MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A plane that crashed in Socastee May 21 was inspected two days before the deadly crash, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Maintenance done at the time involved removing, repainting, and reinstalling primary and secondary flight control surfaces, according to the report. The report says the flight was the plane’s first flight since it was inspected. The plane was also filled with 167.5 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel.
The Piper PA-31 plane took off from Myrtle Beach International Airport at 6:12 p.m. intending to land at Grand Strand Airport, according to the NTSB report. Once airborne, the pilot, who was identified as James Marklin Harper, was told to turn left but told an air traffic controller he needed to return to runway 18.
The preliminary report shows Harper was instructed to turn into a “right closed traffic pattern” at 1,500 feet, but the plane reached an altitude of 1,000 feet and then descended to 450 feet, back up to 700 feet, and then down again to 475 feet before losing contact with radar.
The plane crashed in the 3800 block of Socastee Boulevard. The NTSB report shows the debris field was about 400 feet long and 150 feet wide. At the time of the crash, the landing gear was extended and the flaps were retracted. The preliminary report shows the elevator trim tabs were installed upside-down and reversed.
Harper died on scene from injuries received in the crash. Harper was 60 years old and lived in the North Myrtle Beach area. He was a Charlotte-based American Airlines pilot.
The information in the report is preliminary and is subject to change. The full report will be released at a later time.
Read the preliminary report below.