Investigators look for cause of fatal small plane crash
November 15, 2004
SAN ANTONIO – A federal air safety investigator said Monday the pilot in a fatal crash – possibly disoriented while flying through clouds – told traffic controllers his plane was climbing though radar showed it flying straight toward the ground.
Alex Lemishko, leading the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the Sunday crash, said the Piper Navajo slammed into the ground at a senior citizens housing complex about three miles from the airport.
One of the wings sliced through a shingled wall of an apartment, creating a crater nearly six feet deep and a small fire. An elderly woman escaped uninjured. “It’s a miracle she didn’t get hit by flying debris,” Lemishko said.
All five aboard the plane died.
Lemishko said there was a good chance weather was a factor. “We know the aircraft was within a cloud when whatever was going on up there was happening,” he said.
The plane, which took off from Dodge City, Kan., was flying by instruments when it lined up for a landing, Lemishko said. For some reason, the plane pulled off that approach, apparently intending to circle and try again.
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In his last contact with the control tower, the pilot said he was at 2,500 feet and ascending to 3,000 feet; the last radar observation showed it at 1,300 feet and descending, Lemishko said.