Brian Brown had been flying planes since he was 16. He was an experienced pilot, with thousands of hours in the air, and there was no reason to think the flight last May 26 would be any different from all the others. There were no warning signals, no feelings of trepidation or unease as they climbed into the Cessna. That would come later.
Brian, his wife Jayann and their 27-year old daughter, Heather, were looking forward to spending time with older daughter Tabitha, who lived in Mountain Home, Idaho. It was about a four-hour flight from their home outside Sacramento, and with balmy temperatures predicted over the Memorial Day weekend, they dressed for summer and packed lightly.
As a firefighter experienced in rescue operations, Brian liked to be prepared for anything. The bags were stowed, the portable aviation radio was on board and Heather grabbed a blanket in case it cooled down. The take-off was flawless and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Weather reports showed a weather disturbance, but it was headed east and away from their flight path. They expected to arrive in Idaho just before dark.
As they crossed the California border into Oregon and turned east towards the steep Owyhee mountain range that divided Oregon and Idaho, the still air began to rustle. The storm they had been following was making a U-turn. A chill began to creep into the cockpit.