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Millard plane crash: NTSB reviewing take-off videos alongside engine manufacturer

Posted at 11:03 AM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 12:32:18-04

NTSB is reviewing two videos of a Sunday morning fatal plane crash at Millard Airport as it conducts its investigation into what caused the crash, an investigator said Tuesday morning.

At about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, a single-engine Bonaza P-35 aircraft based at Millard Airport took off there and became airborne briefly before hitting right side of the runway, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Aaron M. Sauer said in a press conference Tuesday at the airport.

The plane "cartwheeled and came to rest," then caught fire, said Sauer, senior air safety investigator with the NTSB Office of Aviation Safety.

Dave Steier, 63, died at the scene; Arlene Steier, 61, was transported from the scene and died later

It is not yet known where the plane was headed or who was flying as both occupants were rated pilots, he said. 

Federal Aviation Administration officials from Lincoln responded to the scene on Sunday as NTSB officials traveled to the site, arriving Monday, Sauer said, noting travel delays caused by the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Two videos taken at the time of take-off are being reviewed as part of the investigation, Sauer said.

"There may have been another aircraft that was related to these folks that had departed prior to that," Sauer said.

The age of the aircraft is not yet known, but Sauer said the plane "had been around for a few years."

The airport was kept closed during the investigation, including aerial photography, before the aircraft was moved with the assistance of the Omaha Airport Authority  to a nearby hangar, where the investigation is expected to continue today.

Because the plane caught fire after the crash, that could present a challenge to investigators, Sauer said. 

A representative from Continental Motors, the manufacturer of the plane's engine, is also on scene assisting with the investigation, Sauer said. The investigation is expected to continue at the Millard Airport hangar for the next day or two before the wreckage is transported to another location, he said. 

NTSB will be reviewing the pilot's flight ratings, training and experience, as well as their medical history, Sauer said.

Weather conditions at the time of take-off seemed favorable, he said. High temperatures, light wind, and clear skies were reported at the airport at the time of the take-off, but NTSB still will be assessing environmental factors as part of the investigation, Sauer said.

Although it's too early to tell whether "P factor" had any bearing on this crash, he said, investigators will be examining the phenomenon, which happens when the engine throttle is applied. "The prop creates a factor," he said, and directional control is maintained with the use of the rudder. 

"P factor on this particular airplane will have a tendency to pull the nose of the aircraft to the left," he said.

The crash occurred just off to the right side of the runway, crashing into some runway lights, Sauer said. The plane traveled left before correcting to the right just before the crash, he said.

A preliminary report is expected to be available next week, he said.