RUSK COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - The Federal Aviation Association has released its preliminary report revealing details behind a plane crash on April 19 between Tatum and Easton on County Road 2194.
The pilot, identified as Capt. William James Weatherspoon, died when his plane crashed in Rusk County. According to the FAA report, Weatherspoon was in his Cessna 340A and was testing out a newly upgraded autopilot system.
Weatherspoon had been a pilot for American Airlines from 1973 until his retirement in 2007. Afterward, he got back into general aviation, working at Stebbins Aviation in Longview, according to his obituary.
The report says his Cessna took off from runway 13 at East Texas Regional Airport in Longview at about 1:40 p.m. on April 19. According to preliminary air traffic control information provided by the FAA, the air traffic controller cleared Weatherspoon to operate under visual flight rules to the east of the airport and to remain in class C airspace.
Communications between ground control, tower control, and the pilot were normal during the ground taxi, takeoff, and climb-out, the report says. Six minutes after takeoff, radio and radar communications were lost and controllers initiated ALNOT (alert notice) procedures. There were no radio distress calls heard from the pilot, the report adds.
There were no eyewitnesses to the accident; however, the FAA says a resident located about one mile from the accident site reported that he was inside his home when he heard and felt a “boom” that shook the windows. He immediately saw black smoke rise, found the wreckage, and called 911.
The airplane impacted the ground in a nose-down, vertical flight attitude. The fuselage and cabin were embedded into the ground and were mostly consumed from a post-impact fire. The tail unit was folded forward over the cabin area. Both left and right wings showed leading edge crushing along their respective spans. Portions of both wings were fire damaged, the report says.
Both left and right engine nacelles were separated from the wings and the engine and propeller assemblies were embedded in 3-foot-deep craters. The airplane wreckage was transported to a secure facility for further examination, the FAA says.
A post on the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office page said that the RCSO communications center received a 911 call about the plane crash at about 4:22 p.m. April 19.