SPOKANE, Wash. - Two men who died in a Spokane plane crash back in 2015 lost their lives as the result of a mechanic's mistake, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The privately owned Piper Malibu rolled into the Spokane River while it was trying to make an emergency landing at Felts Field.
First and foremost, the NTSB blamed Rocket Engineering, a tenant here at Felts Field, for improperly installing a pair of cables that controlled the plane's ailerons.
The Piper was getting its annual inspection and investigators think Rocket's mechanic and test pilot may have been in a hurry to get the work complete and return the plane to their customer.
Test pilot Richard Runyon had trouble steering the ill-fated plane as soon as it lifted off the runway. Air traffic controllers saw the Piper roll to the right and lose 700 feet of altitude before Runyon was able to pull out of the spiraling dive. The tower radioed Runyon, asking if everything was OK. Runyon replied, "That's negative."
Runyon's years behind the yoke in the Air Force and as a commercial pilot had bought himself some time to figure out what was wrong.
"If you have any kind of emergency situation, the first thing you want to do is continue to fly the plane," flight instructor Rick Webber told KXLY4 in May 2015.
Runyon then realized the controls that allow the plane to bank through turns wasn't working properly. On his radio, he declared 'We have a control emergency there, a hard right aileron."
Runyon and his fellow pilot passenger, Lyn Amestoy, were back over the airport when they lost control during their landing and slammed into the river.
"There was no sign of people on the surface having exited the plane," Spokane Valley Deputy Fire Chief Andy Hail said shortly after the crash occurred.
When divers helped to pull the piper from 25 feet of water, investigators found the cables controlling the right aileron had been improperly installed.
In the days after the crash, other felts pilots remembered the victims as skilled, conscientious fliers.
"Aviation, by nature, is a very unforgiving venue," pilot Addison Pemberton told KXLY4 in May 2015. "So anyone in this industry is going to be very safety conscious."
Rocket Engineering did not return our phone call for comment.
Survivors of at least one of the crash victims have retained an attorney to help them be compensated for their loss.
The NTSB feels this crash could have been easily prevented. The next time a mechanic is working your car, or plane, give them the time they need and whenever possible, double-check whatever parts have been repaired or replaced.
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