ADDISON, Texas (AP) — A pilot’s failure to control a small airplane when it lost thrust in one of two engines seconds after takeoff in suburban Dallas led to a 2019 crash that killed all 10 people aboard, federal officials said in a report Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the King Air 350 crashed into an aircraft hangar 17 seconds after lifting off from a runway at Addison Airport on June 30, 2019.
The pilot, Howard Cassady, 71, and co-pilot, Matthew Palmer, 28, and all eight passengers were killed. The privately owned airplane was headed to St. Petersburg, Florida.
NTSB investigators used sound captured by the cockpit voice recorder to determine that the left engine lost thrust shortly after takeoff.
The NTSB said the uneven force from the propellers wasn’t enough, however, to cause the plane to tilt as far as it did. Armed with data from the propeller and plane manufacturers, the investigators believe the pilot should have been able to control the plane by maneuvering the rudder, but he turned the rudder the wrong direction, perhaps because he was startled by a stall warning. By the time he corrected the rudder setting, it was too late.
The NTSB investigators found that if the pilot had initially applied the correct rudder input, the plane would have been controllable.
Also, according to the NTSB, the cockpit audio recording did not capture pilots conducting a pre-flight checklist, which is considered an essential safety step. The NTSB said Cassady had a history of not using checklists.
The NTSB said failing to do a checklist might have caused the pilots to miss an improper setting of devices called power lever friction locks, which could cause the throttle to move and lead to an accidental loss of engine thrust.
Damage from the impact and heavy fire that followed prevented investigators from determining exactly why the left engine lost thrust, but they said they didn’t find anything that would have prevented it from operating normally.
The passengers included a family of four and two couples. Brian Ellard, 52, and his wife, Ornella Ellard, 45, were killed, along with her two children, 15-year-old Alice Maritato and 13-year-old Dylan Maritato. Also killed were: Stephen Thelan, 58, and Gina Thelen, 57; and John Titus, 61, and Mary Titus, 60.