Bob Gretz, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), held a press conference at the Macon County Airport last Friday afternoon. Gretz explained the investigative process and issued a brief report about the jet crash to the media, an accident that took the lives of five people last Thursday, March 15.
Gretz met with representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration last Thursday night– the day of the crash– and conversed with state and local emergency management officials the following morning. “I met with various representatives of local law enforcement, state law enforcement, local EMS and Fire, who have all been unbelievably helpful. I am very grateful,” said Gretz about the county’s emergency response units.
Gretz talked with several witnesses once he arrived to the airport, and also reached out to the technical representatives of Cessna; the airplane’s manufacturer. Gretz stated that he planned to meet with the airplane’s engine manufacturer as part of his investigation into the crash as well. “Basically, today and the next few days we’re going to be here on scene documenting the wreckage before its recovered and taken to a secure facility in Georgia,” said Gretz last Friday afternoon.
Gretz said the investigation was in the “fact-finding phase.” A preliminary report into the crash will be released in five business days, Gretz said last Friday. The report should be published on the organization’s website, http://www.ntsb.gov/., no later than Friday, March 23. The investigation has not determined anything yet, and will likely continue for the next six to twelve months, according to Gretz. “We’re really looking into three areas,” said Gretz. “The airplane, the pilot, and the environment,” he said.
Recent and overall maintenance history of the 1982 Cessna Citation aircraft will be examined during the investigation. As far as the pilot, the NTSB will look into the qualifications, licensing, and recent and overall history of Mr. Bogdan Jakubowski’s flight patterns. Gretz will also evaluate radar data and weather data. Gretz did mention that the weather was quite good at the time of the crash, with light winds blowing at 3 m.p.h., implying that weather probably was not a contributing factor in the crash.
Once the NTSB examines all of the evidence, a factual report will be posted and go before the five member safety board. All five members of the NTSB safety board were appointed by President Obama, Gretz explained.
“So far it’s really been documenting perishable evidence,” said Gretz. “We are trying to document anything that either the weather could wash away or that would get disrupted as the aircraft is recovered and moved to Georgia,” he said. This would include ground scars and skid marks left by the jet, he said. Gretz said that fire consumed much of the airplane after it exploded. In fact, the engine and tail sections are the only portions of the aircraft remaining, said Gretz to media members at last Friday’s press conference.
When Gretz met with eyewitnesses last Thursday night and Friday morning, their reports seemed to indicate that Jakubowski aborted his first landing attempt once he arrived to the airport. According to eyewitness testimonies, the plane circled around once and crashed on its second landing attempt. Gretz stated that eyewitnesses told him the plane appeared to be coming in at a steep angle. The plane tipped once the right-wing hit the runway and exploded on impact, explained Gretz about eyewitness accounts he had listen to in order to compile his preliminary investigation.
Bob Hoyt, an employee at the Macon County Airport, was the first person to respond to the accident, according to airport terminal manager Neil Hoppe. While the airport is equipped with a GPS system, Hoppe does not believe the pilot used the device when attempting to land at the airport, although he does admit that “everything is just speculation right now,” he said.
Local authorities released the names of the victims last Friday afternoon, and identified two adult couples and an eleven-year-old child. The Cessna aircraft was registered to Mr. Bogdan Jakubowski, who was listed as one of the victims. His wife, Anna Jakubowski, age 46, and another couple, Peter and Ewa Wisneiwski, age 41 and 35, were also identified last Friday evening. The Wisneiwskis’ daughter, Victoria, 11, was also on board. All five victims were from Venice, Florida. The 1982 Cessna Citation eight passenger jet flew out of Venice Municipal Airport at noon, and crashed at approximately 1:30p.m. at the Macon County airport on the same day.
Neil Hoppe, a long-time operator and manager at Macon County’s Airport, said no records were found on Jakubowski, suggesting that he had not flown into Macon County for at least three years prior to last Thursday afternoon. FAA reports show that Bogdan Jakubowski was the only licensed pilot on board the aircraft, and there are no FAA records which reveal any previous accidents in Jakubowski’s flight history.
According to the Herald- Tribune, a newspaper based in southern Florida, Jakubowski was an experienced pilot. Their reporting stated that Jakubowski, 62, had registered over 1,100 flight hours and had flown several different types of aircrafts during his tenure as a pilot. Jakubowski was a businessman in the Venice area, where he owned and operated a lighting company called Nostalgic Lamposts Plus Inc.
Herald-Tribune journalist Kim Hackett reported that Jakubowski was a Polish immigrant, and a fervent patriot of his adopted country. Hackett reported that Jakubowski had a replica of the Statue of Liberty in his front-yard, which stood as a testimony for his love and passion for America. Their reports also show that 11- year old Victoria was a student at Taylor Ranch Elementary School in Venice, Fla. She did have a Facebook account and several of her profile photos indicate that her family had visited North Carolina in the past, as it showed her and her family whitewater rafting in the Carolinas. Several of her friends have posted condolences on the popular social networking site.
Gertz told members of the media last Friday afternoon that the investigation had already commenced, and the full investigative report could be released in six months at the earliest. The final investigation could take as long as a year, he said.