A witness to last month’s fatal plane crash at Washington County Airport saw the aircraft flying low and “wobbling” moments before it banked hard left and nose-dived into the ground near the runway, a preliminary accident report revealed.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its initial findings last week into the crash that killed pilot Igor Novodran of Upper St. Clair while he was performing touch-and-go practice landings March 11.
Novodran, 52, suffered extensive internal injuries and died about an hour after the crash at a Pittsburgh hospital.
NTSB investigators said Novodran was flying his experimental Avid Bandit aircraft for nearly 30 minutes when he was turning left to continue practice landings on runway 27 at 2:08 p.m. Two airport workers said his plane banked 90 degrees to the left while trying to make a “short final” approach to the runway and continued descending toward the ground before crashing near the eastern side of the runway.
Another witness who lives about a mile from the airport in South Franklin Township told investigators the airplane was flying much lower than other planes she’s seen practicing touch-and-go landings on the runway. She then saw the plane “wobbling” from side-to-side before it turned left and lost attitude.
“She did not see the airplane impact terrain but heard a ‘muffled’ sound that she thought was an impact,” the NTSB report stated.
Investigators did not say if the aircraft had any mechanical or engine problems. The plane’s wings and cockpit were destroyed by the impact, and the wreckage was taken to an undisclosed location to be examined further by investigators.
A GPS was recovered at the scene and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory in Washington, D.C., so its data could be downloaded.
It was not known when the NTSB would issue its final report on the crash.
Novodran was a Ukrainian national champion figure skater in his youth and, in recent years, coached elite skaters in international competitions, including 2011 World Juniors champion Harry Mattick of Britain. He moved to Western Pennsylvania about 20 years ago and coached skaters at Island Sports Center on Neville Island, while also spending time coaching overseas.
He had been flying for about five years and recently sold another plane to purchase the experimental aircraft involved in the crash.