June 14, 2006
The official investigation into Wednesday's plane crash will start Thursday morning. The Federal Aviation Administration was first on the scene Wednesday, but then the investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived just before dusk. It will be his job to launch the investigation into this accident.
The plane lies in a field under some trees, two men are dead, and the NTSB is here to figure out how and why it happened. The first task will be to gather as many facts as possible about the crash site before any of the wreckage is hauled away.
"Anytime you move something, the information is perished," explained Paul Cox, a Senior Air Safety Investigator with the NTSB. "As much as I can find as-is and document it as-is, that would be the perishable information."
From there the NTSB will gather more information from outside the scene, including maintenance records for the plane and the pilot's training records.
Cox will also be joined at the site Thursday morning by other investigators, including a representative from Beechcraft, the manufacturer of the single-engine plane that went down.
"They have some more technical information on the specific aircraft and [on] the specific engine than I have," said Cox, of the Beechcraft investigators. "I'm a facilitator of the process. I guide the process. I'm the investigator in charge, but I don't have the technical knowledge on every single aircraft and ever single engine," he said.
One of the most important things, according to Cox, is to look at all of the information, and assume nothing.
"Sometimes what happens is you think, because the weather is bad, that might be the issue, but it could be something else. We don't know," he cautioned. "And that's why we have to put everything together."
Putting everything back together can be challenging, because no two crashes are ever exactly the same.
"They're all different," said Cox. "You cant tell if one's easier, or another is going to be harder. You just cant tell."
There are several phases in the investigation process and it can often take months to determine a cause. Wednesday night Cox said it could be up to a year before the NTSB releases the final report.