Experienced pilot analyzes final moments before Thomson plane crash

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT
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THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The investigation is just beginning into a plane crash in Thomson that left two people dead.

The plane crashed just seconds away from the runway at the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport on its way there from Lubbock, Texas.

The two victims were identified as 73-year-old Raymond Bachman from Arizona and 63-year-old Claude Duchesne from El Paso, Texas.

Federal investigators held a news conference Tuesday afternoon, with the National Transportation Safety Board saying the crashed jet was a 54-year-old cargo plane and there were no known distress calls.

It’s still very early and investigators have a lot of evidence left to gather. The wreckage is still out there. Police reopened the road just before dark Tuesday.

We spoke to a pilot with 40 years of experience and he analyzed data from the flight’s final moments.

What brought down the plane? Federal investigators expect to be there another two to four days to look at what’s left and try to answer that question.

This map traces the plane’s journey from Lubbock Texas to Thomson:

Veteran pilot Robert Katz believes everything looks OK until the plane got close to Atlanta.

“The flight for the most part was routine ... until it hit that severe weather system,” said Katz.

The plane stayed at about 35,000 feet until 5:17 a.m., about the same time it was going through the weather. Then it started losing altitude quickly — at one point losing more than 4,000 feet per minute.

“It would usually not normally descend at 4,000 feet per minute. Something, I believe, catastrophic happened at that point in time,” he said.

The plane stayed in the air for about 25 minutes after it started losing altitude. Investigators found the cockpit voice recorder intact. They hope it will help them understand the flight’s final minutes.

Experts will be “looking at exactly what was transpiring, what sounds were being heard in the cockpit, what potential alarms were sounding, what the conversation was, so we can best recreate what the accident entailed,” said Adam Gerhardt, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Katz says the pilot flew over a number of airports before falling short of the one in Thomson.

Investigators will gather the wreckage and take it to a hangar in Griffin, Ga., to take a closer look. The preliminary report could be ready in about 10 days, while the final report could take up to two years.

This is not the first plane crash in Thomson. Back in February 2013, five employees from the Vein Guys died in a crash. That plane was returning from Nashville. In September, families of those who died in the crash filed civil lawsuits in Fulton County.

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