West Coast Airlines Flight 720 was a scheduled passenger flight from Klamath Falls, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, with intermediate stops at Medford, Oregon, North Bend, Oregon, and Portland, Oregon. On March 10, 1967, it crashed shortly after takeoff at Klamath Falls, killing all four aboard.
West Coast Airlines Flight 720 was operated on March 10, 1967 by one of the company's Fokker F-27's, registered N2712. On the morning of the flight, the aircraft was parked in West Coast's hangar at the airport for routine maintenance. Due to the falling snow that morning, instead of loading at the terminal, as was standard procedure, the aircraft was loaded in the hangar with the passenger and crew members. Both pilots did a pre-flight check of the plane, and reported nothing unusual.
Once boarding was completed at 4:46 AM, the plane was pushed out of the hangar. Snow mixed with rain was falling. During push back from the hangar, the tractor tug was observed to have gotten stuck in the snow, and ground personnel spent 11 minutes freeing it, during which time the airplane was exposed to the weather. No attempt was made to clear the wings or control surfaces of snow. Once freed from the snow, the aircraft taxied to Runway 14 and was given takeoff clearance at 4:57 AM.
The aircraft took off at 5:01 AM, and at 5:02:43 the flight contacted the tower to check if they were on radar. This was the last communication from the aircraft.
The controller reported to Flight 720 that they were on radar. The controller witnessed a target on his screen drift to the left of the runway centerline and head towards Stukel Mountain 6 miles from the airport. At 5:02:49 the flight impacted Stukel Mountain, after failing to get airborne high enough to clear the mountain.
At 5:09 AM a report came in to the tower that an aircraft had crashed on Stukel Mountain. It was observed that the runway tracks were in heavy snow, and the plane swerved to the left on the runway before becoming airborne. By takeoff, the left gear was 12 feet off the runway.
Several witnesses in the vicinity saw the airplane flying low, followed by seeing or hearing a large explosion. All reported snow at the time of the crash.
The aircraft was equipped with a flight data recorder. Although damaged in the crash, the recording medium was able to be read. The aircraft was reported to have climbed to approximately 1 minute after takeoff. Throughout the flight the aircraft was recorded to have continued a turn to the left of the assigned heading. Shortly before impact the aircraft began a sharp turn to the left, towards the mountain, at heading of 042 degrees.
The aircraft was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, which, although damaged, was able to be read. The crew reported a loss of control before impact, along with a report of not being able to see the mountain. An expletive was uttered right before impact.
The aircraft was observed to have been accumulating ice and snow on its control surfaces prior to takeoff and when moved out of the hangar. No action was taken by the crew to have the aircraft deiced, and it was believed by the investigation that this was responsible for the accident. Due to the crew's short turnaround schedule, fatigue was suggested as a contributing factor in the accident.