'My job is to try to determine why he did it'SEASIDE - Authorities are asking witnesses to step forward after a pilot was killed when his small plane crashed near the Seaside Airport during Monday's storm.
"Witnesses are very valuable to me right now," said Debra J. Eckrote, the National Transportation Safety Board's senior air safety investigator, northwest regional office. "The more witnesses the better. And, if you happened to be monitoring any type of radio communication and heard something, please come forward."
She asked witnesses to call either the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office at 325-8635 or the NTSB at (206) 870-2201.
Eckrote, assisted by representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, spent most of Tuesday recovering the few pieces of twisted, charred wreckage and documenting the site with photographs. She will use those photos, calculations of the wreckage distribution path and the plane's remains to help determine the cause of the crash. All wreckage will be kept at a secure site in Independence during the investigation.
Debra J. Eckrote"It's so early in the investigation, that nothing can be overlooked as the cause," Eckrote said. She will probably release a preliminary report on the incident in about a week.
The body of the pilot has been taken to the Oregon Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. He has been identified by family members as Doug Flatt, a bus company executive and community leader from Pendleton who was reportedly an experienced pilot with more than 4,500 hours flying time.
Eckrote also plans to talk with the pilot's family, friends and co-workers to "get an idea of what he was doing." The pilot is believed to have been en route from Newport to Troutdale, after dropping some passengers off in Newport, she said.
HELEN WARRINER - The Daily Astorian
This charred propeller is one of the few remains of a single-engine Beachcraft airplane that crashed Monday about 1,000 feet from the Seaside Airport, killing the pilot.The U.S. Air Force may also be able to provide some information. Eckrote has a request in to see if the Air Force had been able to pick the pilot up on their radar.
Flatt had attempted to land his plane at 3:45 p.m. Monday at the airport in heavy rain and 40 to 60-knot winds. He touched down, but was going too fast and rose back into the air. He banked to the left, toward the hills, in a second attempt to land.
"I know that a pilot would not necessarily want to turn into the terrain," Eckrote said. "We know that weather was poor. My job is to try to determine why he did it."
No matter what happened, Cannon Beach flight instructor and pilot Jason Ketcheson said the pilot "should not have been up there." Ketcheson is the chairman of the Seaside Airport Committee.
HELEN WARRINER - The Daily Astorian
This twisted wing was torn from the airplane as it crashed Monday near the Seaside Airport."I think it was just a bunch of bad choices from the beginning," he said. "Instead of turning to the east, I think a better choice would have been to turn west. That would not have been a typical flight pattern, but this would have increased his chances of living. Another good option would have been to continue to use the headwind to continue south after that initial touch-down, rather than trying to land a second time."
The committee will include time during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday for the public to comment on the incident. Ketcheson expects that people will be "seeking answers and how this can be prevented." He said the committee will continue to focus on airport safety as it's number one priority.
"It's so disappointing that someone had to lose his life over bad judgment," he said. "A second disappointment is that this happened in our hometown."
Clatsop County Sheriff John Raichl is pleased at how quickly and efficiently various agencies responded to the scene. The Seaside Fire Department, Seaside Police, Oregon State Police and Medix all assisted Sheriff's deputies at the site.
"Even though this now falls on the NTSB, there's a lot of expectations on local agencies," he said. "They're the first responders. It went really well Monday."
Raichl is a veteran pilot and it is his opinion that Monday's stormy weather was a primary factor in the crash. His advice is that if the weather does not appear to be stable along the flight path or at the destination, stay on the ground.
"It's really hard to tell about weather on the Oregon Coast, because every cove and every headland has its own microsystem, it's own fog. You can be flying along and suddenly you lose your options. Always give yourself some options.
"Don't get into a situation where you only have one option."