AUSTIN (KXAN) — A plane that crashed six miles from the Kerrville airport Monday was traveling unusually low and slow before it impacted the ground and killed all six people on board, according to one of the NTSB investigators on the scene.
Mike Folkerts provided an update on the crash Tuesday, offering his condolences and saying the main goal now is to prevent a future tragedy.
DPS has confirmed the passengers who died as Houston residents Stuart Roben Kensinger, 55; Angela Webb Kensinger, 54; Mark Damien Scioneaux, 58; Scott Reagan Miller, 55; and Marc Tellepson, 45. The pilot was Jeffrey Carl Weiss, 65, also of Houston. Folkerts said the passengers were headed to the area on business.
Federal Aviation Administration officials say the twin-engine Beechcraft plane crashed around 9 a.m. while it was preparing to land. It crashed about six miles northwest of the Kerrville Municipal airport, killing the pilot and five passengers. The plane had taken off from West Houston Airport earlier Monday morning.
Three witnesses spoke to the NTSB and said they “noticed a spiraling aircraft prior to ground impact,” Folkerts said. “None of these witnesses actually saw the aircraft hit the ground.”
Robert Hall was working on a house in the area when he says the plane flew right over him.
“I look over and I see the plane and I know he’s way too low,” Hall said.
Hall said he saw the aircraft jerk a couple of times before it went down. Once it crashed, he ran toward the wreckage.
“It wasn’t scattered out like you would think,” Hall said. “It was all in one area like he had come down really fast. He didn’t hit and skip. It looked like he had just come down flat, hit the ground and it was instant.”
Folkerts said Tuesday the plane was about 200 feet above the ground on its final approach and had slowed down.
“And that was on a 6-mile final, so lower and slower than you would expect from an aircraft on a long final like that,” Folkerts said, adding the plane came to rest upright in the hilly and rocky terrain and it didn’t appear the pilot had been trying to land it there.
Climatic conditions in the area around the time of the crash include low clouds and overcast skies, with 13 mph south winds and 20 mph gusts, according to KXAN Meteorologist David Yeomans.
“That’s not great weather, but it’s not horrible weather, either,” Folkerts said.
Austin aviation attorney Mike Slack says the conditions likely could have made it hard for the pilot to see.
Slack analyzed the plane’s flight plan and compared it with the route the plane actually took. He says the two didn’t match up, which could indicate that something went wrong.
Slack says it was alarming to him that the plane was flying as slowly as it was at such a low altitude.
“I would not want to conclude one way or another about the pilot making an error that caused this crash,” Slack said. “I’m just saying that we have indications of the airplane being too low and too slow on the instrument approach. We don’t know why, we don’t know whether the pilot was there because of a problem in the aircraft or because the pilot was having difficulty following the prescribed altitudes and navigating the airplane safely. It will require further investigation to delve into that.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating alongside the FAA. They will look into the plane’s condition and the pilot’s record, as well as analyze the engines and propellers.
Folkerts said Weiss was a “very experienced pilot” who had bought the plane in 2002. The plane itself was built in 1999.
This is the second plane crash in Central Texas in 24 hours. Two people were killed in a small plane crash at the Shirley Williams Airport in Kingsland Sunday afternoon.