1981 Plane Crash Kills Two


In Loving Memory
John W. Lewelling
Born January 17, 1948
Culver City, California

Photo used by permission of Ron Ediger (nephew of John Lewelling)


Early in the morning of January 28, 1981, a Beech H18 twin engine cargo plane lost power to at least one, and maybe both, engines during a rain storm while flying from Van Nuys Airport to Salt Lake City, Utah. The plane crashed on a ridge above Elsmere Canyon killing both the pilot John Lewelling and co-pilot Eric Anderson. Lewelling was not scheduled to fly that night and had gone out to dinner with his wife, which included having a couple of drinks of wine. While the NTSB reported alcoholic impairment might have been a partial cause, engine failure during a rain storm would most certainly have been the main cause.


Los Angeles Times January 28, 1981

Los Angeles Times January 29, 1981


From the National Transportation Safety Board's accident database website comes this additional information:

Location: Newhall, Ca.
Make/Model: Beech H18
Registration Number: N787Q
Event Severity: Fatal(2)
Type of Air Carrier Operation and Carrier Name (Doing Business As): Part 135 Nonscheduled Western States

Accident Synopsis:



The crash site is high up on a ridge east of, and overlooking, Elsmere Canyon. The collision was "controlled" which means the plane was unintentionally flown into the ground. (photo taken 12-24-2007)


"87Q" on piece of twisted metal. The registration number of the plane was "N787Q" confirming that this is the crash site.


Various pieces of metal and hardware from the site. All of the big pieces of the plane were probably removed after the crash.


More pieces including some circuit boards and small (empty) bottles. The larger circuit board says "Transmitter Control" on the front and "Det D836535-01(A) 05/77" on the back. The "05/77" is probably the date of manufacture of the board. The smallest bottles say "Hexadrol Phosphate Injection 1ml - For IM or IV use - Organon Inc. - West Orange, N.J." and "Lot 1080796D Expires 09/83". The cargo obviously included medical supplies. The date of the circuit board and the expiration date of the bottles also fit the crash date of 1981.


The back of this device has an air inlet. The label says "Directional Gyro - Type 332E-3G - Ser. No. 355 - Wt 4.7 lbs - TSO C6c - Collins Part No 5222645 - Remanufactured by Collins Radio Company - Cedar Rapids, Iowa"


The front of the directional gyro with the data for the pilot has a broken face plate and has a "Collins" insignia.