The plane that crashed at Long Beach Airport and killed owner Tom Dean, Mark Bixby and three others was 653 pounds over maximum take-off weight and carried three more passengers than the pilot expected, states a newly released NTSBreport.
The report, called a history of the flight, does not conclude the cause of the March 16, 2011 plane crash on the runway moments after take-off. The Long Beach Airport crash, which left one survivor, remains under federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
But a quick read of the lengthy report indicates some red flags in the morning flight bound for Salt Lake City, Utah.
First, the plane's maximum allowed take-off weight is 12,500 pounds, the report states. The plane, The plane, a Beechcraft King Air 200, weighs 8,160 pounds empty. But the report says it was carrying nearly twice the allowed weight for passengers and luggage. That amounts to a little over 5% over the maximum take-off weight.
After the fuel weight, the report states, "the remaining useful load capacity for people and baggage was 695 pounds. There were six adult males on board, and from their California State driver’s licenses, their total weight came to 1,115 pounds. The occupant’s personal baggage was weighed as it was removed from the wreckage and totaled 230 pounds. The airplane was estimated to be approximately 653 pounds overweight at takeoff."
Killed in the crash, according to the L.A. County Coroner, were Jeffrey Albert Berger, 49, of Manhattan Beach; Mark Llewllyn Bixby, 44, of Long Beach; Kenneth Earl Cruz, 43, of Culver City; Thomas Fay Dean, 50, of Laguna Beach, and Bruce Michael Krall, 51, of Ladera Ranch.
Naples resident Mike Jensen was the sole, and somewhat miraculous, survivor. Firefighters speculated that he was saved by a mountain of luggage that fell forward, pushing him into a head-to-knees crash position, and protecting him from even worse burns than he suffered. He remained seriously injured but his condition mproved over time. Jensen owns a retail development consulting firm for which Bixby worked.
Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong, close friends with at least three of the victims -- he actually made notification to Bixby's wife, Theresa -- said Wednesday night that he and his wife dined with Jensen last week.
"Mike Jensen continues to recover well. Dawna and I had dinner with Mike and his wife a few weeks ago," DeLong said. "He is an amazing individual."
Cruz was the pilot of the plane and worked for Rainbow Air of Long Beach. The FAA said the week of the crash that he obtained his pilot's license in 2002, his commercial license in 2003 and had no record of any enforcement action by the FAA, nor prior incidents.
The latest NTSB report says that available maintenance records for the twin-engine plane Dean purchased in 2009 indicate that the left engine was 20 flight hours overdue for overhaul and the right engine was 325 flight hours overdue for overhaul.
Also, the report states, the pilot had filed paperwork indicating a total of three people on board, which would have met the take-off weight. But ultimately six passengers were onboard.
The NTSB report also mentions that the pilot was observed about a month before the accident as failing to follow normal recommended procedures for draining fuel tank sumps in a way that would "permit the settling of any water or any other possible contaminates" for their removal.
The report also quotes one of the airplane manufacturer’s test pilots as saying “King Air fuel tanks must be drained before every flight, it seems like a little bit of water is always being drained off.” It also cites an FAA publication as warning that when aircraft tanks are "left undrained, the water accumulates and will pass through the fuel line to the engine and may cause the engine to stop operating.”
The report itself can be read here.