Fatal flight lost altitude shortly after takeoff, report says

The plane that crashed outside Danbury Municipal Airport on July 30 lost altitude soon after taking off and rolled to its left while in the air, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report.

The cause of the crash remains undetermined.

The pilot, Redding resident Mark Stern, died four days after the accident, and the two passengers aboard suffered injuries.

Stern had almost 600 hours of experience in the air, the report said.

Air controller report

The report, citing an eyewitness account from the airport’s air traffic controller, said that the small plane lost altitude while still over the runway.

The plane, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, was “appearing to correct — it had assumed a more nose up attitude,” the controller said in the report.

The controller observed the plane had assumed a “full nose up attitude, rolling to the left,” according to the report.

The plane then crashed “in a heavy brush area about 1,000 feet from the departure end of the runway.”

According to records and statements from the operator, the airplane was fully fueled and it had undergone its annual inspection less than a day before the flight. There was no evidence of water contamination.

The plane sustained various damages in the crash, including a partially separated left wing and a crushed nose section.

‘Too early to speculate’

The investigation is far from complete.

Dick Aarons, the town’s emergency manager director and safety editor at Business and Commercial Aviation magazine, told The Press Thursday that it was “too early to speculate.”

“At this point, there are at least a dozen factors that could be a causal factor or the absolute factor that could cause the accident, or it could be a combination of both,” he said. “That’s why it takes so long to come up with a probable cause.”

He explained the process, which included accessing the plane, engine, fuel tanks, and controls, examining the pilot, and interviewing survivors and eyewitnesses.

“Contamination can plug up the fuel alignment, which may or may not cause a reduction of power,” he said, specifically about the significance of checking the fuel tanks.

It may still be awhile before NTSB finishes a full official report.

As the organization’s website states, “Generally, a preliminary report is available online within a few days of an accident. Factual information is added when available, and when the investigation is completed, the preliminary report is replaced with a final description of the accident and its probable cause.”

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