Miami-Dade County

NTSB: Plane’s propeller underwent overhaul week before deadly crash in West Kendall

INVESTIGATION: Officials from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue check out the remains of a plane that crashed on Feb. 11 in a field off Krome Avenue and 141st Street.
INVESTIGATION: Officials from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue check out the remains of a plane that crashed on Feb. 11 in a field off Krome Avenue and 141st Street. El Nuevo Herald

A plane that crashed into a Southwest Miami-Dade field last week had its left engine propeller overhauled a week before at Miami Executive Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane was on its first flight after the overhaul.

The preliminary findings by the NTSB — which could change by the time a final report is released, which could take more than a year, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB revealed that one of the pilots of the Beech 1900 aircraft called air traffic control to report an engine failure just under two minutes after taking off Feb. 11 from the airport, 12800 SW 145th Ave.

“The controller asked the pilot if he would like to return to the airport and the pilot replied affirmative,” according to the report, which was released Tuesday.

Before the pilot could make it back to the runway, the plane hit a utility pole before crashing in a field, two miles west of the airport, at Krome Avenue (Southwest 177th Avenue) and Southwest 144th Street.

“Witnesses observed the airplane flying low, with the left wing down and the left propeller turning slower than the right propeller, before the airplane impacted the utility pole,” the report said.

The twin-engine airplane, which belonged to the Venezuelan unit of Brink’s security firm, had four people on board, all of whom died. Company officials identified the four as pilot Raul Chirivella, co-pilot Roberto Cavaniel and passengers Juan Carlos Betancourt and Francisco DiMarco. Chirivella was a 25-year employee of the firm, said Edward Cunningham, a spokesman for Brink’s. The other three were not employees, he added.

Noone on the ground was injured.

After the crash, company officials in Venezuela told the Miami Herald the Venezuelan-registered aircraft was routinely used to transport valuables around the country. Records show the plane was registered to Servicio Pan American de Protección in Venezuela.

The NTSB report said the 21-seat airplane, manufactured in 1988, was powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada 1,100 horsepower engines, equipped with four-blade, controllable pitch propellers. Maintenance records showed the left engine propeller was “removed and replaced with an overhauled propeller’’ about a week before the ill-fated flight, the report said.

Cunningham said the plane was in Miami for maintenance. The plane’s flight from the Kendall airport was its maiden voyage with the overhauled propeller. The plane was heading to Venezuela, with a refueling stop in the Turks and Caicos, islands in the Caribbean. Reliance Aviation fueled the plane at Miami Executive Airport.

A fire after the crash consumed a majority of the cockpit and cabin, the report states. The cockpit voice and flight data recorders on board were recovered and are being reviewed by the NTSB.

The investigation will look into a host of information surrounding the pilot and crew, their health, cellphone records, medical and autopsy reports, a check of the aircraft’s maintenance records, whether the pilot had enough sleep before the crash and whether the overhauled propeller’s installation was a factor, the NTSB’s Weiss said.

Penalties, if any, would be under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, but it is too soon to address fines while the crash is still under investigation, said Kathleen Bergen of the FAA.

Added Weiss: “We are interested in the safety lessons that can be learned from the accident, why it happened and how we can prevent it in the future.”

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