News Plane Crashes Update News — 25 March 2017

Update: Pilot reported steering, autopilot issues before crash in Marietta

The pilot of the small plane that crashed in Marietta last month reported problems with his autopilot and steering during the flight, according to a preliminary accident report.

The pilot, Robert Westlake of Atlanta, was talking to the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center the night of March 24 before he crashed a few miles east of the Cobb County International Airport.

The connection between Westlake’s Cessna Citation I and the traffic control center was lost when Westlake was about 15 miles north of Fulton County’s Charlie Brown Airport, according to the accident report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NSTB released the preliminary report last week. Investigators will continue to gather and analyze the facts surrounding the wreck to determine a probable cause, according to Christopher O’Neil, spokesperson for the NTSB.

The final report can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete, he said.

Westlake’s medical application in 2013 reported a total of 6,000 flight hours, according to the report.

“That’s (a) respectable (number of flight hours),” O’Neil said.

His most recent medical certificate was issued in September but did not include an updated total number of flight hours.

Westlake, 78, was flying from Cincinnati, Ohio, and heading toward Charlie Brown Airport, the report says.

Witnesses told the NTSB they saw the plane roll over before nose-diving into the front yard of a home on Vistawood Lane in the Piedmont Hills neighborhood near Bells Ferry Road.

“As the airplane descended, we heard a ‘whoosh,’ followed by the impact explosion and saw the plume of smoke. At no time do we recall hearing engine noise,” a witness told the NTSB.

Westlake was the only person killed in the crash.

The owners of the home, Deacon Norm Keller and Barbara Keller, were not at home during the crash; they were at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta for a Stations of the Cross ceremony.

The home has been declared a total loss after the plane’s fuel sparked a fire in the home’s front yard, according to Barbara Keller.

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Older news:
COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Officials confirm that a pilot is dead after a plane crashed into a Marietta home Friday evening.

The incident happened around 7:20 p.m. on Friday. Fire crews responded to 181 Vistawood Lane. Video from the scene showed dark smoke rising from above the site of the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that the crash involved an aircraft en-route to Fulton County Airport. Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said that the aircraft went down east of Cobb County International Airport/McCollum Field.

The aircraft was a Cessna Citation I, she said. The FAA is heading to the scene to investigate. The National Transportation Safety Board will also be working to determine the cause of the accident.

Jessica Jordan and Jesse Mhoon were driving from Canton near the Town Center Mall when she spotted the plane from the corner of her eye.

“It was leaning on its side and disappeared behind trees,” she told Mike Navin. “Three seconds later I heard it crash and then smoke just came out of nowhere.”

Mhoon said the plane was falling sideways with its left wing pointed downward. He said it looked like it didn’t have any control.

It’s not yet clear why the aircraft went down, but right now, the pilot is the only fatality. Cobb County fire officials said no one was inside the home when the plane crashed into it. Witnesses told 11Alive that the family had been at church when the plane crashed into their house.

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