Bucklin Reported Wind Currents, Ice Before Fatal Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that pilot Luke Bucklin indicated via radio that he was encountering challenges before his plane went down October 25, killing him and three sons.

Shortly before his small airplane crashed in Wyoming on October 25, killing him and three sons, Sierra Bravo Cofounder and President Luke Bucklin told air traffic controllers that he was unable to maintain altitude due to wind currents that were pushing down his plane.

According to a preliminary report issued Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Bucklin's plane departed from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just after 1 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and was in contact with Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controlers in Salt Lake City.

The plane-a four-seat single-engine Mooney 201-was tracked until about 1:36 p.m., at which time it was flying at 14,000 feet. At about 1:41 p.m., Bucklin radioed in, saying that he “was encountering a light chop and a trace of rime icing.” Rime icing-a granular deposit-is similar to what builds up in older models of freezers, and it can diminish a plane's lift and performance. At about 1:52 p.m., the plane was picked up by radar for the last time at an altitude of 13,300 feet.

After a week-long search, searchers found the plane on the evening of November 1 at 11,000 feet in the rugged mountains of western Wyoming on a slope about six miles southeast of Gannett Peak.

Wyoming's Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan said Thursday that all four of the Bucklin passengers-Luke, 40, and his sons, 14-year-old twins Nick and Nate, and 12-year-old Noah-died as the result of blunt force trauma they suffered in the crash. “All indications are that the crash was the cause of death,” he said in a statement.

The four Bucklins had been returning to Minneapolis from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, after a wedding and vacation. Luke Bucklin's wife, Ginger Bucklin, and his 5-year-old son, Oliver, were also on the trip but took a commercial flight home on October 24.

Luke Bucklin filed two flight plans on the morning of his planned departure, both originating from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, according to the NTSB report. The first flight plan, filed at 10:40 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, indicated planned departure time of 11:30 a.m. and listed Rapid City, South Dakota, as the destination. But Bucklin later changed his mind, specifying that he'd instead be leaving at 12:47 p.m. and heading to Pierre, South Dakota.

According to the report, Bucklin had obtained weather briefings before he filed his flight plans on the morning of October 25. “Both weather briefings included . . . [information about] mountain obscuration, turbulence, and icing along the planned flight routes and altitudes,” the report said.

Bucklin's seven-year-old company, Sierra Bravo has most recently been doing business as Nerdery Interactive Labs. It employs about 100 people and is among the state's largest Web development and design companies.