Witness: Plane sputtered before fatal crash

Updated at 8:30 p.m. Monday with airport information

A witness described hearing the engine of a Piper PA-28-140 sputter, recover, sputter again, and then bank left before disappearing after its takeoff from Brandywine Airport in West Goshen Township on Sunday, March 29, about 1:30 p.m., officials said.

West Goshen Township Police Chief Joseph Gleason (left) and Tim Manville, an NTSB investigator, discuss the plane crash that killed two on Sunday, March 29.

West Goshen Township Police Chief Joseph Gleason (left) and Tim Monville, an NTSB investigator, discuss the plane crash that killed two on Sunday, March 29.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, March 30, National Transportation Safety Board Senior Air Safety Investigator Tim Monville said he would be working with investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, the West Goshen Township Police Department, as well as representatives from the plane’s manufacturer to investigate the crash that took the lives of both of the plane’s occupants.

Chief Joseph Gleason said the identities of the victims have not been released. He said an autopsy was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 30. A representative of the Chester County Coroner’s Office said identification would require a forensic dental examination, which might not be completed until Tuesday, March 31.

Gleason described the site off of the 1000 block of Saunders Lane as primarily industrial. He said a five-story building, which was visible beyond the police tape, backed up to Route 202. Across the highway was the end of the runway at Brandywine Airport, where the Piper PA-28-140 had taken off. Gleason said his officers could not get near the scene until firefighters extinguished the burning wreckage.

Monville called the flight of the fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft a "review." Under FAA regulations, licensed pilots periodically undergo a proficiency test, accompanied by a certified flight instructor, Monville said. He declined to say whether the pilot was the owner of the plane.

Much of the wreckage was concentrated in a small area and consumed by flames, Monville said. He said some debris, such as maps, glass shards, and metal pieces, was found no farther than 20 yards away.

“We’ve got a lot more to do with the investigation,” Monville said. “It’s just beginning.”

Monville said he expected a preliminary report to be released next week. The follow-up analysis report would likely take between nine and 12 months, he said.

John S. Kassab, manager of the Brandywine Airport, said that while he could not comment on the accident because of the ongoing investigation, the airport maintains an excellent safety record. According to the NTSB Aviation Accident Database, which dates back to 1982,  one other fatality occurred at Brandywine in 2005, Kassab said.

Kassab said the airport serves many of the businesses  around the  Route 202 corridor, along with medical rescue and transfer flights, chartered flights, law enforcement activities, pipe and power line patrol, air freight and personal use. The airport provides the same services as the Philadelphia airport, minus the  international flights, he said.
According to data from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the airport handled more than 40,000 flights during 12 months in 2011 and 2012, the most recent count made by the commission.
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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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