SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --The pilot of a small plane (pictured) made two attempts to find a runway at Springfield-Branson National Airport before the plane crashed last Saturday. A preliminary report on the accident by the National Transportation Safety Board does not indicate pilot John Lambert said he was having any mechanical problems before the crash.
Lambert, his three children, and a family friend died in the crash, which happened about 12:20 a.m. Saturday. The group flew out of the Lee's Summit Municipal Airport after attending a Kansas City Royals game on Friday night.
The NTSB report say the plane disappeared off radar just 30 seconds after the last conversation that Lambert had with the Federal Aviation Administration controllers in the tower at the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Lambert was trying to make an instrument landing. Visibility was poor because of clouds.
Pilot Josh Martin used to fly with John Lambert. Lambert kept his plane at the Springfield Downtown Airport. Martin even flew his plane a few times.
"Those of us that knew him and flown with him, we were really shocked. I thought he was a good pilot. Better than average. He was always asking questions and determined to be a better pilot," said Martin.
The report states Lambert contacted Springfield Air Traffic control at two minutes after midnight as the plane got closer to land. At 12:17, the tower cleared him for landing. At 12:20, Lambert made a request to make a second approach.
"I don't want to speculate too much, but for whatever reason he decided he wasn't set up for that approach and wanted to go out and try to set it back up again for the second time.
When he made that turn, according to the report, is when something went wrong," said Martin.
Martin does not want draw to any conclusion as to what caused the crash. There's simply not enough information at this time.
"He has been flying that same airplane for a few years. So how could something like that happen? We have been asking ourselves and wanting answers. We are going to have to wait awhile, but hopefully we will get answers from the NTSB," said Martin.
The NTSB preliminary report makes no attempt to establish a cause for the crash. That determination could take many months.
Here's the NTSB report:
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On September 15, 2012, about 0023 central daylight time, a Cirrus Design SR22, N436KS, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Willard, Missouri. The pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by JL2, LLC under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport (LXT) about 2340 on September 14, 2012. The intended destination was the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri.
Springfield Approach was providing air traffic control services to the flight at the time of the accident. The pilot contacted Springfield Approach about 0002 as the flight entered their airspace. About 0017, the pilot was cleared for an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to runway 14 at SGF. The pilot was instructed to contact the control tower at that time. At 0020, about 3 minutes after establishing contact with the control tower, the pilot requested radar vectors in order to execute a second ILS approach. About 30 seconds later, radar contact was lost. The controller’s attempts to contact the flight were not successful.
The accident site was located in a pasture about 6 miles northwest of SGF. Ground impact was located in an open area of the lightly wooded pasture field. The airplane was fragmented. The main impact crater contained the propeller, engine, instrument panel, and portions of the fuselage. Linear ground impact marks, consistent with being formed by the wings, emanated from the main impact crater. Based on the ground impact markings, the airplane was oriented on an approximate heading of 340 degrees at the time of impact. The debris field extended to approximately 110 feet east of the main impact crater. Located within the debris field were the airplane flight control surfaces and wing flaps.