Federal investigators say pilot in fatal crash in Washington County didn’t make distress call

Site where plane went down, killing pilot, visited by NTSB

FAYETTEVILLE -- Federal investigators say the pilot of the small aircraft that crashed Friday night southeast of Fayetteville left no indication he was in any kind of distress.

Lewis Brant Barnes, 43, of Tontitown, was killed when his M35 fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft went down near North Smokey Bear Road in Washington County, the sheriff's office said in a post on its Facebook page Friday. Barnes was the only person in the aircraft when it crashed.

"He was on his way back to Drake Field after having flown from Drake Field to Stuttgart, Ark.," Peter Knudson, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Monday. "The weather was good. It was dark at the time of the crash, and there was no distress call we're aware of. The aircraft crashed into a wooded area about 2 miles east of Drake Field."

The sheriff's office said it was notified of the crash around 5:57 p.m. Friday, and deputies arrived on the scene around 6:03 p.m. and found the aircraft.

The Fayetteville Fire Department, Round Mountain Fire Department, Central EMS and the Washington County Coroner's Office also responded to the incident, the post states.

Kelly Cantrell, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said on Saturday that the aircraft crashed in a wooded area near 10501 N. Smokey Bear Road, which is east of Drake Field. Cantrell said the initial investigation indicated that Barnes was preparing to land when the aircraft crashed. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were notified and took over the investigation on Saturday.

Knudson said an NTSB investigator arrived from the Chicago area on Saturday, completed his on-site work Sunday, and had left the area by Monday.

The NTSB will have a preliminary report on the crash in two to three weeks, Knudson said, and a final report could take from 12 to 24 months. Knudson said the investigation will include a review of any flight logs and other information on Barnes and on the aircraft.