Crash investigators hope for answers in radar information
December 10, 2008
MIAMI ” Investigators hope to learn more about Saturday’s fatal aircraft crash that killed an Aspen resident and three other men by reviewing radar tapes that apparently recorded the mid-air collision in West Broward County.
The information could help clear up some questions about the fatal mid-air crash, such as why the planes collided or whether air traffic control was monitoring the airspace at the time.
”Right now you can’t really get a clear picture because it’s too early,” said Eric Alleyne, an aviation safety inspector with the national Transportation Safety Board.
Alleyne, who was on his way to review the information, said he has been told radar showed two aircraft ”merging” at the time of the crash. But Alleyne didn’t know whether that information was discovered during or after the crash.
”It’s more than likely that might have been reviewed information because they were flying [under visual flight rules],” he said.
Pilots operating under visual flight rules fly without having to maintain contact with air traffic control and need to keep an eye out for each other. Pilots, however, can choose to remain in contact and whether they do so or not can depend on individual flight schools, Alleyne said.
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Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen would not specifically talk about the crash because of the ongoing investigation, but said it is unlikely that someone would have been monitoring the popular training airspace in which the planes crashed, she said.
”In a visual flight rules area, flights are not receiving air traffic control service,” she said. “Sometimes the layperson thinks every flight is getting air traffic control service.”
The planes, a Cessna 172 and a Piper PA-44 Seminole slammed into each other on a clear Saturday afternoon in airspace where South Florida flight instructors routinely take students to practice.
On board the twin-engine Piper: Andrew Marc Rossignol, 21, a certified pilot from the Stuart area and student Bryan Sax, 37, a resident of Aspen.
And the Cessna: Stuart Brown, a cautious 25-year-old flight instructor who wanted to fly for Air Jamaica, and Edson Jefferson, a 30-year-old certified pilot from Miramar.
Authorities recovered their bodies Monday and took them to the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office.
”It’s just sad that four people lost their lives for something they all loved,” said Michael Brown, uncle of Stuart Brown. “The family is devastated.”
Officials found the bodies in the cockpits of the two planes involved, Alleyne said.
The recovery came after a morning search by federal, state and local authorities, who took airboats to scour the hard-to-access crash site, which spread into three separate debris fields.
A salvage crew will now return to the debris fields to collect pieces of the small planes, Alleyne said. Some parts will be removed by airboat; others by helicopter.
NTSB will then reassemble the planes, in an attempt to determine their positions for the collision.
”It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together,” he said. “We won’t know anything until we get out there and start picking up the wreckage.”
NTSB’s preliminary report on the crash will be made available to the public in the next seven to 10 business days.
The Cessna 172 took off from North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines and the Piper PA-44 Seminole began its flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The radar information will be crucial in determining what led to the accident nearly three miles southwest of Everglades Holiday Park, at Griffin Road and U.S. 27.