Aviation

Airplane in Addison crash was linked to family of four that died in the accident

An aircraft that crashed Sunday at Addison Airport was owned by a business connected to the family of four who died in the accident, records show.

The family’s connection to the twin-engine, Beechcraft 350 King Air was one of several details to emerge Tuesday about the crash, which is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane crashed seconds after takeoff, smashing into an unoccupied hangar and killing all 10 people aboard.

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.

On Tuesday, the Dallas County 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.

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 incident that killed 10 people.

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, although if he allowed the certificate to expire he could continue to work with a second-class certificate.

“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.

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 NTSB said Tuesday that on the plane’s cockpit recording the crew mentioned a problem with the left engine about eight seconds before the end of the audio. The plane veered to the left and rolled before it hit the hangar, the NTSB said. The agency’s investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

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.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.
Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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