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NTSB: Crew Discussed Engine Trouble Before Addison Plane Crash

Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News via Associated Press
A small airplane crashed as it was taking off from the Addison Airport Sunday morning, a spokeswoman said.

Federal officials say the flight crew discussed a left engine problem just before a small plane crashed at a suburban Dallas airport, killing all 10 on board.

Witnesses and authorities have said the Beechcraft BE-350 King Air struggled to gain altitude before veering to the left and crashing into a hangar at the Addison Municipal Airport Sunday morning. Two crew members and eight passengers died.

National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said at a Tuesday news conference that the crew discussion was heard on the cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered from the charred wreckage.

Landsberg says the plane was cleared for takeoff about a minute before the recording ended. He says crew comments "consistent with confusion" were followed by comments regarding a problem with the left engine.

All 10 people aboard the plane have been identified. They are:

  • Howard Hale Cassady
  • Brian Mark Ellard
  • Ornella Ellard
  • Alice Giovanna Maritato
  • Dylan Rocco Maritato
  • Matthew John Palmer
  • Stephen Lee Thelen
  • Gina Cunningham Thelen
  • John Leo Titus
  • Mary Martha Titus

Federal aviation officials say the plane did not appear to have communication issues during takeoff. The plane's cockpit voice recorder has been recovered, and officials said they will review that tape, along with maintenance and pilot records.

National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg spoke with reporters this afternoon.

“The communication seemed to be completely normal. In other words, the pilots were cleared for takeoff, they acknowledged takeoff,” Landsberg said. “At this point we are not aware of further communication between the crew and air traffic control."

A full investigation could take 18 months, but a preliminary report is expected in two weeks.

The plane's former owner Todd DeSimone says he sold it this year to a Texas-based company.

DeSimone, general manager of Chicago-based charter company Planemasters, said Monday that he sold the plane to a company based in Addison called EE Operations.

No one has responded to a message left at a phone number associated with EE Operations.

The company's agent in Delaware, where EE Operations is registered, said it would forward a request for comment.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Monday that the twin-engine plane's tail number, N511EF, was registered in April. The FAA registry confirmed that the plane was registered to EE Operations.

Lunsford said Monday that the pilots on Sunday used the plane's previous tail number in radio communications and for the flight plan, and that questions about why they were using the old number would be addressed in the investigation.

Witnesses who saw a small plane crash say it struggled on takeoff and appeared to lose power.

David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend Sunday morning, told KDFW TV that the plane didn't sound right on takeoff.

He says: "It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn't know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, and you could tell it couldn't climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we're like, 'Oh my God. They're going to crash.'"

Peter Drake says he saw the plane crash into the hangar.

The plane "got onto the runway, went down the runway, started taking off. He got to about 200 feet, and I saw him starting to lose power and his altitude, and then I see him just roll over and came straight down right into the building,"

Air traffic control tower audio from around the time of the crash does not capture any pilot indicating an emergency or trouble with a plane. But pilots waiting to take off soon thereafter can be heard seeking updates and being told repeatedly to wait.

The plane went down a week after another fatal crash involving a Beechcraft King Air.

On June 21, a slightly different model crashed shortly after takeoff in Hawaii, killing 11 people in the deadliest civil aviation accident since 2011. The skydiving plane also rolled to one side just after takeoff. It became inverted and crashed a short distance from the runway, the NTSB said. It was engulfed in flames and everyone on board died.

Although the registered owner remained the same, the aircraft had recently relocated to Hawaii after it was involved in a 2016 accident in California that left it with significant damage.

Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of Beechcraft planes, is working with the NTSB in the agency's investigation of the Addison crash and is prohibited from offering further comment, company spokeswoman Stephanie Harder said Monday.