Flight instructor: Pilot seemed fine before crash
BY PAMELA GOULD / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The flight instructor who cleared Edwin G. Hassel to rent a Cessna 172M before he apparently used the aircraft to commit suicide on July 22 told a federal investigator he appeared fine before take-off.
“The flight instructor reported that the pilot seemed to be in good spirits and was not otherwise behaving abnormally,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report of the crash.
Hassel, 22, of Spotsylvania County, died instantly in the crash that took place 200 feet northwest of the runway at Shannon Airport in Spotsylvania.
Hassel went online at 5:54 that evening to reserve the plane and arrived shortly afterward, the report filed this month states.
He spoke briefly to the flight instructor “about work, their recent flying activities, and the current weather conditions,” and then got the paperwork and keys and took off, according to the report.
Thirty-six minutes later, he crashed into the field.
Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office deputies and Hassel’s fiancee were at the airport at the time of the crash because dispatchers had received calls about someone threatening suicide there, Capt. Jeff Pearce said at the time.
Fire and rescue units were en route and arrived shortly after the crash but could not save him.
The flight instructor who met with Hassel on the day of the crash was the same person who met him about three months earlier when they performed a checkout flight, which was required to give him access to renting planes.
Hassel had rented the flight school’s planes without incident several times before, the report states.
Neither the flight instructor nor the school was identified in the NTSB report. However, James Stover of Stafford County identified himself as the owner of JLS Aviation Flight School and the aircraft on the day of the crash.
The unidentified flight instructor told the NTSB investigator that he saw Hassel leave and next saw his aircraft as he “performed a low pass down the runway and then began maneuvering erratically in the vicinity of the airport.”
“The airplane then climbed to an estimated altitude of 3,000 feet before it pitched down and descended in a near-vertical attitude,” the report states.
“During the descent, the engine sounded as if it were producing ‘full’ power,” the report states.
NTSB Air Safety Investigator Dennis J. Diaz said on the scene that he would be making three reports on the crash.
The report filed this month is the preliminary, factual report. A full factual report is due in another five to eight months.
The final analysis, including the probable cause of the crash, is expected two months after the factual report, or seven to 10 months from now.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972