LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report Friday on a February Little Rock plane crash that ended with five people dead.
On Feb. 22 a twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft King Air 200 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Bill and Hilary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock. After impact the aircraft was consumed by fire, and its pilot and four passengers were killed.
The King Air’s impact site was roughly one mile from the end of its departure runway.
The NTSB report shows the aircraft took off from the airport’s south-facing runway at 11:51 a.m. after receiving an airport departure clearance. While receiving the clearance the pilot received an alert of low-level wind shear in the area.
The wind shear report coincided with a strong weather front crossing Little Rock from west to east at approximately the same time. The National Weather Service reported that on Feb. 22 a line of thunderstorms moving through the area included wind gusts above 40 knots, or more than 46 mph.
According to the NTSB report, a surveillance camera recorded the aircraft’s takeoff and climb to the south.
“The takeoff and climb appeared normal” as the aircraft went out of the camera’s view, the report states. It continues that just after the aircraft left sight, the weather changed, and smoke was seen rising.
“Just as the airplane went out of sight, the camera recorded a rising plume of smoke about 1-mile south of the departure end of runway 18. Shortly after the plume of smoke, the camera appeared to shake from wind, and recorded blowing debris and heavy rain on the ramp where the camera was located. Note: Just before and during takeoff, the camera showed that the ramp was dry with no rain or noticeable wind.”From NTSB preliminary accident report, aircraft crash at Little Rock airport Feb. 22, 2023, accident number CEN23FA113
First reports of the Feb. 22 crash were from Little Rock Fire Department officers reported seeing a plume of black smoke south of the airport.
The NTSB report continues that what the camera recorded reflected weather reports from the airport at the time. Weather changed and deteriorated as the plane taxied and out took off, according to the NTSB report.
The report includes a graphic showing the aircraft’s crash site was immediately to the east of the fast-moving and strong weather front.
The NTSB said that despite the damage to the aircraft, it recovered both engines and propellors. They were examined with no defects noted, other than impact damage, and appeared to have been running up to the time of impact, the report said.
The aircraft exhibited no anomalies outside of post-impact fire damage, investigators said.
The aircraft was a private flight transporting Consulting Toxicology and Environmental Health emergency workers from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Columbus, Ohio, in response to an alloy plant explosion in Bedford, Ohio. The airplane was owned and operated by CTEH.