AMARILLO - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released today a preliminary report on a plane crash that occurred 20 miles south of Amarillo on December 14 at about 5:50 p.m. during high winds.
According to the report the double prop Beechcraft E-90 airplane, had taken off from the Rick Husband International airport with a destination to Fort Worth Meacham Airport, but broke apart before crashing.
Both the pilot and a passenger, pilot Dr. Kelly O'Neal of Colorado Springs and 79-year-old Robert O'Neal, were killed in the crash.
The air traffic control communications and radar data prior to take off show that "instrument Meteorological conditions prevailed" and the pilot had a flight plan submission for instrument flight rules (IFR).
Air traffic control from the Amarillo airport had transferred the plane from departure control to Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The ARTCC controller cleared the pilot to for a climb elevation of 21,000 feet and allowed for a flight deviation east of the planned route to avoid weather and other air traffic.
A few minutes later the radar showed the plane turned to the north, without responding to the controller's radio traffic about the turn. The plane then disappeared from the radar and radio responses were not returned.
Emergency responders began a search for the missing plane. Troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety found the wreckage of the airplane in Armstrong County.
Debris from the plane were found at distances of up to one-half mile, in several directions from the main wreckage site. According to the report the plane had "an in-flight break-up" before the airplane crashed into the ground.
Aviation experts say that a line of storms had pushed through the Amarillo area earlier that day and created turbulent air flows. According to these experts this may have caused the airplane to experience updrafts and downdrafts that tore the fuselage apart.
The pilot, Dr. Kelly O'Neal, was a well known family dentist in the Colorado Springs area. The passenger, Robert O'Neal, was Dr. Kelly's father.
Federal Aviation Administration records show that O'Neal was an experienced airman who had a commercial license and was IFR certified.