A two-seat airplane was barely airborne when it drifted off an extended runway, hit trees and burst into flames, killing an Overland Park dentist and his passenger, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Herbert Lewis Siegel and Brian Clark Decker were killed March 31, moments after the airplane took off from a private grass strip. The plane struck treetops and crashed into woods near the 12300 block of South Ross Lane, about two miles northwest of Pleasanton, Kan.
The airport owner and an airplane mechanic witnessed the accident. Both witnesses told investigators they saw the airplane lift off with its nose unusually high and they were unsure whether the craft’s tail struck the ground.
The report said there was a slight right crosswind and the airplane drifted left of the extended runway center line before hitting trees at the end of the runway. The airplane fell to the ground upside down and caught fire.
The preliminary findings were similar to an initial crash report from the Kansas Highway Patrol. No other details of the NTSB investigation were released.
The airplane was registered to Light Sport Ventures LLC of Wilmington, Del., and was operated by Siegel as a personal flight. No flight plan had been filed.
The Federal Aviation Administration also is investigating the crash. Neither agency indicated when their separate investigations would be completed.
The plane, a 2006 Zodiac CH 601 XL, was built from a kit manufactured by the Zenith Aircraft Co. of Mexico, Mo. Records from the FAA show no previous incidents or accidents involving Siegel’s plane.
However, that model of aircraft was involved in six “in-flight structural breakup accidents” in the United States between February 2006 and November 2009, and several other accidents were reported in other countries, according to the FAA.
As a result, owners were alerted about potential safety problems and the need for modifications, according to an FAA study published in 2010.