A pilot asked, “What in the world?” and his co-pilot responded, “You just lost your left engine” immediately before a plane crashed in Addison last year, killing 10 people in the deadliest aviation disaster in North Texas in decades.
The conversation was recorded on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and the transcript was released by federal investigators who also noted that the plane had an unexplained, ongoing issue with burning oil -- in the same engine the co-pilot said had failed.
Separately, the pilot failed to perform a “checklist” and other safety procedures like computing the weight and balance before taking off, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
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In a 438-page factual summary, investigators detailed their evidence but reached no conclusion. The final report is expected within months.
The plane, a Beech BE-300 King Air, crashed into a hangar seconds after it took off from Addison Airport on June 30, 2019, killing the pilot, co-pilot and eight others who were headed to St. Petersburg, Florida, on a pleasure trip. Nobody on the ground was injured.
Cockpit Voice Recorder: 'What in the World?'
The charred cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the wreckage and revealed what was going on inside the doomed plane before the crash.
More than an hour before takeoff, at 7:49 a.m., an unidentified person was heard discussing an oil issue with the pilot.
"Mechanic says you have a (burn) issue with the number one engine," the person said. "The mechanic says you need to monitor that… We’re not seeing any excess blowing out, but uh, it’s something that you probably need to keep your eyes on, keep a log on, keep notes. He’s been checking the plane out every time you guys go out."
At 9:03 a.m., the engines started.
Two minutes later, the first officer radioed the tower that they were ready to taxi and they were instructed to use runway 15.
At 9:09 a.m., the tower cleared the plane to take off.
One minute later, almost immediately after taking off, the pilot said, "What in the world?"
The co-pilot responded, "You just lost your left engine."
A stall warning started sounding and continued until the recording stopped, the NTSB said.
At 9:10 a.m., the first officer said, "Holy s---," the report said.
Two seconds later -- the sound of impact.
Questions About Pilot’s Performance
Investigators interviewed several acquaintances of the pilot, Howard Cassady, 71, who agreed he "was bad about using checklists."
A former business partner told investigators Cassady had been fired from a company years earlier after passengers complained he scared them when he flew into a storm.
But others, including a flight instructor, said Cassady seemed professional and seasoned.
Cassady logged a total of 16,450 hours of flying time, the report said.
Chris Kilgore, a Dallas attorney representing Cassady’s estate and widow, declined comment.
Several lawsuits have been filed by the families of those killed and are still pending in Dallas County District Court. A trial date has not been set.
Possible Throttle Issue Noted
Investigators also asked questions about a phenomenon known as throttle lever migration, described as the tendency for power levers to spring back towards idle in flight.
The NTSB noted that other King Air pilots who were interviewed were aware of the issue or had experienced it personally.
The report provided no evidence that a problem with the power levers may have caused the crash other than to point out it had been an issue in that model plane.
Items Found in Wreckage
Investigators recovered several cellular phones in the wreckage. They were partly charred but still functioned. They could not be accessed, however, because they were locked and nobody had the passcodes.
Also discovered in the rubble were sandwiches and wine coolers for the trip.
The victims of the crash were Cassady, the pilot; Matthew Palmer, the co-pilot; Brian Ellard, Ornella Ellard, Alice Maritato, Dylan Maritato, Stephen Thelen, Gina Thelen, John Titus and Mary Titus.
The plane was registered to EE Operations LLC, a subsidiary of a family-owned business, Ellard Family Holdings LLC, according to the NTSB. Cassady operated the aircraft through a separate company, S&H Aircraft.