NTSB checks on plane overloading in Montana crash | AspenTimes.com
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NTSB checks on plane overloading in Montana crash

Matt Gouras and Joan Lowy
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

BUTTE, Montana ” Investigators will examine whether a single-engine turboprop plane was overloaded when it nose-dived into a cemetery and killed 14 people on board who were heading to a retreat for the ultrarich for a ski trip, a federal official said Monday.

The plane was likely designed to carry a total of 11 people, including two pilots, Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference. Officials said seven adults and seven children were killed in the crash Sunday; a relative said there were two 4-year-olds and the other children were ages 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

“It will take us a while to understand,” Rosenker said. “We have to get the weights of all the passengers, we have to get the weight of the fuel, all of the luggage.”



Rosenker said it was possible that a very small child would be on the lap of an adult.

“We are going to have to try to understand how and why there were an additional three people (over the assumed configuration) on the aircraft,” Rosenker said. Some luggage was retrievable for weight and measurement analysis, he said.




The plane was a Pilatus PC-12. In Switzerland, Markus Kaelin, executive assistant to the chairman of Pilatus Aircraft, said the company had no comment.

Relatives of the victims said they had been traveling to the Yellowstone Club for a skiing vacation. The club, near Yellowstone National Park, is a millionaires-only resort that counts former Vice President Dan Quayle and Microsoft founder Bill Gates among its 340 members.

“We were going on a vacation with all the grandkids,” said Irving M. “Bud” Feldkamp, who lost two daughters and their families in the crash. “They were all excited about skiing.”

Feldkamp leased the airplane that crashed. He spoke with The Associated Press shortly after he and other relatives of the victims spent about 45 minutes at the crash site.

On Monday, snow fell gently as investigators gathered before dawn at the scene of the crash in Holy Cross Cemetery.

The turboprop plane left Oroville, California, headed for Bozeman, Montana, but changed course to Butte, where it crashed about 500 feet (152 meters) short of Bert Mooney Airport. The pilot gave no indication to air traffic controllers that the aircraft was experiencing difficulty when the pilot asked to divert to an airport in Butte, Rosenker said in an e-mail earlier in the day.

It was the worst plane crash in America since a commuter plane last month fell on a house in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 passengers and a man in the home.

A witness said the plane jerked to the left before nose-diving into a cemetery.

Kenny Gulick, 14, told CBS’s “The Early Show” on Monday that he thought he was watching a stunt plane because the pilot was making so many turns.

“He jerked the plane to the left too quickly and lost control of it, but that’s just my guess,” said Gulick. “And all of a sudden it went into a nosedive. I noticed the pilot trying to pull up but he was extremely low to the ground and he didn’t pull up in time.”

The plane was registered to Eagle Cap Leasing Inc. in Enterprise, Oregon, said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus. Feldkamp is president of the company.


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