The Tennessean reports that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary investigation report regarding a flight from Smyrna, Tennessee, bound for Palm Beach International Airport. Seven church leaders from a congregation in Brentwood died in the crash that happened on May 29 when the 1982 Cessna 501 went down into the waters of Percy Priest Lake.
According to the three-page report issued by the federal agency, the plane took off from the Smyrna Municipal Airport at approximately 10:55 a.m., climbed, and banked right toward the east.
Air traffic control instructed the pilot to make a 130 degree heading. The pilot of the small aircraft failed to acknowledge the tower’s instruction. The departure controller repeated the request, asking if the pilot copied. The pilot responded to the tower, “130 Bravo Kilo”.
Approximately two minutes later, air traffic control instructed the pilot to climb to an altitude of 15,000 feet. Again, the pilot did not immediately respond.
Smyrna air traffic control attempted several times to re-establish contact with the Cessna but received no further response from the aircraft.
An eyewitness who was fishing in the Kate Saunders Recreation Area told investigators he had witnessed the plane crash down into a shallow portion of Percy Priest Lake but did not see an explosion or fire. The pilot of the plane had logged more than 1,680 flight hours at the time of the crash.
Approximately two-thirds of the plane was recovered from the lake. The aircraft had no flight recorder on board, nor was it required to have one. A recording taken from the air traffic control tower in Smyrna indicates an alarm going off in the plane’s cockpit just before the crash, indicating a mechanical failure.
The NTSB is expected to issue its final report in the coming months.