KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — When a Knoxville private plane crashed at a Harlan County airport in November, there were no working lights at the airport and visibility was diminished due to fog, according to the Aviation Investigation Preliminary Report.
David Sanford, 55 of Knoxville was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed while attempting to land on the runway at the Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport in Baxter. The flight originated at Knoxville Downtown Island Airport
Sanford, a doctor based in Sevierville, hailed from Middlesboro, Kentucky and routinely flew there and Harlan to see patients, according to Harlan County Coroner Philip Bianchi.
While the exact cause of the crash remains under investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary findings on Nov. 15.
Sanford’s Beech A36 airplane was destroyed at about 10:09 a.m. on Nov. 3, when it impacted terrain while attempting to land at the airport in Harlan. Three attempts were made at landing before the crash occurred, the report states.
The report states that airport surveillance video showed fog restricting visibility to about 175 feet at the time of the crash and that a Notice to Air Mission was in effect warning that all airport lighting was out of service.
A pilot-rated witness on the ground at the Harlan airport told investigators that while the plane was heard, it was never seen due to fog. The witness characterized the sounds of the first approach as “high” and that the second “sounded really low.”
“After the second pass, the engine sound became more distant, and he did not hear the
accident airplane again, nor did he hear any sort of boom or the accident airplane’s eventual
impact with terrain,” the report narrative states.
The airplane impacted a ravine and steep rock wall about 50 feet below — and 375 feet before — the runway. The cockpit, switches, levers and flight instruments were all severely damaged or entirely consumed by fire after impact, the report states.
NTSB states in the report no communication between the pilot and air traffic control, nor were any flight plans filed.
Sanford held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He had more than 2,300 hours of flight time and also held a 3rd class medical certificate, according to NTSB’s preliminary report.
The investigation continues.