TAMPA — An investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board has ruled out weather as a factor in the crash of a private plane Thursday at Vandenberg Airport that killed three people.
In a news conference Saturday, Corky Smith, senior air safety investigator for the NTSB, said the stormy weather Thursday did not play a role in the crash. He also corrected one detail of an account of what occurred.
A witness who saw the crash while driving south on Interstate 75 told investigators the plane rotated, went airborne, lifted its landing gear and drifted to the left. Then, it hit a 49-foot antenna on the airport grounds. The plane cartwheeled, hit the ground and burst into flames.
Smith said evidence indicates it was the plane's propeller, not the wing, that hit the antenna. The investigation is focusing now on the plane and the pilot, he said.
The NTSB expected to clear the wreckage from the site and wrap up its work at the airport on Saturday, he said.
Smith, who is based at the NTSB's southern region headquarters in Atlanta, said the full investigation could take up to a year, but he hopes to complete it in six months.
Thursday afternoon, the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza flown by Harlan "Lanny" Northcott, 81, of Sun City Center, crashed and burned at Vandenberg Airport. The crash killed Northcott and his two passengers, Tyler McLellan, 15, and Patricia Snyder, 49, both of Stuart.
Northcott was flying from Tampa to Stuart, bringing Snyder back from cancer treatment. Tyler was accompanying Snyder, one of his mom's friends.
Northcott was a volunteer with Angel Flight, a program in which pilots donate their time, planes and fuel to carry ambulatory patients to treatment.