Pilot killed while performing touch-and-go landings at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport

SEVIERVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Friday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed more details in a fatal plane crash at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.  According to the NTSB, the pilot died, Ray Irwin, 62, of Kodak died when his 1966 single engine Bonanza plane crashed at around 11:42 a.m. Thursday,

Officials say Irwin was performing touch-and-go landings and making circles at the airport around the time of the crash. Most pilots practice landings for proficiency, said the NTSB.

“The aircraft was doing what is called touch-and-go landings here at the airport. During one of the touch-and-go landings, the aircraft appears to have touched down without the landing gear in the down position,” said Todd Gunther, NTSB aircraft investigator. “We found three areas where the aircraft touched down and propeller struck the pavement of the runway . Afterwards, the aircraft continued to climb out from the runway and ended up impacting just to the left of center runway 10.”

The NTSB has been investigating the crash site since early Friday morning. So far, the NTSB has not found anything mechanically wrong with the plane.

“We’ve looked at the control systems in the aircraft and could find nothing wrong with those systems at this time. They looked at the structure and do not have any evidence of structural failure or any sort of in-flight fire or explosion in the aircraft.  They also looked at the engine and it appears the engine rotated at the time of impact,” said Gunther.

According to the NTSB, the plane had fuel.

Investigators will be on the site for the next couple of days. They will take a look at things like the weather conditions, the physiology of the pilot, his log records, the structure of the aircraft and the maintenance records.

No other items were on the plane other than the pilot’s personal belongings.

The NTSB says Irwin reported to the FAA 205 hours of flight, but the NTSB will take a closer look at his flight records.

It may take up to a year before NTSB releases it final report on the crash.

WATE contributed to this report. 


Mother of pilot in deadly plane crash at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport discusses her loss

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – One person is dead after a crash at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.ray-irwin-6

The city of Sevierville said Ray Irwin, 62, of Kodak died when his 1966 single engine Bonanza plane crashed at around 11:42 a.m. Thursday, just 15 feet off the runway. By the time first responders arrived the plane was fully engulfed in flames.

According to the initial investigation, the plane crashed while attempting to land. There were no passengers in the plane at the time of the crash.

“He’s just going to be missed you know,” Christine Irwin, Ray Irwin’s mother.

Police said the pilot was found dead inside the aircraft. His body will be taken to Knoxville Forensic Center for an autopsy. Witnesses said they heard the plane take off, heard a pop and then it crashed.

“I came out to do yard work and saw a lot of black smoke,” said Billie Schnick.

The plane came to rest next to a treeline beside a backyard.

“A gentleman who works at the airport ran up and said, ‘Plane crash, we can’t find the pilot. We think he’s been ejected. Can you help us look?’” said Schnick. “They found the pilot still strapped in the pilot’s seat.”

Irwin was the only person on board.

“The owner and next of kin are being told right now. Basically, what we do is try and memorialize the crime scene by video and photography and turn it over to the NTSB which we’ve already done at that time,” said Kevin Bush with the Sevierville Police Department.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking over the investigation. The FAA and Knox County Forensics are also helping to investigate the crash.

“It’s painful, it’s going to take a while,” said Irwin.

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