Pilot told air controller ‘I’m low on fuel’
LOUISVILLE ” Details about last month’s fiery plane crash involving a Snowmass Village resident were made public Tuesday in a report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which indicated pilot Richard Shenk was running low on fuel at the time of the accident.
The preliminary report does not cite the cause of the crash, which won’t be determined for another 12 to 24 months, an NTSB spokeswoman said.
The report marked the first details to come from the NTSB, the lead agency investigating the April 6 crash in Kentucky, which left Shenk with life-threatening injuries. Shenk, 68, remains under the care of the University at Louisville Hospital, where a nurse said he was in serious condition Tuesday.
Shenk was severely burned when his single-engine Cessna 210 crashed in the front of a Louisville home located close to the landing strip he was attempting to approach, before sliding across the street and coming to halt after hitting two trees in the yard of another residence. The plane had departed earlier that day from Garfield County Regional Airport in Rifle.
A call to the family’s messaging service, which was created in the wake of the accident, was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Shenk’s injuries prevented him from being interviewed for the NTSB report, which revealed new details on the crash.
“I’m low on fuel,” Shenk told an air-traffic controller at Bowman Field in Louisville, the report said. His remark came after the controller told him he was about a mile and half behind another airplane approaching the landing strip, which meant he would need to take some “S-turns” before his final approach.
Some five seconds later, Shenk told the controller, “got him in my sight.” The controller then directed Shenk to take some S-turns, and he was cleared to land.
After that directive, “there were no further transmissions from the airplane,” the report said.
One witness, who was a private pilot waiting to depart from a runway next to the one Shenk’s plane was approaching, told NTSB investigators that he noticed the aircraft to be slightly high, “but should have no problem losing altitude to perform the landing,” the report said.
The report continued: “[The witness] saw the accident airplane level off for a few seconds, then make a climbing left turn. The whole time, the airplane was in the landing configuration with landing gear and flaps extended.
“It appeared that the airplane did not increase airspeed, yet the more it turned, the steeper the angle of bank became. The witness then saw the airplane enter a spin with the left wing low and the right wing high. The airplane made 1 1/2 revolutions before disappearing below a treeline.”
Another witness reported that the before the Cessna disappeared out of view, its nose was high, and the left wing dipped.
“The airplane’s nose then ‘went down’ and the airplane descended without spinning,” the report said.
The report also offered details about the damage to Shenk’s single-engine aircraft, and notes there was “continuity” with the airplane’s crankshaft, and “compression in all six cylinders.”
Additionally, the report explained that “no anomalies were noted with the fuel supply system to the engine, and all fuel nozzles were free of obstructions.”
The NTSB also reported that the aircraft’s engine monitoring unit was recovered, and the agency will attempt to download data from the unit. The weather that day was clear, and visibility was good, the report said.
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