HELENA (AP) – There were no mechanical or structural problems with an airplane that crashed shortly after takeoff at a skydiving site west of Kalispell in May, killing all five people on board, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
However, the investigator’s report released this week found the plane was 165 pounds over its maximum gross weight, the center of gravity was almost as far back as it could be and an oil cap wasn’t on.
“It doesn’t mean that they cannot fly if it’s a few pounds over,” said Debra Eckrote, regional director for the NTSB in Seattle. “It’s just something that we note in the investigation. The center of gravity is what is more important in the accident sequence. In this particular case, he was still within the envelope (and) he was just slightly over gross weight.”
The report also noted the plane’s oil filler cap was found hanging by its chain. The cap was not damaged, but the tube had impact damage from the top. The report did not make it clear if the cap was off as a result of the crash or if it wasn’t on when the plane took off.
The NTSB will be reviewing the investigator’s report to determine a probable cause. A final report could be issued in a few weeks, Eckrote said.
Fred Sand, owner of Skydive Lost Prairie, said he would wait to see the final report.
“Because the probable cause hasn’t been released, anything that anybody says is still speculation,” Sand said. “It’s still absolutely a mystery to me as to why this all happened.”
The report said pilot Troy Norling, 28, of Onalaska, Wis., did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system.
The May 12, 2007 crash killed Norling; skydiving instructors Joel Atkinson, 25, of Kalispell and David Landeck Jr., 25, of Missoula; and tandem jumpers Jennifer Sengpiel, 26, and Kyle Mills, 31, an engaged couple from Great Falls.
The Cessna 182C had just taken off from the Skydive Lost Prairie runway and was returning to the runway when the left wing dipped and the plane crashed. A fire burned the cabin and cockpit.
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