what you are basically saying is that whoever this 'Big Safari' group is, they can afford to buy a plane, they can afford to modify it. but they can't be bothered to make sure it is safe?

Where is the logic in going to all the effort in kitting a plane out for surveillance but not making sure it flies right?

Heads ought to roll over this one if all of this is true.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 06:25 PM
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reply to post by markosity1973
 


Big Safari funds modifications of existing airframes to meet immediate and vital ISR or EW mission requirements. It enables commanders to acquire an asset in months or weeks which would normally take years (and usually for a boatload less money). It's worked with the DEA and foreign military operators. In this case it provided a modified Dash 8 for support of Operation Martillo. From the sound of the article, that's on Sierra Nevada who was contracted to provide that support -- which would make it even more difficult to oversee a private corporation operating oversees. Did they cut corners? Maybe. Sierra Nevada Corp is a big-time operator. I'd think they're smarter than that, but people make mistakes all the time. Planes crash all the time. Could be (sounds like it may be) as simple as pilot error. Maybe the fact the terrain avoidance was tits up was an undocumented, but well-known secret. It's going to make it hard to pin on the company, and that is going to come back to the flight crew if that's the case.
All this "super-secret" "Big Safari has been performing vital missions for the government, including UAV operations, since at least 2011, probably longer. I seriously doubt that anyone in the government even knows about them, except a few people, and they let them do what they want" is crap. It was established in 1952 to get a big camera on a C-97 quick fast and in a hurry. There is a ton of unclassified information on various Big Safari programs. It's yellow journalism. The only thing that isn't open source is the ongoing missions.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 06:35 PM
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reply to post by _Del_
 


There are a number of organizations through the years that were doing things a lot of people thought they knew about and didn't.

Do you really think they're advertising the counter drug misson to everyone? Or some of their other projects?



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 07:37 PM
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Zaphod58
reply to post by _Del_
 


There are a number of organizations through the years that were doing things a lot of people thought they knew about and didn't.

Do you really think they're advertising the counter drug misson to everyone? Or some of their other projects?


Of course not, but you can find out alot about Op. Martillo or Plan Colombia by just using google. They aren't advertising a lot of what they've been doing in Afghanistan and some of the other 'stans either. But there is so much information that is out there. The "journalist" is saying there isn't "anyone in the government even knows about them" which is baloney. Then "since at least 2011, probably longer" when a simple google search would have shown the even mildly-interested observer the program dates to 1952. It's either terribly lazy or an attempt to create a "super-secret" for the sake of sensationalism. I'm a cynic, so perhaps it's both.
They lost a MC-12 last year in Afghanistan and a U-28 a few years ago of the Horn of Africa, and some information is available about both of those incidents as well. Maybe this guy can make a tempest in a tea pot about those, too.



posted on Feb, 19 2014 @ 09:00 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


If it was N356PH as reported, then the modifications didn't change its appearancve all that much eg see here for a photo 2013 - a radome under the fuselage and antenna fairing on top - both in het same paint colour as adjacent structure would not be very obvious to anyone observing it from the ground when it was in flight.
edit on 19-2-2014 by Aloysius the Gaul because: fix link



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