NTSB: Aborted Landing Led to July 18 Crash

An airplane that crashed into a mobile home last week apparently failed to pull out of an aborted landing just before the incident, according to a preliminary accident report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot, his passenger and the mobile home's resident died in the July 18 crash.

Witnesses said the Beechcraft twin-engine plane touched down midway on the Jeanerette airport's 3,000-foot airstrip before pulling up, according to the report.

"The airplane failed to climb, and the main landing gear collided with the 5-foot-tall airport perimeter fence," the report stated.

The plane then clipped a building, a utility pole, several trees, a house roof and several strands of power lines before crashing into the mobile home about 800 feet from the end of the runway, according to the report.

NTSB Regional Director Hector Casanova said it is too early to tell if the airplane experienced engine trouble that frustrated the pilot's effort to climb out of the landing attempt.

Casanova characterized pilot Farrell Skelton's touch down midway on the airstrip as unusual.

"Normally you touch down at the approach," Casanova said. "... He only had 1,500 feet to stop."

Half of the airstrip still might have been adequate for a secure landing, Casanova said, but a wet runway and wind could have influenced the pilot's decision to make another attempt.

"I wouldn't be able to tell you if 1,500 feet is enough or not. Apparently, the pilot didn't think it was," Casanova said.

He said the airplane, like most planes its size, had no voice recorder to capture the pilot's comments or flight data recorder to track the plane's instrument readings before the crash.

The small Jeanerette airstrip has no air traffic controllers, and Skelton's last contact with out-of-the-area air traffic controllers was about 15 nautical miles from the Jeanerette airport, according to the preliminary accident report.

At last contact, the pilot reported bad weather ahead, and witnesses said that visibility near the airport was at less than a mile because of heavy rain, according to the NTSB report.

The plane was owned by private prison company LCS Corrections Services of Lafayette and was transporting LCS construction supervisor John Blackburn from Corpus Christi, Texas, where he had traveled to oversee work on a new facility.

The crash also killed retired oilfield worker Lucien Broussard, who died after neighbors pulled him from his burning mobile home.

Skelton had worked as LCS' primary pilot for about eight years, according to the company.

He was a respected freelance pilot and flight instructor in the Lafayette area with at least 20 years of flight experience.

The charred parts of the airplane have been taken to Lancaster, Texas, where aviation investigators will examine the plane's airframe and engine for any problems, Casanova said.

Investigators are also reviewing weather data, flight plans, autopsy reports, maintenance records and other data that could offer clues to the cause of the crash.

A complete accident report, including the NTSB's conclusions on what caused the crash, is expected within three months.

The accident last week came just more than a year after a New Iberia couple were killed when their airplane crashed nose first into a field after taking off from the Jeanerette airstrip.

NTSB investigators ruled that the 2005 crash was caused by a failure of the plane to maintain sufficient airspeed because of a loss in engine power.

The report made no determination as to what caused the loss in power.

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