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NTSB releases report detailing engine issues, nose dive before fatal Rock Co. plane crash

An air traffic controller, witness says the nose of the airplane “was almost pointed down toward the ground”
The Rock Co. Sheriff's Office released this photo of the plane crash on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021,...
The Rock Co. Sheriff's Office released this photo of the plane crash on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, outside of Janesville.(Rock Co. Sheriff's Office)
Published: Feb. 27, 2021 at 1:42 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a a preliminary report of the fatal Rock County plane crash, detailing the plane had engine issues and was headed toward the ground at roughly an 80 degree angle just before crashing.

The report indicates the plane departed the Appleton International Airport around 6:34 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 and arrived at the southern Wisconsin Regional Airport around 7:15 a.m. After topping off fuel tanks with 100LL fuel, the plane departed the airport around 9:12 a.m. for Sebastian, Florida.

The NTSB says the plane was headed to Florida for maintenance on its landing gear system.

Citing archived air traffic control recordings (ATC), the report says about a minute and sixteen seconds after the plane departed, one of the pilots said they would like to circle back and “work through some engine issues.” The report did not indicate who was communicating with ATC. Both Tanner W. Byholm, 25, and Remington K. Viney, 26 were found dead on the scene, according to the Rock County Medical Examiner.

The Rock Co. Sheriff's Office released new photos from Tuesday's plane crash outside of...
The Rock Co. Sheriff's Office released new photos from Tuesday's plane crash outside of Janesville.(Rock Co. Sheriff's Office)

The report goes on to say the ATC acknowledged the request and, when asked if any assistance was required, the pilot responded “no sir, we should be fine.” The report says no further communication was received from the plane.

At 9:17 a.m. — just five minutes after departing from Janesville — the plane crashed into trees and landed upside down, three feet deep in a Rock River tributary about a mile south of the airport.

The report details the wreckage, saying the plane sustained substantial damage to its wings, canards and the fuselage. The fuel tanks were breached and a strong odor of aviation fuel was preset at the site, according to the report.

The air traffic controller on duty reportedly saw the airplane just before the crash. He said when the plane was just beyond the trees, he saw it begin to circle left. Half way through the circle, the bank angle increased and the nose of the airplane “was almost pointed down toward the ground.”

Another witness who was outside of his house located a half mile north of the accident said he first heard the plane, describing the sound of the engine as a “loud roar.” When he looked up, he says he saw the plane about 150 to 200 feet above the trees at an estimated 80 degree nose down pitch attitude, according to the report. After the plane went behind the trees, the witness says the engine noise ceased.

The report indicates the plane was equipped with two Continental Titan IOX-370 series engines. Detailed wreckage and engine examinations are pending. NTSB spokesperson Peter Knudson told NBC15 a full report is not expected for 12 to 24 months

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