The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Crash at Shannon caused by “in-flight loss of control”
BY SCOTT SHENK
The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the September plane crash that killed Stafford’s John Morton Jr. and his son, Kyle.
The 48-year-old FBI employee and his 13-year-old son were the only two aboard the single-engine Cessna 150M plane that took off from Shannon Airport in Spotsylvania County on Sept. 29.
The plane crashed at about 5:15 p.m. in the River Heights mobile home park near the airport. No one on the ground was injured, and no homes were damaged.
The preliminary report says the plane nose-dived “following an in-flight loss of control during initial climb from Shannon Airport.”
What that loss of control was or what caused it remains unclear.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said preliminary reports cover “just the facts” and provide no analysis. The investigation will take 12 to 18 months and will focus on the specific cause, he said.
The NTSB’s preliminary report contrasts with early reports by the Virginia State Police and some witnesses.
The state police initially reported that Morton, a certified airplane mechanic who once worked for United Airlines in that capacity, had been working on the plane prior to taking off and that he had been practicing take-offs and landings.
The NTSB report doesn’t mention anything about Morton practicing landings and take-offs. It also says that “no maintenance work was performed on the airplane prior to the flight or in 2012.”
The report also mentions the eye-witness account of a flight instructor who was with a student practicing landings.
The instructor saw the plane carrying John and Kyle Morton shortly after it took off. It was flying about 100 feet above a tree line, “made a 90-degree left bank, and began to turn left until the nose descended and the airplane disappeared behind terrain.”
The report adds that other witnesses saw the plane spinning as it went down.
The NTSB report notes that there was no flight plan filed for what was a local flight.
The plane’s owner let his long-time friend Morton fly the plane whenever he wanted, the report says. But it was “not flown often.”
Morton, a licensed commerical pilot, had used the plane just once this year, a two-hour flight in April. That was the only time the plane had been flown this year before the crash, according to the report.
The NTSB also reported that the last inspection for the plane was done in November 2011.
John Morton Jr. had worked with the FBI for about six years prior to his death. Kyle Morton was an eighth-grader at Dixon-Smith Middle School.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436