NTSB re­leases new de­tails about Madera plane crash

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY CRESENCIO RODRIGUEZ-DEL­GADO cdel­[email protected]­nobee.com Cresencio Rodriguez-Del­gado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez

The re­mains from a plane crash just out­side Madera have been moved to a safe lo­ca­tion, as the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board con­tin­ues its in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues into what caused a fa­tal plane crash Thurs­day in a field near Av­enue 17 and Road 23.

It’s still un­clear what ex­actly caused the light sport St­ingsport air­plane to crash, killing Fresno res­i­dents Joe Franklin Kul­beth, 76, and Save­rio Chimi­enti Jr., 28, dur­ing a train­ing flight just be­fore 1 p.m.

But Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board air safety in­ves­ti­ga­tor Maja Smith re­vealed some new de­tails Saturday dur­ing a news brief­ing at Madera County Sher­iff’s Of­fice head­quar­ters.

Among the high­lights of those de­tails, Smith said the plane’s para­chute did not de­ploy dur­ing the in­ci­dent. The plane was equipped with a bal­lis­tic para­chute sys­tem that de­ploys with a small ex­plo­sive charge in an emergency. That prompted a bomb squad unit from the Fresno County Sher­iff’s Of­fice to be called to the scene to dis­arm the sys­tem.

Smith said a pre­lim­i­nary report would be re­leased in five to 10 days. A full report could take about two years, she said.

A team in­volv­ing Smith and two Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Administra­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­trieved the parts Fri­day and sent them to be ex­am­ined. The next phase of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will in­clude look­ing into the pilot’s flight and med­i­cal his­tory, as well as any air­craft is­sues if the weather was a fac­tor in the crash.

Smith said the plane’s fuel tanks were not breached dur­ing the crash. She said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were able to smell the fuel on scene, adding there were no signs the plane re­fu­eled at the Madera air­port.

Smith said in­ves­ti­ga­tors have heard from at least one pilot who shared that he heard ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion coming from the air­craft be­fore the crash. Smith said the pilot heard the two men killed were about to per­form a “sim­u­lated emergency turnaround.” NTSB is at­tempt­ing to ob­tain radar data to de­ter­mine the altitude of the plane at the time it went down.

The plane was reg­is­tered to an ad­dress at Sierra Sky Part Air­port, in north­west Fresno. Smith said it’s pos­si­ble the air­craft was not in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with air traf­fic con­trol at Madera Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port, since the air traf­fic in the area is un­con­trolled and does not re­quire air­craft to make ra­dio calls when they move be­tween air­ports.

“We don’t have any informatio­n right now that they were in contact with any agency ser­vices,” Smith said.

But airplanes, like the downed St­ingsport, are equipped with in­di­vid­ual ra­dio sys­tems that allow pi­lots to com­mu­ni­cate with other pi­lots for ad­vi­sories.

Smith said that is how the pilot wit­ness heard of the train­ing flight. She’s turn­ing to other pi­lots who may have flown in the area at the time of the crash to come for­ward so in­ves­ti­ga­tors can get a clear picture of the crash.

“I would re­ally like if any­body who was in the area at the time the air­plane was fly­ing to give us a buzz,” Smith said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors still do not know which of the oc­cu­pants was fly­ing the air­plane. Chimi­enti Jr. held a stu­dent pilot li­cense and Kul­beth had a com­mer­cial flight li­cense. The FAA does not allow stu­dent pi­lots who fly to carry pas­sen­gers.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS ck­[email protected]­nobee.com

In­ves­ti­ga­tors examine the scene of a small air­plane crash in a Madera County field on Thurs­day.

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