WICHITA, Kansas – Work begins Friday to recover the remains of the four people including the pilot who died after a small plane reported losing engine power and crashed into the two-story FlightSafety Cessna Learning Center North building at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport. The crash happened around 9:50 a.m. Thursday.
Jet fuel from the plane burned so hot during the blaze after the crash Thursday morning at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport that portions of the building remained unsafe all day and emergency officials voiced concerns about the stability of the structure. Late Thursday night, smoke continued to rise from the wreckage.
City of Wichita officials have confirmed three of the victims from Thursday morning’s plane crash are from the Wichita area including the pilot and one is from another country. Three were found inside a flight simulator and one was found on the roof. Investigators are still working to notify the family members of the victims.
Heavy equipment will be brought in Friday to remove portions of the building so firefighters can reach the victims, Wichita Fire Chief Ronald Blackwell said. Crews are expected to be at the site for at least a couple of days.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Leah Yeager said the pilot reported a problem with the left engine of the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air soon after taking off from the airport.
According to witness reports, the plane was “flying low and slow before it entered a left turn,” Yeager said. “It continued to turn left and then impacted the building,” she said.
Yeager said right now there investigation is at a bit of a stand-still because the FlightSafety building that the plane hit hasn’t been secured, so the Wichita Fire Department isn’t allowing anyone in the building right now until it is deemed safe.
Yeager said once they are allowed in, the first order of business will be to assess the damage to the aircraft. Once the building is secured and the victim’s bodies are removed, the investigation will continue.
The NTSB will provide a preliminary report of the investigation within five days, but the complete investigation will continue over the next six to nine months.
The NTSB said that they do have the maintenance logs for the plane that crashed into the building, but they have not reviewed them yet.
“He was an air traffic controller who retired less than a year ago and became a contract pilot and he would contract his services to different airplane owners and operators. In this case, he was ferrying this airplane from Wichita down to Mena, Arkansas,” said Ron Ryan, Ryan Aviation. “He talked to the tower before he crashed. They knew his voice. He lost left engine on takeoff or the worst thing that can possibly happen on aviation is to lose an engine on takeoff.”
Five people were transported to Via Christi St. Francis Hospital. One patient was in serious condition Thursday. Four have been treated and released.
Officials say they have located all 100 people who were in the FlightSafety building at the time the plane struck the top of the building. FlightSafety released a statement to KSN:
“All of us at FlightSafety International are greatly saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Wichita Mid Continent Airport impacting our Cessna Learning Center. We are continuing to work with authorities to assist them in their investigation and to ensure the safety and well being of our Clients & Teammates. No further details are available at this time.”
KSN has confirmed from the FAA that a twin-engine Beechcraft B200 Super King Air 200 N52SZ lost an engine on takeoff from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport. The plane was trying to return to the runway when it crashed.
“”It was horrific, there was heavy smoke on the horizon as you approached the airport for miles. A very challenging fire as you might imagine. It appears the aircraft struck the top of the building, catching the building on fire, that would have caused some fire to be inside the building,” said Chief Ron Blackwell, Wichita Fire Department.
Audio | Wichita tower communication with airplane (courtesy LiveATC.net) (Communication with the aircraft begins about 17 minutes into the audio.)
The plane was heading to Mena Intermountain Municpal Airport in Arkansas. The plane’s first flight was in 1999. It had 6,314 hours of flight time. The plane was registered to Beechcraft Corporation at 10511 East Central in Wichita. It was registered October 3rd and had two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42 engines.
At least 50 to 60 firefighters from the Wichita Fire Department battled the fire. The firefighters were evacuated from the building which has been declared unstable.
Responding agencies included the Wichita Fire Department, Wichita Police Department, Mid-Continent Public Safety Department, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol and the FBI.
The Wichita Police Department is asking any family members who are unable to contact loved ones to contact police at Harry and Airport Road. They can also call 316-946-4710. In addition, anyone with information about the crash, possible witnesses or anyone with footage, please call 316-946-4710.
The crash is the latest in a string of incidents at Mid-Continent airport. In December, an avionics technician was arrested after a months-long undercover sting when he allegedly tried to drive a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac in a plot prosecutors say was intended to kill as many people as possible. Then in January, an Oklahoma man rammed his pickup truck through a security gate at the airport. In September, the airport conducted a large-scale disaster exercise featuring the mock crash of a 737 aircraft.