Friday, March 13, 2009

Safety Board Investigates Plane Disappearance

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2009 at 3:32 PM

click to enlarge news-vladpilot_.jpg
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the events surrounding the disappearance of a single-engine DA40 airplane near Trinidad Head the night of March 1. Pilot Vladislav Milushev (pictured) and passenger Rick Gustafson are assumed dead after plane debris washed ashore on a nearby beach. (See story here .)

NTSB Investigator Kurt Anderson said his agency is in the process of interviewing the people involved and gathering information, including radar images and audio recordings of Milushev's communications with the Seattle control center.

The big question is this: Why did an employee at our local airport tell Seattle air traffic controllers that the plane had landed when it hadn't? Though it was probably a simple mistake (and FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said such mistakes happens all the time), it could have been a fatal one since Coast Guard officials didn't start looking for the missing plane until the following morning.

Anderson said the NTSB will investigate everything to do with the flight and the planning of the flight. If they determine that new safety measures are in order the agency will make recommendations and, if necessary, work with the appropriate agency to make those changes. But the NTSB is not a punitive agency. "We do not determine culpability or take administrative actions," Anderson said.

The families of both men were in town earlier this week speaking with Coast Guard officials and trying get answers from County Airports Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey. (See letter at the bottom of the story linked above.) Hulsey has been unavailable for questioning since the plane's disappearance.

County Public Works Director Thomas Mattson said Friday that changes have already been made at the airport as a result of the incident. "If anybody gets a call that a plane has gone off radar, I will be called in and every agency will be notified until the plane is found," Mattson said.

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

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Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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