Florida plane destined for Cairo crashes near Climax, two fatalities on scene

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating what caused a plane to crash near Climax in Decatur County, killing the two people on board.

Decatur County Deputy Coroner Dewitt Phillips said that names of the deceased were yet to be confirmed as of Tuesday evening, but Phillips did say he could confirm the two on board were men.

According to Flight Aware, the plane is a Cessna Conquest 2 (twin-turboprop). It left Lakeland, Florida, at 9:06 a.m. Monday and was supposed to land in Cairo about an hour later at 10:02 a.m.

Email newsletter signup

It crashed on private property in Decatur County near Climax in a heavily wooded area, about 20 miles west of the Cairo-Grady County Airport.

“The airplane appears to have entered the trees in approximate 90-degree bank, in an almost vertical descent,” said NTSB air safety investigator Brian Rayner. “The airframe was destroyed, and there was a post-crash fire. We’ve been able to identify essentially the four corners of the airplane, so it appears the entire aircraft arrived here at the same time. We didn’t have any in-flight separation of components.”

Rayner said that there was a “significant” amount of fuel in the plane that contributed to the fire, and still some at the site of the wreck that hadn’t burned.

“The vast majority of the airplane is disfigured by impact and fire,” Rayner said.

Rayner said that preliminary information from the FAA indicates that the plane was on an instrument flight rules plan, which refers to visibility conditions lessening and the aircraft operating with navigation based on electronic signals.

Rayner said that the pilot reported he had the airport in sight and canceled the IFR flight plan, and they were authorized a frequency change from the controllers to the local frequency.

“At that point,” Rayner said, “the airplane was no longer being controlled by air traffic control. At some point later, the airplane re-contacted air traffic control, and the preliminary information I have is that they requested another approach back to the destination airport.”

The crash site, which is about 250 square feet of demolished and burned pine forest, is about 20 miles west of the plane’s destination.

“If you drew a circle around the airport, [the crash site is] not outside that circle in terms of the air traffic environment,” Rayner said.

NTSB is working to determine a timeline of what happened between that contact and the plane crashing. The full investigation could take about a year. Rayner said that his team of FFA inspectors, airframe specialists, meteorologists and air traffic control specialists will conduct its investigation in three main pieces by looking at the men, the machine and the environment.

The team will look at what certificates the pilot and passenger carried and what their experience and training backgrounds were, as well as any potential medical issues. The plane’s maintenance records will be examined to determined what, if any, recent maintenance was conducted. In the environment, they will include the physical environment, the weather environment and the air traffic environment.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Sheriff Griffin and his team,” Rayner said. “The terrain is flat, and this is private property. His ability to work with the property owners and his deputies to provide us access and equipment and manpower – there is no doubt in my mind that he and his department have preserved vital evidence that will help us understand this tragedy. All the hard work was done before I got here.”

Griffin said Thomas County, Grady County and Leon County sheriff’s offices helped in finding the plane.

Precision Aviation Group in Cairo operates the Cairo-Grady County Airport and released a lengthy statement Tuesday, which in part, reads:

“All those who played a part in the search effort proved once again, that this community is well served, and really pulls together when the going is roughest. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those lost in the tragic accident.”