W.Va. plane crash preliminary report released

Published 9:51 pm Saturday, February 14, 2009

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A preliminary report on a plane crash in West Virginia that killed six people last month said the pilot was largely unresponsive to controllers’ directions and the aircraft zigzagged near the airport before hitting power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report also said the pilot initially told controllers he was capable of flying using the plane’s instruments, but later admitted he wasn’t.

The pilot, identified as Wieslaw Dobrzanski of Niles, Ill., was trying to land at Tri-State Airport near Huntington after signaling the twin-engine Piper PA-34 was low on fuel, according to the NTSB report posted on the agency’s Web site.

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Four of the victims, including Dobrzanski, were members of the American Polish Aero-Club in Chicago. The six were flying from Illinois to Florida, with a planned stop in North Carolina, to look at airplanes for sale.

The plane took off from Lake in the Hills Airport in Illi nois about 10 a.m. on Jan. 30. Dobrzanski did not file a flight plan, nor check on the weather before departing, a friend told NTSB investigators. The friend said Dobrzanski planned to obtain a weather briefing and file a flight plan en route using his cell phone.

Dobrzanski had 2,200 hours of flight time and was rated to fly single and multiengine planes and gliders. He did not have an instrument rating, which allows pilots to fly by instruments in bad weather.

When Dobrzanski alerted Tri-State controllers of his emergency more then four hours later, he was flying into a snowstorm that had reduced the ceiling to 1,000 feet and visibility to less than 1/4 mile.

“At no time did the accident airplane acquire or maintain any of the altitudes or headings assigned by the controller,” the report said. The plane made a series of left and right turns and flew at altitudes ranging from 1,000 feet to 3,200 feet.

During his attempts to land, the plane was as clo se as 2 miles to the airport and as far as 7 miles away. The plane crashed about 4 miles from the airport after hitting two power lines, the report said.

The report said the plane was manufactured in 1975 and had 4,348 hours of flight time. A preliminary review of the wreckage indicated that the engines did not have any abnormal wear.