No distress calls made before Alabama plane crash

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) – No distress calls were made by crew members before their plane crashed shortly after takeoff at Huntsville’s airport last month, killing three people on board, federal investigators said in a report released this week.

Witnesses saw the 10-seat Westwind II aircraft climb to an estimated 50 to 200 feet, then roll to the right before it crashed June 18, according to the preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crew was doing training maneuvers, and the purpose was proficiency exams for two pilots, the NTSB reported states.

Shortly before the fatal flight, the crew told air traffic control that it planned a couple more maneuvers before heading back to Birmingham.

“The flight crew of an airline flight that was on final approach to runway 18R both reported seeing the airplane climb steeply after becoming airborne, then observed the airplane rolling to the right to about 70 to 90 degrees of bank,” the NTSB report states. “The airplane was observed to impact the ground in a nose and right wing low attitude, followed by a black smoke, which was captured by another airport security camera.”

Killed in the wreck were 57-year-old William Christopher II of Center Point, Alabama; 67-year-old Kenneth Lynn Rousseau of Harpersville, Alabama; and 60-year-old Robin Gary Smith of Yukon, Oklahoma. All three were pilots, the NTSB reported states.

Smith, a flight instructor, operated a pilot training business known as Jet Contrail in Clermont, Florida, reported.

Investigators said they recovered a cockpit voice recorder, which has been sent to an NTSB lab for review, the NTSB report indicates.

The report released Wednesday is preliminary in nature, and the NTSB’s full investigation is expected to take several months.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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