FAA: Pilot properly trained

Aviation officials defend the safety record of the plane model and suspect that more than just engine trouble was involved in the accident near Centennial Airport.

 

By Marsha Austin
Denver Post Staff Writer

Paul Krysiak, the pilot of a twin-engine aircraft that plunged nose-first into a suburban Denver parking lot Friday night, was properly trained and certified to fly the airplane, federal aviation officials said Sunday.

"We went through all his records, and everything was fine," said Robert Dixon, FAA operations inspector.

Carrie Krysiak, herself a pilot, described her husband as a smart, funny man who had a passion for flying. "He would have flown for free. ... That's how much he loved it," she said. Krysiak declined to discuss the accident, which killed her husband, 28, and another pilot, James Presba, 25.

Investigators do not yet know whether pilot error played a role in the cargo plane's crash but said they suspect something more than the engine trouble Krysiak reported one minute after takeoff.

"That airplane could fly all day on one engine," said Aaron Sauer, National Transportation Safety Board air investigator.

What is known is that shortly after takeoff, Krysiak chose to return to Englewood's Centennial Airport and banked left instead of right, as air traffic controllers instructed. A witness then reported seeing the plane fall nose-first into the First Data Corp. parking lot.

Greg Feith, former senior NTSB investigator, said Krysiak probably disobeyed the control tower because he did not want to turn in the direction of the aircraft's dead engine, a maneuver that could have thrown the plane into an uncontrollable spin.

Federal investigators have not yet reported which engine failed or was shut down.

The NTSB on Sunday hauled the crumpled wreck to a special facility in Greeley where crash investigators will continue to search for clues. It could be a couple of weeks before they have a clear indication of what went wrong. And it could take six months to a year before a final report is issued, Feith said.

The type of plane Krysiak and Presba were flying has come under scrutiny.

The Mitsubishi MU-2's reputation for difficult handling at low altitudes and slow speeds has earned the plane such nicknames as the "Widow Maker," "Hiroshima Screamer," "Rice Rocket" and "Kill You-2," as named on websites for pilots.

The planes are no longer used for passenger travel because of the high cost of insurance, according to Robert Cadwalader, a longtime pilot who's spent hours analyzing aircraft accident records.

Various models of the MU-2 have been involved in 180 accidents during the past 36 years, resulting in more than 200 fatalities, according to NTSB records.

In the past two decades, eight MU-2B planes have crashed in Colorado, the nation's second- highest number of reported accidents after Texas, according to NTSB.

Two of the Colorado accidents were fatal, causing a total of 12 deaths.

In September 1982, an MU-2B-25, a slightly different aircraft model than the one piloted by Krysiak, took off from Yampa Valley Airport in Hayden, climbed about 400 feet, banked left and suddenly entered what witnesses described as a roll. The plane "crashed and burned," according to the NTSB.

All five passengers and the pilot were killed. The cause: A misaligned turbine bearing in the left engine.

Sauer insisted Sunday that the MU-2 is no more unsafe than any other aircraft of its type. He said he did not agree with pilots who questioned its integrity.

"It is not considered an unsafe aircraft," he said. "There are 400 out there flying that have not been involved in accidents."

Feith, now a private aviation safety consultant, agreed. He said the MU-2 may take a little more skill to handle, but he said that overall, "It's not any worse than any other airplane."

"The MU-2 by its very nature requires a little more vigilance," Feith said. "But there are a lot of guys that love that airplane."

Staff writer Marsha Austin can be reached at 303-820-1242 or maustin@denverpost.com .