FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – A Michigan plane crash that killed an Indiana doctor and his wife and seriously injured the man’s teenage son last summer occurred after the single-engine plane stalled because of inadequate air speed, federal investigators have ruled.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s final crash report released Friday also determined that 46-year-old Dr. Stephen Hatch of Fort Wayne, Ind., failed to follow the proper protocol after his first attempt at landing his plane at the Charlevoix Municipal Airport failed.
The report said Hatch’s failure to follow that protocol contributed to the June 24, 2011, crash of his Beechcraft Bonanza that killed Hatch, his wife, Kim, and seriously injured Hatch’s 16-year-old son, Austin.
The Journal Gazette reports that an NTSB factual report released last month states that pilots are instructed to climb to 3,000 feet and hold if they miss an approach.
“Instead, he maneuvered the airplane in the vicinity of the airport at a low altitude,” Friday’s report said.
After Hatch’s aircraft missed its instrument landing approach at the Charlevoix airport, he turned around and attempted a second landing on the runway from the opposite direction before crashing into a garage in a neighborhood near the airport, according to witness statements collected by the NTSB.
The release of the crash’s probable cause means the NTSB’s investigation is complete, agency spokesman Peter Knudson told the Journal Gazette.
Friday’s report said investigators did not find any evidence of mechanical failure or malfunction leading up to the crash.
Hatch, an anesthesiologist and partner at Pain Management Associates, also was piloting a similar plane in September 2003 that crashed. Hatch saved his son Austin from that crash. But Hatch’s other children — Lindsay, 11, and Ian, 5 — died along with his first wife, Julie, 38.
A 2005 federal report on the 2003 crash found that inaccurate preflight planning resulted in the plane not having enough fuel. The NTSB determined that other contributing factors included the plane hitting a utility pole during its forced landing, a low ceiling and dark conditions.
Following last summer’s crash, Austin Hatch was in a medically induced coma for weeks before returning to Fort Wayne. Austin was a standout basketball player at Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne and had made a verbal commitment to play basketball at the University of Michigan. He did not play basketball for Canterbury this past season.
In last summer’s crash, the Hatch family had left Fort Wayne’s Smith Field and was headed for the family’s summer home near Boyne Falls in northern Michigan. Stephen Hatch was approaching the Charlevoix Municipal Airport after diverting from two other nearby airports because of poor weather.
According to the NTSB factual report released in March, Stephen Hatch had filed a flight plan to land at Boyne City Municipal Airport, but while in flight, he requested to divert to Boyne Mountain Airport because of weather in the area and the municipal airport’s lack of an instrument approach. The two airports are about 5 miles apart.
Less than a half-hour later, Hatch radioed and said he was executing the missed approach at Boyne Mountain Airport and then requested to land at the Charlevoix Municipal Airport.
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