New Haven, Conn. (WTNH) — It was smoke, confusion, and shock on the morning of August 9th, 2013. Nobody knew how a plane landing at Tweed Airport ended up smashing into two houses in East Haven, killing four people. But right away, the National Transportation Safety Board started investigating by taking pictures.
One of those photos clearly shows the tail section, showing investigators the plane was upside down when it crashed. Several witnesses told investigators they saw the plane turn upside-down just before the crash, and the reason for that was probably weather.
“There were some showers over Long Island Sound coming up from Stratford and they were kind of dying out,” remembers Storm Team Meteorologist Gil Simmons. “That alone can contribute to some changeable winds.”
Simmons was watching those showers and winds. NTSB investigators determined the plane was making a circular approach to Tweed Airport “which would have required a 180-degree turn with a 45-degree or greater back to align with the runway,” according to the report. That meant the plane would have flown through constantly changing winds.
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“Not only different wind speeds at different heights, but you can get different directions at different heights, and that is a big challenge,” Simmons said. “That is what is called wind shear, and I don’t think it is impossible to have conditions like that around during this particular day.”
Which could account for the plane flipping. A sudden tailwind would also make it easier for the plane to stall. The NTSB official explanation says that.
“It was likely the pilot encountered an aerodynamic stall as he was banking sharply, while flying in and out of clouds, trying to align the airplane with the runway,” according to the NTSB report.
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The report shows the pilot, former Microsoft Executive William Henningsgaard did have the sleep aid Ambien in his system, but a small enough amount that he probably took some the night before. He and his son Max died in the crash, along with 13 year old Sade Brantley and her one year old sister Madisyn Mitchell who were in one of the houses the plane hit.