The audio recording from onboard a plane that crashed into Addison Airport revealed confusion among the pilots and signs of engine trouble in the moments leading up to the accident.
The small plane crashed seconds after takeoff Sunday morning, smashing into an unoccupied hangar and killing all 10 people aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board held its last formal press briefing on the crash Tuesday.
A cockpit recording captured two hours of audio from the plane leading up to the crash, NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said at Tuesday’s press conference. The plane was cleared for takeoff about a minute before the recording ended.
Twelve seconds before the plane crashed, “crew comment consistent with confusion” was recorded. Landsberg said he could not elaborate on what specifically was said by the crew.
Crew comment regarding a problem with the left engine was captured about eight seconds before the end of the recording. Three automated alarms sounded, warning pilots the plane was banked too sharply to one side, about three seconds before the recording ended.
The plane, a twin-engine Beechcraft 350 King Air, was flying a private party of people to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Experts will continue to analyze the recording in Washington, D.C., Landsberg said. The group will release a written transcript when the majority of reports are completed in the investigation.
NTSB will release a preliminary report in about two weeks, Landsberg said. A factual report will be released in 12 to 18 months and will be followed by a probable cause of the crash.
The NTSB is analyzing video of the crash, records for the pilot and co-pilot and maintenance of the plane.
A pilot who previously flew with the King Air’s pilot told NTSB everything was normal during their flight several weeks ago, Landsberg said.
All 10 people on the plane identified
The plane had a maximum capacity of 11 people. Ten people were onboard: eight passengers and the pilot and co-pilot. All of them have been identified through the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office or other sources.
On Tuesday, the Medical Examiner’s Office identified the flight’s pilot as 71-year-old Howard Hale Cassady, of Fort Worth.
Sources have told the Star-Telegram that Cassady had extensive flight experience, and records say he was rated for a dozen different types of aircraft.
Plane ownership linked to family of 4 who died
The aircraft was owned by a business connected to a family of four who died in the accident, records show.
Brian Ellard, who died along with his wife and two teenage stepchildren, is connected to the business that purchased the aircraft this year from a private charter company in Chicago, according to public records. Todd DeSimone, the general manager of Chicago-based jet charter company Planemasters, said Monday that he sold the plane to a company based in Addison called EE Operations LLC.
EE Operations has an address in the 4900 block of Keller Springs Road, which is blocks away from the airport. The same address is also registered to Ellard Family Holdings LLC, a business that is registered in Nevada and is owned by Ellard, and to NTA Life Management Inc., of which Ellard was the president and chief executive officer, according to public records and Ellard’s LinkedIn Account.
Another tail number — also known as an N-Number — has been reserved on another aircraft registered to the Ellard Family Holdings LLC business, according to the FAA Registry.
Alice and Dylan Maritato were killed in the crash, along with their mother and stepfather, Ornella Ellard and Brian Ellard. Alice, 15, attended John Paul II High School in Plano and Dylan, 13, was a middle school student at All Saints Catholic School.
The NTSB hasn’t yet clarified whether the aircraft was on a private flight or a chartered event, which would require two pilots to be on duty.
A co-pilot on the flight had an expired medical certificate, government records show, although there’s no evidence that his health contributed to the crash.
Matthew John Palmer, 28, of Fort Worth, who was identified as the co-pilot of the propeller plane, had a first class commercial pilot license. A check of FAA records shows that Palmer’s last medical certificate was dated April 2018.
Several sources said a pilot with his credentials would have needed to re-certify his medical fitness every 12 months.
“If he was due in April and he was flying, it appears he was flying with an expired medical certificate,” said FAA spokesman Lynn Lynsford. “The valid medical is a no-go. If you’re not valid, you’re not supposed to be flying. You can’t have any authority over the controls at all.”
But Ladd Sanger, a lawyer who specializes in aviation law, said the co-pilot’s medical status wouldn’t be a major factor if the trip was solely a private affair. Federal law only requires one pilot for those flights.
If the flight was commercial, two pilots would have been required.
Others killed in the crash
Steve Thelen, 58, and his wife, Gina, 57, also died in the crash, according to JLL real estate in Dallas, where Thelen was the managing director.
Also killed were Mary Titus, 60, and her husband, John Titus, 61. The Tituses and Ornella and Brian Ellard were part of the same Dallas tennis group, of which Mary Titus was the captain, according to records from the United States Tennis Association.
Sanger said four other crashes involving Beechcraft 200 and 300 series models all occurred during takeoff, and in each case a question was raised about whether a power lever had either been incorrectly positioned by pilots, or crept back into a less powerful position after the pilot set them.
He also said that if the aircraft loses one of its two engines, it can still take off. But, he added: “If you rotate the airplane and become airborne below the single-engine speed, you can’t control the airplane in a loss of engine power.”
The crash was one of the deadliest in Dallas-Fort Worth aviation history.
In 1985, Delta Air Lines flight 191 crashed while trying to land during a violent thunderstorm at DFW Airport, killing 134 of the 163 people on board.
In 1988, Delta flight 1141 crashed shortly after takeoff at DFW, killing 14 people and injuring 94 others.