NTSB releases preliminary report from Tupelo plane crash

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report about the Aug. 17 airplane crash that killed Tupelo pilot David Duncan.

According to the NTSB, Duncan had clearance to take off in a Cessna 310Q around 8 a.m. that morning from Tupelo Regional Airport heading west.

He traveled the runway and lifted off, but shortly thereafter Duncan’s plane veered left and started to descend, the NTSB found.

“There were disagreements among the witness statements; some heard the engines lose power and others heard the engines still operating at low power,” according to the report. “The airplane flew under electrical power lines and over the airport’s perimeter fence, impacting the adjacent main road separating all three of the landing gear.”

Airplane debris hit a passing vehicle on Coley Road.

The plane continued across the road and into a residential property, where it smashed into a tree with such force that “the airplane’s front nose section, cockpit, and cabin area were crushed aft to the middle seat row.”

Duncan had sent no distress call and had no communication with the controller after his initial clearance to take off, the NTSB found.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. A preliminary autopsy later found no indication of a heart attack or any other health problems that might have caused the 69-year-old to lose control of the plane.

A thorough autopsy will be released in three or four months, said Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green.

Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson had no comment on the preliminary findings.

Here is the report:

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA458
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 17, 2011 in Tupelo, MS
Aircraft: CESSNA 310Q, registration: N444YM
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On August 17, 2011, at 0805 central daylight time, a Cessna, 310Q, N444YM, owned by Hamilton Air LLC and operated by an individual, struck a main road and impacted a tree in a residential yard adjacent to the Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP), Tupelo, Mississippi. The pilot was killed and the airplane incurred substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal local flight which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Information provided by the local authorities indicated that the airplane was cleared and approved to depart from runway 36 with an easterly departure. Witnesses observed the airplane roll down the runway and liftoff. Once the airplane reached an estimated altitude of 300 – 500 feet above the runway, and at about mid field, the airplane was observed to turn to the left on a west heading as it descended. There were disagreements among the witness statements; some heard the engines lose power and others heard the engines still operating at low power. The airplane flew under electrical power lines and over the airport’s perimeter fence, impacting the adjacent main road separating all three of the landing gear. A vehicle on the road was struck with airplane debris as it was driving by. The airplane continued forward until the left wing outer section impacted a tree, separating a four foot section of the outer left wing. The airplane’s nose section then impacted the base of a 3 foot diameter tree in the front yard of a house. There was no communication between the pilot and the controller after the clearance for takeoff was given. There was no distress calls heard at the time of the accident.

Examination of the crash site showed that initial contact with the road left impact marks consistent with propeller blade strikes and tire marks. The airplane came to rest on a heading of 290 degrees. The airplane’s front nose section, cockpit, and cabin area were crushed aft to the middle seat row. The instrument panel was compressed aft to the aft wing spar. A 4 foot section of the outboard left wing, including the wing’s fuel tip tank, separated and came to rest about 10 feet ahead, and to the left, of the main wreckage. The remaining left wing was displaced forward, which separated from its aft wing to fuselage attachment point. The left engine, with the propeller, remained attached to the left wing structure. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage and impact damage was observed. The right engine separated from its mounting points and remained attached by supply lines. The right propeller separated from the engine’s crankshaft flange and was located about 40 feet ahead of the main wreckage; impacting the ground and an exterior house wall before coming to rest on the ground. The fuselage, from the middle seat area, and empennage section remained intact with impact damage observed. All three landing gear separated from their respective attachment points and came to rest behind the main wreckage. All fuel cells, left and right main tanks (wing tips) and aux tanks (wings) were breached. All flight control surfaces were accounted for and located at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established, all damage observed was consistent with impact damage.

The engines and propellers were retained by the National Transportation Safety Board for further examination.