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Pilot Error Blamed for LB Airport Crash That Killed 5

The NTSB's final report attributes the fiery crash to the pilot's handling of Tom Dean's plane when the engines briefly lost power, and for failing to drain water from the fuel tank.

The NTSB has concluded pilot error was the cause of the March 16, 2011 plane crash at Long Beach Airport in which that killed 5 prominent local men and severely burned a 6th.

Says the NTSB final report:

Although the airplane’s estimated weight at the time of the accident was about 650 pounds over the maximum allowable gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds, the investigation determined that the additional weight would not have precluded the pilot from maintaining directional control of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The pilot’s failure to maintain directional control of the airplane during a momentary interruption of power from the left engine during the initial takeoff climb. Contributing to the accident was the power interruption due to water contamination of the fuel, which was likely not drained from the fuel tanks by the pilot during preflight inspection as required in the POH.

Here is the report.

, according to the L.A. County Coroner, were Jeffrey Albert Berger, 49, of Manhattan Beach; Mark Llewllyn Bixby, 44, of Long Beach; pilot Kenneth Earl Cruz, 43, of Culver City; Thomas Fay Dean, 50, of Laguna Beach, and Bruce Michael Krall, 51, of Ladera Ranch.

Naples resident Mike Jensen was the sole, and somewhat miraculous, survivor. Firefighters speculated that he was saved by a mountain of luggage that fell forward, pushing him into a head-to-knees crash position, and protecting him from even worse burns than he suffered. He remained seriously injured but his condition mproved over time. Jensen owns a retail development consulting firm for which Bixby worked.

Cruz was the pilot of the plane and worked for Rainbow Air of Long Beach. The FAA said the week of the crash that he obtained his pilot's license in 2002, his commercial license in 2003 and had no record of any enforcement action by the FAA, nor prior incidents.

A preliminary NTSB report earlier this year said that available maintenance records for the twin-engine plane Dean purchased in 2009 indicate that the left engine was 20 flight hours overdue for overhaul and the right engine was 325 flight hours overdue for overhaul.

Also, the report states, the pilot had filed paperwork indicating a total of three people on board, which would have met the take-off weight. But ultimately six passengers were onboard.

The NTSB report also mentions that the pilot was observed about a month before the accident as failing to follow normal recommended procedures for draining fuel tank sumps in a way that would "permit the settling of any water or any other possible contaminates" for their removal.

 The report also quotes one of the airplane manufacturer’s test pilots as saying “King Air fuel tanks must be drained before every flight, it seems like a little bit of water is always being drained off.” It also cites an FAA publication as warning that when aircraft tanks are "left undrained, the water accumulates and will pass through the fuel line to the engine and may cause the engine to stop operating.” 

The earlier NTSB report can be read here.

Check back here for updates this afternoon.

Rosalinda September 02, 2012 at 07:26 PM
So sad, what a great looking group of gentlemen. Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims family and friends. May they all R.I.P.

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