NTSB investigates Dawson plane crash - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

NTSB investigates Dawson plane crash

June 15, 2006

Dawson -- A National Transportation Safety Board report sheds light on the final moments of a flight that ended with a deadly crash in south Georgia. The NTSB still has not released it's final report on the New Year's Day crash.

Joseph and Barbara Krier were killed and three people were hurt when the twin-engine Beech Baron went down in Dawson. They were on their way from Indiana to Florida. The pilot tried to land in Moultrie and Albany to refuel.

The co-pilot, who survived, said the "ceilings were too low" and they couldn't land. According to the NTSB report, they flew toward Dawson and were running out of gas.

Even though the clouds descended to only 100 feet above the ground, the co-pilot says they "had to get down" and even considered landing on a road. The airplane tilted toward the ground just before impact and crashed just short of the runway. Emergency landings aren't common at Dawson Municipal Airport, but that January crash is a reminder that problems can occur on any flight. Some veteran pilots and flight instructors about how to handle an crisis in the air.

A smooth touchdown every time would be ideal when landing an aircraft. But that wasn't the case for the twin-engine Beech D-55 that crashed in Dawson.

After looking at the NTSB's preliminary report on the crash, airport manager Willie Garner says it looks like the pilot was following proper protocol for landing in such a situation.

"I think they were doing their best to get the aircraft on the ground safely. Running out of fuel they had to get it on the ground," said Willie Garner.

The plane was headed toward Dawson Municipal Airport's 45-hundred foot long runway 31. It landed just short, sliding about 50 feet toward the runway.

Flight instructors tell new pilots an emergency is possible every time they're in the air. If it happens, the best place to land a plane is an airport runway or soft ground like grass, a pasture or field. If those aren't options, some people have survived after slowly landing atop a patch of trees.

"Some place that they can land the airplane as slow as possible, and as soft as possible and in doing that we try and stress to them you're probably not going to be able to save the airplane what we really want you to do is save yourself and save your passengers," said flight instructor Scott Gatlin.

Seasoned pilot Willie Garner says you just can't wing it in an emergency landing situation. He has several things he keeps in mind. They include:

1. Open doors before the landing so they won't get jammed

2. Turn the fuel off to help prevent a fire on impact

3. Remain calm, seated, and buckled

4. Fly the plane until it touches down and stops

"You always think well I would do this or I would do that but you never know until youre put in that position to have to make that decision," said Garner.

Remaining calm is key in any situation, but definately something to do when flying on heightened alert.

The plane that crashed in Dawson had only had four gallons of fuel in the tank when it crashed. The FAA requires 45 minutes worth of fuel when landing an aircraft.

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