Experimental aircraft crashes in Georgetown; coroner on site - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

NTSB releases report on fatal Georgetown plane crash

Authorities on scene near the plane crash. (Source: WMBF News Photographer Michael Walter) Authorities on scene near the plane crash. (Source: WMBF News Photographer Michael Walter)

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WCSC/WMBF) - The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the plane crash in Georgetown that claimed the life of a pilot.

At a press conference a few short hours after the plane crashed on Monday, July 29, Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson confirmed that 79-year-old John Prince Harris was piloting the two-seat, decommissioned military aircraft when it crashed 0.8 miles from the Georgetown Airport.

At this point it appears he died from the plane crash but the exact cause of death cannot be determined until the autopsy is completed.

Coroner Johnson said Harris was flying solo from West Virginia to Georgetown to visit family already in the Georgetown County area, where his family maintains a residence.

During the press conference, it was revealed the aircraft did catch on fire, catching small patches of nearby brush on fire as well.

The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed the small plane which crashed in the woods near the Georgetown airport Monday was a Folland Aircraft Gnat T-1.

A source close to the investigation exclusively released the tail number on the plane to Live 5 News.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane is an experimental fixed-wing single-engine aircraft.

The plane, manufactured in 1963, is registered to a company based in Wilmington, Delaware.  The company is called Foogair Inc., according to the FAA. We reached out to the company, but they would not comment.

According to FlightAware, a global aviation software and data services company, the flight originated from Charleston, West Virginia.

Georgetown Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge confirmed crews located the wreckage, and they found the wreckage burning.

Hodge says around 1:30 p.m. it was reported the aircraft went down in a wooded area just south of the Georgetown airport runway. Georgetown County Public Works helped to cut a clearing to get vehicles and personnel to the wreckage.

On Tuesday, July 30, an investigator for the NTSB was on the scene examining the wreckage. He said a full report would not be available for another six months to a year..

"The gentleman came in here to land, he did a fly by," said investigator Eric Alleyne. "As he did the aircraft started to roll, pitched down, and landed in a heavily wooded area over here."

Ray Moore lives in the home 100 to 200 feet from where the plane landed.

Moore described what he heard during the moment's leading up to the crash.

"It sounded like something just moving real fast because you could hear it inside the house and all the sudden you just hear an explosion. BOOM," Moore said.

Moore said this is the first plane crash that has landed this close to his home that sits less than one mile from the Georgetown Airport in all of the 51 years he has lived at the residence.

Tuesday, friends of Mr. Harris paid their respects at the airport, calling him a talented pilot and a good friend.

"He loved to talk about planes, but he just made you feel comfortable when he talked to you," said fellow aviator and friend Peter Horn. "You know, there are people that don't do that at his level, both financially or mentally."

NTSB releases preliminary report on cause of plane crash

The information below was released in a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA340

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Monday, July 29, 2013 in Georgetown, SC

Aircraft: FOLLAND AIRCRAFT CO LTD GNAT T 1, registration: N18GT

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 July 29, 2013, about 1320 eastern daylight time, a Folland GNAT T1, airplane, N18GT, collided with terrain during an uncontrolled descent near the Georgetown County Airport (GGE), Georgetown, South Carolina. The pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Foogair Inc, and operated by the airline transport pilot as a personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, West Virginia, destined for GGE.

According to witnesses the pilot radioed personnel at the airport on approach, and they went outside to see him land. The pilot crossed over the midfield and entered a right downwind for runway 23. The airplane made a high speed flyby over the runway between 100-200 feet AGL. At the end of the runway the airplane pitched up approximately 30 degrees and began an aileron roll to the left. The first 180 degrees of the aileron roll was uneventful according to the witnesses, but when the airplane reached about the 190 degree point it abruptly pitched down and to the right. The airplane collided with the ground, and an explosion was heard followed by a plume of smoke. No distress calls were heard on the radio from the pilot prior to the accident.

The wreckage was located in a heavily wooded area one mile southwest of GGE. The airplane was examined on scene and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. A debris path revealed freshly broken tree branches at an approximate 45-degree angle. The debris path was on a 309-degree magnetic heading, and extended approximately 300 feet. Various fragments of the airplane were located along the debris path. The engine, fuselage and the sections of the wings and cockpit were located at the end of the debris path and had been consumed by a postcrash fire. Flight control continuity to the flight controls was not confirmed due to the fragmentation of the flight control and the hydraulic systems.

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