Feb 8, 2013 1:14 PM by AP
MONROE, La. (AP) - The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the Jan. 24 plane crash near Monroe that claimed four lives.
The report indicates that the airplane was off course on its first approach to Monroe Regional Airport and the pilot was instructed by the tower to adjust his approach. It appears that when the pilot failed to correct sufficiently, the tower canceled the plane's landing clearance and issued missed approach instructions.
Radar indicates the plane made a tight right turn to the south at 1,600 feet and 243 mph. The plane climbed to 1,900 feet then descended and disappeared from radar.
The plane's last recorded ground speed was about 230 mph. Stuart Bothwell, an investigator with the NTSB, said the normal approach speed for the aircraft is 120 knots - about 138 mph.
A short time later, witnesses saw the plane descending almost vertically at a high rate of speed just before losing sight of the airplane in the trees and then hearing the impact.
According to the NTSB, pilot Mason Maudlin, 31, an employee of Central Flying Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., was a commercial pilot with an instrument rating, 470 hours flight time and a medical certificate dated in 2008.
Bothwell said part of the investigation will include determining whether the certification was current.
Maudlin died in the crash.
Three of the victims were from northeastern Louisiana, including West Monroe businessman Dean Hart Sr., engineer Max Larche of Bastrop and auto parts executive Don Thompson of Monroe.
The News-Star reports the aircraft wreckage is stored in a hangar at the Monroe airport while the investigation continues.
Bothwell said parts of the aircraft have been sent to an NTSB lab for analysis.
According to the NTSB it may be as long as two years before the exact cause of the crash can be determined.