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NTSB releases preliminary report on Melville small plane crash

The scene of the plane crash in Melville

The scene of the plane crash in Melville on May 30. Credit: Kenneth McDougall

The pilot killed when his vintage plane crashed in Melville did not appear to attempt to recover from a downward spiral, according to a witness account from a flight instructor included in a new federal report.

The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board also stated that a flight plan, which is not a requirement, had not been filed. The pilot was Ken Johansen, 52, of the well-known GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team.

The report did not provide analysis of the witness account or any information on why the pilot lost control of the plane. A final report will be issued at an unspecified later date.

The aerial team of six planes had been flying in formation on May 30 on the way to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station for an air show in Maryland. Johansen, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, had flown days earlier in the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach as part of the Skytypers.

The NTSB said Johansen lost control of the World War II-era plane, a North American T-6 Texan, shortly after taking off from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale.

A flight instructor in the airport traffic pattern told the NTSB that he saw two of the planes depart in formation. He said he saw one of the planes make a climbing right turn from about 800 feet to 1,200 feet above ground level. When the second plane attempted the same maneuver, it started to spiral, he said.

“At the top of the turn, the airplane entered a spin, and remained in a constant rate spin, until it descended into terrain,” the report says. “The instructor added that it appeared that no attempt to recover had been initiated.”

Video from the scene reviewed by the NTSB shows the airplane “in a steep nose-down attitude, rotating around its vertical axis, until impacting the ground,” the report says. A video widely reported in the media on the day of the crash showed a similar trajectory.

The debris field in a wooded area was about 50 feet and a fire spread over most of the left wing, cabin and aft fuselage, the report says. The wreckage was taken to a facility for examination.

With Patricia Kitchen

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