A preliminary report on the deadly March 4 plane crash in Manatee County reveals the flight was instructional in nature and was consistent with a training or evaluation flight until it crashed to the ground.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently released its preliminary findings on the crash that took place on a clear Saturday afternoon in Duette.
The report states that friends and family of the pilot told officials the plane was recently purchased. The ill-fated flight was taken to “complete ground and flight training to meet insurance requirements.” A flight plan was not filed.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as David B. Muchler, 58, of Raleigh, N.C., and Robert “Bob” Redfern, 90, who recently moved to Manatee County from Melbourne. Officials believe Muchler was the pilot.
NTSB officials have previously said it may take about a year to determine exactly what caused the crash.
The 1977 Beech B-60, a small twin-engine plane, left Sarasota Bradenton International Airport about 12:40 p.m., according to the NTSB preliminary report. Ten minutes later, tracking of the flight by air traffic controllers ceased.
For about the next 30 minutes, radar data obtained by the NTSB showed turns “consistent with airwork performed during a training or evaluation flight,” according to the preliminary report.
Witnesses of the crash told officials the plane sounded as if it was at a “low” altitude, but “the engine sound was smooth.” The witness demonstrated the plane “suddenly banking to one side, and entering a spiraling descent” before crashing, the report stated.
The plane, registered out of California, crashed in a wooded area just north of State Road 62 near State Road 37. The plane was engulfed in flames, which sparked a brush fire.
The plane’s most recent annual inspection was completed on March 2, 2017, according to the report.
Citing Federal Aviation Administration records, the report states the pilot had a private pilot certificate, and he reported 800 hours of flight experience as of April 4, 2016.
The flight instructor reported more than 20,000 total hours of flight experience as of Oct. 6, 2014, according to the NTSB findings.
Because of damage from the fire, officials couldn’t confirm if seat belts were worn, but a latched buckle was found.